Archive for November, 2006

Fulham 2-1 Arsenal: Rock Bottom?

263 comments November 30th, 2006

I have to say, I’m hoping that last night’s performance was the very bottom and now the only way is up:
I don’t think I could take anything worse than this. I’ve seen bingo games with steadier balls than this crew was peddling. Defensively, it was one of the worst Arsenal performances I’ve ever seen.. Fulham could, and perhaps should, have scored five.

I’m not going to start criticising individuals. The whole thing was shambolic, and the selection insulting. It is not a criticism of the likes of Hoyte and Song to say they should never have been starting, it is a criticism of a bizarre decision by Arsene.

This morning there have been many angry fans saying it’s the end of the Wenger era, which strikes me as very hasty. We’ve been through bad patches before and we will come out the other side, in time. We know that Arsene won’t publicly criticise his team, but that doesn’t mean to say he doesn’t lay into them behind closed doors.

I’m finding writing this particularly painful, so I’m not going to take too long over it. What I will say is that the problem with out team is simple: we are push-overs. All of our domestic success under Arsene came with players who were technically excellent, lightning fast, but above all hard as nails. I mean the likes of Keown, Lauren, Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Bergkamp. Where are these personalities in our squad? Who are the men who have not just the guts but the phsyique to intimidate teams?

Wenger has until January to find them, or he’ll have to go shopping.

ps. We’ll still come 3rd.

Fulham Tomorrow: No More Excuses

276 comments November 28th, 2006

This team is so hard to figure out.  Nobody seems quite sure if we’re on the verge of greatness or inches from a complete collapse.  We teeter along that fine line, beating the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool but failing against Bolton and Man City.  It’s very frustrating, pretty entertaining, and entirely unpredictable.

What we need is stability.  Enough potential, we need results.  Tomorrow we go to Fulham, and then on Saturday Tottenham come to our new stadium for the first time.  Both games are must-wins.  Arsene has been saying that our new stadium is part of our disappointing start to the season, but this seems a very strange thing to say when you consider that we remain unbeaten at home, and have struggled on our travels.

Tomorrow, both Thierry and Robin van Persie will be back, possibly even Tomas Rosicky (whose been very much missed), and I can’t be alone in being curious to see how a 4-4-2 would fare.  This is Craven Cottage, not the Bernabeu: we don’t need to be cautious.

If Arsene really believes in this team, then let him prove it by going all out for a win.

Bolton 3 – 1 Arsenal: Ouch.

399 comments November 26th, 2006

Look at that scoreline. I know it’s hard, but take your hands away from your eyes and stare at it. Painful, eh? Couldn’t be worse, could it?

Nicolas Anelka scored twice.

Just when you thought…

Where to turn? Who to blame? The team? Maybe: the first half in particular was lacking in passion and bite, and the defending for Bolton’s first goal was shocking – Emmanuel Adebayor cunningly running in the opposite direction to the man he was supposed to be marking.

Freddie Ljungberg was made to look like a bit of an idiot after his comments in the week. If anyone needs to learn a lesson, it’s him. Or at least, unlearn whatever the last three years have taught him in order to try and get back to somewhere near his best.

Not everyone was poor – Philippe Senderos looks a different player to the Bambi-on-ice figure of a year ago – his passing was accurate and his headers powerful. Gilberto, our goalscorer, was excellent in the centre of the park, and Theo Walcott showed glimpses of his potential with an impressive wing-display, much as it pains me to say it, reminiscent of Aaron Lennon’s early appearances at Tottenham.

What’s more, Ljungberg, Fabregas, and Adebayor all crashed efforts against the woodwork in a revitalised second half. But the scoreline doesn’t lie, and ultimately that’s all that matters. Yes, we were close to scoring a few more goals, but we didn’t. Hitting the woodwork is no different to smashing it out of the stadium: if it’s not on target, it’s not good enough. It’s not unlucky to hit the post: you’ve missed.

What this team lacks is a natural leader. In recent days I have caught myself thinking fondly of Patrick Vieira. We don’t have a player whose very aura inspires the team to reach greater heights, whose presence terrifies other teams and makes them feel like they’ve lost before they even step onto the pitch. Vieira was that man, Adams was before him, and both Bergkamp and Henry have hit those heights at points in the last five years.

Henry remains the closest thing we have to that, but as a lone striker he is isolated: it is impossible for him to get stuck in and take the game to the opposition.

The game was so bad for us that Arsene has gone to this to this with pretty much no hesitation. I have to say, I agree with him: the title is beyond us for this season. And it’s bloody annoying.

Walcott Starts at The Reebok

50 comments November 25th, 2006

The teams are in, and the big surprise is that Theo Walcott makes only his second away start in the most hostile of circumstances. One hopes he can survive the crunching challenges that will doubtless come his way at every opportunity.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Ben Haim, Meite, Fortune, Faye, Nolan, Speed, Diouf, Anelka, Davies. Subs: Al-Habsi, Vaz Te, Tal, Campo, Stelios.

Gunners: Lehmann, Fabregas, Toure, Senderos, Ljungberg, Flamini, Gilberto, Clichy, Adebayor, Eboue, Walcott. Subs: Baptista, Hleb, Djourou, Almunia, Hoyte.

Leaving Hleb out when he’s been arguably our best player of late is a strange one, but I supose we have to trust Arsene. Hopefully Adebayor has an Old Trafford rather than a Fratton Park performance.

Baptista: “I am fit and I hope to keep on helping the team in the upcoming games”

121 comments November 24th, 2006

Brutal Brazilian Julio Baptista has spoken out about his slow start at Arsenal, stating his ambition to build on his goal this week and cement a first-team place. He says:

“I would like to have more time and to be a part of the team. But I can only do this by making use of the opportunities the manager gives me. I was satisfied with the goal, I am fit and I hope to keep on helping the team in the upcoming games. I know I must give good performances for the manager. With Arsene Wenger, I am learning nobody is assured of their position in the starting 11 and we all have to prove ourselves.”

It’s a good attitude to have, and so far everything he’s said has been spot on – he just needs to get down to doing it on the pitch. He is clearly a class act, as anyone who saw him play at Sevilla knows, but his injury and our changing formations have given him a very disrupted start, and he has only begun one game from the beginning: a somewhat abject performance against Newcastle.

The problem for Baptista is that the clock is ticking – he has to impress by the end of the season if he wants to stay at Arsenal. With a goal behind him now, his confidence will surely rise. One thing is certain: simple finish though it was, there aren’t many Arsenal players who would’ve made that run to the far post, let alone headed it home so powerfully. If we stick with the 4-5-1 formation, he could easily push for a place in the central three. I expect him to be back on the bench at Bolton, but it won’t be long until The Beast breaks loose once more…

ps. Arsene is guilty as hell and our Christmas present to Bournemouth is Matthew Connolly.

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