You know, I speak about consistency a lot on the blog, and if there’s one thing this Arsenal team are consistent at it’s making life more difficult for themselves than it should be.
Yesterday was the same. Partly by accident, partly by design, but everything was going great until the half hour mark. We were 1-0 up through Nicklas Bendtner’s deflected shot and then it was like somebody flicked a switch. Samir Nasri pulled his hamstring chasing a long ball and after that Arsenal went to pieces. The news regarding Nasri is not great, more on that later, but watching him come off the pitch with Eboue hanging out of him is a fairly sad sight.
He was replaced by Tomas Rosicky but Huddersfield were encouraged. A cross from our right hand side found their man free as a bird in the box, Kieran Gibbs was nowhere near him, but he planted his header wide when he should have scored. Then the carefully named Jack Hunt took it upon himself to run through the Arsenal midfield and defence. Some of the tackling, or attempted tackling, was pathetic. Denilson hung a leg out in midfield, as is his wont, and all the Huddersfield player had to do was push the ball past an Arsenal man and run onto it.
With no disrespect to the chap it was hardly a mazy Maradona-esque dribble. Having scorched through the midfield he arrived at the centre of our defence where the tackling was equally suspect. He knocked it past Squiscielny and when Squillaci stepped into his path referee Mark Clattenburg showed a red card. Yes, it was a long way out and he might not have been the last man but I don’t have any complaints about the sending off. It was deserved and the defending was poor from a player of his experience.
Having hung on until half-time, replacing the ineffective Chamakh with Song, we didn’t start the second half well at all. We found it very difficult to keep the ball, Huddersfield were having a lot of joy in the wide areas, particularly down our left hand side, and were dangerous time and time again. They really had a go, with a number of efforts going just wide, while Manuel Almunia was forced to make a quite outstanding save to keep us ahead.
When another cross from our left was put out for a corner Huddersfield equalised. The Arsenal defending wasn’t great but the header was emphatic and it was no less than they deserved really. Almost straight away the manager played his final card, bringing on Cesc for Abou Diaby. It made a difference. Huddersfield sat back a bit after the goal, perhaps thinking they’d like a replay. It was a bit surprising really, I thought they might have really gone for it, but it was natural enough I suppose.
Arsenal came into the game more. Cesc played in Bendtner over the top but the Huddersfield defender showed how it should be done with a fantastic tackle. Arshavin made a chance for the big Dane but he took a touch instead of finishing first time and the chance was blocked. And then the goal came. Typically Cesc was involved, blocking a clearance near the edge of their box before playing in a ball to Bendnter who was fouled about 8 yards out. Penalty and a red card! No, penalty and yellow card.
It’s amazing that Squillaci can get a red for a foul 35 yards from goal yet one inside the box only merits a yellow. Goodplaya has a few other examples of how the closer to goal the foul happens the less likely a red card. What’s the difference between the foul on Bendtner and the one by Caldwell on Cesc last weekend? One’s a red, one’s a yellow. The inconsistency is amazing.
Anyway, the captain stepped up, shimmied, shimmied again and then made it 2-1. A Cesc penalty in the last round saved our bacon and got us a replay. This time the penalty won us the game and saved us from another difficult away trip we didn’t need, given our schedule. There was still time for Huddersfield to threaten with a dangerous free kick but we saw it out and went through. Not exactly a fantastic performance by any means but job done. Afterwards Arsene said:
It was tough, tough, tough, because it had all the ingredients of a typical cup game. We played a little bit below par and Huddersfield is a good team, they have shown that today. We play so many games at the moment that sometimes we are not as sharp as we would want to be. That is what happened today.
Before looking at Arsenal, credit to Huddersfield. They played really well. They might have taken advantage of a poor Arsenal performance but we’ve played badly in the past and teams haven’t done that. They made lots of chances, probably should have scored more, and will probably feel a little disappointed at going out but as Arsenal fans well know when you don’t take those chances it can cost you.
The amount of changes we made certainly had an impact on the level of our performance. I’m not going to get the hatchet out, there’s too much of that, but I do have to mention one incident which for me makes me question some of our players. Late on Denilson went into the box, ready to cross it before pulling up with what looked like a similar hamstring injury to Nasri. That meant Arsenal were down to 9 men. Huddersfield came forward and the last thing you need to do then is give away a silly free kick, which is exactly what Eboue did in our right hand corner. Given their set-piece delivery and the fact a few headers hadn’t gone far wide it was utterly unintelligent football. That Denilson trotted back on as if nothing had happened made it all the more frustrating.
For me that’s why there’s an obvious and growing gap between the ‘first XI’ and those required to fill in. Look at Cesc when he came on. He’s got the drive and will to win that is missing in some of the others. Again I’ll point to the fact that expecting the fringe players to come in and play like the ones selected for the big games is unrealistic. In fact it might well be healthy to lower expectations regarding some of these players because nobody’s health is being done any good. If you’re looking for Denilson to do what Cesc does, or Eboue to even come close to doing what Sagna does, then you’re going to be disappointed every time.
However, while we can all sit here and say ‘X played badly’ or ‘Y is a cunt’, I have to admit there’s a level of contempt and almost hatred for some of our players that I find hard to stomach. Yesterday you could easily have read around and found a number of Arsenal fans berating the manager, players and a certain returning goalkeeper … all before the fucking game even started.
Poor performances frustrate me, of course, and I want to see better from certain players, but the attitude of some of our fans is just plain nasty. Maybe it’s just keyboard warriors who feel it’s acceptable to direct bile and hatred at the team they claim to support but it’s all a bit much at times. I can fully understand somebody venting post-game, we all do it to an extent, but before kick off? These people need to chill out a bit.
And then there’s the manager being a cunt for playing Nasri. But he’s a cunt if he doesn’t play him either so he can’t win there. The injury is a little more serious than the normal hamstring pull, it seems. I’m told 3-6 weeks could well be the time frame which certainly rules him out of the first Barcelona game and might even keep him out of the second. Fingers crossed it’s not that bad but it’s certainly a big blow to lose such an important player at this time of the season.
I suspect it’ll mean a recall for Andrei Arshavin who was much more involved yesterday. Ok, not much came off but there’s no doubt there was more effort and energy from the Russian. That he was the one who got back to make a last ditch sliding tackle in the box tells you that he’s turned some kind of a corner and hopefully he can start producing up the other end of the pitch again.
There’s no time to do anything now but get focused on the Everton game tomorrow night. Many changes again but ones we can be more confident of a performance from. The draw for the 5th round of the cup sees us away to Leyton Orient.
Remember, goals and more on the video page.
In other news it is transfer deadline day. The Mirror reports we’re trying to ‘rush through’ a deal for Oxtail-Chamberpot but beyond that I don’t expect any Arsenal signings at all.
Squillaci’s red card is a one game ban, not three as widely reported, and while you and I might very well believe a new defender is crucial to any chances of silverware this season it seems fairly apparent that the manager does not. Squillaci is struggling, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to prompt Arsene to bring in somebody else. Unless the loan deal of all loan deals crops up today – where we get a brilliant player and are paid handsomely in gold and kisses by the other team – then there’s no chance of a defensive signing.
I refuse to even get involved in the deadline day silliness. It is, ultimately, a load of rumour-mongering, gossipy bollocks in which I want no part. I’ve got enough to worry about without stressing about why we’re not doing something I know we’re not going to do. It’s all a bit pointless. If we get a nice surprise then fine but other than that transfer deadline day is as horrific as that moment in Star Wars when Luke finds out Phil Collins is his real dad.