Saturday, February 21, 2009

Arsenal's unbeaten run has become a parody of the invincible season.

There's going unbeaten, and there's looking unbeatable. These are two quite different things.

In the 2003/4 season, of course, we didn't always coast through games, but, by and large, the Arsenal team of that season played like some form of demented force of nature. It had power, pace and technique, and, had it not been two goals in a quarter- and semi-final, we should have done a double, if not a treble.

You have to move on from the past, but you can never forget moments of history like that season. A lot of people would say that comparing the current crop of players to, quite possibly, the greatest team in Arsenal history is harsh; but to what else should we compare them? We were once winners and, it seems, this is no longer the case. So, understandably, Arsenal fans want to know what's gone wrong.

Well, we've stopped scoring goals. Our recent ability to keep clean sheets - only 3 goals conceded in the last ten games - has become an irrelevance compared to the fact we can't put the ball in the net at the other end. For all that every fan hates his team to lose, two draws yields less points than a defeat and a win.

Since the Che£sea game in late November we've only scored more than once in two games - against Hull and Villa. We've now notched up 3 goal-less league games, two of which were at home against opposition we should beat if we think ourselves to be a credible force in the league, let alone a team with ambitions of a fourth-place spot and the Champions League.

The reason we're not scoring is, ultimately, the midfield. Arshavin's arrival shows that Wenger has, hopefully, realised how pedestrian we've looked in the centre of the park of late, and, if nothing else, he will hopefully confine Eboue to the bench for the foreseeable future. The Owl certainly looked bright today in the sixty minutes he was given, and had a verve and spark that we've been missing. How much he can actually contribute to this season remains to be seen.

Aside from him we have:

- Denilson, who offers nothing, going forward or back.
- Song, who loses the ball as much as he does anything with or wins it.
- Nasri, who looks wonderful one games, then goes missing the next.
- Diaby, who looks and plays like he's half-asleep.
- Eboue, who i refuse to even talk about any more.
- Vela, who's too young.
- Rosicky, Fabregas and Walcott, who are all injured.

We have no energy in that midfield to win the ball and re-distribute it. We have a surfeit of players who expect someone else to do the donkey work for them and it shows. The Engine-room of the team isn't working; we're not creating enough chances, let alone dominating matches.

It's been a rubbish season because we haven't replaced key players who left last summer. Every Arsenal fan could see that losing Diarra, Gilberto, and Flamini (and hleb) in a period of six months was a disaster if these players wern't adequately replaced. Well, they wern't. We've had absolutely dross playing in the middle of the park this year and it's finally begun to show with our latest set of results. Relying on players like Song, Denilson, Diaby and Eboue to get you into the Champions League is the height of folly.

With an average midfield, we've coasted through games, largely relying on our reputation at times to force teams to play defensively and not expose our weaknesses too much. We've reached a point where we too good to lose, and not good enough to win; not even good enough to catch up on a team like Villa when we've got Sunderland and W Ham at home. It's rubbish.

What's been even more galling for me, in recent games, is that one of the few major pluses of this season, Johann Djourou, has been dropped, again. Why? What has Toure possibly done this season to warrant coming straight back into the side? It's a ridiculous,pedantic and pathetic decision by Wenger to continue the Gallas-Toure partnership when it has been made absolutely patent that they cannot play together, especially after he constantly bangs on about giving 'youth a chance', then drops our best young player this year!

So that's where we are in late February. Hanging on in fifth place, hoping for a cup run to paper over the cracks. Here's hoping our battle with the Romans brings some light-relief.

til later.


Anonymous said...

I never usually write a comment on any blog but after reading this i felt i had to :) Greatest blog i have ever read, and based on this, might have to read them all from now on (Y)

Anonymous said...

I agree. Can´t be arsed to add anything but to say this. The decision not to replace the players you mentioned must surely go done in history as the most idotic decision done by a top club!

Anonymous said...

I agree. Can´t be arsed to add anything but to say this. The decision not to replace the players you mentioned must surely go done in history as the most idotic decision done by a top club!

Anonymous said...

i hate to say it but, the business end of the season started today, and on the the day we were trully supposed to make ground on which team lost out of chelsea v villa.....we didn't, the penny isn't dropping! and unlike 3years ago i don't see the mr Henry or pires of this team? nasri as good as he is plays way too many side way passes for the teams good? and the nearset is v.persie (and he's not exactly known for being prolific) and these are the positives in our team, let alone the negatives GOONERBOY is talking about. SOYY GUYS BUT IT'S THE UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE FOR US NEXT YEAR!

Anonymous said...

Song is completely useless. All he does is pass it sideways or backwards. He slows down our game and the same with denilson. They play the ball to each other with no dynamic. The ball doesn`t go forward. The other problem is our two fullbacks. What the f... is their problem? Clichy is a shadow of himself from last season, looks like he`s outta confidence. Sagna and clichy can`t cross a ball...we need to do something unusual. for example play djourou in the anchor role, so we can win the ball and then use denilson running around picking up the loose balls. song and denilson can`t play together.

Anonymous said...

i remember wenger saying when we lost gilberto for majority of the 2004/2005 season when we lost our title to to chealsea......"with a kitchen full of chefs/cooks there always needs to be a cleaner"........he could really learn from his own advise right now! because you can see the energetic cleaning flamini did last year was incredible NOW YOU KNOW HE WAS WORTH £60-70 THOUSAND A WEEK

Anonymous said...

It's not harsh to compare this current crop to the Invincibles. Esspecially as Wenger keeps coming out with BS like "This is my best crop of players" and that we wre "1 or 2% from being title challengers".

There are far too many problems in the team. Cant be bothered to list them because we all know exactly what they are.

The key thing for me is the football. Once upon a time you could always say that Arsenal played the most entertaining style but not anymore. We dont break with any urgency. It's not use complaining that teams only try to defend when they come to the Emirates. What are they supposed to do? If we insist on sideways passing, then they're fully entitled to get men behind the ball. That's football.

I would like to say today was one of the worst games this season but i've said that every week this calender year!

I didn't enjoy any of it and have to say, people wont be renewing THE MOST EXPENSIVE TICKETS IN THE COUNTRY if they have to continue to put up with that.

We're becoming a rich man's Middlesboro.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget - this season is about excuses and the biggest excuse next to 'we're a young team' is our injuries.

Injuries, is the excuse we didn't win the title last season, and injuries will be the excuse we don't make it into the top four this season.

'Injuries', 'we're just unlucky', 'we're a young team' - can't wait for all the excuses at the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

Abso-fxxking-lutely right! We're no longer labeled entertaining football. Quick touch / one touch football was long gone since Bergkamp left!

Now just bunch of kids in training ground passing around. Arsenal used to be the best counter attacking team? It simply a laughing stoke now, the best delayed attacking team!

Anonymous said...

Mate, Denilson was one of our best players today and he created our best chance of the game which Van Persie couldn't convert. You say he offers nothing going forward or backward but he made our best chance today which makes your whole claim bullshit. He's a 20 year old with some of the best stats in the league.

Unknown said...

It upsets me to say this, but Wenger without David Dein is nothing, I think we can see without david nudging him in the right direction, he is blinded by his own ego, so at the end of the season when we finish at the best 5th, we should sack Wenger, and bring in Van Basten, with Berkamp as his assistant....

Anonymous said...

we lack penitration! we simply don't cut through teams any more, we side pass sidee pass side pass....until we finally see an opening to pass into where as our teams of the past have simply cut through teams with a one two...or a midfielder running beyond the stikers or simply a piece of brilliance. it's a collection of problems, it's not as simple as denilson! anonymous was right, SINCE I'D SAY SINCE BERGKAMP AND PIRES LEFT!

Anonymous said...

we all know whats wrong all except wenger hes on afc website after the game saying how denilson is one of the best midfielders in the country when will he ever learn

Anonymous said...

in wenger we shouldn't trust

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dude I read the Arsenal blogs a fair bit, and yours is crap. Djourou is one of the most positive things (and one of the few) about our season, however the one thing arsenal fans can't complain about is losing goals, thats why Toure and Gallas are playing at the back right now. The trigger that started this, Djourou being injured in a warm up to a game a few weeks ago, thus Gallas being put into the side, them playing a very tight game and going on a run which I wished they had gone on from the beginning of the season.

People we must question Wenger, we must question the team. BUT have respect for the man that bought us class by respecting his philosophy's. If there is any manager in the world you would rather have please state their name.

The only manager I want managing Arsenal right now and for the foreseeable future is Arsene Wenger, who will, in my opinion, go down in Arsenal history as the single most important individual contributer to date. A man who I think will be credited in fifty years time as being the man to bring english top flight football to the highest level it has been, and a man who will inspire coaches for decades to come.

That or Mourinho - which would you prefer.