Saturday, 15 November 2008

Faint title hopes extinguished

Maybe I'm being premature but I now cannot see us winning the league title this year, it's obviously still theoretically possible but there appears a rather wide gulf between what is possible in theory and in practice. Today's two nil defeat to Aston Villa demonstrated just how we are not quite all there from the title challenging point of view in several ways, both tactically and as a team.

I've been out of the country for the past couple of weeks, so forgive me if this all sounds a bit objective when we have just suffered such a sickening home defeat, but frankly what's the point in busting blood vessels and booing the players.

As many people remarked last weekend, our current starting eleven is pretty handy if the opposition turns up trying to play football, however if they come, as they are perfectly entitled to, to defend and play on the counter, then we are significantly less effective. There is also the rather obvious fact that the centre of our defence is simply not anywhere near right.

Tactically the same or very similar happened against Hull, Stoke and Fulham. The opposition knew that they would be likely to be destroyed should they try to take us on in an open attacking game, hence they sat back, defended in numbers and then stung us on the break. We should be able to expect this tactic from the opposition, but sometimes we do not appear to, our tactics remain unchanged and we are stung as we were today.

When this tactical naivety is combined with our suspect centre back pairing, a small midfield that does not do enough to defensively shield the back four and an isolated lone striker, then you have a recipe for disaster. Interestingly the majority of gooners that read this site feel Djourou and Toure would be our strongest pairing at the back, strange that Arsene seems to disagree so strongly. Dropping Gallas appears impossible for Arsene, but it is an option that may well have to be entertained at some point in the not too distant future.

The warning signs have been there for a while, they were apparent in pre season, it's just that our attacking play is frequently so good that it can paper over the cracks. The warning signs were there today, Villa looked sharp and dangerous on the break, even missing a first half penalty. There's no doubt poor refereeing contributed, certainly for the second goal, however one should not live in denial and pretend that the cracks do not exist, they do. I was slightly perplexed by the 4-5-1 formation against such a defensive Villa line up, it really played into their hands.

We have some fantastic players, we have a great manager, and it is not even debatable that we have the finest young players in the land. However in my eyes we are living with too many flaws to be making a serious title challenge. The centre of defence is not right, I am also disappointed that a certain young Swiss is not getting more playing time; the midfield does not have the muscle to rough it up at times, while the defence is not as well shielded as it has been in the past. Tactically we are also being found out, however this is partly down to personnel, maybe the players we have only have one way of playing.

These criticisms are not a knee jerk reaction, they represent a trend that has been developing over the course of this season, you simply cannot expect to challenge for the title when your defense is leaking goals so freely and when your tactics do not stand up to the tests that they face over the course of a season. What we must do is hang onto our best players and ensure that we remedy these problems as soon as possible, we can certainly beat anyone on our day in the cups. I really hope we can because it's incredibly frustrating to see us losing in such a manner when we have so much talent at our disposal.


Anonymous said...

Fabregas will leave in the summer - Wenger knows this, as he has to make a profit. All he does is bring players on, just for that profit, even if its a few million, to him thats better than being in debt. The board made an agreement with him many years ago that he wouldn't be sacked as long as he brought Champions League revenue to the club. He does, so as long as he finishes fourth, his job is safe. Two views on wenger - either he is mentally ill and is therefore delusional by thinking what he has is good enough. . .or he knows the team isn't good enough, but takes £75k a week to lie to the fans. I think that is what hurts. he keeps saying we will come back, but they shouldn't have to come back all the time.

It has been said that Arsenal have the third highest wage bill in Premier League. If this is true, I'd suggest Wenger has no idea at all what he is doing. Quite why he is paying Bendtner to play for Arsenal is insulting. The guy is a Championship player at most. People say, he's only young. Wenger says if you are good enough, you're old enough. He aint good enough full stop.

Football is full of ups and downs. Arsenal have to accept they won't chalenge for another 5 years at the very least if they continue this way.

heed my words, lads.

Anonymous said...

well said

Anonymous said...

well said the actual article, disagree with the previous post.

Ted said...

I think it is possible that Cesc will leave next summer. Its possible in the modern game for any player to leave in any summer. Thing is, right now £25m is looking a lot of money for Cesc, who has not performed well this season at all.

Disagree about Bendnter. He is a good prospect that would get into most prem squads. He is only playing at the moment because RVP is suspended, Eduardo injured and Ade was just coming back from injury. Plus when Eduardo is back then Bendnter is our 4th choice. I have no idea who Manure, Liverpool or Chelsea's 4th choice striker is. I don't think they have one.

Your comments about Wenger are misguided. We are in a sticky patch, no doubt, but lets not start saying stupid things like Wenger is mentally ill, or that Arsenal cannot challenge for 5 years like this. Oh dear, you already have.

1979gooner said...

Agreed Ted, Bendtner is a very good young player.

We are inconsistent, it's a fact and this is clearly largely down to our lack of experience and over reliance on youth.

We have very few players who are at their peak and who also have experience.

I'd argue that Gallas and Silvestre are past their peaks.

There's no problem with having a few younger players, however you need the right balance between youth and experience which I don't think we have, this has to be combined with the fact that our central defence is simply not good enough.

It's easy to point out criticisms of the manager and much harder to suggest solutions, however I reckon Djourou really should be starting games now, problem is that Gallas is almost undroppable in Wenger's eyes and that's a fucking immense problem.

The defence should be our main priority and for me our goalkeeper and fullbacks are definitely up to the task, it is our current centre backs that are not.

Anonymous said...

Fabregas is still in hangover of last year and wishes for Flamini and Hleb; too bad he aint gonna get them as teammates at Arsenal again.

What is point of playing the kids in CC if they are not going to play for 30 mins or so in the PL? Walcott was very ineffective on the wings yesterday so why not switch him to the top and make it 4-4-2 (swap with Diaby upfront maybe)?

Was Sanderos unable to play the part that Silvestre is playing?

Lets hope we finish in top 4 and have a good run in the cups.

Anonymous said...

oh dear we have sum rethinking 2 do i think . arsene check book please

Si said...

I'm not surprised that Fabregas is having a dull (not bad) season thus far. He must be shagged out. He's played out of his skin the last few years so he's bound to run out of steam at some point. We've relied too heavily on him, simple as that.
I agree that Gallas is not up to the task, but I don't agree that he is past his peak, he's just gone mental.
I disagree regarding Almunia though, he is not good enough at this level ("at this level, I'm a cunt" as Andy Gray would shout on Die sports 1).
And Bendtner is good enough, but if the midfield is under performing how is the striker supposed to be knocking them in, he's not an Henry, he's not going to pick up the ball on the wing and take on three to four players.
Oh fuck I don't know, it's all gone a bit pone, Tone.

Obsinho said...

My tuppence worth is that we, as a club, are just too stubbourn to learn the lessons that we keep getting taught.

You need experience. You need a strong captain. You need to be solid defensively to simple route one football. You need to be able to change the game if a team is organised defensively. You need a strond defensivley-minded midfielder if Cesc is to be effective. You need to turn up to 90 minutes in every game. You need to go out with the intention of beating the team you're playing.

The number of times we as simple fans have complained of these obvious issues not being addressed is huge. Now even morons on the street who never watch football are telling Gooners the same thing. If even Mongs can see it, why the hell can't Arsene.

Bring Rambo in. Start Vela. Drop Gallas/Silvestre and bring in Djourou. And don't blindly accept mediocrity.

Ted said...

Obs, I tend to agree with your sentiments, but how does bringing Rambo and Vela into the first xi add experience and strength? djourou might be a better player than gallas or silvestre, but again he is not that experienced?

plus who are you dropping? bendnter and denilson?

Ted said...

p.s. how have diaby, nasri and walcott escaped crticism? from the little i saw, this was not about mistakes by a couple of players, this was a lame performance by virtually the whole team. if we want change, then wenger has to sort out the shape better to tighten things up.

Obsinho said...

My point isn't that by bringing on those players we get experience, it's that we get change, and possibly what Wenger intended.

We didn;t sign experience as Wenger trusted to his squad - then let's see the squad! Cesc needs a rest, and Wenger claimed his squad would cope, so let it. Bring in Ramsey.

SIlvestre and Gallas have not tightened things up - Djourou has not made a mistake in games that he has played, so again give him a chance.

As for Vela - it seems he is the only player in the squad at the moment who the EMirates fans really believe in. It amazes me and worries me (he is a 19 year old with no league goals), but at the moment we need to get the belief in the team back.

Also, by bringing in some new faces, Wenger can start to shake players out of the idea that you play whatever. You only play if you are good enough and show enough passion. Not one of the 11 did on Saturday, and many of them haven't all season.

Ideally we would bring in experience, but we don't have it. SO let's try a change and see if we can't freshen up a team that already looks very stale.