There are two ways to view last night’s draw against Newcastle. The first is to be disapointed that we drew with a side struggling in mid-table and against a team who had shipped four goals against Portsmouth and three against Liverpool. The other one – the one I choose to take – is that we got a draw away at a side fighting for their place in the team, fighting for their manager and all that with 3/4 of our main midfield out injured, aswell as one of our first choice strikers out.
With Hleb and Flamini added to the injury list already containing Fabregas and Van Persie, last night’s game was always going to be a tough match. Rosicky, Diarra, Eboue and Adebayor started from the front six from saturday. Flamini was replaced by Gilberto and Eduardo came in for Hleb. It all began so well as Eboue delivered the perfect cross for Adebayor to score a fantastic goal. After only three minutes we were 1-0 up and many feared the worst for Newcastle. Their defence seemed dodgy a couple of times shortly after but we did not capatalise. It was then that Wenger made a mistake.
Eduardo was moved out to the left and we went into a 4-5-1 formation. For me this was wrong and Wenger has to take some blame here. First of all Eduardo is not a left winger, he is a centre forward and looked out of place out wide – AGAIN. It was supposed to give Rosicky a more central role where he could dictate play but with only one runner ahead of him he did not have much to work with. He only had two real openings: in one Adebayor ran ahead of him leaving Tomas with no option but to try and outpace 4 defenders; the other time he chose to pass when the shot was probably the better option. Going 5 in midfield also gave the initiative to Newcastle; there was no real out-ball and Adebayor was isolated. We had started well with two strikers casusing their shaky defence problems. Our creativity was lost against Villa once Hleb went off and if we were to score more we really needed two up front to compensate his absence.
The defence were left with the job of trying to keep out the Newcastle attack for 75+minutes and although they were capable of achieving this feat against Villa, it was too much last night. They did well to keep it at 1-1 and in particular Almunia was outstanding. He made many crucial saves in both the first and second half. In midfield Gilberto and Diarra had the job of disrupting Newcastle and the Frenchman really impressed me. One particular moment where he held off four challenges with strength and determination really got me off my seat. Had more players taken his example we might have done better last night. The problem was too many players went missing when we most needed them.
Eboue was non-existent in the second half and I barely saw him touch the ball. When it was nescessary for him to get on the ball and buy the defence some time he failed to do it. Eboue is good when we are playing good Football and he is involved in our slick passing game. However, when our backs are against the wall and we need players to stand up and be counted, he goes into his shell far too many times. Eduardo failed to hold up the ball and it was his mistake that led to the goal. The Croat does not seem to fit into our system yet but until he is played in his natural position I refuse to have much of a go at him.
Gilberto showed his experience and how important he can be to the team. Some of his interceptions were first class and his calmness on the ball does help when the going gets tough. However we did miss Flamini in there, aswell as the creativity of Cesc and Hleb. Ade held the ball up well and he needed a better supply from the midfield. One criticism of Adebayor last night was that his decision making was poor at times. When he could have played Eduardo in for a one on one he chose to try and beat his man and ran too wide to do anything other than win a corner. A few times he had an easy pass that would have played a team mate in but he was erratic and his pass was wayward.
This result was not a disaster, far from it, but with the likelihood the 4 players will be out once more for Sunday, we must learn from last night and be far more direct and clinical to get back on track in the League. We are still 4 points ahead in the League and go into a tricky December with players to come back. Bring on the third leg of our Northern round trip.