So we lost our first game at the Grove yesterday as West Ham, with pretty much their only shot of the game, scored while Arsenal, with about 602 shots, didn’t.
It’s too long to go through the list of all the chances but we could have been 3 or 4-0 up in the first 15 minutes but when we didn’t take any of the chances you feared the worst. Robert Green made lots of saves, Gilberto hit the post, Cesc hit the crossbar, Adebayor had a header saved when he should have scored and overall we battered West Ham in terms of possession and chances but games aren’t won on stats. They’re won by taking your chances when you get them and when you get as many as Arsenal did in a game and don’t take them then you’re going to cause yourself problems.
So it was a problem when Zamora scored on the stroke of half-time. There was a suspicion of offside but the defending was terrible. There was nobody anywhere near him and he lobbed Jens, who you can ask questions of with regards his positioning, to make it 1-0.
Now, some people might suggest that we were unlucky because we had so many opportunities to score goals but it’s not the first time it’s happened this season and the inability to take these chances is a fundamental flaw in this Arsenal side. We’re not clinical enough. We just don’t score enough goals. I was always worried about where the goals would come from because not one of the players who started today is in any way, shape or form a natural goal scorer. The best of the bunch is Adebayor and his last league goal was against Blackburn at the Grove back in December.
Cesc came close at least but Rosicky’s finishing is appalling, Hleb never even bothers to shoot, these days Freddie is more likely to score in a nightclub than on the pitch, Gilberto missed an open goal with a header and the one he hit the post with late on was a great chance too. Baptista came on and blundered around and Jeremie Aliadiere came on and showed why in his entire Arsenal career he’s only ever scored one league goal. And that was in 2002 against West Brom.
Ok, we wanted an improved performance after the Liverpool debacle and we got that but it’s plainly obvious that some of the players aren’t good enough. They’re not capable of playing for a so-called ‘big club’. They don’t have that bit extra that sees them put away chances when they come along. They can’t win games for us. It’s sad but true.
I suppose the fundamentals of football are defending and scoring goals. If you can’t do one of those two you’re in a real trouble and if you can’t score goals and you’re capable of conceding at any time like this Arsenal side is then it’s no wonder our season has been such a complete fucking mess.
Ultimately the manager is responsible for the players we have on the pitch. I know we’ve got a couple of injuries but that’s not a good enough excuse for a team of 11 highly paid professional footballers not to be able to score one goal when some of the chances were handed to them on a silver platter.
To create that much and not score is not down to bad luck. It’s down to a lack of ability. We have a very, very serious problem which could cost us dearly between now and the end of the season. We’ve only got two players in our entire squad who are capable of regular and consistent goalscoring and they’re both out injured until next season. We’ve got some who can chip in with the occassional goal but don’t do it nearly enough. Apart from Gilberto the next best midfielder is Mathieu Flamini who has 4 league goals to his name this season but he can’t even get a place on the bench ahead of a bloke who, although he’s nominally a striker, hasn’t scored a league goal for us for five years. Amazing.
With Liverpool winning to go 5 points ahead of us and Bolton winning to close the gap to 2 points we’re facing a major, major difficulty and looking at the players we’ve got it’s just impossible to see where the goals are going to come from to win games like Newcastle away, Sp*rs away, Bolton at home etc etc.
I read a quote from the manager earlier in the week saying he’d be happy going into next season with the same squad. Sadly it didn’t come on April fool’s day. To do so would be utter folly, in my opinion. The best managers are ruthless. They have faith in their players but if they don’t deliver they’ll be moved on. Look at what Ferguson did when he got rid of Ince, Kanchelskis and Hughes from a title winning side. We need Arsene to be ruthless with some of these boys because we’ll never achieve what we all want the club to achieve with them in the side.
You know, every season I have this wild optimism that we can win the league, perhaps the Champions League, and maybe the FA Cup. I am by nature more inclined to believe in the positive traits that our team has than to dwell on the flaws. However, right now it’s difficult to do that. If we manage to finish 4th I’ll be as happy as I would be if we’d won the league because right now it looks as if that would be just as a big an achievement. Make no mistake, finishing outside the top 4 would be an absolute disaster. Not only would we miss out on Champions League football and the income it generates but the possibility of attracting the kind of players we need would be seriously damaged while we could lose one or two of the players we don’t actually want to lose.
Afterwards Arsene described the result as ‘unbelievable’. Unfortunately anyone who has watched us spurn chances all season long will know it’s all too believable. If you offered me fourth place now I’d bite your hand off for it. Everton and Bolton will have something to say about it though and at the moment we’re almost in freefall.
I’m not looking forward to the Newcastle game.