Yesterday’s game against Legia Warsaw was our final game of pre-season. A chance to consolidate the hard work that had been done pre-season and perhaps put in a performance that would build confidence before we kick off the new season at Anfield this day week.
Quite what it achieved is anyone’s guess. It really didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. Arsenal can score a lot of goals. Arsenal can concede a lot of goals due to the fact we can’t defend very well. And that poor Lukasz Fabianski simply cannot cope with any kind of pressure at all.
The game was part of the deal which brought him to Arsenal. In his 45 minute spell he conceded three. The first was a cracking shot, in fairness, I wouldn’t lay any blame on him at all but it would be right to wonder why the fella was allowed to run at the Arsenal goal without a challenge, leaving him all the time in the world to fire in his shot.
The second and third goals showed just how far his reputation has spread. Legia crowded the box for a corner, Fabianski came, tripped over Vermaelen’s leg and was lying on the ground as the ball went in. A couple of minutes later they crowded the 6-yard box again for another corner, this time played it short before chucking it in and with our defence having no idea what was going on they made it 3-0. Truly disastrous defending and they sought to exploit Fabianski’s weakness at set-pieces. Most telling of all was that they did not do this in the second half when Fabianski had gone off.
Marouane Chamakh pulled one back to make it 3-1 at half-time. It should have been 4-1 just moments into the second half but the other Pole, Wojscez©®, pulled off a fantastic double save. Then the game went goal crazy. Eboue scored two, Gibbs scored one, they got another, Jay Emmanuel Thomas got one, then Nasri was gifted one by a typically generous piece of Polish goalkeeping before another defensive mistake allowed them another.
Final score Legia Warsaw 5-6- Arsenal. Ok, so 6-5 games don’t happen very often and you could write it off as a fluke. You could also dismiss it as just a training game but the way we defended and the goals we conceded are genuinely worrying in my opinion. The need for a first class central defensive partnership is crucial. At the moment we don’t have that. Koscielny looks like a good footballer but one who is a bit lightweight right now and who is probably going to struggle to adapt to English football for a few months.
We have Djourou, who I suspect will start at Anfield, and Vermaelen. This area of the team needs an injection of quality and experience in a big way. And soon. The same with the keeper. Arsene called it a chance for Fabianski to show he can be Arsenal’s number 1. I feel sorry for the bloke, I have to say. Every time he gets a chance he drops it like a hot snot. He’s not up to it at this level. Send him on loan for a year, let him play somewhere else, but right now Arsenal is not the club for him. His young compatriot, raw and inexperienced as he is, looks a better bet right now even if he’s probably not ready for the job either.
As we focus on the back four/five though, it is not the sole domain of the defence to defend. There’s got to be protection from all over the pitch and that didn’t happen yesterday. Up against grown men in a game which wasn’t a pre-season tournament stroll for fitness, young Frimpong looked a bit out of his depth. Rosciky and Walcott did little but give the ball away. We have no news on the return of Alex Song, Denilson and Diaby, who Wenger said last week should be fit for Warsaw. Until we learn to defend as a team and until we have proper organisation at the back we’re going to struggle. We conceded a hat-trick to a right back yesterday.
Let’s remember we went into this game without Cesc, van Persie, Bendtner and Arshavin, four players who carry genuine attacking threat, and still scored six. So I have no real worries about that side of our game at all. I do have real concern over our defensive display and the defensive culture, or lack of, at the club. Under Wenger we’ve rarely had teams which defend brilliantly, I watched the 49 game unbeaten run DVD last week and it was noticeable how many goals we conceded on that run, but it’s gone too far the other way now. It needs sorting, and quick.
The most worrying thing of all is that Arsene has no time to fix things this week. A whole pile of the players are shipping out on international duty and won’t be back at the club until Thursday at the earliest. After a performance like that a good week on the training ground can put things right. The work he can do this week is seriously limited by the ridiculous international fixtures.
So, worrying overall, but there were some positives. Samir Nasri has been the outstanding player of pre-season and he continued that with another excellent display. There’s a seriousness about him that wasn’t there before and if that’s what’s inspiring him then long may it last. Chamakh got a fine headed goal, Eboue’s two goals were well taken and he showed more in his 45 than the anonymous Theo Walcott, Sagna looked good down the right hand side and regardless of how Wengerspeak it is, there is something to be said for coming back from 3-0 down to win a game, no matter how ridiculous it was in general.
I don’t go in for the overreaction I’ve read elsewhere but I am more worried than I was having witnessed that. It highlighted all the old weaknesses, the ones that people hoped we’d fix during the summer, and frustration is understandable. We have yet to hear from the manager post-game. Perhaps, for once, he’s lost for words.
He wasn’t earlier in the week when he spoke to Amy Lawrence for the Observer. He hinted that he may extend his contract at Arsenal. We’ll have to see what happens there, I’m unsure if he will, and the idea of him leaving is no longer as unthinkable as it once was. Then there’s this:
There is still work to be done before the season opens. Wenger makes no secret of his need for another centre-half. And does he understand why people expect him to bring in a new goalkeeper? “Yes,” he says, smiling ruefully.
So we know he knows he needs a centre-half and a goalkeeper. We know he’s been looking. Instead of castigating him for not buying – and don’t get me wrong, I have my concerns and really think we should have sorted this out much earlier – perhaps it might be a better question to wonder why we haven’t been able to buy anyone yet. There is a pressing need for these players, something the manager acknowledges, do we really think he’s just sitting around waiting for the perfect player to drop into his lap?
Perhaps he’s being a little too exact in his search, at some point he’s going to have to buy who he can buy simply because needs must, but he’s not in the middle of a Tekken marathon with Ivan Gazidis and just not bothering his arse. Let’s see and let’s hope that whatever needs to be done is done this week, the team needs it.
Finishing in the top four is not good enough. Finishing second or third is not enough. The main thing is finishing first. I wouldn’t be happy playing in the World Cup Final if we lost it. The best thing is to win the Premier League.
Scoff you might but that’s exactly the kind of attitude that’s needed throughout this squad.
In other news Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere have all been called up to the England squad for Wednesday’s game against Hungary. Congratulations to them, I hope it goes well and injury free. And I hope they don’t catch John Terry from John Terry.
And that’s about that for this Sunday. The countdown to the new season begins in earnest this week.