Monday, April 14, 2008

Arsenal lack either maturity or bottle, as the season comes to an end.

So that's that. It's been a painful, drawn out end to the season, one that's seen us first draw, and then lose our way out of contention. When the rot started is unclear, but 2 wins since the home victory against Blackburn on 11 February tells its own story. That game was followed by the 4-0 drubbing at Old Trafford, and then by the nightmare which was the 2-2 draw at Birmingham. Whether we ever recovered from those games is questionable.

Anyway, the season review is something I'll write when we've played Sunderland; when things have formally drawn to a close. Yet, the game yesterday was, again, a microcosm of our season: we played some great football, dominated the game, took the lead, were unable to hold it, and fell to soft goals.

Because we were by no means outplayed by United yesterday. In the first half we repeatedly cut open their defence, and only lacklustre finishing by Adebayor stood between us and a first half lead.

Having said that, some superb saves by Jens Lehmann kept us in the match. Yet again, with almost no warning Jens has come back and pulled out a great performance in a massive match. Almunia has played well this year, but he has no authority in the box, and he doesn't consistently make the game-winning saves that Jens does. This may have been the his last game for the club, but I really think we could do better than promoting Almunia to the number 1 position.

Another player who performed well was Alex Song. The lad has come in for a lot of stick in his brief time at the club, but, a few slip ups aside, he look fairly assured on the ball and in the tackle which is saying a lot given this is his first league start this year(?). He certainly did better than Senderos on Tuesday.

As for the rest of the team:

Eboue showed, yet again, that not only is he not good enough to play for Arsenal, he's also a complete twat. Case in point: out team has the ball, break over the half-way line, Eboue goes down injured. Instead of continuing our attack we have to knock the ball out for Eboue's injury, which is, of course, non-existent. United then pull the Chavski trick of kicking the ball out at our corner flag to restart play. Not only, therefore, is he rubbish when he gets the ball, he endangers our goal-line when he doesn't have it. Sell. Now.

Hleb played well, but we had to play RvP out on the left-wing to accommodate him as a support-striker. If Hleb wants to play in the hole, his goalscoring record needs to improve; either he grows some balls and takes a few more shots, or we put him on the wing or on the bench.

RvP: completely wasted on the left; like he always is when he plays there.

Cesc was knackered, Gilberto put in a half-decent performance, Clichy was marvellous apart from his crossing, Gallas cost us the lead with a stupid hand-ball, and Kolo looks in decline. Bendtner and Theo both deserve more minutes on the pitch.

In all, the team either lacks maturity or bottle. To take the lead against the other top three teams in three separate games, and end up losing all three games hopefully only points to a lack of maturity in seeing these situations out. But Alex Hleb is 27; Gallas is 31; Kolo is 27; Gilberto is 31. Are these players really going to get more mature?

Perhaps the answer is a mixture of both. Players like Ade, Clichy, Fab are not mature enough, yet; others in the team are maybe just not tough enough.

We had the league in our hands this season but blew it. We're not a million miles away from success, but I can't see us winning trophies without a thicker squad, and one which does not rely on the likes of injury-prone Rosicky and RvP, or idiots like Eboue.

I wrote at the beginning of last season - not this one - that the team was 90% complete. We still seem to be at this state of affairs. United beat us professionally: by taking their chances, ones that we largely presented to them through an idiotic handball and a needless challenge on the edge of the area. Moreover, they were able to bring on the likes of Anderson and Tevez when the clock began to run down. United have efficiently rotated their squad this season; we haven't. Ours is on its last legs; theirs will push on to win the league, and perhaps the CL as well.

The remaining 10% we need may come from within the team, but I'm pretty sure it needs an injection of new blood to push us across the final ten yards. I'm hoping we'll see this situation remedied this summer. Whatever happens, let's not turn on Arsene; he deserves better than that. The media will certainly be out for his blood soon, and let's not buy into the rubbish that'll be in most papers over the summer.

So, four games left, and some players will hopefully use them to prove their worth, or otherwise.

In any case, the 2008/9 season starts today.


Anonymous said...

I don't want to turn on Wenger but I will if he does not rectify our obvious problems in the summer. He needs to act decisively and not be stubborn.

The Eboue experiment has been a horrible failure and the player is a disgrace to the shirt with his idiotic antics. I don't blame Wenger for that, but now is the time to get rid - not just persist with it in the vague hope something might improve.

There has been a lot of good things about the season, but for me the biggest failure is in an area that should have been recognised last summer - central defence.

I don't blame Wenger entirely for this, as Toure's form has taken a shocking nosedive since January. But I think Senderos and Djourou are non-existant back up and were never going to be good enough for a team challenging for top honours. Wenger stockpiles central midfielders to the extent that an excellent player like Diarra is forced to leave, yet in central defence we are horribly horribly short.

I think Gallas would be a better
captain and a lot more assured if he didn't have to turn left and see Clichy making defensive errors and Senderos playing like a donkey, turn right and see Toure missing every header going or Song?? Or even have to worry about a keeper behind him that never comes for a cross.

Anonymous said...

We need to replace pires & freddie. We need wide players who will score goals. We need a defence that will keep clean sheets , players that know how to defend. But most of all we need some backbone...a team that knows how to win games.A successful team is one that has balance... strong and solid at the back creative & exciting going forward. THE TEAM WE HAD IN 2004 .

Anonymous said...

Good post. Why is it that wenger doesn't see the "Eboue-problem" like the rest? Truly baffling.

Kolo, like you said, is on the decline, and rather disappointing.

Lehman is better than that "aluminium" in goal, more commanding and brave.

Ade? Wenger shouldn't think twice about getting a much better, top quality and experienced striker. Having tons of money in the bank doesn't win any title or trophy.

Anonymous said...

1. On Clichy, regardless of whether there are players in the box, his crosses aren't as good as Sagna generally. And he often stalls and runs into dead end after skipping past several, and at times resorts to stupid challenges to recover and getting booked. In short, poor final ball/ decision making; hopefully that would come with time. After all Sagna is several years older.

2. On number of goals scored by our MF, it's seriously pathetic. We aren;t going to win with Adebayor, Bendtner or Walcott unless the talented MFs of ours (helb, flamini, diaby, rosicky, even cesc) start shooting properly and with some BITE. Their shooting, if ever attempted, all seem to be so darn weak it's embarassing. And to top it up, Hleb couldn't even cross!

3. I thought strikers either head or shoot to score a goal (let's park the hand of god technique for a moment). A simple question is, do they seriously practice shooting? Again, there's so little BITE behind their shots - just look at Adebayor and Bendtner shots in recent games - no wonder we need so many chances to convert 1.

Lastly, why on earth do our players start getting cute as soon as we have the upper hand, say, after we scored??? The ManU, L'pool, Birmingham etc games illustrate our season (so far) in one game -- great start, playing 'beautiful', tons of possession,... and wow, we scored (~jan/ feb08), so let's start fooling around (feb/ mar), shall we? And within secs/ mins (mar/ apr), it's all over!

We don't kill games off anymore... even earlier this season it wasn;t done well but we managed. In the same way, we couldn't kill off the PL and gave up the 5pt lead so so easily.

And until our players (hopefully with some new ones) push for the 2nd, 3rd goals and have the "let's humilate the opposition" (from a footballing viewpoint) mentality and score the 4thm 5th etc when we could, we might as well expect the same o same o next season!

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Anonymous said...

Eboue wasn't too bad at right back in previous seasons - he was certainly more exciting going forward than Lauren and the quality of his crossing last season was very promising. It's a pity it hasn't worked with him at right midfield - one can only assume that Arsene sees him perform to a very high level in training and has been waiting for things to click on the pitch (must also explain Cygan, Senderos, Stepanovs, etc.). A virtually nil return for goals and assists, though, is woeful and Wenger should have reacted sooner.

Clichy, for all his energy and potential going forward, hasn't laid on a lot, appears in the box less than Cashley, and has made a few howlers. Though the penalty at Birmingham was harsh, it was Clichy who dropped the clanger by inexplicably handing over posession on the edge of our box. I believe our season wouldn't have nose-dived in the way it did if we had managed to come away from the horrific events at Birmingham with a win. It would have spurred the team on - as it was, Gallas lost the plot and everyone felt like we'd just seen a defining moment in the Premier League season.

Hleb promised to score 10 goals at the beginning of the season. He started well enough, but then forgot how to shoot/cross/threaten the opposing goal. For all his undoubted skill, it's amazing he manages to stand up at all without a spine...

Adebayor was bound to score goals this season. Arsenal create chances - as many if not more than anyone else. We have done for years. He's not the finished article, he has squandered a LOT, but he probably suffered from losing Eduardo - they were building a pretty effective understanding. Arsenal would be SO good if we had a world-class striker (RVP probably is but shows up for less than half the season). And why on earth did he get his haircut? That was asking for trouble...

Other thoughts.... I don't think the Flamini contract saga will have helped the 'togetherness' of the squad. Nor Bendtner's ego. Wenger seems to find it difficult to manage a squad - note Diarra, Bentley, Lehmann, Gilberto, etc. well publicised dissatisfaction at sitting on the bench.

And you can throw all those comments out of the window if you consider how, with just a little less bad luck, we could well have been top of the league and in the Champions League semi-final right now.