Archive for December 17th, 2006

Arsenal 2 – 2 Portsmouth: From Bad to Worse to Better

96 comments December 17th, 2006

Yesterday’s game against Portsmouth contained one of the worst 45 minutes of football I’ve ever seen from an Arsenal side. It was dire. We ducked out of tackles, we didn’t move the ball… a good number of the team just didn’t move. The defending was dreadful, the passing worse, and the attacking threat posed by Robin van Persie and Jeremie Aliadiere minimal. Not even the introduction of Theo Walcott for the injured Freddie Ljungberg could lift the tempo. I had just texted a mate saying it couldn’t get any worse, when it did. A set piece was defended appallingly, and Noe Pamarot headed in – a former Spurs player with an incomplete first-name had scored against us: it was suddenly much, much worse.

At half-time, things didn’t improve. Arsene Wenger was banned from the touchline for questioning the referee, but not before switching to a bizarre 4-5-1 formation with Jeremie Aliadiere on the left-wing: he soon got his comeuppance, with Matthew Taylor knocking home a trademark screamer within five minutes. Two nil now, and the boos were ever more audible.

And so were the calls for Emmanuel Adebayor. Rested in spite of some dazzling recent form, his introduction was badly needed to add some pace and verve to a side who looked like their legs were full of lead and their heads were full of, frankly, shit. Within three mintues of coming on, Adebayor sidefooted home a Theo Walcott cross. Two minutes later, an Adebayor cross helped set up skipper Gilberto for an equaliser. Both players were grabbing their sixth goals of the season. Despite incessant pressure, the scoreline remained 2-2.

Arsene has given the usual spiel about being a “special team” with “special character”, but I’m not going to allow him to gloss over the atrocities of a truly woeful first half. Every single player on the pitch was culpable, and he was too: his team selection was so very strange – rest Adebayor, perhaps, but why not start with Baptista? Or Walcott?

At the back Eboue was again very poor defensively, and in midfield Cesc lacked urgency and accuracy in his passing. The whole team suffered from a lack of movement: Adebayor’s energy and intelligent running was hugely missed. Without wanting eulogise, the Togolese was absolutely superb in the 34 mintues he played, and without him the shape of the game would not have changed.

I feel there’ll be more fall-out from this performance, and I might have more to say about it tomorrow. For today, that’s your lot.

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