Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A poor win, but some reasons for optimism

The first half last night was as poor as any performance I've seen by us this season or last season. Henry meandered up front; the defence failed to deal with Hamburg's only real attack; the midfield was static and ineffectual, Hleb [outstanding again] occasionally booed for daring to be inventive.

Van der Vaart's goal was almost comically inevitable. First half? Check. Arsenal defender's backing off? Check. A sublime finish? check. You have to hand it to the likes of Villa, Boro, Everton and now Hamburg: they take their chance. Indeed what Van der Vaart is doing anywhere near that Hamburg side is a mystery. He's a very good player and should move on forthwith.

An extremely dour and flat first half ended with more than a few boos around me. The focus for much of the flak was Flamini who had an 'indifferent' game. The Gilberto role doesn't require a great level of inventiveness, but it does need a greater degree of tidiness and a wider range of passing than Flamini brought to it. The debate over whether he's good enough to play centre-midfield will undoubtedly continue, but I would have to say that I'm one of the doubters.

Arsene, predictably, brought no substitutes on at half-time. But he did, for once, make a significant and positive change, re-shaping the team into a far more effective 4-4-2. Freddie looked far more comfortable on the wing; even if he's clearly lost the ability to beat players, his work-rate means he continues to be a worthwhile squad member. Whether he's anything more than that is questionable.

The change of formation also allowed Van Persie to move up front, on the right hand side. He looked instantly more comfortable, and even a little liberated, and he took his goal with aplomb. But he was worrying inconsistent last night, often wasteful in possession. He's beginning to infuriate me: his goal-scoring potential means he can't really be left out, but his all-round play is too often not good enough, something that can be said whatever position he's put in.

Clichy also concerns me. The major question is, obviously, is he good enough? He looked naive on several occasions last night - both in attack and defence. With the sale of Cole, Pires and Reyes, and the emergence of Hleb and Eboue we've gone from a team with no right-side and a strong left-side, to the opposite. It still seems unclear, even with Rosicky in the mix, who is going to provide the penetration on the left that we used to enjoy.

The other big worry last night was Thierry, who looked painfully out of sorts. Indeed, the near death of our left side may have a lot to do with Thierry's dip in form. He says he's missing Highbury, but he's also missing Reyes, Pires and even Cole. I was disappointed that his performance descended into a degree of simulation last night, even if his booking was a farce. Still, we won in Zagreb without him, and in Manchester, and I think we just about have enough to get a draw out in Porto.

The main, perhaps overwhelming positive from last night was another storming performance by little Theo. There are calls for him to start, but at the moment bringing him on as an impact sub in the last thirty minutes might be the best role for him. What struck me most was not just his speed, but his technical ability. He did a few lovely turns with the ball, and his passing was incisive and shorn of the over-complication that blights some of our build-up play. Moreover, most of the Arsenal squad would have passed to Thierry for the third goal, not Baptista, despite The Beast's superior positioning. It would be no bad thing if some of our other players drew themselves out of Henry's thrall in this manner.

As for the Beast himself - a great goal to cap a great move, but he appeared surprisingly lightweight on the ball. That has to improve by, er, Saturday at Bolton if he's going to really earn his sobriquet any time soon.

In terms of our Champions' League campaign it was a good win, but the performance only came alive in the last twenty minutes or so. And while it was great that we came from 1-0 down to get a draw, let's not kid ourselves: Hamburg were a poor team; one at Sheff Utd's, not Everton's level.

Still, Bolton to look forward to, eh?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of your reviews. Henryw as poor adn so was Clichy.
Clichy looked out of his depth against one of the worst teams in the Europe.

Anonymous said...

Henry was poor wasnt he? What is up with him. Every game this season he has not done anything but whine and moan.

Anonymous said...

"it was great that we came from 1-0 down to get a draw"

shurely shome misshtake

Goonerboy said...

Yes anon 10.38 my bad. Should read 'to get a win' of course.

Anonymous said...

A win is a win
Henry was not that good last night and nor was Clichy.
Senderos was pants but he is still short of match fitness and despite the well taken goal RVP walked and ran around aimlessly.
Still see a lot of need for improvement. like 100%. We were lucky Hmaburg are an awful team.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but it's just nonsense comparing Hamburg with Sheffield United. Hamburg are clearly a decent side who could end up doing us a favour against CSKA. They also had half a team of internatinals out injured last night. The difference between Hamburg and Newcastle, Everton and the rest of the 1-1 club, is that Hamburg actually came and played an open game. Frankly, thank God they did.

I can't agree about Flamini or Clichy either. Flam has had two entirely solid games covering for Gilberto and looks much better playing centre midfield these days than he first did (he'll never be a first choice, but he's good to have in the squad). As for Clichy, he looks more than good enough, especially going forward.

I agree about Theo, for now he's best used coming off the bench late on as a game gets stretched.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. I hadn't realized just how crap the Arsenal team is. They clearly don't have a decent player on the books. You have left me longing for a team of the quality of Tottenham.

"Hamburg were a poor team; one at Sheffield Utd's, not Everton's level" You are barking mad !

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with some of you people? When we lose you moan,when we draw you moan wnd when we win you moan.Shut the fuck up with the Henry is poor this season talk,Henry is so far our top scorer,how is he poor? Try to play as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation and the come talk about Henry is poor.Your know it all attitude sucks! because you know nothing.If you cannot support you team then shut the fuck up.Some of us truly love Arsenal and we won't let you create stupid bullshit about the team we love.Go fuck yourself with your negative vibes,Arsenal is the best win,lose or draw.Arsenal for life.

Goonerboy said...

Anon 11.09, thank you for your insightful comment. It was obviously well thought through.

Hamburg did try and put 11 men behind the ball - we were just too good for them. They are in the relegation zone in Bundesliga, and would be in the Prem as well. They are not a good side: 5 CL games, 0 points.

Anonymous said...

It is a bit odd that increasingly our attacking threat is coming from the right side - all three goals. Certainly part of that is Henry staying more central when playing 451, as well as him being off form. The return to 442 and the return of Rosicky should help.

I think Clichy's good enough. Technically, he's at least as good if not better than Cash and is more two-footed than him as well. His passing has massively improved. But he's had very few matches in the the past two and a half seasons due to injury and playing behind Cash, who remember also had his difficulties defensively when he was starting out there. Clichy's still learning the position and learning the lesson of not relying solely on his pace.

The Muso said...

A couple of points that I think deserve focus:

Clichy WAS absolutely useless.

He committed himself far too early on defense on many occasions and as a result was often beaten like he wasn't there. When this happens, Senderos gets pulled out wide and we know that the swiss struggles when he gets dragged around the pitch.

There's also no point in an overlapping fullback who can't deliver anything like a telling ball. I've always doubted his technical ability and he'll have to improve substantially if he doesn't want to lose his place to Armand Traore next season.

Hamburg worked Hleb very effectively.

It's testament to what a special player he is that he was still able to have an influence on the game, but Hamburg had worked out that when receiving the ball on the flank, he does one of three things:
1. Roll-it out to the over-lapping Eboue.
2. Cut inside and slalom across the defensive line looking for a one-two or soft through ball.
3. Pass back to Fabregas

3 is not an immediately threatening outcome as it is usually a backward or sideways movement and so can be allowed. To neutralise the threat of 1 and 2, Hamburg got really tight on him in the middle right postions, forcing him to find space on the touchline.
This narrowed the width allowed to Eboue, making the cut inside the only option. They then neutralised this by tucking midfielder in who could harry him, causing the ball to be lost on a number of occasions.

Van Persie scored with his right foot from between the defence and the keeper!

Robin will need to score many more of these goals if he is to be the prolific scorer that Arsenal need him to be - you don't score 20 free kicks and ridiculous running volleys a season.
This said, it was a goal that was important because of the economy of movement he employed, where he scored it from and how he took it.

In all honesty though, this victory is all about three digits:

4-4-2

GUNNERMAN said...

Goonerboy,

for the first time in many decent posts youve actually fumbled this time and posted utter tosh. Hamburg are a decent side, with the likes of Kompany, De Jong and other first teamers missing yet in your esteeemed opinion they are in the same category as Sheffield United. While they may not be your Chelsea/manu, they certainly have talent. As many a poster has noted, you should be looking for the positives of that win rather than singling out individual performances - what this win gives us is belief, something we need more than anything that if a team scores before us, we can still end up winning on the day without freezing ala Newcastle, Villa and Everton.

COME ON ARSENAL,SUPPORT NOT SLAG OFF YOUR OWN TEAM.

Goonerboy said...

I thought it was an ok performance, with the score-line flattering us by the end.

That said, I think we will take a lot of heart from the fact that for the first time this season we came back from a goal down at home to win. Walcott was superb, and Baptista's goal should give him some confidence.

I stand by my comment about Hamburg. They weren't very good; if they have good players who were injured that makes no difference. Van der Vaart was their only player who would get anywhere near a top four premiership team. Moreover, I was only commenting on the team out that night. And if they are so good, as everyone seems to think, why have they got 0 points in our group, and why are they seriously struggling in the Bundesliga?

We've had several false dawns already this season: I'm just worried this could be another one.

Anonymous said...

Why so negative? I've lost count of the people saying we should 'win ugly' now that we have people are still moaning. You can only beat the team that is infront of you and at the end of the day, we did that. The 'false dawns' you speak of are down to the expectations of the fans - one win and we're going to win the league, one defeat and we're rubbish. This is a relatively new team trying to get used to a new system either it will work in time or Arsene will know when it's time to give it up. A bit of support from the fans while we all get used to it might not go amiss.

shango said...

I recommend you go watch the game again before you make public comments. I have seen the game twice after Tuesday. And we played well. We created chances and eventually took them.

"The main, perhaps overwhelming positive from last night was another storming performance by little Theo"
Fair enough, though arguable. But to then say about Van Persie " he was worrying inconsistent last night, often wasteful in possession" is just not accurate. Again, I recommend you watch the tapes, without the pressure and emotion of what you want a player to do while watching a game live; you can appreciate more the contribution of players.
Clichy and Van Persie played very well. Some points for you.
1. Look at Van Persie's defensive contribution in the first half.
2. Look at Clichy creativity on the left hand side with two other players that are playing effectively out of position (Freddie and Van Persie).
3. For Van Persie's goal, compare Van Persie's run to Henry's when Hleb and eventually Cesc got the ball.

I do agree about Henry, though I do not personally think it is a form thing. I believe it is a mentality thing. He has been a great player for Arsenal. But I believe immensely that Arsenal and Arsene have made a great player out of him. I believe his personality and natural game would have been at odd with many a coach. But Wenger made it work, and he has developed an almost counter-attacking game. We no longer function as an out and out counter attacking team. And this negates Henry’s game. Wenger knows it; the new team is being built around Fabregas not Henry. And more is being done to accommodate the little Spanish magician. Hleb also, is now a great creative and defensive foil for Cesc. Wenger for the first time has now insisted Henry play more from the middle. I seriously believe that Adebayor and Van Persie would lead line a lot better in a 4-5-1 formation, simply because they apply themselves a lot more.

Three seasons ago, I heard a comment from Gab Marcotti, that it would be interesting to see what Wenger would do with Cesc Fabregas, considering he has in his opinion, one of the most talented 16 year-old he has ever had. A season later Vieira goes. Wenger makes good decisions and can also make tough decisions. Henry is no longer vital in his new Arsenal. He will win the World Player of the year, and will be off to Barcelona next season. £8-12 million plus a Saving 100K a week.

Frank said...

Totally agree with you Shango. RvP cleared at least three corners in the game. His position just on the edge of the six yard box is vital in defensive corners.

His own corners are exceptional and land on the edge of the six yard box just out of reach of the keeper and leading defender. So far only Gallas has got onto the end of one which is criminal but he will get better.

He battles for every ball and is not afraid to mix it. He needs to play as Inside Right but he will play anywhere Arsene tells him.

'Building the team around Cesc' ..damn sensible to build the team around the creative midfield player. He has built a good relationship on the pitch with Alex Hleb and he needs to do the same with RvP, Tomas Rosicky, Theo etc. But it is looking better all the time.

Don't know what to do about TH. He probably will not leave at the end of the season and will not win the Ballon D'Or. He has been a great player and keeping him was perhaps more of a marketing necessity than a playing one. Nowadays his best moments always come in the last twenty minutes when the opposition are knackered. Looks like we may have two supersubs. I think with his character he will eventually go downhill pretty quickly, without his pace he is a lesser player, but I don't think he will wait for that to happen. I notice he is not playing tomorrow - so Adebayor up front and Aliadiere wide left in a 4-5-1?

I also agree with your assessment of Clichy. He has been out for ages and occasionally his positioning is not quite right. But he will get there pretty quickly. He is doing the sensible thing at the moment and playing defensively - he is not getting ahead of himself.

Goonerboy said...

What frustrates me about RvP is that he is one of the few players we have who looks like he could score a goal, but I stand by the comment that he did not have a great first half. He should be playing up front on the right: Wenger's realising he hasn't got much of a left-wing at the moment so he's sticking him out there faute de mieux.

Clichy was poor, but largely because he looked young and inexperienced. He needs to prove this year he's worth the starting spot, or Traore will take it from him. I wouldn't be surprised if Arsene snaps up another young left back as well - perhaps Gareth Bale at Southampton who is very good.

Frank said...

Obviously Wenger does put RvP into the left wing position in a 4-5-1 for want of a better option. But it does not detract from RvPs abilities or performance. It is either him or TH playing up front and the other one has to drop into mid-field.

Early in the game he needs to protect his left back and RvP tracks back well. He needs a player who can cross the ball. TH is not very good at getting into the box but when Baptista starts to play you will see why.

RvP holds his position better than TH and does what he is told. When the time is right Wenger asks RvP to switch to inside right because he wants to change to 4-4-2. It clearly happened from the beginning of the second half. RvP becomes very effective as a goal scorer when he is asked to do that job and he, Cesc and Hleb turned the game round by scoring the equaliser (I disagree with the pundits who would have it that Theo turned the game round almost single handed). RvP is just a player doing exactly what his manager asks of him and he does it well. btw he is fast becoming the player who scores the important goals - the ones that really make the difference.

I am looking forward to seeing him play up front with Theo as partner when circumstances and manager allow.

Anonymous said...

shango. respect about cesc. i said over a year ago that he will be to arsenal what cantona was to ManUre. wait and see i have the courage of my convictions and that boy will set the world on fire. I love that little fucker. he has it all. wait and se