60 games after coming to Ashburton Grove, the Emirates effect finally wore off. It was a result that no-one saw coming, but after the lethargic first half performance, it became a self fulfilling prophecy. It is not as though Arsenal invited this defeat as much as they contrived to lose the game through a failure to show a lack of desire to win. This Hull side came prepared for defeat and left with victory, what sweetest of ironies for Phil Brown who noted that Arsenal had only conceded a handful of goals in the last nine games, and all of them to through failing to defend set pieces, he remarked in his post match interview that they had worked hard on this on the training ground.
The game was lost in the first half through a series of poor first touches and the lack of the usual high tempo that enables the beautiful game to be played. Possession was conceded far too easily and when presented with chances in front of goal, we either missed them or refused to take them. From Robin van Persie through to Eboue, with rather unusually Theo Walcott missing his fair share, we had, as Arsene Wenger noted in his post match interview, 15 chances and we failed to take them. This being the day before his 12th Anniversary of being appointed manager of the Arsenal.
Half time : Arsenal 0 Hull City 0
We have now conceded 4 goals in six matches mainly from corners, with on at least three occasions William Gallas being next to the goal scorer without putting in a block as in Hangerland’s volley against Fulham, or a header as in the Bolton game and this one. His inability to track a simple near post run by Daniel Cousin has been typical of his performances this season. We hardly won an aerial ball all match. Even though Arsenal came out in the second half to show some intent, we lack the raw talent and desire that had been on show days earlier from our second team during their six nil demolition of Sheffield United.
Theo Walcott’s pace enabled Arsenal to go in front from a near post scramble following a blistering run down the right wing. His neat cut back from the goal line was almost turned in by Fabregas, but Paul McShane of Hull got there first.
Arsenal 1 Hull City 0 (McShane 50’)
Arsenal have shown that they have not learned the lessons of the Champions league quarter final defeat by Liverpool last season, and even though the statistics show that we we score the majority of our goals in the last 15 minutes of matches, we remain unable to maintain a lead for very long. Within ten or so minutes parity was restored by a Hull City equaliser. Last season I highlighted the anticipation shown by Alex Song in the defensive midfield position and how I felt that Denilson, talented as he is, lacks this footballing awareness. No better example was demonstrated than before Hull’s Brazilian Geovanni released a 35 yard wonder strike into the top right hand corner of Almunia’s net.
Arsenal 1 Hull City 1 (Geovanni 62’)
Denilson and to be fair to him, Theo Walcott backed off the player in a dangerous area of the pitch, thus inviting the shot. The failure to put pressure on the ball was the major failing in the first half and it gave Hull the opportunity to take their chances. The second goal was defensively inept and I shall say no more about it, save that it was a near post raun and a glancing header to the far post that undid the Arsenal. David Cousin had given Gallas a hard time, and now here was his reward.
Arsenal 1 Hull City 2 (Cousin 66’)
I recall at Highbury in the good old days when 1-nil to the Arsenal meant game over, I also recall the Arsenal who through the likes of Pires, Vieira, Henry and Bergkamp demolished lesser sides in the first twenty minutes with a breath taking ruthlessness. There was a passion and pride on show. We lack the killer instint with Adbayor who at times looks as though he really didn’t care. He upped his game in the second half, but really, for what he is being paid, I expect more passion and desire to score. I was not in agreement with the withdrawal of Theo Walcott with ten minutes to go, I screamed with anguish Noooo! but Arsene Wenger failed to hear my cry from the Orange Quadrant seat above him.
Success begins at the back and at the beginning of Arsene’s reign he was lucky enough to have inherited the best back four in the Premiership, over the last two seasons during his rebuilding he has either failed to acquire the right players or ignored this fact of history. These are frustrating times for Arsenal fans, and addition to the shock defeat yesterday, they will not have been buoyed by Arsene’s comments on the official site, which for me confirm his intention to consider leaving this club at the end of his contract.
“I’ve not thought about my contract,” he said. “I will give myself to the end of my contract in 2011 and then have a serious check-point. You don’t want as well to go on too long.
“I don’t want to walk away at the moment, but in two or three years things can change in any job.
“To be honest I would have laughed if someone had said I’d be here for 12 years.
“I was lucky in my career. I stayed for seven years in Monaco which is a good record in France, so in 19 years I had two clubs. Just to be a manager for 19 years needs luck.
“But I said to my wife ‘at 55 I stop, I promise you’. And at 55 I said ‘60’.
“Now I just don’t speak about it any more!”
There is no need to panic about these two losses, in that we remain only two points adrift of Chelsea at the top of the premiership, rather more worrying is the fact that we have yet to meet any of the top five sides from last Season, who one would consider to be much more stiffer challenges than the likes of Fulham or Hull City. Arsenal always raise their game against superior opposition, so I have no doubts that we will prevail, but what will be the consequence at the end of this season if we continue to fail to destroy lesser teams, when our rivals like Man U and Chelsea will almost certainly win their home bankers.
I close with more comments from Arsene Wenger, these from his post match interview to Setanta. When asked if Arsenal had a problem with set pieces, he replied
“You cannot say we have no problem w hen you concede goals.”
Full time: Arsenal 1 Hull City 2
It seems that the team that Arsene Wenger considers to be his strongest on paper have perversely ignored my mantra “success begins at the back” This group of players should feel ashamed when we compare the raw passion and desire to win shown by the youth team in their six nil demolition of Sheffield United midweek in the Carling Cup. This group of players had been rested apart from a couple and yet failed to deliver in a straightforward fixture. Inexplicably it seemsthat now defeat begins at the back.
Fabregas the King.