Earlier in the week Manuel Almunia admitted that Arsenal weren’t playing well. That’s not really a problem when you’re managing to grind out results but at some stage that’s going to prove a step too far and so it was with Portsmouth last night.
We didn’t play very well, they defended very well and for the fifth time at home in the league this season Portsmouth came away with a 0- draw. Not a result we’re terribly familiar with but for those unhappy with last night’s outcome it’s something to bear in mind. It was also the first game we’ve failed to score in since a 0-0 against Portsmouth at the back end of last season.
We started with the same team as the last few games and it was obvious from the start that they were going to be defensive. They had as many men behind the ball as possible when we had possession. Harry Redknapp is an experienced manager who likes his teams to play attacking football but he’s also seen his teams ripped apart by Arsenal when trying to do that and he’s learned his lesson, I think. It’s hardly a surprise that he decided a point from this game would be perfectly acceptable – but don’t believe the media when you read them saying Arsene ‘slams’ Portsmouth’s tactics. I mean, read this and tell me where the slamming is. Yes, you expect them to be a bit more open but the fact that teams play like that is no shock.
Over the course of the 90 minutes we really didn’t create too much. Crosses were overhit, passes went astray, flicks that play others through just didn’t come off and while James made a good save from Rosicky about halfway through the second half he wasn’t overworked. Gallas missed a chance on the turn but it was Rosicky, who was busy and tried to make things happen in the second half, who could have won the game for us in injury time but his shot just crept wide. Oh well. Not the three points we were all expecting but hardly the end of the world either.
Sure, there are some questions you can ask. ‘Where the fuck is Robin van Persie?’, would be first on my list. Without him we’re playing this 4-4-1-1 system which I really don’t like. There was no Eduardo on the bench either so you really have to wonder whether or not we might need a striker in the transfer window. We have no idea when Robin will be fit again, the boss obviously doesn’t have much faith in Eduardo at this stage and if he’s not even going to put him on the bench then you can’t help but be a little puzzled. I remember a time when we always had two strikers on the bench, but that was when we had 4, sometimes 5, strikers that the boss knew he could get goals from.
Nicklas Bendtner got 10 minutes at the end while Abou Diaby was ineffective in his 25. When the young Dane did come on he made more happen in that 10 minutes than Adebayor did in the previous 80. That’s not a criticism of Ade by the way (I do love the morons writing him off as ‘shit’ after they lauded him for his goal against Sp*rs) just an observation that he’s played a lot of football and Bendtner is young, enthusiastic and capable of making things happen.
I think it’s also perfectly legitimate to question the football in recent games. We haven’t really been clicking as a side and that is slightly worrying. With Cesc and Hleb struggling to find their pre-injury form we do look a little toothless. However, again the overreaction to any kind of setback is just ludicrous. We drew a game against a decent side and people are writing us off again left, right and centre. And I don’t mean media. I mean some of our fans. I wonder do they ever get any enjoyment out of football at all. I would like to see us go back to 4-4-2 against Everton and that would mean Hleb on the right and Rosicky on the left, Eboue dropped (not because he’s been particularly badly but because the others are our best options for those positions) and Bendtner to start with Adebayor up front if RVP is nowhere to be seen again. I think the return to 4-4-2 is important though – that’s the way we’ve always played when we’ve won things and if Arsene doesn’t trust some of the personnel he has to play that formation then surely the answer is to buy players he can trust instead of changing the system.
Anyway, overall it would have been nice to get the three points but you can’t win them all. You just can’t. And if you’re not winning them you have to make sure you’re not losing them and we’re doing that. Let’s not forget that United have lost a game more than we have this season so try and put the result in perspective. Afterwards Arsene said:
Iâ€™m not disappointed with Harry Redknapp. He did what he had to do. We faced a problem and we could not find a solution. I would prefer to be in front but one point behind is not a big deal. We have reached December 26 with only one defeat in the league and if we go the next six months without losing again, then we will be champions.
So no panic from the manager and while there are plenty of things to be discussed I don’t think there’s any need for panic amongst the fans either. Every team goes through a period of not playing particularly well in a season. I think this is our time and for the most part we’ve been dealing with it very well. Last year we were losing games, this year we’re winning them and drawing them and people are still complaining. Last night’s game reminded me a lot of the game against West Ham last season when we got done with a sucker-punch of a late goal, that did not happen this time around.
What was worrying last night was the sight of William Gallas who had his foot trodden on by Kanu’s canoes and later got Sol Campbell’s studs to his ankle after he hit his shot over the bar. With Kolo Toure off to the ACN in just a few days time it would be a big problem if Gallas got injured. I was surprised to see him come out again for the second half so fingers crossed it’s nothing too serious.
Jens Lehmann says he’ll make a decision about his future in the next 72 hours. Despite our relatively poor performance last night Almunia was impressive again and one save in the first half, despite the Portsmouth player being offside, was outstanding. Meanwhile there are more reports that Sp*rs will make a bid for Lassana Diarra in the transfer window.
The Mail says that Robin van Persie won’t be back until New Year’s Day at the earliest. It really is a big shame that he’s injured so much. I know we all love him and I know he’s been unlucky but at some point you have to start wondering how long you can carry a player who is injured for half the season, every season.
Right, that’s enough of that. Next up is Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday. Previews of that tomorrow and that the next day.