You know what, dear Readers, I have a fucking pain in my hole losing to Bolton. I especially have a pain in my hole losing to a Bolton side that really isn’t much fucking good. Maybe I was being overly optimisitic in the lead up to this game but I wasn’t expecting us to lose which is probably why the 3-1 defeat really upset me.
We were, let’s face it, pretty poor in the first half. When you know a team is going to get into you from the start you’d think you’d do the same but after 9 minutes we gave them a goal. They had a corner, Adebayor decided to run towards the centre circle instead of marking his man and Faye thumped home a header at the near post. Just fucking horrible defending. We did fuck all really and not long before half-time Nicolas Anelka scored a really outstanding goal, lashing it into the top corner from 25 yards. I suppose you could say he could have been closed down quicker but you can’t legislate for such a brilliant strike.
At that point you thought 2-0 at half-time would be too much but Gilberto got on the end of a Cesc cross to make it 2-1 and all to play for in the second half. And to be fair we were much better in the second half. We showed good spirit, some enthusiasm, we got involved physically and we made chances. We hit the woodwork three times and generally acquited ourselves far better but it only begged the question why we couldn’t have played like that in the first half. Sadly it was Anelka who made the game safe for Bolton with a very smart finish after being put through by Ivan Campo. I’ve seen offsides given in the past but while he was ahead of Toure there was no ‘daylight’, if that’s even a factor.
There was obviously no way we were going to come back from there despite Adebayor and Cesc hitting the woodwork after that point. Another miserable away day at the Reebok and if you were the bloke in the goalie’s top beside your mate wearing a blue Arsenal hat you were on TV more than some of our players today.
Afterwards Arsene Wenger wrote us out of the title race, saying:
We are too far behind. If you look at the number of points we have dropped and the way we have played it is really difficult to take. You feel on one hand there is a lot of quality in the side, but on the other hand we cannot transform that into points, so it is very disappointing to be such a long way behind because I feel we have a good chance to play with the top teams.
I suppose that’s a nod at the fact that we dominated games we should have won but ended up drawing or losing. He’s right though and while I have always talked up the quality that the young players have I feel we’re really lacking something in the side at the moment.
Anyone who has read Arseblog since it started will know I’ve always been a big fan of Freddie Ljungberg and it pains me to say this now but he’s pretty much finished. He contributes nothing, he can’t beat a man, he loses the ball and I lost count of how many challenges he pulled out of yesterday. After what he said about the young players this week it was a shockingly bad performance and we haven’t seen anything approaching decent form from Freddie for well over 2 years now. Surely this can’t be lost on the manager. I wanted him off the pitch after 20 minutes yesterday. Sadly it took Arsene 70 to put us out of our misery.
Honestly, I would be so happy to see the old Freddie back or at least a Freddie that could bring something to this team but getting caught in possession then sitting on your arse complaining to the referee isn’t what this team needs. To perform like he did today just makes a mockery of his pathetic attempts to lay the blame for the team’s woes at the feet of the younger players when it’s shite like he dished up today that causes us far more problems. I would be more than happy to be proved wrong and see Freddie back performing and amongst the goals but I’m not optimistic.
Adebayor played as the lone striker and we might as well have played Inanimate Carbon Rod for all he did. He was useless and while I realise he hit the bar, the same way Freddie’s one contribution was to hit the woodwork, once you get beyond Henry and van Persie we don’t have another striker to speak of. Adebayor is not the answer. Arsene Wenger spoke before the game about how he brought a physical presence to the team. In a very literal sense that’s true – physically he actually exists and takes up space but he doesn’t put himself about, centre-halves aren’t worried about him, he doesn’t scare anyone. We need better than him and having a player whose idea of marking at a corner is to run the opposite way from the ball is a fucking joke.
As well as that I think people have, in the wake of the Cuntley Cunt situation, remembered Gael Clichy being far better than he actually is. He has some fine moments but gives the ball away too much, makes some very basic errors defensively and put him in an attacking position he’ll put the ball over the back of the stand before he’ll put in a decent cross. Maybe he’s still just rusty but how long can we wait for him to pick it up (and that’s assuming he can)? On the other side Emmanuel Eboue showed he’s not learning how to defend fast enough and whatever you might think about the Davies incident I was embarrassed to see him writhe around then ‘need’ three or four minutes treatment to his head after a push in the chest. We have good centre-halves but we’re weak in the full back positions. I really hope Lauren can get fit and get back in this team because his character is what we need on night’s like last night. His determination, his willingness to get involved physically, his experience and leadership would serve us far better than Eboue’s constant whining and rolling around. He can defend too.
Anyone who thought we might be better off without Thierry Henry today was living in a dream world. Henry and van Persie are the only two strikers we have. After that it’s reserve stuff. Aliaidere is patently not going to make it, Theo is a winger and Adebayor is just not good enough for all his effort. He’s just not somebody you would have any faith in to score at any time in any game? He works hard and I like him but I really don’t think he’s the right player for us. The boss might need to rethink playing Baptista as a midfielder and get him up top where his physical presence and strength might make a difference.
All that aside for the manager to rule us out of the title race at the end of November is tremendously disappointing.
He says he’s not going to buy anyone in January because of the players we have on loan but can anyone honestly see Bendtner, Lupoli, Muamba, Larsson, Gilbert or Carlos Vela solving the problems we have? I know we have Diaby back but would he have made any difference today? I don’t think so. What we do need is a physical presence in midfield. Gilberto covers and does defensive work very well but he’s a ‘nicker’, he’s not the kind of man who’ll crunch into tackles. I felt sorry for Cesc trying to win anything in midfield with little help from anyone.
In conversation with the man from East Lower we agreed there are too many small men in the team. Cesc, Rosicky, Hleb, Ljungberg, Flamini etc. Barcelona, for example, also have lots of small men (Deco, Xavi, Iniesta, Gio, Messi, Giuly) but they nearly always play one of Edmilson, Motta or Marquez to anchor the midfield, win the ball, not allow them to get bullied and then give the ball to little guys who can use it well. Would Djourou in midfield be an option?
I try and stay positive for the most part and I know this is only the third league game we’ve lost this season but it’s left me feeling very low. Maybe it’s because it’s Bolton and we all hate Bolton and wanted some measure of revenge but I think it goes a bit deeper than that. It’s because we should have played for 90 minutes like we did in the second 45, it’s because it’s now apparent that some of players are no longer/never were up to the task and it’s because the manager has said we’re not in the title race.
Maybe that’s his way of taking the pressure of his players but it’s more likely to be an honest call from a man who knows his team isn’t capable of winning the league. What makes it more disappointing is that this season’s Chelsea look more vulnerable than they ever did and United, despite their great start, don’t look as good a team as United teams we’ve seen in the past. Sadly our team hasn’t been able to make the step up to put the pressure on them that might have made them crack a bit.
What’s worse is that if we’d played in the first half with the spirit and effort we did in the second half we could have won this game. We really did play well in the second half but why did it take two Bolton goals or a half-time teamtalk to spark us into life? Maybe we’re dreaming of halcyon days but there was a time when we had leaders who wouldn’t have accepted a below par first half like that. We’ve got excellent players now but we lack leadership and inspirtation on the pitch.
Certainly players and captains of the past would not have moved one travelling fan to comment on the Arses yesterday:
My biggest gripe is that only Theo and then Gilberto even acknowledged some great support at in a sold-out Arsenal end, when we’ve all travelled 4 hours to see us get fucked up the arse one more time.
That is a shame. I’m sure the players were pissed off too but 30 seconds to give a nod to the fans who have travelled so far wouldn’t have been too hard, would it?
Anyway, I thought last season’s game at Bolton was the low point of last season. Let’s hope this is as bad as it gets this time around.