Monday, December 8, 2008

More points in the bag, still unimpressive

Arsenal completed the prototypical tough win on Saturday - albeit at home. As leaders Liverpool, and close followers Chelsea and Manchester United also got wins, we gained no ground. But, and this is something not to take for granted this season, we didn't slip. Should we be happy with that?

The fact is that once again Arsenal stumbled through a match, and were - frankly - lucky to hang on for all all three points. The goal came off of a corner and a goal mouth scramble. Alex Song, who has struggled to assert himself this season played the ball through nicely (or rather, alertly) to Manu Adebayor who converted for the lead. Alex has been victim to Arsene's noted thoughts that a quality footballer can and should be able to play anywhere on the pitch. As a result, he's not really ever found a home, has he?

Notably, Djourou played the full 90 minutes and while he and Kolo had a few moments back there, the bottom line is that we didn't concede and that's an improvement. Especially when Wigan really looked like scoring. Wigan had the full tilt of the pitch, making the second half was a nightmare. There was no Arsenal presence to speak of in the midfield. It becomes fully apparent when you step back and consider the number of long balls that were being played. The overriding problem all season has been that well noted lack of depth in the midfield. When a player like Samir Nasri goes down with an injury (on a terrible tackle I might add), it goes a long way to exposing that biggest fault. Denilson and Song have not been good enough all season. And they are the two who are consistently plugged in with the absence of Theo Walcott, Abu Diaby, Samir Nasri and of course, Tommy Rosicky who has now been ruled out a further four months. (you'll note a certain name I've left out here, more later...) 

Interestingly, I do believe that Song's game has risen slightly and that it's capable of improving yet this season as he gets more comfortable in the team. On the flip side however is Neves Denilson. He showed so much vision and deft passing touch when he first started making forays into the team. I honestly rooted for him to get out on the pitch because he showed those fantastically incisive passes that I value so much when watching football - something that, say, a Xabi Alonso would show (if I might...). But now he looks more and more like nothing more than a young man. He's been slow to react, he's been bossed and he's seemingly been fearful of charging forward in the way expected of an Arsenal midfielder. Perhaps he's been tactically held back by Arsene. I'll have to keep a keener eye on his progression. For the time being, though, he's been frustrating.

So because of our lightweight midfield and their reliance on the long ball (as unimaginative as any tactic), Wigan pushed the ball up front for most of the second half, and caused our nerves to fray as the Gunners hit the post on a few occasions and then just failed to muster any spirit at all.

The main culprit?

A man whom I've been coming around on, but now I question that even more. Emmanuel Eboue had a howler of a match. He came on for Nasri and in the second half and completely lost his mind, concentration, confidence, awareness, energy ... lust for football. You name it, he did it wrong. I'm never a fan of booing your own players off the pitch, but in this instance, my word, something needs to send him a message. He has rarely proven himself to be an Arsenal player in the last two or three seasons and this is one of those horrific performances that makes you wonder how much longer he'll be around. It's quite clear where our problems lie, but it's remarkably unclear whether or not anyone will do anything about it.


Jim said...

Purple Rain, dogg. Wenger's gotta bring back Purple Rain on the 21st. The mania inside the bar will be like the wedding scene from "The Deer Hunter."

Also, keep those wandering eyes off Alonso. The Director is staying at Anfield.

Carl said...

Purple Rain!!!!!!! I am sweating bullets awaiting his return. Listen Jim if Alonso came to the Arsenal a dream mid would be assembled like Voltron.
Nasri, Alonso, Cesc, Walcott!! Lil'Baby Jesus would weep. Beethoven would rise from the grave to write new symphonies glorifying the beauty of the game, and Yahweh Himself would put on the old red and white and sing with us poor misbegotten souls.
P.S. The Director shall soon be creating his own masterpiece at the Arsenal.

MulderBurns said...

'The mania inside the bar will be like the wedding scene from "The Deer Hunter."'

I'm still laughing at this one. How special would it be if Eduardo were to come on and score against Liverpool on the 21st? Wow. Pure magic.