Sunday 21 February 2010

Sunderland paper over the cracks

There is a serious danger in viewing yesterday's 2-0 win over Sunderland as evidence that Arsenal are moving in the right direction again after the abysmal defensive performance in Porto on Wednesday night.

The stats for the game make for pleasant reading (and we know how much AW loves his stats) - we had an incredible 68% of the possession and a 52% territorial advantage. We had 16 shots (9 on target) to Sunderland's 6 (3 on target) and we completed 81% of our passes to Sunderland's 62%. So on that basis it would seem we thrashed them good and proper. Which just goes to show that few conclusions based entirely on statistics will be reliable.

Large periods of the game were very nervous for Arsenal, especially at the last 15 mins when our solitary goal did not look enough. Steve Bruce, to his credit, set his team up to counter-attack us, starting with both Jones and Bent up front, with some lively players in midfield such as Richardson and ex-striker Campbell. It was a sensible script for pug-face Bruce to follow, and when the highly-rated Kenwyne Jones was put through by Richardson after about 30 mins, it looked the familiar story. Amazingly, however, Alumunia was out quickly and forced Jones to shoot first time and the ball went wide.

Now that little incident summed Arsenal up, and also provides a reminder that you need some luck. Richardson had knicked the ball from Ramsey, who was caught in a daze. If Alumunia had done worse, or if Jones had done better, then Sunderland would have gone in half-time at 1-1 and would have probably deserved it. If Denilson had done the same as Ramsey, he would have been shredded by a pack of rabid dogs.

Anyway, back to more pleasant thoughts. Almost all of Arsenal's good work came down our right side. Eboue was nominally the right-back and was simply out-standing going forwards, the few defensive duties also shouldered comfortably. But this also allowed Theo Walcott to prosper in the wide right position, because unlike Sagna, Eboue can actually read the game further up the field and play a pass into the right areas for Theo to run onto. And boy is he quick. Just don't ask him to change direction or do anything with it other than run and shoot.

This season's chapter in the Mysteries of Emmanuel Eboue is a interersting one. Sporadically used by AW this year, Eboue has rarely figured in the team whereas he played in virtually every position last year. He still likes a dive, he is still a crazy loon and he is clearly not as defensively minded as Sagna, but the Eboue has put in performances from both right-back and right-wing this year that make it very hard to understand why he has not been used more.

Which brings me neatly onto the focus of my current frustration. The Nick Faldo of football that is Samir Nasri. Never have a seen a player who takes fewer risks with what he is trying to do. I know a lot of people like Nasri, and it is certainly harder to find major howlers in his performances than players like Denilson or Fabianski, but I reckon Samir Nasri is the toast of right backs up and down the country - a charming little fellow who never gives them a hard time.

And for the record, I will highlight the two moments of genuine brilliance from Nasri yesterday. In the first half he took a firm pass from Clichy and under pressure from Hutton (the lanky spud), brilliantly flicked it past him, spun on to his own pass, charged down the line and crossed to the back post. Great stuff. In the second half, he drifted in-field onto the edge of the box, looking for all the world like he was going to pass, but deftly flicked it into the box past the defender, charged through and then crossed it when a shot was probably on.

But that is a low return for our left winger against a player like Hutton, who is dreadful. Theo, on the other hand, was tearing up the right wing, involved in at least half a dozen moves that are worthy of note and if he could produce a better final ball, would have led to an impact on the scoreline. And lets not pretend for a minute that Theo is the finished article at this stage. Indeed, he is miles off it.

But the reason why I liked Theo and Eboue yesterday was that they, on several occassions, took their men on and tried to make something happen, rather than always play the percentage ball. Now normally, the percentage ball is the right option, but go back to the stats at the top of this page - we had 68% of the possession and only had 16 shots in the game. That is actually quite poor.

The other thing that infuriates me about Nasri is that he drifts inside almost constantly, thus forcing someone to play wider outside him. And with Nikki B on the pitch, this invariably means that you end up with Bendtner on the touch line crossing for the midget Nasri to try and head it, far more often than the other way round. I counted two crosses from Nasri yesterday in the whole match. Again, that is a low impact from our left winger.

What is also frustrating is that it is so damn simple for everyone to see that Nasri should stay left, and people will regularly criticise Bendtner for thinking he is Henry and trying to play on the wing, but it really is not Nikki's fault. As a striker, he is trying to create some movement for his midfielders to work off, and with Nasri playing so narrow, the space is where Nasri should be on the wing. I hesitate to guess that AW encourages them to do this.

The other point of note that Cesc gave himself an absolutely free role yesterday, playing as far up the field as he could, with Ramsey and Song behind him. And he did not have a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but playing so far up the field he has far less chance to influence the game in midfield, to pick the ball up and do something with it where it actually matters.

Because for 85 minutes of the game yesterday, this was pretty, pretty Arsenal football with very little bite. Take Theo and Eboue out the game and we created very little indeed. And be thankful that Kenwyne Jones missed a sitter.


GunnerSinceIWasAGlintInTheMilkman'sEye said...

Deary me Ted

There is an obvious typo in the title of this blog, the word "Shit" has been omitted and should be placed in between the words "Another" and "Arsenal"...

Hope that helps. Give me strength to have to put up with ultra negative bollocks like this, please! A game after an away CL fixture, that we effin won and you are bitchin like a manic depressive fish wife...

Anonymous said...

Very negative mate. For 1 that was not an abysmal peformance on wednesday. The goalkeeper ballsed up and the rest just didn't go our way. I sometimes think that some fans are actually looking for weaknesses to justify their previously overstated negativity. All teams have "cracks". Were third 2 points behind Manure so get real and get behind the team .

Anonymous said...

Yawn! We closed the gap on the Mancs, kept anoter clean sheet, took full points, kept pace with Chelsea but lets all focus on the negative!
Blogs like this are tiresome. Chelsea were lucky to take 3 points yesterday - do you think they care?

We played well, deserved the win and we move on to the next game.

It's becoming boring that fans are looking for negative aspects of players performances and team performances every match.

Our fans are fast becoming the laughing stock of The Prem. Moany, spoilt, and negative. Total Joke.

We're in the hunt, Stoke away, Brum and Spuds are our tricky ones and The Mancs and Chavs both still ahve to play each other plus Man City and Liverpool.

We have a chance and taht's what matters

RedandDread said...

Having read a few blogs on the game, it is obvious that many people have rabidly contrasting opinions on yesterday's proceedings.

I tend to agree more with the author here, although Theo was VERY frustrating. However, the threat of his pace and contrary to Lou Macari, his finishing, is exactly that, a threat!

NAsri has amazing control but between himself and CLichy we are as unliley to get a decent cross from the left as it is likely that I shall live on the moon for some part of this life.

We were NERVY in defence and timid in our finishing. We were lucky that this Sunderland team was so crap!

They will have to buckle down and put in a very solid display to get anything away to Stoke next week. The win will have provided a much needed boost to their confidence though.

We have to cut out the mistakes and then we can win big matches. We need to learn to be more disciplined and allied with our natural ability we can fashion wins in the big games.

Anonymous said...

Moan moan moan. Stupid article.

Anonymous said...

I have been an Arsenal supporter since the early 80's, and never before have I been ashamed of this great club - until now. Well, actually I am not ashamed of the club - I love the Arsenal. I am ashamed of the fans. The views expressed by many "supporters" these past 18 months have been nothing short of pathetic, horrible and ridiculous - all at once. Calling for Wenger's head, booing our own players, moaning even when we win, demanding that AW sign this or that player (as if it were THAT simple) - these are just a few examples of what has regretably become the standard childish behaviour amongst many Arsenal "supporters" these days.

Every stupid Tom, Dick and Harry can have an opinion on everything, but why does every stupid Tom, Dick and Harry have to EXPRESS their opinions every other day. Just shut up, and get behind our manager and our team. We won the game for crying out loud.

Ted said...

All views welcome here gents. But if you think we played well against Sunderland then you are delusional.

I think you will also see that there is a lot of positive comments written in the post about Eboue and Walcott, who are two players its popular to dislike.

There is also no mention about AW's transfer policy or signings.

Anonymous said...

You presebt things as if nas was the faulty of the two (him and bendtner). it is infact bend's fault that nas found himself drifting in coz bednt simply struggles to find the net. this is because you put nas central, jsut behind the strikers and see him belt denilsonski launchers into the net. he aint no winger what AW is trying to make him. his best position like diaby is playmaker.

1979gooner said...

Ted has a very good point.

The people who have slagged him off are out of line, he wrote intelligently to express his opinion, if you disagree why not write something sensible back rather than resorting to cheap and pathetic insults.

Sunderland are on an awful run and anything less than a win would have been a poor result.

There are some quite serious problems with our squad at the moment and to deny them, and just pretend everything is fine and dandy is nonsensical.

The way in which Manu and Chelsea wiped the floor with us was very very poor, also the defeat to a weak Porto side was a low moment.

That's three of the last five we've lost, so pointing out some problems is very fair in this context.

These comments have come from non regular readers who would not know that the stuff here is generally pretty fair, so judge what's written here in this context, don't throw stupid insults at someone who just wants to point out some problems we clearly have.

Also what's getting behind the team got to do with it? You can still get behind the team 100% while pointing out where we can improve.

For the record I thought Theo did ok yesterday and will continue to grow with games, he's working hard and looking more effective, we need to be patient with him.

K man said...

To all those tossers who have slagged off Ted's very accurate article - fuck off. I sit next to him at every home game and he's a PROPER fan - he gets behind the team, sings and supports...he never boos. If you're going to have a pop then have the decency to make a proper argument.

And to the first writer...I assume the milkman was a fucking stupid ugly prick.

Ted said...

Of the higher quality arsenal blogs around (i.e. arseblog, goodplaya, 'holic, east lower etc) (and apologies if that misses any others) only 'holic was at the game and his post suggests that he had a jolly nice afternoon (ahem). The rest were either not there or have not yet posted.

1979 has been trying very hard recently to get posts out quickly on this blog after games, which is not easy, and has been doing his usual excellent job. Along with posting Alan Wiley dog turds.

Anyone who wants to take a pop at the writers on this blog are very welcome to. I guarantee you that we will not be offended, and that you are wrong.

I think this is our 13th year as season ticket holders in the Clock End, and then Block 6. We stand (not sit) there because its more fun and less full of whiney bastards.

My post today says nothing personal about any of the players. I don't even think is that negative. The only player's performance who I criticised was Nasri, and I did so for reasons that I think are justified on the basis of his long term performances for the club.

To the anonymous poster who says its not Nasri's fault that he wants to play in the middle like Diaby (!!), that is exactly my problem with Nasri - he needs to stay wide left more often and not cramp the space that Cesc and Rambo were trying to operate in. Its pretty basic. A lot like your spelling.

I do not believe there was a single Gooner at the ground yesterday who would not have had something to moan about the performance.

Indeed, if it was not the heroics that Song and Tommy V put in every game, I think we would be in the Scouse/Spurs scrap for 4th place.

There is a real danger this season that we let retards like the Milkman convince us that this Arsenal side is ok. The Scousers fell into the trap of believing their own bullshit, refused to accept that they were simply Torres + Gerrard plus 9 others, and now are in a crisis. We need to be more circumspect.

Anonymous said...

ook their men on and tried to make something happen, rather than always play the percentage ball. ...

and of course if everyone did that how many would we lose by?

as for nasri. dont bitch about him, bitch about clichy failure to make runs on the outside

Ted said...

Nah. Everyone's being nasty to poor little Gael already. And we are weak enough at the back anyone without him being caught forwards.

Its not like you will see Nasri getting back at any stage of the fucking game to help Gael out is it? No likely mate, cos thats probably not his job either. Is it?

1979gooner said...


the Nasri one is tricky,

He hasn't been awful, but he has also been rather anonymous far too frequently,

Clichy has certainly been lacking in support, however a lot of his errors have been nothing to do with support, the lack of support is also a lot down to the 4-3-3 formation,

the problem is that if the wide two of the front three do a lot of defensive work then it ends up being a rather defensive 4-5-1 formation and the striker becomes lonely,

with cesc being the attacking one of the 3 in the midfield, i don't think he's suited to supporting the striker, he plays better when deeper,

thus the emphasis is on the wide two of the front three to support the striker, thus it's also hard for them to support the full backs,

does that make any sense?

ps agree with K, if people want to criticise what's written then fine, but do it without throwing around cheap insults please

Rhinogooner said...

Nice report Ted. I don't understand the criticism of it.

There are ultra-positive Arsenal blogs out there and ultra-negative ones. I've always found this one to be one of the more balanced and thoughtful.

Too many supporters look at the surface of the result and think it's miserable for anyone to complain. They fail to see the various intricacies that make up the match which provide the cause of our concerns.

There are too many moments in matches that could have cost us and we fail to acknowledge our fortune sometimes. These are the signs we fail to heed and are then subsequently punished for those errors when we come up against the sharper teams.

The way we played yesterday could have easily ended up with the Mackems drawing or even winning the match. It would have been jammy, but we've seen it happen before.

I could dissect different aspects of our performance and moments in the match, but I'm too lazy and too numb to it at this stage.

Don't misunderstand, I'm well pleased we got the 3 points. I'm elated that Man U dropped points again. If ever there was a season that our current squad could somehow, inexplicably, manage to win the title, this is it.

We are not the best team. Not even close. But Chelsea and Man U are wobbly. I have no delusions of us obtaining any silverware this season. I've used up all my supplies of hope in that :-) But it could happen.

Anonymous said...

great post.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the article is offensively negative but definately a "glass half empty" blog rather than half full. Isn't a criticism of us been over the last few years that we can't win games when we're not playing that well? Yesterday we didn't play that well but we still won 2-0. To put the slant "paper over the cracks" is negative. What will you be satisfied with; Total perfection? There is enough negativity around without complaining when we win 2-0. I am sure you are a true fan and I mean this respectfully. Up the Arsenal!

Ted said...

Some good comments coming through now. At last! Thanks K-man, Rhino and Rahul.

I agree with 1979 that the 4-3-3 system can leave the full backs exposed. But we have also all said that it also depends on the covering workrate that the midfielders put in. Plus the wingers.

Is the glass half empty or half full? Tough one. And I think the answer depends on what your expectations are for the club.

If the aim is top 4, then its clearly half full.

If its winning a trophy, its got to be half empty.

Anonymous said...

like the first comment says: another shit blog, well done, don't give up your day job at the call centre son.

Anonymous said...

and one more thing: to the guy who sits next to this guy. so what if he goes to all the home games. big deal, he is not there to surport the team is he. tell him to open his mouth at the ground and try and gather surport for his little revolutuion. no one will stand behind him. so, off he goes home to snipe like a coward behind the computer at our great club. every word people like him type hurt our club and give ammo to our enemies to use against us in the press or on the net.


Anonymous said...

But Ted you seem totally single minded on the trophy. If that is because like me you believe that as soon as this team wins something the dam will be broken and success will follow then really your glass is still half full. In any case you are completely fixated on a trophy. You feel the pressure of a few years without 1 and it is making you ultra critical and afraid to be positive. It is distorting alot of fans "support". What you have said is not really support but negative criticism. We must take a step back sometimes and "comb our hair" so to speak. Chelsea and others have grossly distorted the financial playing field recently and it is wrong to expect our club to attempt to compete with them during this delicate, new stadium stage. I mean in the sense of buying top dollar, top wages, prime age internationals. Our club is doing something much more exciting and, quite frankly admirable, as well as prudent. Be proud and be positive. The true value of our club and our team is in these things and not simply immediate silverware although that will undoubtably follow as long as the moneymen and the fans don't mess it up. Up the Arsenal!

Drew said...

First, I appreciate the post, regardless if I agree with it's views or not. It's great that this blog has provided folks with a forum in which to express their opinions.

Anyway, I agree with you on the Nasri bit. He does drift too far inside, clogging the center, and forcing other players wide. Nasri is brilliant with the ball at his feet, but if he isn't tactically disciplined, the whole team breaks down. If Arsene chooses to play Nasri on the wing, then that's where he needs to play, regardless of where he wants to play. Diaby used to be caught out of position all the time, but slowly he has become more aware of his responsibilities, and (surprise) he is having a great season.

In my opinion, Rosicky should be selected over Nasri. Though similar in stature and game, Rosicky is more willing to play the killer ball and, if that goes awry, more apt to correcting his mistake by tracking back. Maybe it's just because Rosicky is older and has more experience, but I always feel like Arsenal play better when Rosicky is on the field, rather than Nasri.

It's been a rough season to follow Arsenal. The ups and downs have been maddening, but the fight from the players is present, which should give the fans hope.

Come on you Gooners!

1979gooner said...

Anomyous, the last three comments,

your words are pathetic to say the least,

what was written was reasonable and well argued,

if you disagree then fine, but say why and argue your point,

don't come on here and say rather innanely that we should all get behind the club and never dare criticise any aspect of the club's management or playing side,

it is perfectly reasonable for fans to sensible point out where they think things can be improved and who is not carrying enough water,

my god if everyone just praised every aspect of their team's play even when they were playing badly it would be a sad sad world,

maybe your opinion is that what Arsenal are currently doing is prudent,

well it doesn't appear prudent to me,

Arsene has clearly not had enough experience in the side in the last three or so years,

I'm not saying we should have a side full of experienced players, but Arsene has forgotten about a balance, we have too many young talents and not enough people who have done it before, we also do not have enough defensive players, enough strong physical specimens who can help us grind when we need to,

if you can't accept that we have a right to express our opinions then bugger off,

if you wish to argue then fine, but please keep to the arguments, your accusations of not supporting the team and of being plastic lightweights etc are nothing but pathetic, if you are going to just polarise this debate by behaving like a toddler in an argument, then bugger off because you clearly cannot behave like a grown adult

Anonymous said...

Hey guys aint us fans supposed to be happy when our team wins?

Anonymous said...

1979 the 3 anonymous comments were from different people. I wrote the ones at 18.50 and 00.23 and did not write the offensive ones around them. Why do you think the club is not being prudent? Is it really inane to suggest that people support their team? I think that the sort of militant vibe you have is ok when a club is being ruined (like the Glazier takeover at Man U or example) but not just because we haven't won for a few years. Like I said the playing field is not even and we have just taken on a new mortgage. Cut the club some slack for all our sakes. The constant picking over our managers decisions and the BUY BUY BUY bullshit does get people down. People who just want to support their team and enjoy football. Have we really become so far removed from that simple pleasure?

1979gooner said...

no i don't think so,

if you read here regularly then you would see we don't subscribe to the buy, buy, but philosophy

what has become obvious is that the balance of our squad is wrong in terms of defensive players and in terms of experience,

i don't think major surgery is needed, it's just a bit of a tweeking that is needed,

maybe two experienced players in the right areas for the squad, that's all,

on this blog we are very pro-arsene and will give him a lot more praise than criticism,

that doesn't mean that we can't criticise him sometimes,

the games against manu and chelsea were obvious proof that things are wrong in some ways, that's why the sunderland game was papering over the cracks to a degree,

the everton game showed the same problems, many other games have shown these problems too,

this is not knee jerk, this is not sensationalist,

it's just pretty obvious that arsene has made some mistakes,

defensively we are too weak and we need to address this balance in our squad,

that's all