Whoops! Again

I shan’t dwell too long on yesterday’s 1-4 home defeat to Chelsea. It’s far, far too painful. Especially after last Tuesday. More woeful defending and some woeful goalkeeping from Lukasz Fabianski, in for Manuel Almunia, not risked with an ankle injury, were responsible for at least three and arguably all four of Chelsea’s goals.
With Emmanuel Adebayor dropped to the bench and Nicklas Bendtner not selected in his place, Robin van Persie started alone up top. Hard to believe but we had the best of the first 25 minutes by a fair margin. Yet again we couldn’t take our chances. Yet again we were guilty of pub team defending. Boom. Chelsea are two up at half time. Another horrid piece of defending saw the visitors go three up four minutes into the second half. We were getting another walloping.
Fortunately we managed to stem the tide a bit, especially after the entrance of Nicklas Bendtner for the woeful Abou Diaby on the hour. Bendtner got his head down and worked hard. The Dane headed home well about ten minutes after coming on. 1-3.  Emmanuel Adebayor and  Denilson replaced Theo Walcott and Alexandre Song (our best player of a poor performance overall) just before our goal. Adebayor’s performance lacked any urgency or drive, with him affecting an air of uninterest.
Then we hit the big red self-destruct button at the back. Again. How many more times? 1-4.
That’s all she wrote for our League season. We’re locked into fourth. We can probably expect United to win away at the JJB Stadium on Wednesday. That will leave them needing just one point against us at Old Trafford next weekend to nail on the defence of their Premier League title. They will want to do this to a) pay us back in part at least, for 2002 and b) to leave them a “spare week” in the League to prepare for Rome and Barcelona. Great. The travelling Gooner Nation must be really looking forward to next weekend. Not.
All that’s left for us now is to prepare for next season. With two World Cup qualifiers in June for most European, African and Central/North American/Caribbean countries and the Confederations Cup in South Africa for which Cesc Fàbregas will likely be called up for Spain, most of our senior players will be on international duty. It would be as well to rest as many of possible of them from the last two League games to allow them a mini-break before international duty. Some will get barely four weeks off in the summer before returning to pre-season training. With two important Champions League qualifiers to play early in August and the Premier League season starting on 15 August, it’s important that the players get some sort of a decent break.
My “to go” list from the current first team squad:
Abou Diaby, Philippe Senderos
Tomáš Rosický, Mikaël Silvestre
Emmanuel Adebayor, Amaury Bischoff
To come in:
Central defender
Holding midfielder
As I said in my blogs last week, anybody else who wants to go should be shown the door lively so we know what players we’re looking for in the transfer market.
Lukasz Fabianski should be loaned out for the season to a decent quality side either here or overseas where he’ll definitely play. We need to see whether he can mature into a decent keeper who can command his area and cut out the errors. Manuel Almunia has had a decent season but he’ll never be top of the range.
Getting rid of six senior professionals and bringing in four should make the changes affordable. Two of the nippers should be looking to move up the pecking order to make up the numbers.
As the first twenty-five minutes proved yesterday, we’re not a million miles away from being a very decent side but we MUST strengthen with seasoned pros in up the “spine” of the team. Arsčne Wenger also needs to reflect long and hard about our tactics, formation and defending. We need radical improvement in our team defending as well as in the back four and between the sticks. We need to hit the ground running when the players return from holiday in early July, hopefully with reinforcements already in place. We HAVE to sort our defending if we’re be amongst the honours next May. We also need to develop an “edge”. We’re too easily bullied in the middle of the park at the moment.
Apropos of absolutely nothing, but in  order to try and lift the gloom a bit, I thought I’d share a story I heard last August when I had the privilege of meeting an ex player and manager  whilst I was in Buenos Aires called Héctor “Bambino” Veira. Think somebody like Frank Worthington from the 1970s, a goodtime boy with loads of talent but an eye for the women and a party. His career took him from Argentina to Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Guatemala. He played out his career with Comunicaciones in Guatemala City.
He’s playing for them in an international friendly tournament in  San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. The crowd at the Estadio Cuscatlán is infamously completely deranged. The referee is Mexican. They’re playing the local team Alianza. After 30 minutes of being tripped, kicked, spat at and having his hair pulled he complains to the referee who tells him, “¿Y que quieres que me hago? ¡Aqui vale todo!” (“What do you want me to do? Anything goes here!”).
In the second half he goes to take a corner. Just as he’s setting himself to take the kick, a live cat is lobbed at him from the crowd! It digs its claws into his shoulders before jumping to the ground and scampering off. The referee’s response to this? “¡Por suerte aqui no fue leon!” (“Good luck for you that here it wasn’t a lion!”). Just to put the icing on the cake, on the way from the ground to their hotel the team bus was bricked – and the local team had won 2-1! What the f**k would they have done if they had lost!
I remember reading an interview with the former West Ham United and Ipswich Town goalie Craig Forrest who was a Canadian international. He played a couple of times for Canada at the Cuscatlán. He said the crowd in San Salvador was the most completely unhinged and hostile he’d ever encountered. Looks like he wasn’t exaggerating!
I’ve seen a few things lobbed at football grounds both here around the world but a live cat! That’s got to be worth some kind of prize!
I couldn’t resist sharing that. I think it deserves a wider audience!
Keep the faith!

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