The problem with going a goal down is that it allows the other team to sit back, defend, and generally piss around wasting time. Deep into the second half of today’s game against Fulham, Arsenal fans were dreading a disastrous start to the season. Not only were we dropping points to a team we should beat weak in, weak out, but we were not in sufficient control of the game against a mediocre side. The team showed tremendous spirit in the final ten minutes to grab the win, and we should be absolutely delighted with the 3 points (as celebrations in the ground showed), but there are one or two matters for concern that have arisen from today’s game: (I’m not going to include Jens’ hideous error – it was rare, unique, and although it swung the game early on, there’s no point thinking about it).
1. We don’t resemble champions From the word go we looked nervous. Watch Chelsea or Man Utd (or even Liverpool) and you will see a confidence in the way the ball moves around their feet. We have the look of a team that suspects it’s going to make it’s own life difficult, rather than one that simply knows it’s going to win. This concerns me.
2. We are STILL missing chances By half time we had created a lot of chances, and although you can never finish everything, we should at least have scored one. Hleb and Rosicky were both guilty of letting good chances go to waste. We have to be more prolific, and we could have done with the confidence boost of putting more of our chances away.
3. Eboue had a very poor game My tip for assist-leader at the end of the season had an absolute shocker. Passes went astray, attacking lacked edge – he looked exactly like Theo at right midfield this time last season. We can’t afford to waste this position as we did last season.
4. We lacked presence in midfield Cesc picked up the ball, and made passes, but too few lacked bite, lacked vision, and to be honest, too few did not end up at our players’ feet. I’m hoping this can be put down to a lack of match sharpness, but the season has begun. Also, battler as Flamini is, I would be far more positive and comfortable with Diaby partnering Fabregas in midfield, in sheer terms of presence and drive. When Flamini picks up the ball, you just don’t get the sense that he is going to initiate a goal move. With Diaby, no doubt, you do. In the second half in particular today, we looked to be outplayed in the middle of the park, and this was a serious concern. But it’s not all bad. Quite apart from the (essential) three points, a few things were promising. Sagna had a very solid game at right back – he looked quick, tackled solidly, got his head in the right places, and looked comfortable on the ball. The execution of and build up to our goals was good – Kolo’s heroic run, RVP’s unstoppable penalty (seriously, wait til you see it!) and Hleb’s much aligned composure on the ball. Good for them both to get a goal under the belt. Shame Rosicky couldn’t do the same.
And finally, I am really pleased to say Nicklas Bendtner made a real difference when he came on in the second half. He won every header, was an effective target man, nearly scored, and at one point headed the ball out of the keeper’s hands, which was fantastic. I am now much closer to believing that he is a genuine premiership danger. Excellent stuff. Finally, though, I’ve just seen Lawrie Sanchez’s comments (can’t be arsed to check if that’s the right spelling – I don’t think it is) on Sky – betraying the uncanny resemblance of a bad loser. He appears to be outraged that we had 3 or 4 perfectly good penalty appeals turned down, on the basis of some strange logic that if someone goes down in the box it must either be a penalty or a yellow card for diving. WHAT? What about tripping over, or a good tackle that wins the ball? He also mentioned “Simon Davies about to slot the ball into the net when he was tripped from behind” outrageously not being given as a penalty. That’ll be because he tripped over himself, Lauree. Could it be, Lorrie, that you are a bit gutted that your team bottled it and threw away a 1-0 lead in the last five minutes? Or are you just embarrassed about the absurd time-wasting from the second minute (I shit you not) that suddenly looked a bit silly towards the end of the game? Either way, Lawryie, I think you should apologise – for the conduct of your team during the match, for your ill-judged comments after the game, and for making this afternoon a little more tense that it should have been. Hope you get relegated.
Onwards and upwards for the Arsenal. Just. Happy Spurs-taunting this week, folks.