Sunday 13 January 2008
A lack of balance
Two points dropped against a distinctly average Birmingham side, and many of us have seen this coming for a while. Almunia has taken a lot of unfair criticism from some rather stubborn and ignorant pundits, so where does the reason for these blips lie?
Obviously we can't expect to win every game, the more worrying aspect of this draw is its context in some rather average performances over the last couple of months. We did play well against West Ham but the recent performances against Tottenham, Middlesbrough and Newcastle in the league were rather poor.
Football is a collective game, so no one is free of blame, however I do see a few weaknesses in our side which do deserve a bit more of the blame. Eboue is raw and learning the game as a midfielder, but he does give us some genuine pace and width when he plays. Without him there is an ominous lack of width in the midfield, making it easier for lesser sides to defend against us as our play becomes rather predictable and too concentrated through the centre of the pitch.
Theo is not a midfielder. I don't think he can judged to be an Elephant, when he is never played in the right position. He is also a young man learning the game and makes a lot of bad decisions on the ball, this combination of factors results in Eboue being a much bigger loss than most people acknowledge. We also do not have a great deal of width on the left, with Rosicky absent yesterday, we really had very few options available to us. Even with Rosicky fit there is an element of predictability to our play down the left, as we use right footed players who like to come inside frequently. Would Mark Randall be the answer? Well, I think there is a good chance that he would have done rather better than Theo did yesterday. Dimitrov might be a good idea, given the real lack of a left footed layer who can penetrate in a genuinely wide position. Personally I like N'Zogbia at Newcastle, he has everything needed in the modern game and Wenger could turn him from a young talent into a classy end product.
It's not all doom and gloom by any means but I see the lack of width in the midfield as our major weakness. We look strong in every other area of the team in terms of first team players and reserves. I am sure Arsene also realise this and has something in mind, I just hope he doesn't leave it too late, as the title may have slipped from our grasp by then.