Sunday 12 April 2009

Good and bad news, fortune favours the brave

It's time to roll out the cliches again, yesterday truly was a game of two halves as all football matches are, there really was a stark contrast between the Arsenal sides we saw in the first and second halves. The formation was the obvious thing that changed, 4-5-1 it was in the first and then to 4-4-2 in the second when RVP came on for the anonymous Denilson. It can't all be put down to the formation though as the crucial equalised came just before this formation change, the Walcott equaliser came one minute before RVP's introduction.

The less said about the first half the better, we never got going, Wigan thoroughly deserved their lead at the break and arguably we were lucky that it wasn't more than a one goal margin. Fabianski was looking a little shaky and he could have done better with Mido's early goal for sure. Wigan had other chances, and even hit the post with a free kick that had Fabianski well beaten. The unfortunate Johan Djourou tweaked his knee and had to be stretchered off, bad news given Gallas is out for the season, Mikel Silvestre came on to replace him. There's no denying the key moment came near the end of the first half when Kieran Gibbs escaped with a yellow card having had a tug at Valancia's shorts when he was clean through. Gibbs was certainly fortunate not to see red but watching the incident again I can't help but feel a red would have been harsh as Valencia clearly tugs back Gibbs initially, Valencia's left arm has a good pull at Gibbs' right shoulder, arguably this was the initial offence.

Once Walcott had equalised after some good wriggling by Arshavin, there was only one team tha was going to win the game. Wigan capitulated in impressive fashion, this was catalysed by our change to a 4-4-2 formation and the key equalising goal. A lovely move saw Cesc square accurately from the left wing to find Mikel Silvestre roaming where strikers do, his finish was faultless. Koumas then teed up Arshavin for the third, what a cracking leather spanking finish. The fourth came courtesy of Alex Song doing a Puskas impression, gliding past two men with the ball seemingly glued to his foot and then finishing emphatically into the bottom corner. Mission complete.

Another three points, another game without defeat in the league and a bit more daylight between ourselves and our wannabees Everton and Villa. Certainly Gibbs was a little fortunate, however it would have been a very harsh decision given that the initial foul was Valencia's, but coming back with ten men would have been a more uphill battle. I can't help but think that Arsene is rather too fond of the 4-5-1 formation, I just don't recall it serving us very well in the Premiership in recent years. Attack is the best form of defence and against a side like Wigan there is a tendency for our lone striker to become rather isolated and it is consequently very hard to retain possession. Having said that Arsene clearly wanted to keep a few players fresh for the Villareal game in midweek.

One big difference in the second half of the season has been the abundance of attacking talent we have at our disposal, Arshavin's arrival with the return of Walcott and Eduardo means that we can bring on substitutes who can change the game and this is key. Johan Djourou's injury is bad news, he may be out for some time but I'm sure a scan will reveal the severity of the damage in the next couple of days, the good news is that Marcos Senna is out of next week's game with a hamstring injury. Finally this weekend it should be remembered that football is only a game and that human lives are much more important, the Hillsborough disaster is being remembered as it's 19th anniversary approaches.


Rhinogooner said...

Puskas? Steady on 1979, you're showing your age a bit now ;-)

I thought Wigan tired in the second half and we took over. This seems to occur frequently.

It seems as though it's a ploy by Mr. Wenger. To lull our opponents into a false confidence by stroking the ball about without troubling their goal while they perceive that they are frustrating our football with their constant pressure and physicality.

Then when they tire in the second half, we pounce. I think Mr. Wenger relies on this strategy against certain teams. But to be honest, I fear we're going to be punished one of these days for sitting back for too long and end up unable to come back before the final whistle.

I'd prefer us to come out of the gates ruthlessly against our opponents and demoralize them by dominating possession and tuck a couple chances away. Then we can sit back and stroke the ball around for the rest of the match.

Does anyone agree with me or am I mad?

Most Arsenal fans and bloggers seem to feel that, given our shortage of quality defenders now, our best strategy is to really have a go and play extremely offensively. I happen to agree. I don't think we're going to keep too many clean sheets due to our defensive injuries. But we have a lot of firepower. So let's unleash a more attacking approach.

I hope Eduardo is back soon. He is crucial to putting away limited chances. I think we need to go 4-4-2 with two of Nasri, Arshavin, and Walcott wide, Cesc and a partner with more defensive duties (not shared defensive duties)in the middle.

I'd like to see our wide players staying wide, whipping in crosses and getting to the by-line for cut backs. Which means our forwards need to drag their big frames into the box to get on the end of these types of moves. And we really need to set ourselves up to counter attack at pace from set pieces like we used to do. Walcott, Ade, Nasri, and Arshavin are all quick enough to break out on a counter and swiftly cut apart retreating defenders.

Didn't mean for this post to get this long. Apologies!

K man said...

Very much agree. The Arshavin goal was a good example of the old Arsenal counter attack.

Most of our games for the rest of the season will be against top sides so I think Wenger's caution will wear off. I'm really sorry for Djourou - he had the chance to play in some huge games with Billy missing but now it looks like we will have to put up with Fish Face.

Couple of comments about the weekend games:

1. Gibbs - very lucky boy. Looked a clear red.

2. Villa and Everton did us a huge favour - the pressure is off now. We need to beat Pompey, Boro and Stoke and get one point from the games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Man U to claim 4th. If we can't do that we don't deserve it.

3. Just how shit are Man City.

Anonymous said...

great game....:)

But m worried about defending now....toure is best but i m not very sure of silvestere :(

Rhinogooner said...

Has anyone read this article:,19528,11945_5174120,00.html

Stunning. I'm amazed at the audacity.....words fail me.

Ted said...

Link doesn't work Rhino - I assume its the "Senna unimpressed by Ade" story?

I would have thought you agreed????

P.s. Also agree that our poor first half performances are a bit worrying.

Rhinogooner said...

Sorry about the link. No, Ted, not about Senna's comments. It's about a Chelsea official trying to pressure the ref not to card Chelsea players last week before the Poo match. Read on:

Referee admits Chelsea concern

Blues defend comments ahead of Liverpool game

Referee Claus Bo Larsen has revealed Chelsea secretary David Barnard told him they did not want to see certain players booked ahead of their clash with Liverpool.

The Blues travelled to Anfield on Wednesday for the first leg of their quarter-final clash with John Terry, Ashley Cole and Nicolas Anelka one yellow card away from missing the second leg.

Guus Hiddink's side triumphed 3-1 at Anfield to move to within touching distance of the semi-finals, but will be without skipper Terry at Stamford Bridge after he was cautioned during the game.

And Bo Larsen has admitted he was taken aback by a comment from Barnard before the match.

"I've never experienced anything like this," the Danish official told BT.

"When we had a safety meeting on Wednesday morning, a representative from Chelsea said, 'Claus Bo, you should just remember that we have some players who have a yellow card already and we are not so excited if they get one again'."

The organisational meeting is standard procedure and was also attended by Liverpool secretary Ian Sylvester, Barnard, Merseyside Police and the UEFA match delegate.

"We were quite shocked," added Bo Larsen. "I have been to more than 100 safety meetings and this is the first time I experienced such a thing.

"It was while Liverpool and UEFA and other people were there. I responded by saying that if a player does something for a yellow card, he gets a yellow card."


Chelsea have insisted they had every right to raise the issue of players on yellow cards.

The Blues issued a statement in which they said the meeting was an appropriate moment to point out that a number of players, including two from Liverpool, were one booking away from a ban.

A spokesman for Chelsea said: "UEFA organisational meetings are opportunities for all parties to raise valid issues in relation to that day's game.

"Therefore, it was an appropriate meeting in which to raise the issue of both teams fielding players on yellow cards.

"Chelsea did not raise the issue solely in relation to Chelsea players."

Liverpool's Alvaro Arbeloa and Andrea Dossena were also walking a disciplinary tightrope ahead of the game but neither were cautioned.

Ted said...

That is amazing. Given the amount of money rolling around at Chelsea, its not a great leap of imagination to think they influence refs in other ways as well.

Rhinogooner said...

I suppose you're right. But the audacity just floors me. You would think they would have the sense to do this privately, not in an official meeting.

There are a few Premiership refs I've always wondered about. Particularly when you can see the pound notes slipping out of Riley's back pocket at Old Trafford? :-D