Archive for September 27th, 2010

Spineless Arsenal wobble against West Brom

14 comments September 27th, 2010

Arsenal 2 – WBA 3 (Odemwingie 50, Jara 52, Thomas 73, Nasri 76, 90)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

And so we have suffered our first defeat of the season.  Although the identity of our conquerors was surprising, it had been coming.  We got lucky at Anfield and could easily have lost at the Stadium of Light.  Escaping defeat on those occasions, as well as our dominant home form, had obviously induced a complacency which we paid the price for on Saturday.

Arsene called the defeat “inexplicable”.  I’m not sure I agree.  For starters, we were without the entire spine of our side: Vermaelen, Fabregas, and Van Persie.  Three leaders, and three key players.  The form of Squillaci, Koscielny and Chamakh had disguised the significance of their absence.  When their performances dipped, along with the rest of the team, that trio were badly missed: not just on a technical level, but also because they are the men who demand most from the players around them.

Throw in some fatigue from the midweek exertions at Spurs, and you begin to understand just how we conspired to lose this game.

That said, the team we put out should have been good enough to win the game.  I wasn’t able to watch the full ninety minutes, so have turned to stats to try and analyse the result.  Incredibly, we had less than 50% of possession on our home turf.  West Brom used that possession remarkably efficiently, scoring three goals from seven shots.  Our 24 efforts on goal, meanwhile, were wildly inaccurate.

Our defending throughout the game was terrible.  Alex Song and Abou Diaby did not afford the back four enough protection, Koscielny made one or two decidedly unusual decisions, and the full-backs were way below far.  As the man from Zonal Marking points out, Gael Clichy is becoming a regular target for a high crossfield ball, and we are struggling to cope.

There was, understandably, a lot of criticism for Manuel Almunia, who conceded a penalty (which he then saved), before parrying their second goal in to his near post, and charging aimlessly out of goal for their third.  It was a far from distinguished performance from Almunia, and one can understand the frustration of fans who were dumbfounded at Arsene’s failure to sign a keeper this summer.  But, as others have said, it is the manager who should be the target, not Almunia.  The Spaniard is giving his best.  If his best comes up short, that isn’t his fault.

Perhaps his performance is in part explained by the shoulder injury he picked up in the first half and which will keep him out of tomorrow’s game at Partizan Belgrade.  If you thought Almunia was bad, prepare yourselves: tomorrow, Fabianski starts.

Recovering from Saturday with a win in Europe is essential, but I’ll forgive you if your eyes are already turning to Sunday’s clash with Chelsea.  They lost at City shortly before the West Brom game, making our failure to capitalise all the more frustrating.  The gap should be down to just one point – by the end of the week it could be as much as seven.

We’ve only ourselves to blame.

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