It was by no means a great team performance yesterday, but I have seen us play much worse and win, and it was certainly nowhere near the low of the Fulham away game. However we still contrived to lose three points to a rather average side by giving away a hard fought one goal lead, there are certainly some explanations for this slightly sloppy capitulation.
One should still see the defeat in perspective though, we were incredibly unlucky to lose the match, we had countless excellent chances and Hull did not threaten our goal to anything like the same degree. The first half saw Hull create nothing at all, while despite not flowing as we can, we still created a few good clear cut opportunities. Adebayor had goal strangely ruled out, for what I am not quite sure, Walcott had three excellent chances, one he fluffed, one he took too long and the other he allowed an excellent recovering challenge to nip the ball away from him when through one on one. RVP and Ade didn't really work hard enough all day, and this was especially so in the first forty five.
So in we went nil nil at half time, it wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't great. It still didn't excuse the rather petulant and almost Manu like behaviour of a small minority of fans who seem to think that their incessant moaning helps, why not support the team? We are supporters after all.
Theo burst down the right and caused panic in the Hull box and the ball somehow squirmed over the line, fortunately the lino's size able belly didn't prevent him from observing that the ball had definitely crossed the line, one nil up we were. We should then have gone on to bury Hull, but we did not, so what were the reasons for this?
Certainly a lot of supporters seemed to think that going one nil up meant that we had won the game, chants of 'You should have stuck to the Rubgy' and others demonstrated a slight lack of awareness of Hull's several remarkable comebacks from a goal down so far this season. We also had a few great openings which we did not take advantage of. RVP in particular looked more lively, but he did not have his shooting boots on, he was also far too selfish on a couple of occasions.
Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up to a great goal as well, and Hull's first came from a position that didn't initially appear that threatening, Giovanni cutting inside from the left wing position to fire home an awesome thirty yarder that left Almunia without a prayer. There was not enough pressure on the ball, however those do not often nestle in the top corner.
Hull's second came from a set piece, a good whipped corner from the right was expertly headed home by Daniel Cousins, our man on the line didn't appear to do much. It was rather worrying that Hull looked so very dangerous from their set pieces, we are a very small side and there is just not getting away from that. Toure is our only defender or midfielder who is remotely tall, the rest are medium sized at best, it just leaves us so exposed to set plays and the long ball.
We continued to huff and puff, Fabregas forced a great save, Gallas looked a better striker than defender as he headed against the underside of the bar, while a few other efforts flashed just wide. It finished 2-1 to Hull, fair play to them, they were organised at the back and despite riding their luck, got their tactics spot on.
I'm not sure I completely buy the comments from Arsene after the game, I agree that we were a tad complacent in some ways, especially with our slack finishing and the wasting of so many gilt edged chances. Personally I don't think Hull defended that well, if we had finished well then we could have had at least four or five goals, it was our sloppyness rather than Hull's excellence. There was also not quite enough movement, especially from our strikers, however I did think that the rest of the side looked pretty motivated.
One aspect of Arsene's explanation does not wash with me, as regards conceding from corners (again):
"It is a weakness in our team but that’s as well linked with the level of concentration. You can work for hours on the training ground but if you don’t attack the ball on the day of the game it will cost you. We were caught already the corner before when the guy got infront of Adebayor. I believe that's more down to how much you want the ball."
There is an element of lacking concentration here, however if you have such a small side then no matter how motivated and determined you are, it's still very hard to outjump a much bigger side. In particular a lot of this problem is rooted in the Toure-Gallas combo, and personally Gallas is the weaker link for me. He was completely outmanoeuvred by Marlon King yesterday, who is at best at average top division player. He routinely lost the aerial contest, even when he was in a stronger starting position. Gallas is a very good defender, however a strong back four is made by having four players who complement each other's games, Gallas does not complement Toure's game.
Our back four does not look right and this has been apparent for a while. Gallas was great for Chelsea when playing at full back or when playing alongside a beast who could win everything in the air, however he has never been an aggressive centre half who will dominate the aerial challenges, he is a clever mopper upper of danger and needs players around him to make up for his weaknesses. Gallas left Chelsea because he wanted to be a permanent fixture at centre back, it seems that they realised what we can see now, that Gallas is not really a true centre back.
In perspective we should still have dispatched Hull, even with our problems at centre back, and we must improve our finishing if we are to sustain a challenge for the title this year. I still don't think it was an awful performance, we created enough to have won; I certainly don't think the small minority of Arsenal fans who indulged in taking their frustration out on certain Arsenal players help the team and they certainly don't make the game more enjoyable for the majority of loyal fans around them. We do have some problems, but please let's see them in perspective and let's try to be constructive rather than behaving like small children who didn't get the Christmas present that they saw as their divine right.