Archive for December 30th, 2006

Sheff Utd 1 – 0 Arsenal: Four things that annoyed me

135 comments December 30th, 2006

Well, that was absolutely awful. I’m so annoyed about the game that I can’t be bothered to run through what happened in detail. You can get that here. I’ve just got four points I have to make. Four things that annoyed me more than any other:

  • The use of Julio Baptista
  • Why would Arsene Wenger spend yesterday talking up Julio Baptista, and about how today was his “big chance”, only to play him wildly out of position at left-midfield? Baptista didn’t have a great game – on two seperate occasions the ball fell to him in the box and he took a touch when shooting first-time would’ve been far more profitable. His confidence is clearly completely shot, and more often than not he played a simple ball instead of embarking on any sort of attacking drive (except, crucially, when he played the wrong pass, resulting in the loss of the ball and Sheffield United’s goal). But that doesn’t excuse the criminal mis-use of the lad. If you’re going to put pressure on him by saying it’s his “big chance”, you could at least do him the service of putting him in approximately the right position. Why did Baptista fail at Real Madrid? Simple. They wasted his talents by playing him primarily from left-wing.

  • The tactics
  • Believe it or not, I’m not talking about our refusal to shoot once Sheff Utd had Phil Jagielka between the sticks. The game was already lost by then. We lost it long before. Hats off to Sheffield United. They defended extremely well, and they played the game right. How? They adapted their style to the conditions. The pitch was soaking wet, and starting to become a bit of a bog, but still we persisted with trying to play in neat triangles. Sheffield United, however, played early balls into corners and in behind defenders. They left out the excellent Rob Hulse, instead playing two pacey livewires who chased everything and encouraged mistakes. If you want to see this tactic working perfectly, just look at their goal. With Emmanuel Adebayor both injured and otherwise indisposed, we desperately missed someone who would cover ground, hare after lost causes and generally cause panic in the opposition defence. Instead, we had two players who wanted to recieve the ball into feet, beat two men and play a clever slide-rule pass. It just won’t work on a pitch like that.

  • The selection of Jeremie Aliadiere
  • It’s a fairly open secret that Aliadiere is leaving next month. So why start him upfront instead of giving Baptista a chance in a position where he can make an impact? Why have more faith in Aliadiere, a player who has repeatedly failed to make an impression at the highest level, than Baptista, who has 50 La Liga goals to his name? Ridiculous.

  • The conduct of Chris Morgan
  • How did he get away with punching Van Persie in the stomach? Can you imagine the inquest if it was the other way around? The fact is, because Morgan is English and stereotypically “hard”, refs and pundits let him get away with it. He later appeared to do the same thing again. Now, the other week, Morgan got a fist in the face and was very good about it. Of course he was: he’s at it himself. The signs were there against Watford, and the ref continued the same trend today: smaller teams are allowed to get away with worse tackles and conduct against us because it’s “part of the way they play”. The fact that Andy Gray said about the clear punch on Van Persie, “it happens all the time”, is no excuse. Still, I suppose many people will say: if we can’t beat ’em (and we can’t), join ’em.

    I’m very, very disappointed tonight, so if any of this is a little over-the-top, I apologise. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have a more balanced view.

    Emmanuel Adebayor has been arrested

    46 comments December 30th, 2006

    Just thought you should know.

    Bit of a downer, to be honest.

    Sheff Utd Preview: No lasagna, but we’re dropping like flies

    16 comments December 30th, 2006

    With Thierry Henry, Abou Diaby, William Gallas, Emmanuel Eboue and Freddie Ljungberg all long-term absentees, it was expected that Emmanuel Adebayor would be the only addition to a growing injury list. Well, you can add Johan Djourou, Aleksandr Hleb, and Theo Walcott to that list. What’s more, Cesc Fabregas, Julio Baptista, Alex Song, and Jeremie Aliadiere are all suffering from colds.

    Whilst the last four have all travelled and will be expected to be active members of the squad, Denilson and Lauren are both likely to be involved (almost certainly from the bench) for the first time this season. For both, it’s a real landmark – after the Carling Cup tie with Liverpool was cancelled, this game could represent Lauren’s return to football after a year out. Denilson, meanwhile, has been impressing in training and in previous rounds of the Carling Cup. Just to be on the bench will give him real encouragement.

    And finally, Julio Baptista will probably start only his third Premiership game. He’s like to be deployed as a striker, and Arsene has been speaking frankly about the Brazilian’s need to prove himself:

    “Julio has a lot to prove in the next six months. I am leaning more one way than the other about taking him [permanently]. But I will not give you the way I am leaning. Still, I think he is ready to play now. Just when he was looking very sharp we played against Charlton Reserves here at the Training Ground and he got a big injury. He was out for six or seven weeks. On that day he looked really convincing in the game and it was sad to lose him. Yet I have not seen one minute when he has not been completely dedicated. He has a great attitude and is very strong mentally. I like him as a player but I agree he has not got the opportunities to show how good he is.”

    There is a direct relationship between Baptista’s lack of opportunities and Arsene’s unwillingness to buy in January:

    “The problem he has is for me to give him the number of opportunities he deserves.All the players need a run but what can you do? That’s why I don’t understand when people ask ‘will you buy in January?’. Where do I put the players?”

    You have to say it’s a fair point. For the first time in a long time, the squad isn’t full of dead-wood you’d look to move on. The only player I can think of whose future at the club is in any real doubt is Freddie Ljungberg. And with the likes of Niklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, and Anthony Stokes (who may join Charlton on loan) still to come, it’s going to be hard enough just to find room for the players we already have.

    Back to today, we can take some comfort from the fact that Sheffield United’s injury problems are probably as bad, if not worse, than ours. They certainly have less depth to cope with losses, and today they’re coming up against Gilberto, the man Neil Warnock believes to be the best player in the Premiership this season. They’ll give us a good, physical game however, and we’ll need to be extremely competetive to win there. Nobody has really turned them over at Bramall Lane, and however well we play, that won’t change tomorrow.

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