Its been a bad weekend for Arsenal and Mr Frustration is back in town big time. Every Gooner you meet will tell you just what is wrong and happily reel off the list of players who are not good enough, or that Wenger is retarded and should be sacked.
Nicholas Bendtner has got most of the stick for Saturday's performance. I said before the Stoke game that this was a big run of fixtures for the young Dane - he has started against Stoke, Fenerbahce, Manure and Villa, got no goals, I can't think of any assists and bizarrely, his best performance was against Manure (in which he was ok). It has not gone that well for him, and he will be feeling down about it, no doubt. But let us not forget that Nikky B is Arsenal's 4th choice striker and that he has carried a massive burden these last few weeks. It would have been a hell of a lot easier for him to play against teams like Stoke, Manure and Villa with Adebayor, RVP or Eduardo next to him. RVP only managed it for 10 minutes before getting red-carded against Stoke for being an idiot, and Nikky only got 5 mins with Ade on Saturday before taking him off. Vela also looks a great prospect, but lets not get carried away that he can solve our problems with a Mexican magic wand. Would be great if he could though...
Now, I am not going to tell you that Bendtner is the next Didier Drogba (or even Adebayor), but lets not hammer him too hard when there are quite blatantly other massive holes in our team. Did the rest of the team serve Nikky B up chance after chance only for him to spoon them into the stands? Not at all. Strikers are there to finish the chances that they are given. He barely got a sniff most games and the rest of the team must share the blame.
1979 made the point that the centre back pairing of Gallas and Silvestre remains weak, and that we don't protect them in midfield. And of course he is right. Arsenal are all over the place at the moment. We have all been saying it for months.
Well I am no different to every other Gooner, so let me tell you what is actually wrong. Laugh away when your ready.
If, as a football team, you cannot really defend and you cannot really tackle, then you only have one tactic to play football. You absolutely must keep the ball at all times. Think most Brazilian or Argentinean teams. You must treasure possession, work for each other off the ball and work the 45 pass moves like we did last year. Go sideways, go backwards, go sideways and backwards. Tire the opposition out by chasing you round the pitch. Pass sideways for 15 minutes. Get bored by how much possession you have until the opoosition dive in. Your superior skill then lets you beat the man (cherio gareth barry), or you get fouled and win a free kick. Its no bloody surprise that Brazilian teams are so good at free kicks - their game plan is virtually dependant on them.
To a greater or lesser degree, Arsenal have played that sort of tactics in recent years. Pass a lot, never shoot from range, then score a wonder goal via 150 passes. Its driven us nuts for the last two seasons, but suddenly we are missing it.
The reason why, as far as I can tell, is that the person the whole system at Arsenal is built around is well off his game. Mr Cesc Fabregas is our Romario, Maradona, Zidane etc. If he isn't purring along like an Aston Martin on a sunny afternoon, then we will all have a bouncy ride. Or end up in a hedge.
Last season Cesc was simply magnificent, but at the moment, Mr Cesc Fabregas is more guilty than anyone else on the pitch for giving the ball away. Mr Cesc Fabregas also seems to be making less effort than anyone else to drop back, make himself available for the man on the ball, take it and give it quick. His tackles are more out of frustration than skill (hence 5 yellow and a suspension already) and he has only scored once (and that was with his head).
This is not the Cesc that we loved so much last season. In fact, I think he our weak link. I know its virtually treason to say it, but there you go. However, along with Gallas, Cesc is part of the Thierry Henry protection racket - Wenger's talismen on the pitch that will not be dropped or rested ever. For a different perspective on how to handle your star player, take a look at the public slating that fatty Rafa has handed out to Torres. Wenger would never ever do that. I bet Torres scores a hatrick next week.
Cesc is suspended against Man City. Its going to be interesting to see who replaces him (I would like to see Ramsey but I think Wenger will pick two in the middle from Denilson / Diaby / Song) and how we do without him. Don't look too much at the result, more about how the midfield works as a unit without their star. Will it be the "relief" of not carrying a deadweight, or will we look rudderless with Cesc? I am betting on the former.
The underlying issue, of course, is that we desperately need Cesc back at his best. Wenger said today that he cannot explain our inconsistency. What I think Wenger actually means is that he cannot explain how Cesc is playing so crap. He has actually been very consistent at it.