Hello, I see Tom took good care of you and touched you all in your special area yesterday. He’s good like that. Thanks, Tom (and you got quoted in the Telegraph today)!
Given that it’s the day after the day after here are some random thoughts about my trip and the PSV game.
- We are nowhere near clinical enough in front of goal. The opposition, time and time again this season, make the most of their chances whereas we squander ours. Both Cesc and Adebayor could put us in a much stronger position last night but their misses were just another page in the enormous catalogue this season has provided. It has been our major downfall this season – we’re far too reliant on our strikers and beyond Henry and van Persie none of them score enough either. Gilberto aside the midfield hasn’t contributed anywhere near enough and it’s cost us. Arsene said pre-game we had to be ruthless. We weren’t and it’s cost us.
- Corners – Not only are we shit at taking them we are fucking hopeless at defending them. I know their goal wasn’t exactly a corner but it was taken from pretty much the same area. I’d ask serious questions about Jens for the goal as well. A decent header but it was right in the middle of the goal where you’d expect your keeper to be if he wasn’t caught in two minds about whether to come for the ball or not. Talking to a couple of Germans last night in the hotel and they mentioned that Jens is strongly rumoured to be going to Stuttgart. That would mean their current keeper, Timo Hildebrand, would be on his way. One German for another perhaps?
- Width – we really don’t have any. Kolo got forward and wide in the first half but we lose that shape too easily and everything comes inside. If you think of an arrow head with the base on the halfway line and the tip in the middle of the D on the opposition box that’s the area we play in. It’s too tight, too narrow and far too easy to defend against. Why did we make a nice new pitch which was wider than Highbury if we’re just going to play in an area the same size as a hospital corridor? This is a problem that we have to address and there are players more guilty than others of making us play like that.
- Hleb – I have been a fan and I thought he’d improved a lot but in the last month he has been shocking. The guy has such great close control and dribbling skills but it’s undermined constantly by his terrible final pass. At the game my Dad had his head in his hands about how often he gave the ball away and he’s not an Arsenal fan. He is responsible, not solely I should say, for how narrow our game becomes and at times he seems afraid to shoot. One chance in particular in the second half saw him wide open with a chance to shoot from the edge of the box but he came back inside on his left foot and lost the ball. We can’t have players who are that afraid to take responsibility. The free kick he gave away for their goal was ridiculously stupid but all players make mistakes like that. The main thing is how often he gives the ball away. Given how so much of our game is based on keeping possession and moving the ball quickly it’s not a surprise we struggle to gain any kind fluency when one player keeps giving it back to the opposition. I wouldn’t be unhappy to see him go in the summer.
- Team selection – I thought it was strange. Denilson and Cesc are too similar. Why not play Diaby in there or simply play Gilberto and Djourou at right back or centre-half against a team that was never going to attack us? We needed Gilberto more in midfield than in defence last night. Henry was never fit enough and we’ve lost him for another spell – to be perfectly honest, I’d seriously think about giving him as much time as he needs to be properly 100% fit, even if that means next season. Baptista, I really want to like him but he’s just not good enough, is he? There aren’t enough goals in this team and if you want to compete at the highest level you can’t have a team where only two or three players score goals with any kind of consistency – especially when two of them are banjaxed.
- Leavers – I was astounded at the numbers of people who upped and left after their goal. While I completely understand feeling frustrated there was still time for stuff to happen. Does nobody remember Keown’s two goals in the last five minutes against Shaktar Donetsk? I remember him talking about how great the crowd were that night and how much it helped. How inspiring was it for the players to see the stadium start to empty out like the final whistle had gone?
- Arsebloggers – It is always a pleasure to meet everyone when I go London. Pints before the game are great but pints after the game when you can rant and get everything off your chest are even better. The Tollington Brolly is a brilliant place.
So, as the boss said it’s been a ‘horrendous’ fortnight for the club and while he is perfectly correct that there are a lot of positives there have been obvious negatives too. The most positive thing that can come from this little run is that the deficiencies that have been highlighted are addressed in the transfer market this summer, properly, and if that happens then what is good about this team can really come to the fore.
We all know the potential of the youngsters but some of them need to have more experience around them to bring them on. Some of them need more competition for their place to bring them on. And overall the team needs to change the way it plays in that this narrow, pass through the eye of a needle stuff – while admittedly a bit overstated by the media – isn’t as effective as it once was. Something has to change. There are big areas of the pitch that are underused primarily because we don’t have the players to use them. Get those players.
However, while slumps like the last couple of weeks try the patience and frustrate fans we can still make this a better season than last one. Last year we secured fourth spot on the final day of the season. This time we’re in 4th but only a point behind Liverpool with two games in hand. What the manager will look for is an improvement in the final league position and third is certainly there for us if we want it.
What they can’t do now is sit around and feel sorry for themselves. There are games to be won, goals to be scored, futures at the club to be played for and it’s up to the manager to get everyone focussed and ready for the final part of the season. Another season without silverware isn’t nice but no team has a divine right to win trophies. They have to be earned and we haven’t done enough this season but there’s a chance for them to show that this team has something about it. Two weeks ago people couldn’t praise us enough for our football and youth policy. Now our football isn’t good enough and our players are too young. The truth lies somewhere inbetween and now we have another test of character with 11 league games and 33 points still to play for.
And that’s about it. You’ll have noticed there’s no Arsecast this week. I only got back in to Dublin last night so I didn’t have time to get anything together. Sure, I could have knocked up something shoddy and of poor quality but I like to prepare my shoddy, poor quality material to ensure it’s as shoddy and poor quality as possible. AWH, the Man in the Bar et al will return as usual next Friday.