Part 2 of the response failed, simple as that. The Porto victory was only one half of the job for this week and the lads have faltered at the second hurdle. It is no good playing some great football one game and then going into the next one with a lacklustre performance. Ok, we had a controversial decision go against us with the disallowed goal, but that happens in football sometimes.
For the second League game in a row we’ve failed to beat a team we have to beat if we want to keep up any type of title challenge. The formula has not changed for the teams we come up against; it is not anything different from the last few years. It seams we do not have enough in the locker to deal with it.
Only once this season have we dispelled the idea of defending in numbers and this is not enough. Sunderland are not a brilliant footballing side but you always know you’re going to get a game up there. When an Arsenal fans sees the opposition sit deep in an organised fashion, he cannot help but think, “here we go again”. There is no reason why teams should change this if it works and it is working.
Porto were poor at the back but today Sunderland were very solid. Arsenal lacked ideas to break them down and it was only in the second half that certain things started to happen. The players talked a good game this week but if they continue this way for the rest of the season, a top four finish will be the best we can hope for.
Someone mentioned to me today something about Adebayor, and he was pretty much spot on. Strikers are meant to score consistently and this is something Ade has not done. In 9 starts this season, Adebayor has scored 6 goals which on the face of it is pretty good. On closer inspection however, he has only scored in 3 of them. This is not what you expect of a striker. It does not matter if a striker scores 7 in one game if that all he does all season. Ade has lost the consistency he had last year. Last season he did miss chances but in most of our games, he got on the scoresheet. This season, the exact opposite has happened. When we needed him at Fulham, at home to Hull and today at Sunderland, we got nothing.
Bendtner came on at the 65 minute mark and suddenly the first real chance of note came about. His pass to Van Persie allowed him to test Gordon. It was only a really good save that denied him. There is another few arguments that suggest why Bendtner should get his chance. Away at Bolton, when we need someone to stand up and be counted, Bendtner produced one assist and one goal. Against Sheffield United he led a young team and set an example with two early goals.
His relationship with Van Persie is also a good one. I remember last season when they got a few games together, Bendtner was exactly the type of player Van Persie plays best with. Adebayor is in a similar mould but for me Bendtner is the man in form and Ade still has a lot to work on. A few good performances have saved Ade’s place but dropping him to the bench would be a real statement of intent from Wenger and set the example that mediocrity is not accepted.
Theo Walcott brought things down to earth a little bit today. It was far too much to expect him to produce performance after performance. When he is not at his best others have to stand up and be counted. One mistake today was playing Denilson as a wide player. If Song was to come in, Denilson should be on the bench. Samir Nasri offers balance on the left and it was not a coincidence also that he was part of an improved performance against Porto.
A new formation that resembled something of a 4-2-3-1 was an unnecessary change. 4-4-2 worked in midweek and with Sunderland always likely to sit deep, two defensive midfield players was not needed. He could have played Vela out wide if he didn’t want to play Nasri but Van Persie’s threat is lost when he’s out wide.
Today, the defence was not as bad as it has been but we still look slightly open at the back and a slight error cost us for the goal. Song was caught on the ball but give credit to Leadbitter who hit an unstoppable shot to give them the lead. At least there was a response, however late it might have been.
Credit to Cesc for getting on the end of it but it should never have got to such a desperate situation. If there was energy from the start, surely a few more chances would have given us the chance to put something away.
It is probably time to make a few changes now. No player is too good to be dropped. Sometimes the balance is needed to improve the team. Against teams we are expected to beat, 2 strikers is imperative and the in form strikers should be used. Bendtner is playing well right now and he deserves a chance, whether it be Van Persie or Ade who are rested.
It is disappointing not to win today but it clearly has highlighted we are missing something. We still have not learned how to break down teams and maybe Eduardo is the answer when he returns. Right now he’s not available and the lads who are have to take it upon themselves to work out how they can do it.