Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Groundhog day or a new beginning?

For 80 minutes at Arsenal Fulham on Sunday you could have been forgiven for thinking that last season had never ended.

Arsenal only had one new player, albeit a very noticeable one, on the pitch; Fulham scored with literally their first attack on goal; we played some lovely football, assiduously put on pressure, but couldn't bloody score.

Jens's mistake was one of those things that had to be seen to be believed. I almost laughed when it happened it was so farcical - it was a genuine moment of tragi-comedy. The laughter soon stopped when I realised that goals aren't disallowed for being ridiculous and we were one-nil down after only 50-odd seconds of the new season.

Fulham were not the pushovers they had been purported to be. They battled hard, perhaps a little too hard, and, unlike other occasions where teams have gone one-up against us at the Grove, they had chances that could have put them two or even three goals up.

While Tony Warner was excellent in the Fulham goal, we should have scored long before we did, and poor finishing was again the culprit for our travails. Rosicky should have scored twice, Hleb was denied by the tip of Warner's foot and Zat Knight's leg, Fabregas wasn't quite quick enough to get onto Hleb's lovely through-ball, and van Persie couldn't seem to get into the game.

The formation was rather curious and didn't entirely work. RvP doesn't seem like a player who likes to be up-top on his own and even with Hleb marauding behind him, he struggled to make an impact at times, often reduced to quick-fire attempts on goal.

Fabregas and Eboue were both disappointing, despite Fab's last minute assist. Whether he suffered from being stuck between Flamini behind him and Hleb in front is a matter of debate, which will only become clearer if we stick with the formation. Flamini himself did not break up the play well enough and his passing was poor. However, his attitude can't be questioned: we need his spirit to become infectious if the old Arsenal never-say-die belief is to be reborn.

Hleb revelled in his new more central role, and was easily my man of the match.
If he continues to play more centrally he'll get more goals and at the moment, he should be starting ahead of Rosicky if it were to come down to a choice between the two. Rosicky still isn't sharp enough in front of his goal, and for all his running, still flatters to deceive somewhat.

At the back, Sagna was excellent, Toure was inspiring, Gallas captained the team excellently, and Clichy was full of energy.Yet as a unit, the defence is still all over the place. Fulham opened us up with worrying ease on a number of occasions and this needs to be remedied.

As for Jens, a mistake is a mistake. He's never looked that comfortable with the ball at his feet, but still pulled off a great save from Davies to keep us in the game. Don't even think of calling for Almunia.

Theo came on and did more than Eboue without really impressing. Bendtner was excellent, actually winning balls in the air and changing the shape of the game. We may, at last, have a plan B, and I have very high hopes for Nicklas.

Overall, I've never seen the grove so excited since the games against United and the Spuds. Few people left in the last ten minutes and there was a real buzz around the place. It's not surprising: a last-minute goal, a melee, the most farcical goal of the year: there was a lot to be excited about.

There seems to be a new spirit crystallising in the team and this season could turn out to be better than first thought. However, the squad remains too thin: signings are needed to ensure that injuries don't put pay to our efforts yet again.


Anonymous said...

Good reading -

Disagree about Jens, I wold have replaced him a while ago, and not just because of this dreadful mistake....
Almunia and Fabianski looked better in pre season, and i dont think the defence panick as muh when Jens is not playing..

We needed this, a good fight to win, and we did it. Last season at most we would have got a draw, so all is positive. We need a similar display again on Wednesday, and the nerves will soon dissapear, and then we will se the real team play with more confidence

I feel positive about this season, and i love it when all around us write us off - thats when we are dangerous

Setanta sports - here we come

Anonymous said...

Agree. Excited about Bendtner too. van Persie need someone to roam the forward line with. We looked far more dangerous when Nicolas entered. Jens looked nervous, but he's the best we've got...for now. Can't wait for Eduardo to get busy. As someone wrote earlier; I need 10 games to decide wether Arsenal are going to add silverware to the Emirates Cup and Amsterdam Tournament this season. But I'm as optimistic as ever!!!!

Anonymous said...

flamini reminds of david price who i used to watch in the sixties always running around with his arm up pointing where he thinks other players should be while is running in no man's land NOT UP TO ARSENAL STANDARD maybe with selley mcgoldrick etc he could in george graham's latter teams

Anonymous said...

I dont want to be too hard on lehmann but had it been almunia that made that mistake on Sunday, he would most probably never play for the club again and almost every fan would turn very much against him. Every tiny mistake almunia makes is critisized from every corner but Jens can make blunders regularly and a lot of fans say, "Its OK he wont do that again, isn't he crazy!" I dont think we are being fair to Manuel thats all.
I dont like going through every mistake of a player but Lehmann gave away numerous goals last season and some people seem very blinkered to that fact. I have not worked out how many points he has cost us since 'fault' is only an opinion and not fact.

Anonymous said...

"As for Jens, a mistake is a mistake. He's never looked that comfortable with the ball at his feet, but still pulled off a great save from Davies to keep us in the game. Don't even think of calling for Almunia."

I totally agree.

Goonerboy said...

I can see what you're saying Gazzap, but i think you're being harsh on Jens. Jens can win us games at the highest level, i'm not sure Almunia can.

Anonymous said...

Not too much point debating endlessly about Jens. Whatever you think about him, It's pretty obvious that we've got him as number one for one more year (apart from in the cups) and he'll probably move on after that. Although I'm not his biggest fan, I think his reputation suffers as much from relentless media criticism as it does from the mistakes he undoubtedly makes (the sort of criticism that's never levelled against Paul Robinson for instance).

Anyway, come on you Gooners !

Anonymous said...

Still thinking it is a new beginning, we will have to wait for the next few matches to tell because it was a total freak start to the new season. It did give us the same old problem but I dont think it is the same old season. Dont ask me why but I am really optimistic this season, might be the liquor talking but like I said dont ask..

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and believe that Jens should be on goal. This was a terrible mistake, but he has proven his worth many a time.
If hleb plays in this posn for most of the season, i'm damn sure he'll score 10 goals..!

Anonymous said...

I think the formation was forced on us by need to perfect before we played Sparta and injuries to two of our forwards.

The problem with Almunia is there are doubts about his ability at the highest level whereas we know that Jens can win us a game which he did a few times last season despite it not being his best season to put it nicely.

Well done Spurs for two great results :P. Glad to see Arsenal at least got off to a winning start even if performance was less then perfect