Same old Same old I am afraid today. That is what we got this afternoon. It happened at Chelsea, at home and away to Liverpool and once again today. What am I talking about? Well, we produced a good performance, were arguably the better side but came up short once again. The same reasons have applied every time. We cannot keep a clean sheet at the back and are still wasting chances.
Rarely does any team go to Manchester United, take the game to them and have 13 shots on target, nearly double the amount United had. We may have been slightly down on the possession front but we had the chances to win this game. Like we were at Anfield we were wasteful in front of goal and no one was more culpable than Emmanuel Adebayor.
He looked lively early on as his early shot was blocked by Ferdinand but then seemed to fade. His work rate faded and he was easily gotten the better of by Ferdinand from then on. Then came the worst thing of all; two chances came his way, one in particular was amazing.
Adebayor has been praised this season for his improvement in front of goal and it seems deserved after getting 20+ goals. Today however, the old Ade returned. We saw the signs of it when he fluffed a glorious chance on Tuesday night but this was even easier. After some brilliant approach work by Alex Hleb Ade was put in one on one. In the pub I was in the fans waited to cheer. He settled himself, opened up his body and it all seemed perfect, the net was waiting to bulge and then…
He missed. Bloody typical. The man who talked all the talk before the game fluffs the best chance of the game. If Ade really was the striker he has been made out to be, there would be no doubt. The finish was weak and way too close to Van Der Saar. When a striker opens up his body like that he has to hit the corners. Ade’s shot was tame but he ran off with a smile. Not good enough I am afraid.
The problem is that we have seen Ade change so much this season. He has blossomed into our main man up front. He has learnt to play in our team as well as getting goals. The question is whether he can do the same next season also. Recently he has dropped off and his shots to goals ratio is falling fast. Today he could have had a hat trick but came away with one; a goal he was lucky to get after getting himself in a muddle.
Do not get me wrong, Ade has been fantastic this season and may have just run out of steam. The problem I have is when certain players do not give their all and others are clearly busting a gut. Ade seemed to give up too many balls and too often passed the buck in front of goal. Is Ade going to do the same as this season and more? We need him to if Wenger is going to wait on Eduardo and keep the strikers we have now. That is question no.1 for Wenger this summer.
Before the game I was very surprised with Wenger’s team selection, both in a good and a bad way. When I saw Lehmann in goal I did not know how to react. He is a good keeper and performed well today. The only problem I have with him is his attitude to this club. He has insulted Wenger and his team-mates in recent days and I am fed up. When I found out Almunia was injured, not benched, I felt it was an obvious decision made by Wenger.
In my opinion the selection of Alex Song was a bold one but also an astute one. Wenger clearly does not trust Hoyte against the likes of Ronaldo and knew Toure could do a far better job at right back. After his errors against Liverpool it as not surprising Phil was not involved. Song is better on the ball and strong on the ground. Apart from a few small mishaps he played well I thought. Well done Wenger in this case.
He cancelled this decision out with the decision to go with Eboue once again. It is getting beyond a joke now with these two. Wenger seems to be blind to the fact Eboue is not good enough. He has his good moments but always cancels these out with far more horrible ones. I do not know what Theo Walcott has to do to get a start over this guy but he must be pissed off to say the least.
Wenger may have opted for a more defensive right side with Ronaldo likely to play on that side. The only problem was that we needed to win this game and if we were being brave, Theo was the right selection. We missed his pace on the counter and his positivity was never in Eboue. Toure had Ronaldo in his pocket throughout but had nothing working in front of him. Wenger really must decide whether Eboue really is a winger (he is NOT) and demote him back to a squad player. He is nowhere near good enough to start for the Arsenal.
As the game begun I was happy, we took the game to United in the same manner as we did Liverpool. We should have been winning at the interval and had only had 1 real scare after a defensive lapse (sensing the common theme here?). There was still all to play for and as long as we kept it up the game was there for the taking.
I was expecting a far more cagey second half and could see us nicking a goal late on. We had looked threatening but also unconvincing when going forward. I was as surprised as anyone when we took the lead 3 minutes in. It summed up Ade’s day that he got himself in a muddle but still bundled it in. I guess it doesn’t matter how they go in; they all count.
Teams rarely go there and take a 1-0 lead but when they do they fight tooth and nail to hold the lead. We just threw it away. At Chelsea we defended appallingly and were punished heavily. During the first leg of the Champions League tie we let Gerrard walk through and set up a goal. In the league game against Liverpool we were caught with yet a defensive lapse and then we were caught THREE times at Anfield. Today was no different, both goals were defensive errors.
That has been a problem all season for us. The difference between Arsenal and Chelsea or Manchester United is that we do not have a solid base to build on. Man Utd have Vidic and Ferdinand, Chelsea have Terry and Carvalho. These two teams can take a lead and defend it to the end. We can do nothing like this. I always believe we will concede goals in these games.
The penalty came from an absurd mistake from Gallas. There was no one around him when he handled it and it was not an accidental handball; his arm came out to stop the ball. He clearly got no information that he had time to clear or the fact Lehmann could come and collect the ball. It was ridiculous to give United something so soft to get back into the game.
The problem again was the lack of penetration going forward. The only time we ever looked like taking the lead again was when a United player tried to give us a goal. Ferdinand and Brown both nearly deflected the crosses which Clichy, who was always getting forward, put in. Apart from this all our efforts on goal lacked power and conviction.
The season was summed up by the 2nd goal really. Having taken such an important lead we could not hold it but even then we failed to strangle the momentum back and started to get sloppy. We started to get the ball away and everything we had done so well up until the equaliser went out of the window. Up until the 50th minute we had cleared the ball when it needed clearing and played it around when we could.
As the game reached the 70th minute mark the ball came into our box but harmlessly fell to an Arsenal. All that was needed was a giant boot through the ball, what we got was a crappy clearance straight to Evra who fooled Gilberto into making a stupid foul. It tainted what was a very good performance from Gilberto actually. Hargreaves stepped up and delivered an unsavable free kick.
Was that the season over there and then? I thought it was. The problem was simply that I could not see us scoring twice. That is a problem. Since the Birmingham game we have failed to score more than 1 goal in a League game. That is awful when a team is pushing for the title. The play has gone back to being in front of teams and we lack ideas. I do feel Rosicky would have made a difference.
He wants things to happen and if they are not he will try and make it happen. He increases the pace of our play which compliments how Cesc and Hleb play. The latter two like to slow it down and wait for the killer pass. Even though they are able to do this, it becomes too static and it needs pace along with creativity. Rosicky provides this. The crux of it is whether he can stay fit, another dilemma for Wenger come the summer.
One thing I cannot understand is why Van Persie is not played through the middle. I know Hleb carved out our best chance but Van Persie can pick a pass, as well as score a goal at any time. Hleb never looks like he will score and can pick the perfect pass from a wide position, he cuts in anyway. Van Persie looks a bit lost on the wing and once he moved inside looked far happier and more dangerous. Playing him on the left restricts him and this is a tactic I think Wenger needs to rethink. I am beginning to question certain decisions from the boss. I have stuck through him when others have doubted but there are a few things that worry me.
His substitutions were also questionable. I know Van Persie has just returned from injury but he can still score at any moment. He also provides a threat from set pieces. To take him off for Bendtner when we are 2-1 baffles me. It was win or bust and this includes keeping your attacking players on, however lacking in match practice they are. He still knows where the goal is and can have a far better effect on the Arsenal goal tally than Song can at the back.
His second change also was a bit strange. Unless Toure was injured what was the point in Hoyte coming on. Toure had been brilliant in my opinion and was a threat going forward with his power and determination. I hope Wenger did not bring Hoyte on as a small gift to Hoyte. When the clock is running, substitutions give teams time to take a breather. Unless it was an attacking change it did not have a beneficial effect at the time. Strange.
My heart goes out to Cesc Fabregas. I wondered whether he would have the legs to play another arduous 90 minutes but he showed me that he has commitment and heart aplenty to get through these games. He worked tirelessly and although his finishing let him down, he was the main architect of everything good we did. Clichy and him fought like soldiers where others did not. Next season Cesc needs help if we do not want the same things to happen next season.
So, the season is over in terms of trophies and it’s time to plan for the next. If Wenger needed a kick up the backside it came when Fergie made some changes. Our bench consisted of Djourou, Hoyte, Bendtner and Walcott. Man Utd’s had Tevez and Anderson. These two players are way ahead of those players on ours and that was the difference. Wenger needs to spend some cash. He doesn’t need to spend loads on one player but he needs a few players who have experience and can improve the team and more importantly the squad. If he costs £2m or £15m, if he can help us Wenger needs to reinforce.
The season still has a few games to run and I encourage you all to back the team during our remaining fixtures. There is no doubt we have over performed this season and definitely proven those who thought we would finish outside the top 4, wrong. It is disappointing after being 5 points clear with only 10 games to go but hopefully we learn our lessons, make changes where they are necessary and challenge next season.
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