Schalke 04 2-2 Arsenal: catching falling leaves

Yesterday was surreal. I couldn’t physically leave work as I like to do to watch Champions League matches so instead I cloistered myself in my office and told my co-workers not to call me or knock on my door as I was watching the game. They are the kind of people who take pity on junkies such as myself and with the sad eyes that say “dude, get help” all agreed.

Kickoff came and watching the Arsenal performance you could see bits of bright play mixed with bits of dull play. The typical Arsenal game of the last few weeks where the club seem to be just collecting any odd thing that comes their way: an octopus’ garden as it were.

I made it 15 minutes into the game before one of my colleagues peeked through the blinds and made the “can you please help?” face. I paused the game, thinking this is something really important and spent the next 15 minutes ironing out what was really a minor problem, but hey, I paused the game, right?

Right now is where I should say that Fox Soccer Channel’s online stream of the games is actually just the raw feed of the match with their commentator’s voiceover. There are no graphics at all to tell you what minute of the game you are watching, what the score is, what channel you are on, whether America re-elected Barack Obama, nothing. Just a game feed.

I say this because I sit back down, click play, and I’m watching the game progress and thinking “gods, they really need to snap out of this dull period. They haven’t even had a shot! Come on Arsenal.” What I didn’t realize is that I was watching the 31st minute of the game and not the 15th. So, to my eyes, it looked like Arsenal were continuing their run of gods-awful form from the United game.

Just about the 43rd minute or so I hear the announcer say that Arsenal are holding on to a two-goal lead and that’s when I look at the little time-line thing and say out loud “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.”

So, I rewind and watch Arsenal’s two goals. Both of which I get a big chuckle out of because they are the kind of goals that Arsenal typically concede. You all know the type: Arsenal dominating possession, Arsenal pounding the opposition box, Arsenal conceding on a dreadful mistake at the back to the opposition’s first shot on goal and not even a very pretty shot at that, then Arsenal getting got on a second goal from astonishingly slack defending. You know, “shit people have been moaning about for the last five years”?

All the sudden the whole first half starts to make sense, Arsenal are playing the character of Norwich and Schalke the character of Arsenal in tonight’s play. And that’s when my phone rings and there’s a delivery for me, an important one that I can’t just ignore. So I hit pause again and spend the next 20 minutes settling the receipt of some equipment.

When I return to my desk and press play things are looking dire for Arsenal. Schalke is like  pack of hungry wolves circling Arsenal’s defenseless doe and just tearing off chunk after chunk of lovely venison. This time I realize quickly that my match-day time warp happened again (or maybe they are quantum leaps?) and judging by the play I assume that Arsenal have conceded at least one goal. The commentators confirm that Klaas Jaaan Huntelaaaar has in fact scored but also that Uchida was hauled off with injury.

Every time Huntelaar’s name comes up I am forced to relive the early years of this blog when the number of readers could be counted on one hand. There was some spell that Arsenal went through (HA HA, just one!) where we just couldn’t get goals and there was a particularly commentful poster who insisted that Huntelaar was the answer. Of course, Arsenal had Robin at the time (injured) and as such it was a unrealistic transfer but given the form Huntelaar is in at the moment, he sure does look like he could help a team like Arsenal out of a goal-scoring drought. So, kudos to you, guy from three years ago who got so mad that he told us all to go fuck ourselves, you might have been somewhat right about Huntelaar.

Back to the game, and just like Norwich, it’s always just as the wolves are looking most likely to go for the kill that the defensive team gets a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach. In this case Podolski is played in by Cazorla and with a one-on-one versus the keeper winds up for the shot… only to have play stopped because the referee apparently… well, I don’t have a clue what the referee was doing there and neither did Poldi. The German striker goes ape-shit and gets a yellow card for dissent which is frankly pouring salt into the wound.

Why stop play then? Why not stop play in the build-up? Why stop play for an ankle injury? Was it because the defender was playing Poldi on side? Wouldn’t you stop that earlier? How do magnets work?

Funny fact, before the game I tweeted that Schalke v. Arsenal had the err of inevitability. And as if to prove the point Arsenal had their now customary moment of madness. Farfan had been a threat all game on the right and when Arsenal gave him a little space he powered home a shot that looked like it took a deflection off Thomas Vermaelen to keep Mannone from making the save. Vermaelen had actually been very good in the first half and with his relatively deeper positioning and positional awareness  kept the Arsenal shape very well. But when Farfan took the ball Vermaelen went between the two center halfs and was in the perfect position to score the tap-in. Kids, if you’re watching and you want to be a center forward, do exactly what Vermaelen did there, that will give center backs fits. If you’re a defender, NEVER FUCKING DO THAT and NEVER ALLOW A STRIKER TO DO THAT.

The goal buoyed them and they had more chances to win the game but I settled in for the 2-2 draw. Not sure why but I felt the draw was secure, probably because my phone had stopped ringing and people had stopped coming to my door. Theo threatened at the death and probably could have scored or gotten himself another assist but to be fair, the keeper did very well to see the threat and smother it.

As I walked up the hill to get a cup of coffee so that I could power through the pile of work that I put off to watch the game, little yellow leaves were gently falling all around me. I tried to grab one out of the air but a slight gust took it away. It was an absent-minded grab at the leaf because at the  moment I was thinking about my match preview and how fruitless it seems to even give match previews because you never know which team will show up: the possession hoarding team that took tons of shots and kept three clean sheets of the first few League matches? The team that has given up on shooting like the last few matches? The comically error prone team that has sprouted up since Szczesny went down injured? The team that gives up possession easily and now doesn’t even bother to try to win it back or break down the opposition with incisive dribbles that we’ve seen over the last two games? No. An Arsenal fan would have better luck catching a falling leaf with a pair of chopsticks than predicting anything about this Arsenal team.

Qq

37 thoughts on “Schalke 04 2-2 Arsenal: catching falling leaves

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    I wonder if Fox Soccer keeps the Champions League matches next year. Sure makes it easy to watch on my iPhone at work

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1GiantCalGunner

      I believe Fox Soccer keeps most of those tournaments/Cup competitions. NBC just got BPL.
      According to the NYT:
      “Fox Soccer still has the rights to broadcast a sizable number of games, including the UEFA Champions League, UEFA’s Europa League, the F.A. Cup, the Concacaf Champions League and Gold Cup. Fox also will broadcast the World Cup and Women’s World Cup beginning in 2015.”

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    For a moment there I thought Schalke were Barcelona and we were well that Arsenal team who endured that torrential pressure.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

      Yeah, I agree. Schalke seems very dominant. Not to downplay them, but we should have been the one who did that to them (base on our reputation of course). What apparent is they played with confidence, they attack with purposes, and always dangerous. They don’t play a lot at the back and had the urgency to bring the ball forward. I know that might be because they were trying to catch up, but also they seems to be the one who wanted to win the game. Tim analogy of us as Norwich and Schalke as Arsenal is spot on.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    A fine autumnal reverie, Tim. Also, don’t you hate it when you kick a leaf, only to discover that it’s hiding a piece of dog shit? A few days ago I saw a dude cover up his dog’s shit with a small pile of leaves rather than pick it up.

    Autumn is a great time of year to hide dog shit.

    Can we turn that into an Arsenal analogy? I bet we can.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Have you ever picked up dog shit with a bag? It’s like having sex with a condom on. You can feel what’s going on on the other side of the bag but it’s just not right.

      Anyway, I was out the other day and my dog was bounding through a huge pile of leaves and stopped to have a sniff, you know the “I’m going to take a shit” sniff? And in that moment I wondered if I would bother picking the dog shit up? In a way, this is a primal urge. In the same way that children don’t think you can see them if they can’t see you people don’t think they have to clean up their dog’s shit if it’s covered by leaves.

      WENGER OUT.

      1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        I believe I have grasped your meaning, Tim: “Pick up dog shit with your bare hands, because it’s like sex without a condom.”

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Interesting analogy…not sure I’d normally consider dog shit with sex but to each their own.:D

      3. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        I view picking up dog shit as a civic duty, a commitment to the cleanliness and sanitation of a local community. i walk my dog late at night because the only free time i have is late at night, and i always have plastic bags with me. if my dog (when my dog : ) shits on your yard, i will always pick it up, and if i see other dogshit in the vicinity, i’ll pick that up as well : ) it’s just part of being a good citizen, a good neighbor, a good force in whatever community you happen to live in. Arsenal’s performances of late need to be picked up!

      4. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        I love you, jaymin. Why can’t all dog-owners be as considerate?

        Also, I have this weird conundrum. People throw their dog shit in my trash container (because there’s no public waste bins on my street). On the one hand, I’m like, “fuck off! use your own trash container for your dog’s shit!” but on the other hand I’m just glad it’s not on the lawn or sidewalk…

        What to do.

      5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

        I throw my dog shit into people’s containers all the time. If your garbage is so fucking packed that it can’t handle a tiny bag of shit then you might want to re-evaluate everything in your life.

      6. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        Yeah, it’s more like 8-10 open–not sealed–bags of shit each week, and the dog-owners around us own really big fucking dogs that take giant fucking shits, and it means that all around my container it smells like shit all the time.

        Tim, where do you live? Can I come around and dump the open shit-filled diapers of my children in your trash container? If it starts overflowing, could you just pay to have another container? If that’s at all an annoyance for you, could you please re-evaluate your entire life?

      7. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

        Well, now I feel really shitty because you seem so dumped upon.

        Just bring the kids over and use my bins as a latrine. I never fill them up all the way and I don’t even “recycle” glass.

        (Glass recycling is a joke. It all goes into the landfill because Tacoma can’t find a buyer at the moment.)

      8. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        I’ve convinced myself that it’s because I’m Canadian. They’re just like, “hey, that fucking socialist down the road, he’ll take our shit…they take everyone’s shit. He probably likes Obama, too, that fucking homo hippy!”

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

    I will be drinking cocktails this evening at 5pm at Top of Tacoma if anyone wants to join me.

    Yes, that means even you T-Town Asshole. You can wear your Ozil shirt.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1T-Town

      Tim, I am sorry, due to work, I missed the chance to come and kick your ass. Sounds like you were itching for it.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Pascal

    I though Per Mertesacker was quite poor on both conceded goals. First one, he had no idea where Huntelaar was and did the classic Verma thing of stepping out to do a ‘Makelele role’ for apparently no reason.

    THAT’S VERMAELEN’S JOB PER! NOT YOURS.

    Some bizarre defending on the second. Sagna went to close down man on the ball, ball played in behind…and instead of going to the man on the ball (he’s about 4 yards away, easier imo) he decides to run back towards our box. Granted, Kos didn’t deal with the high ball at all, did the usual ‘jumping for the sake of jumping’ – had no idea where the ball was! But I thought Per could’ve easily snuffed that out.

    Something to work on….

    Re Giroud, Massive ‘Phew’ that Theo followed up on the first goal and actually scored bc Ollie made a mess of that one.

    Theo’s last minute chance was similar to Giroud’s late opportunity vs Chelsea. Both should’ve passed to the other player but I was screaming ‘shoot Theo’ bc there’s absolutely no guarantee Ollie would’ve finished that. I love Ollie. I hate to see him miss a last minute chance again.

    Anyway, I thought we did ok overall, we at least had a threat upfront, pleasing to see after Saturday’s shower.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Metersecker was not a problem. For the most parts we held up well defensively (considering the number of corners and efforts they had). There were some dodgy moments as expected if a defense is put under continued duress.

      The issue really was our midfield which looked very leggy second half.

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Wang

      The bigger problem for me was the fullbacks and midfield on the wings didn’t know who was responsible for who. Too often when Schalke would attack down the flank two of our defenders would run to the ball, inevitably leaving a second Schalke attacker unmarked.

      It’s one thing to press when you have a man advantage, but running to the ball while leaving a man free is something else. This is the kind of problem you coach out of kids at age 8, and is the opposite of the kind of positional discipline that we displayed earlier in the season. I don’t know what’s going on, but someone needs to take the reins and crack the whip. Fundamentals, discipline, and work rate are needed to get this bunch back on track.

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1BradyWasGod

    These comments kinda remind me of the Arse yesterday… unfocused, blase, and not as entertaining as I’ve been accustomed to ;-) . When did we become so content to let the opposition stroke the ball around at will in our half, and so careless about holding onto it when we do get it? Our movement off the ball has become half-hearted and predictable, and it was depressing to me to see how easily we were dispossessed. When Shalke scored right before halftime, you could sense what was coming after the break. Comparisons with Norwich notwithstanding, defending deep against long periods of sustained pressure has never worked well for us, and a point was a relief, although I admit I would have taken it gladly if offered before the game. Theo was a bright spot though, I fell out of my chair (literally) when he almost snatched it for us at the end. Scared the piss out of the cat.

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    We’re not really bad and we’re not really good. No amount of pine needles or autumn leaves will be able to cover the rising stink of mediocrity if this season continues the way it has.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    I think you are talking about WC, if I remember correctly. He used to raise a lot of good points but went a bit too doomsday david towards the end.

    We are a team that lacks belief at the moment and this game was a very small step towards getting back our belief. The biggest positive for me is that despite giving the ball away needlessly a number of times (one of which led to their first goal), we always looked to score whenever we got some space. JW and Cazorla need to learn how to play well together – they don’t have a great understanding at the moment and they are way too talented individually not to be able to play well together.

  9. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    I’ll file this game under “getting a result when we didn’t really play well” and walk away happy. Two well taken goals by Walcott (if not Giroud who really tried to look a gift horse in the mouth, nose, ears and backside) and Giroud which were rather gifted to us by poor defending. Outshot almost 3 to 1 but with Mannone sealing the point with a MOTM performance. And still with a great chance to nick all three points at the end. It sort of feels good to be on the other end of one of these type of contests.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Away to Olympiakos will be very tricky as will thee Fulham game coming up without Jack. We will need to maximise our resources which I feel as always, Wenger doesn’t seem to.

  10. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    I’m just glad that we didn’t lose the game.

    I’m glad I haven’t been dwelling on Theo’s last minute miss like I did with Bendtner’s at Barca.

    I’m glad I haven’t kicked any leaves with dog poop underneath lately.

    I’m glad that nobody has been putting dog poop in my trash bin (as far as I know).

    I’m glad.

  11. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Some observations :

    1) Mannone : Did well overall I thought. Kept us in the game and decent from a back up keeper. could lose a bit of weight.

    2) TV : Still struggled but a gritty performance for a player who isn’t at his best and a slight improvement over Santos. Still.. where we gain with defensive cover, we lose with attacking edge. Gibbs return will be hopefully soon.

    3) Koscielny/Metersecker, considering we were under the cosh for long spells , they did pretty well. Some dodgy moments but overall an improvement particularly from the Frenchman. The defense was under considerable duress with our midfield ceding territory and the lack of an outlet up top. Perhaps the next single best improvement we can give our defense is to play better going forward and thereby relieving them of any undue pressure(whereby mistakes are more likely to occur)

    4) Midfield. Thought we should have subbed either of Santi or Jack (preferred) off around 60 minutes. Midfield looked very leggy second half, understandably with our game against United recently weighing in. Would have liked to see Coquelin come on for Jack to provide a bit more zip and energy.

    5) Podolski, some poor play in the first half resulted in two dangerous breakaways. But got better second half. Still would have preferred to have seen him pushed in field around the 75 minute mark with AA coming in out wide.

    6) Giroud/Walcott. : Clearly we are finally profiting from playing walcott (regardless of contract situation). Why Wenger persisted on Ramsey @RW (thankfully out to injury) is beyond me. Giroud offered goood movement and hold up play first half. his goal should encourage us to use his best asset. However he did not offer us an outlet in the second being too slow. Chamakh being o different, I would much prefer to see us get something out of Podolski’s directness through the middle in concert with Walcott.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Wenger chose the correct starting line up IMO. There has been a lot of claptrap about Walcott needing to be a forward in the media of late.

    He is a forward.

    we play 4-3-3 with the top 3 all in striking positions. Both Podolski and Walcott play with license to roam and tuck deeper in or spread the play out wide if need be. This makes sense since both are good finishers and can play off the space created by the physically imposing Giroud :

    ………Podolski……….Giroud………Walcott……………
    …………………Jack……………Santi……………………..
    TV……………………….Arteta………………………Sagna
    ………………Koscielny…………..Per………………………

    However I thought Wenger and company were again deficient in tactical choice thereafter and substitution timing :

    1) Considering we were under siege for huge spells, we needed an outlet to relief the defense. More importantly Schalke lost Uchida and later his replacement Holger. We should have exerted pressure on Howedes thereby minimising Fanfan.

    Arsharvin should have come on @75 minutes to add some bite out left. Podolski moved in filed in lieu of Giroud to partner Walcott for pace.

    2) We were clearly leggy. 60 minute mark, Jack should have come off for Coquelin to provide more competition and better cover for Vermaelen with Arsharvin on later at 70-75mins.

    Thereby we should have switched to :

    ……………………Podolski………………………………..
    AA………………………………..Walcott…………………
    ……………Coquelin………………………….Santi………
    TV………………………Arteta……………………..Sagna
    …………………Koscielny…………..Per…………………

    Call it a 4-4-2 if you like but AA should be further forward to assert pressure on their RB Howedes (nominally a Cback). Santi playing further right with Walcott close to Podolski has pacy out lets when we turn the ball over.

    The presence of the energetic Coquelin to help TV @LB (with Koscielny supporting)

    Short of a pacy striker right up top, Podolski is the best we have. Walcott is better off of someone creating space in Podolski (or Giroud)

  13. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    When I was 8 years old another century ago, I spent a year in Glasgow because of my father’s work. We rented a row house near Glasgow Green where the River Clyde ends not too far from Celtic Park. I wasn’t allowed outside during the Old Firm matches, but the very first football match I ever saw live and in person was Celtic v. Dundee United.

    Although, I hear Glasgow has improved tremendously since those days, Iwas so happy to say goodbye and return to Canada,Regardless I’ve always had a soft spot for Celtic.

    Hats off to them today. Huge win and well played. They didn’t park the bus (well, not all the time) and took the fight to Barca. Loved, loved loved to see the team of century lose to Neil Lennon’s side.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1Gooneryank

    The whole dog crap and leaves bit was hysterical. Kudos to you all. Made the win that got away a bit easier to take.

  15. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    There was a point in time when watching arsenal was like sex…even while you dont end up with a smashing orgasm…you look forward to the next heated hour of foreplay…right now..you are either complaining it being over stiff..and its poking all over the place without hitting the spot..or being too flaccid, you wish a bit more of thickness would get you in…Its been “shoot for fucks sake” or “man..stay composed” for some time now…
    All his while you have been loving your dog happy to pick up its shit..even if its dribbling from the neighbour’s fence..and one day you realise that you have been rewarded and your dog is shitting GOLD…you look forward to the next morning..but have to come to terms with the fact that the bastard has jumped the fence to the neighbour who has enticed him with a recepie which is the result of his research on dog enema….

    boy…didnt he listen to the little puppy inside him..

    Nice one today Tim..

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