Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dilettante Arsenal suffer their first defeat at the Emirates.

Normally my predictive powers are second to everyone. But I feel if you take the concerns I raised in this post, and times it by those in this one, the result is last night's performance.

The wheels have come off our season; the inadequacies of our squad have been exposed for all to see.

Technically, of course, it wasn't a defeat. But trying telling that to the loyal Gooners - myself included - who stayed until the bitter end last night, sitting in muted silence as another European season came to an abortive end far too early. Almost as soon as Alex's header hit the back of the net, the sound of thousands of seats snapping up-right was heard around the ground. Never have I seen a stadium empty with such ferocity and alacrity as in the last moments of our doomed campaign last night.

Normally, I abhor this type of behaviour; but as the empty red seats multiplied before me, perhaps Arsene might have reflected on a few things.

Firstly, shooting is not optional in football: it is encouraged. Some teams even consider it superior to endless passing and re-working of the ball in final third. Some teams even put players into the box to attack balls worked into dangerous areas.

Some teams have midfielders who can score goals. Imagine that! Imagine Hleb deciding to shoot instead of pass. Imagine Fabregas being able to hit the target with a free shot from the edge of the box. Imagine Freddie, frankly, doing anything that really troubled the opposition. Imagine not having to rely on raw teenagers in the most important game of our season thusfar.

We have a collection of midfielders who possess wonderful passing and technical ability, but who have no inclination whatsoever to pepper the target with shots. Playmakers are needed, but we have too many makers and not enough finishers. Either our midfield steps up and starts scoring, or we buy in the summer. Simple as that.

And what to make of our strike force? A perma-injured Henry who looks like he's losing his pace and ability to dictate matches. A bustling centre-forward in Adebayor who misses chances he must score in big games. A 'Beast' who is struggling and out of confidence, even if he is at least getting into dangerous positions. And a Dutch-man who, whilst supremely talented, struggles to stay fit.

I wrote two weeks ago that this leg would say a lot about whether last year's campaign was a one-off or not. On the basis of last night, it appears that we still don't have the squad to really challenge for honours, especially in Europe. And for all the talk of potential surrounding the club, if potential isn't turned into concrete success sooner rather than later, who's to say that our young talents will want to stay? They want to win now as much as we do. How long will Fabregas tolerate a trophy-less state of affairs?

Arsene needs a re-think. I hope he realises that some members of our squad our not at the required level and may not reach it. I hope he realises that goals are the fundamental aspect of footballing performance, not style, regardless of how much I enjoy the artistry of our current players.

For the whole of this season I've felt the club has been 90% from perfection or disaster. Whilst finishing third or fourth in the league is no disaster, losing three cup games in a week is not far from that description. And a hard look at the squad needs to be taken between now and August, to ensure this fiasco does not re-occur next year.


Anonymous said...

have u heard of a player called Klaas Jan Huntelaar, bring him in. Thats all we need for this arsenal team to be winners

Goonerboy said...

I agree that Huntelaar maybe worth a punt.

Incidentally, he scored the first ever goal at the Emirates in the Bergkamp testimonial.

Anonymous said...

I ended up shouting at those around me in the Upper West - "stay & support your team" - it was truly embarrassing to see the fickle fans leaving in droves...

Borehamwood Gooner said...

When everything happens at the same time things always look worse than they actually are.

We did not lose this tie last night, it was lost in Holland when we did not score, had we lost 2 -1 in Holland it would have been a different game.

Remember this season we have beaten Man U home and away, no other club can say that.

No big four club has beaten us in the League.

We have not lost at home yet.

However we have thrown away a number of points in the league where we did not score the goal we deserved.

Yes we are missing a Pires of 2002 or even Freddie from around that time, but wait a second there are only ever a handful of players that are that good at a given time.

I personally think we need some pace and width, Babbel is my choice.

Matej said...

One advice, I think that your writing is really good but if you include sometimes some photos in your posts that could bring more readers to.

Anonymous said...

I left early, and do not give a monkeys what people think, the team gave up when that goal went in , If they see the empty seats they might get the message, at the mo the stadium is full of corporate's and they will not be there for a losing team.
In saying that we have been very unlucky with injuries, but there are few senior players that play with the commitment and passion of an Adams or winterburn.Unless that changes we will always be on the wrong end of these kind of results.
but for a closing comment

For Fcuks sake SHOOT

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

Like you im very dissapointed.I know we and everyone talks of arsenal talent, but i think we really do have it.We had 2 players under 20 dominating the midfield last night!

Also I'd like to hear your comments on adebayor...I think he's a pile of shit (excuse the language but its the only word I can find).We need to get rid of the boy.

Do you guys think ribery(great pace and trickery down the wing) and/or eto (goal-scorer) would be an option?

Anyways guys, hang in there, i know its a shit one to take but hey if this team clicks...we will be INVINCIBLE!!!

Anonymous said...

We're starting to sound like the mancs, slagging off our own fans and calling them fickle because they left early. One blogger said he left early because the team gave up when PSV scored. He's right. The players acted like it was all over. I hate that! In the words of Jim Valvano, "don't give up, don't ever give up". That does hold true for the fans. When PSV scored instead of leaving we should be shouting the loudest and getting behind our team. That's our "job" and that's how we influence what happens on the pitch.
Although the sour taste persists today, I am hopeful about the future but you're right, we need midfielders who can score. That would give the attackers more space to work as well.

Anonymous said...

I stopped once I got to, 'Henry who looks like he's losing his pace and ability to dictate matches.'


I'm pretty sick of reading ill-informed bullshit from opposition fans so it's a shame to see a fellow Gooner spouting the same old tired lies.

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to add this:

Our fans are worse than our team.

One week we're the greatest, we're going to win everything and Wenger is the greatest visionary ever. A defeat later and we've been exposed and Wenger doesn't know what he's doing.

Fickle isn't a word I like to band about but we have incredibly fickle fans, probably 2nd to Man Utd.

Having written that, it's clear that Freddie's finished, there's no beauty to The Beast and Hleb should be relegated to squad rotation, to use a CM/FM phrase.

Once we sign a goalscoring winger and Fabregas rediscovers the goalscoring form he showed when he was younger(!) then we'll be in a stronger position to challenge for the League and CL.

Goonerboy said...

Henry has scored some vital and great goals for us this season - such as at Liverpool, Blackburn and also against Man U- but he was virtually anonymous in those games up to that point. He very rarely takes the game by the scruff of the neck in the manner he used to anymore.

He hasn't been the same player this season than in the last few years. Hopefully it's just injury, and next season he'll be back to his best. But if he is losing his pace, both fans and Thierry will have to adapt to a new type of player; one which may not get 25+ goals a season, and who may operate as more of a half-striker.

And I'm not fickle: I said back in October/November that this team lacked a cutting edge and that it could lead to disaster. What I hope my article merely brings into question is whether this can be remedied with our current players, or whether we have to get rid of a few and bring in some fresh blood.

Anonymous said...

Once the PSV goal went in I turned the channel over. To be honest I'm getting somewhat used to the defeats. You learn to expect them. And with each passing defeat unfortunately my interest begins to wane.
I am not a life long fan of the club. I've followed them for years but only really got interested in the past 5 seasons or so.
There's more important things in life to get worked up over and annoyed about so I can see myself sinking back to a follower rather than a fan.
Wenger needs to go, Henry needs to go. We need to get a Mourinho style manager who isn;t afraid to spend a shit load of cash on quality players. Not kids who will most probably never live up to their full potential.

Goonerboy said...

I would rather we lost than have a Mourinho-esque manager. And my love for the club will never waver with defeats, even if I do get down about losing.

Anonymous said...

The last thing we need is another half-striker. Our problem comes down to this. Our team is and has been mentally weak for a number of years. If we score 7, Hleb will get 2, if we score 1 you can bet your last pound it will never be scored by Hleb. Most of the team are afraid to take on the responsibility of shooting. To be honest I wonder if Thierry 'I prefer the extra pass' Henry is a big part of the problem. I suspect he is. Also, look at the equaliser last night. Adebayor lines up alongside Alex before the free kick is taken but is 6 yards away when Alex reaches the ball. I don't think he switches off, I think he bottles it. Also, Henry is at the front post rooted to the spot and Jens, well he does the usual of getting caught in no mans land. We have now conceded the same goal this season alone to
Everton (similar)
Bolton (twice)

Anonymous said...

Get a grip mate - it's a game of football you win some you lose some. Arsenal have no divine right to win and given that our top scorers i.e. Henry and Van Persie, are effectively out of action it was always possible we would not survive this one. We are not a crap team, far from it -there are plenty of good things about this squad and the problems that we have are fixable. Some support from the so called fans might help to lift the boys when they need it most. And for those fair-weather fans who leave the ground before the game is over - don't bother to go and let the real fans who will cheer the team through thick and thin - have the seat instead.

Anonymous said...

Only one team can win the Champion's League, and the knockout round came at a bad time for us. This is not the only factor, but IMO the second most important one. This and the inability to defend set pieces, which does have to do with leaders and mental strength. Gallas may step up to the plate next year. If not, Gilberto and Henry have to get more serious about winning trophies.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous 5:39 PM. Life can't be perfect all the time and real football fans recognise that. You stick with it, through thick and thin. I would much rather lose fickle fans than lose Wenger, because I know who cares more about the team...

As for the comparisons with Liverpool fans, the latter know how to support from the outset. As Mark Lawrenson said on 5 Live last night, an opponent wouldn't have been concerned stepping out into the Emirates. Who knows -- maybe the crowd need to get used to the stadium as well as the players? The Anfield crowd were like an extra man and I've seen it here in Scotland at Ibrox and Park Head.

All this blowing hot and cold over the team has been going on for a couple of years, more so since Viera left. It's lack of confidence, which is mad given how we are playing the best football this country has seen for 40+ years. That's why the crowd go quiet, the old 'Highbury Library' was a symptom of that as well. It's like we think we don't deserve it.

Regarding the young players not shooting, I know it is frustrating, but I recall Ronaldo being picked up by everyone for more than a season for overstepping too much. Everyone said he had to release the ball earlier and play more simply and more directly. Now look at him.

Our boys will get there as well, but not if the fans turn them all neurotic first by passing on their own anxieties.

Love? Who said it was going to be a smooth ride anyway? There will always be thorns amongst the roses.

Gogsy (Gooner for 37 years).

Good blog by the way, I always check it out.

Anonymous said...

It is a hard pill to swallow no matter what.. I cannot add anything to what has been said, other than that we will be back next year, we will be in the Chumps Leauge next season, faith ppl!! I think AW has gotten so far entrenched into buying these so called "rough diamonds" at the age's of 16, 17 yrs old that he totally dismisses the fact that we need 24, 25+ year olds with maturity on the pitch....I think AW is a fantastic manager, glad we got him... Question to all, I dont think David Villa or Fernando Torres is the answer, both are smaller forwards, light weights, not in goals but in size, and the Prem is fast, hard pounding footie, so who then??? Eto will not be available too us due to Chelski tossing double the cash at him, so who, really think about it, who???
Detour Dave the Slave

Anonymous said...

Henry should not play for the rest of the season. He needs substantial time off the recover and revive himself.

The team is good enough without him to finish above the scousers who will have at least two more european weeks where league performances often suffer. It will also have the added benefit of allowing Baptista and Ali more pitch time, allowing them to prove themselves fully. Although personally I think neither are good enough.

Anonymous said...

It's tough to swallow the disappointments of the last 10 days or so, but I feel that the reactions of a lot of fans have been way out of proportion to the reality. If we had been played of the park or been given a hiding by our opponents there might be some justification but the fact is that we had the beating of all these teams and let it slip by.

The fact that most teams score from set pieces against us is not an indication of our poor defending but an indication that scoring against Arsenal from open play is difficult thus the method of conceeding goals for Arsenal is amplified.In the past we never agonised over this issue which to be honest has existed since the days of Adams/Keown/Bould and Dixon finished,just up until the last two years we always scored a barrow-load of goals to compensate for this.

And this has been the issue all season long, not that we don't create enough chances but that we haven't converted a high enough percentage of the chances that were created. I'm glad that Thierry and Robin will be out for the remainder of the season, and be allowed to let their injuries heal properly, because I hope that over the last 11 games to see players like Baptista, Adebayor, Rosiky,Fabregas and Hleb take responsibility for scoring.If that happens then we will be awesome next season, if it doesn't then Arsene will need to go shopping. Either way a lot of questions will be answered about the future for this squad.