Archive for September 28th, 2008

Congratulations Hull City FC

5 comments September 28th, 2008

Arsenal 1 – 2 Hull City (Fabregas 49, Geovanni 62, Cousin 66)

Let’s get this bit out the way, because I don’t think I’ll want to have to repeat the following phrase too many times: we lost to Hull.   There seem to be two camps on the issue: one that says this is the worst performance of the past twelve years and that the players ought to be ashamed; and then the camp that I share with goodplaya, who believe that we weren’t that bad and the final score was a freak result.

Whilst I’m not going to suggest we were particularly good, there is a marked difference between yesterday’s performance and the one that saw us lose at Fulham.  Fulham was not a freak result.  To borrow an analogy from my friend Ally, we could play like we did at Fulham 100 times, and we wouldn’t win once.  Play like we did yesterday, and the majority of the time we would come away with something.

There were plenty of chances.  In the first half, Adebayor had a header disallowed, Cesc fired wide, Eboue chose to pass when a shot seemed inevitable, and Walcott twice showed poor control in dangerous positions.  In the second half, Adebayor had a goal-bound effort blocked, Cesc had a long shot turned away, Van Persie fired just wide and just over, and  Gallas hit the bar and the ball struck Vela a yard out and somehow went wide.

Yes, our finishing wasn’t good enough.  But that hasn’t been a regular complaint this season, as we’ve banged multiple goals past the likes of Newcastle, Blackburn, and Bolton.  I’m convinced that come the end of this season, even come the end of Arsene’s reign, this result will stand out as an anomaly.  But whilst I do believe it was a freak result, I wouldn’t call it a fluke.

Hull were absolutely outstanding.  Tactically, Phil Brown got it spot on, setting up in a diamond formation that allowed us plenty of space on our flanks, but gave him enough men centrally to put pressure on both our deep-lying playmaker (Denilson) and the one who broke forward to support the front two (Cesc).  Furthermore, it gave them enough bodies in the middle to deal with whatever we swung in from the flanks.

Often Arsenal fans level the criticism that an opposition side comes to the Emirates and play negatively, with barely a striker on the field.  Hull fielded two, Marlon King and Daniel Cousin, who started from wide positions and inhibited the attacking progress of our full-backs.  Behind them, Geovanni floated dangerously, giving Denilson all kinds of problems with an intelligent, assured display.

Nevertheless, it was still surprised few when Arsenal eventually took the lead – a mazy Walcott saw his cross poked home by a combination of the out-stretched leg of Cesc Fabregas and Paul McShane’s shins.

However, almost as soon as we’d done that, Hull hit back with two fantastic goals.  First Geovanni pinged in a thirty yard screamer that myself and others around me were prompted to applaud, and then, to the sound of about sixty thousand collective “Oh no”s, they were awarded a corner.

As the left-back Dawson trundled over to take it, I had my head in my hands.  If you’d asked me for a prediction, I would’ve said, “Gallas’ man will head it in”.

Lo and behold, with Gallas on his heels, Cousin rose tremendously and flicked it into the top corner, even beating the man on the line.  I don’t think either goal could have been more perfectly into their respective corners of the net.

Gallas will of course come in for criticism, and it’s certainly true that something is awry with our set pieces: not only do we continually fail to capitalise on our own dead balls, but with the exception of Geovanni’s wonder goal, every time we’ve conceded in the Premier League has been from a corner.

However, I’m not sure that there was much that could have been done yesterday: perfect delivery, perfect leap, perfect header.

That was how it went for Hull.  They had the luck, but they made it themselves with a tremendously astute performance. 

Arsene Wenger said of the result:

“It is a shocking defeat for us and overall our commitment was just not good enough.  Human beings are not machines. Perhaps subconsciously we thought we would make it. They (Hull) deserve credit.”

He’s right on both counts: the attitude wasn’t quite there, but that’s sadly inevitable on occasion.  It was strange to see how sluggish the players looked after a week’s rest, and perhaps on reflection it might have been worth keeping the likes of Bendtner and Wilshere involved to keep the rest of the side on their toes.  When the Reserves win six nil and you immediately reclaim your place in the side, complacency is inevitable.

It’s vital we put a run of wins together now to get our points tally back on track.  People will say, “We only lost three times last season and now we’ve already lost twice”, but Man U lost more games than us last season and won the title: we simply drew too many games last year.  If we can increase our win percentage accordingly and be in the race come January, who knows what might happen.

On the way home yesterday I congratulated every Hull fan I met.  They deserved it.  There’s plenty we can learn from their ambition and committment.

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