Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A scrappy win and something's up with Baptista

Three juicy, delicious points last night against Aston Villa but they weren’t the prettiest three points we ever earned. We took the lead on ten minutes when Abou Diaby stuck a foot out and deflected a Julio Baptista shot past Thomas Sorenson for his second Arsenal goal, both of them have been against Villa.

And we played some nice stuff in the first half too. Denilson played in Aliadiere but Sorenson made a good save. Mellberg got back to dispossess Aliadiere shortly afterwards. Freddie made two brilliant runs into the box but firstly Aliadiere delayed his pass and the second time Diaby played him out wide when an earlier ball would have had him in. And then some great work saw a Freddie Ljungberg cross find Aliadiere totally unmarked but from 6 yards he headed the ball into the ground and over the bar. A shocking miss by any standards and given our season you felt we really had to take one of those chances.

And it looked like we’d pay for that profligacy in the second half when Villa had most of the play for the first 25-30 minutes. In fairness they didn’t create an awful lot and relied on long balls pumped up to Carew who caused us problems all night. The closest they came to scoring was when Diaby’s header was cleared off the line by Freddie and Carew had a shot wide. We brought on Flamini and Rosicky for Baptista and Diaby and started to play a little bit but never got into our stride second half. In the end we were hanging on a bit and the way we’ve been sucker punched a few times this season I was waiting for one of their long balls to fall at someone’s feet or bounce over Jens and go in but after five minutes of the four minutes of injury time the ref blew up.

Not a great performance but the three points mean we move above Liverpool into third place so you can’t really complain. Some thoughts on various players though. I’m not a fan of Gilberto at the back. Firstly because I think we have players to play centre-half who are better at it than he is (Senderos and Djourou are more natural defenders) and secondly because I think we miss him in midfield. His physical presence and reading of the game in front of the back four is badly missed and Denilson and Cesc are a bit too similar for me.

I thought Freddie did well, he made some great runs and worked very hard. It was nice to see. Up front though, well, what can you say? Aliadiere definitely should have had one, probably two and possibly three. When Arsene Wenger talks about his strikers needing to be ruthless then it must be frustrating to see chances created and spurned. Luckily it didn’t cost us tonight.

The more I see of Baptista the more I’m convinced the performance and goals at Anfield were a fluke and the ones against Sp*rs a mini-fluke. He was nigh on useless last night and there was a very strange incident when he was taken off. Arsene Wenger gestured at Baptista’s back and Baptista made a ‘What are you on about’ gesture to Wenger who glared at him till he sat down.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger revealed he took the Brazilian off because he had a back injury and said:

I felt he had a bad back. We have checked that and he’s really badly injured.

So did he have a back injury before the game? Did he pick it up during the game or did he get a back injury when he mouthed off to the manager as he was taken off? And how did Arsene Wenger feel Baptista’s back injury? It’s all very weird, I have to say, but it’s not difficult to understand the manager’s frustration with his player. When he arrived I really, really wanted him to do well and be a success. I really did. However, I think we probably have to face facts that for 90% of the games he’s played in he’s looked slow, cumbersome and out of his depth. He’s had more than enough time to adjust and he’s just not performing to the standards required.

The other thing to consider is perhaps Baptista knows that Arsenal won’t be taking him on and in those circumstances a player can become a liability. Maybe he played tonight because we had no choice but maybe the manager would prefer to juggle his team than put up with the lack of effort displayed tonight. Does he have a back injury? Baptista doesn’t seem to think so. It might just be we’ve seen the last of the beast.

The manager praised the mental strength of the team and he was right to do so. It was a big scrap and we did enough to win and restore some confidence ahead of Everton on Sunday.

Elsewhere, while the first team was scrapping for their 1-0 win the FA Youth Cup side beat Manchester United in front of 38,187 people at the Grove, nearly 5,000 more than watched Sp*rs in the UEFA Cup at White Hate Loan last night. A Kieran Gibbs goal gives them a 1-0 lead to take to Old Trafford for the second leg and well done to them. Here’s hoping they can go all the way.

So two 1-0s to the Arsenal. A good night all round.

More tomorrow, including the Arsecast which features all the usual stuff plus exclusive interviews with Bob Wilson and Philippe Auclair from France Football who talks about Thierry Henry and the madness of Raymon Domenech. See you then.

Related articles

Share article

Featured on NewsNow

Support Arseblog

Latest posts

Latest Arsecast