Thursday, December 14, 2006

Are Arsenal becoming a second half team?

During the glory years of the Wenger reign Arsenal were rather simple. We sprinted out the blocks, landed a series of blows on our opposition, and tried to knock them out quickly; a bit like a boxer who tries to KO his opponent within three rounds.

Nowadays we're more likely to gain a victory on points after a twelve-round slog-fest. The result is the same, but it's not always easy to watch. And the master of this new strategy is, ostensibly, Emmanuel Adebayor, who is fast becoming the king of the 80 minute goal - partially because he usually needs about 2-3 warm up chances before he slots one home.

I didn't watch the entire game last night; by the sounds of things I should be grateful. I haven't read a good word about the first half performance, and it seems that it took the indignity of a Emile Heskey near-miss to wake us up from our malaise. I could only start watching at around the late 50 minute mark, and one of the first things I saw was Adebayor spurn a pretty gilt-edged opportunity, set up by Theo. The game afterward was pretty scrappy. Baptista almost scored with a cheeky, if wonderfully struck, free-kick; Jens spilled a chance, albeit one far harder than Robben's, and was saved by Kolo; Adebayor missed another opportunity. We looked a bit blunt. At one point, Freddie was put through on the left. Instead of smashing the ball first time - as you know he would have done 2-3 years ago - he took a touch, over-complicated things and the opportunity was wasted. It seemed to sum up our approach in attack.

But then little Cesc came on and changed the game, putting in a wonderful tackle to win the ball, before floating over a beautiful route-one ball that Adebayor managed to control and poke through Kirkland's legs.

It seemed that we might just have been worth the win; but only just. The negative tone of the usually upbeat Arseblog surprised me but it doesn't seem like his comments were wholly unjustifiable.

However he was wrong to state that we wouldn't have won a game like that a year ago just because we won 3-2 up there last year. Last night's performance was ugly, and full of points we could criticise. But the fact remains that, without three vital players, and players who needed to be rested, we held things together and got a result that keeps us up in third. By December last year, we were in near free-fall in the league and, to me, the fact we did get a result shows we are slowly improving.

We need to improve our first half performances, because - with a few notable exceptions this season - its been our lethargy out of the blocks which has led to difficult games. But, I'm still encouraged that we can battle for 90 minutes, and pull a result out on a December night in the Northwest. What's important now is that we build on this result, tell Eboue to concentrate more, and, though I hate to say it, think about our long-term goalkeeping plans.


xol said...

you are right goalkeeper is a MUST and Ebuoe made at least 2 mistakes in first half and is still a lousy tackler.The has the speed but needsd match experience as does Baptista,but TOURE is a tower of strength as is Gilbero.We hope to have a full squad in January but how do all these players get any match experience

Dong Zhou said...

The first half really was that bad. Jens was good last night, made a few good saves, I imagine the idea is for him to play till Vitto is ready to play or another player turns up.

YTSL said...

While re-reading "Four Four Two" magazine's 2006-07 season preview, came across the following lines which may be of interest (and pertinent, given the title of the blog entry I'm responding to):-

"A lesson from last season: Keep going for the entire 90 minutes. Arsenal scored 32 percent of their goals in the final 15 minutes last season, more than any other side." does seem like we were developing into a second half team even then.