Monday, April 30, 2007

An uninspiring win, but a win nonetheless.

It's rare to see a crowd so agitated and unhappy while their team is winning, but Arsenal somehow managed to do just that on Sunday, in another performance which raises as many causes for concern as hope.

The game started with a number of pleasant surprises. We scored first, Baptista not only hitting the target, but finding the back of the net in what may well be his last goal in Arsenal colours. 'Perhaps this is a new dawn for the Beast', many undoubtedly thought. A few minutes later, when he had resumed his customary practice of completely missing the target from positions in which he should score, these hopes were summarily crushed. Adios Julio; thanks for some of the memories.

Indeed, Arsenal quickly reverted to form: possession, possession, possession with no end product. Aside from Baptista's 'scorching' efforts, Cesc had an attempt which hit the target but contained no power, and Adebayor headed the ball almost directly at Niemi from close range, allowing the keeper to make a splendidly acrobatic save.

So, at half-time the boys traipsed in with only a one goal advantage, when the scoreline should have been at least 2 or 3 nil.

And when chances are spurned everything starts to become a little flat and dangerous. At our throw-ins, no one made runs for the man with the ball; Hleb, who was again pilloried for losing possession, at least tried to make runs forward or into attacking positions, unlike the rest of our often static players. Cesc tried to pull the strings, but too many of them remained stubbornly in place.

With more chances spurned, the defence started to dally when clearing from the back. It wasn't too much of a surprise then when Jens rushed from his area to try and clear the ball away: he'd clearly had enough of Toure and co. mincing about with the ball. Unfortunately, and oh so achingly predictably, Jens was then lobbed, and Fulham, by that point deservedly, were level.

Criticism could and perhaps should be levelled at Jens; he certainly seems to have made far more mistakes this season than last. But as I wrote in my last post, I sincerely think that this is due to the shakiness and complete lack of coherence in defence. Goodplaya had a rant about the defence in his last post, and I agree 100%. Individually, all are good-enough, but as a unit they just are not functioning. Certainly, the Toure-Gallas partnership must go, and, on current form, Kolo must feel the axe, I'm afraid. And, most importantly, a defensive coach - Keown? - must return and instil some discipline and order, especially at set-plays.

Jens's worth to the team was emphasised moments after the goal with a decent stop to keep the scores level. The team, as per usual, seemed to need to concede before really sparking out of their collective lethargy, and moments later Adey got a goal.

Adebayor put in a very decent performance on Sunday, even if he still needs a few too many warm up chances before he puts one away. Next to a better striker he will better, and at only 22 I'm growing ever more optimistic about how good this guy could become.

A few minutes later, Hleb's complete and rather cowardly refusal to shoot, saw old-boy Volz bring him down in the area, and Gilberto applied the gloss to a rather uninspiring victory.

Problems are still in evidence almost everywhere therefore, despite the win. The defence is a near shambles; the midfield don't work for each other nearly enough; Baptista still isn't good enough. Diaby, also, was absolutely awful. He can't help being played out of position on the left, but he could have done more, and his overall performance was massively disappointing. Maybe Arsene will stop playing central midfielders out of position one day, but I'm not so sure.

Clichy, on the other hand, was my Man of the Match. He was effervescent, superb going forward, and also firm at the back. It's performances like those which have progressively endeared me to him to this season, and which give me, as with Adebayor, great hope for next year.

So a win is a win is a win. But it might have been oh so much better. And it will have to be next Sunday, when I hope a few players realise 100% is required across all ninety minutes.


Anonymous said...

Kolo to be axed? You are not serious we hope!

The games to goals conceded ratio is nearly one this season which implies that there is a real need to get the defence sorted out.

But in our opinion what is needed is more organisation than new players. And this is relatively easier to achieve than buying new defenders and trying to integrate them into a cohesive unit.

William Ng said...

Basically, the defence need to play together for a period of time to understand each other. If I am Wenger, I would get a predator goalscorer, a winger who can play on both wings and a young goalkeeper for next season. Other than this, no changes.

Btw, I feel Arsenal has improved this season. They are assure of a CL place plus they have Henry, Van Persie, Gallas, Diaby, Rosicky out for pretty long period.

The future is bright

Anonymous said...