Arsenal 2-2 Everton; Point Saved or Points Dropped?


I’m actually going to do this in reverse today and go The Ugly, The Bad, and The good. You’ll see why.

Match Reports

Telegraph: In this Arctic outpost of North London, Arsenal were more than grateful for cold comforts.

ESPNSoccernet: Rosicky rescues Gunners

Match Video

The Arsenalist has highlights and even Match of the Day video.

Quote of the Day

Arsene Wenger on the game:

We played against a very good Everton team who for the biggest part of the game was more dangerous, sharper than us. At the end of the day we dropped two points but, looking at the game, we gained one point. We were closer to losing the game than winning it.

The Ugly

It’s been a running joke among me and my friends where I say “with the high line that Arsene plays, one of these days they’re going to try to spring an offside trap only to realize that the offensive player is still behind the half-way line.”

See, it was a joke because I never really thought it would actually happen. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen outside of a kids game or yesterday’s Arsenal match.

It illustrates, though, the absolute nightmare that Arsenal’s defense suffered yesterday. Traore was basically abused throughout the match down the left side by whomever Everton put over there and Gallas (especially after he came up limping) seemed incapable of covering his position for most of the match.You know you’ve had a nightmare defensive match when your zone defense is basically picked apart by a “towering” header from the shortest player on the pitch.

Gallas and Traore even had a go at each other after a series of poor defensive stands which underlined the communication problems that have plagued this team all season. Meanwhile, Denilson’s “shield” was pretty much ineffective; where we are used to seeing Song mop up, I can’t remember seeing Denilson mop up even once. In fact, Diaby, who moved into the holding spot when Merida came on performed the Song role better than Denilson.

That said, I can understand the logic of not picking on Traore and Denilson since they are coming back from injury. And I’m not saying that they are bad players, with a good run of games they could really polish up. Traore simply had a nightmare game, Denilson was good going forward but had problems staying back, and Gallas looked off as well.

None of which excuses Almunia. I am very aware of the fact that Arsene Wenger has a long history of redeeming seemingly irredeemable players; Song, Eboue, Adebayor, etc. But I put that down to the fact that some times Arsenal fans are too quick to call our own players crap. For example, Eboue had a rough patch a while ago but having a rough patch is different from being crap and so it’s no surprise that after some hard work and a run of good performances, Eboue is widely considered a decent player.

So, understand me when I say that Almunia is crap. If he was 24 years old and having a poor run of form, I wouldn’t be jumping on him. I learned that lesson. But at 32 years old, and with an entire half-season of increasingly poor performances punctuated by one or two decent performances, I can’t help but think that more than any other position Almunia is jeopardizing this young team.

Having Traore getting an earful from Gallas because the whole defense is on a knife edge owing to the fact that they have no clue what Almunia is going to  do at any moment is destructive. It robs these young players of confidence and threatens to undo 4 years of work that Wenger has laid by pulling the team apart with infighting.

Arsene has to know this and exactly why he’s sticking with Almunia is a huge mystery.

The Bad

For large parts of the game Marouane Fellaini bossed Abou Diaby off the park. Partially this is down to the fact that Moyes had reserved Fellaini and had him simply marking Diaby at all times and is just as much down to the fact that referee Peter Walton allowed Fellaini to kick everyone off the field. I don’t blame Fellaini, and I don’t think Walton was intentionally anti-Arsenal. Rather the simple explanation is that I think that Peter Walton actually has excrement for brains. Like, literally, if you trepanned him, steaming piles of Tottenham would spill out.

For example, take Phil Neville’s x-rated challenge on Denilson, which saw him stretchered off later, yes, Neville got the ball, but in his full blooded challenge he also took out the man, completely. Not to mention how he left his elbow in and nearly knocked Denilson out. How that’s not a penalty or a yellow card is beyond me.

Then, how about when Denilson simply crumpled to the ground? He was running along, unmarked, and must have had a spasm so he fell to the ground, turning the ball over in the process. Walton’s decision? Play on! When a player goes down like that, without any provocation, there’s something seriously wrong, stop play.

It was a bizarre decision but then the whole match was fraught with bizarre decisions by Peter Walton.

The Good

It takes a lot of character to overcome as poor a defensive display and as poor a refereeing display as we saw yesterday. It takes even more character to take points from a game which had such pronounced infighting and at times such botched execution. And it shows the heart of this team that they secured the draw at the death of the game.

I’ve often marveled at how Manchester United has this unrealistic sense that they deserve to win games. Against Birmingham yesterday ManU looked very poor, in fact as I watched the game I wondered what Arsenal fans would say if Wayne Rooney played for Arsenal and had the kind of performance he had against Birmingham. But what impresses me every time I watch them is that they fight the whole time. They are a team of basically slightly above average players who never quit because they think it’s their right to win every game and their supporters and their manager feel the same way.

I think this Arsenal team has some of that spirit as well. Obviously, they don’t have the same winning spirit as a team which has won the league two years running, but there’s something special here in this Arsenal side: a belief I haven’t seen since the Arsenal side of 2004.

I never felt for even a minute that we would lose and that’s telling. Last year, I often moaned and Le Grove-d about Arsenal but this year I’ve seen a real improvement in the attitude of this team and really do think we can win something.

If we can keep most of our players healthy… and that’s no small if considering that Denilson was carted off with an intercostal muscle (muscles on his ribs that help him breathe) problem shortly after suffering Neville’s red card tackle yesterday. After he was taken off I was joking around with T-Town Alex that now Arsene needs to buy a striker, a left back, a replacement center back, a goalkeeper, and now a defensive midfielder.

Of course it’s a joke and like the joke at the start of the column the humor is in the fact that right now I don’t ever see it happening. Of course, I never thought I’d see a professional football team try to spring an offside trap in their opponent’s half so I guess now anything is possible.

Sign me up Wenger, bring in David Villa, Philipp Lahm, Chiellini, Iker Casillas, and Yaya Toure, anything less and the whole season will be shot to pieces.

Or not. Let’s just hope this is one joke that doesn’t come to fruition.

Arsenal v. Everton, let’s get it on!

I just found out that Setanta is carrying the Arsenal match live so I literally have to run. Sorry if the blog is a mess, but, hey Arsenal comes first, right?

The news so far this morning has every team pulling out of everything, except Arsenal, and so, today’s match becomes our game in hand — sort of. If Arsenal and Everton play today, it brings us up to 20 matches played the same as Chelsea, Manu, and Tottenham but one less than Manciti.

That said, no need to look at what the bottom teams, like Citi and Spuds, are doing and instead just concentrate on the top. A Gunners win today will get us into 2nd place and just 1 point off Chelsea.

Arsenal are bringing in Almunia, Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna, Traore, Diaby, Ramsey, Denilson, Nasri, Eduardo, and Arshavin and it looks like Donovan gets a start right out the gate for Everton, interesting.

Should be a good game as Arsenal are keen to keep their momentum up and put pressure on the top two.

One last thing, Togo pulled out of the ACN today, which must leave the whole tournament in serious doubt. I know a lot of my African readers will be disappointed to hear that news and I know a lot of my European readers will be excited at the prospect of getting Song back. For me, I see this as a huge shame and I’ll have more to say about it later. For the time being, just know that my sympathies go out to the families of the dead and wounded and that I’m hoping for peace.

Right, I have an Arsenal match to get to, I will post some updates on Twitter, follow me there if you’re into that!

Bendtner Like a New Signing, Expect no More…. Except Campbell, Maybe.

Arsenal supporters who have been eagerly awaiting news that Arsene Wenger has splashed the millions needed to bring a big name like Mario Balotelli to the Emirates in the January transfer window had their hopes dashed today when Arsene Wenger revealed that Nicklas Bendtner passed his fitness test and is expected to be back in just two weeks.

Le Boss had long maintained that a signing would be crucial if, and only if, Bendtner’s groin was going to keep him sidelined for longer than two weeks. All other signings would be on a “well if they fall into my lap” basis, meaning that Wenger will now only be targeting players he can get on the cheap. Thus, ruling out a player like Balotelli, Huntelaar, and the many other names who have been bandied about in the last few weeks. Speaking at today’s presser, Arsene said:

If he (Bendtner) was not available for the next two or three months, we had no choice at all. Now, we can be a bit more relaxed because if we have Bendtner, Vela, Eduardo, Arshavin, Walcott (coming back) available we have quite a good number of strikers.

Wenger then was quick to dismiss both West Ham’s Carlton Cole and Crystal Palace’s Victor Moses as potential signings, probably for the reasons stated above. But in a surprise turn, refused to rule out re-signing former Arsenal great Sol Campbell. Since Sol left Don Knotts County he has been training with the Gunners and when asked, Wenger mumbled something about the speculation being pretty good about a potential re-link of the two. Wenger, gave his trade-mark sly grin when asked about his level of interest in Campbell, saying “Well, we have a level of interest in every good player.”

Re-signing Campbell would be a huge shock to many, not because of what he did for the club, but rather the spectacular manner of his departure and precipitous decline in his playing ability since. In addition, Sol would be the first former Arsenal player to re-sign under Wenger’s tenure. Most Gooners I’ve spoken to have openly wondered how a 36 year old Sol Campbell could possibly be better than Phillipe Senderos, but irregardless our view of the situation, Wenger clearly sees something that we all don’t. Arsene wouldn’t be dragged into speculation about Senderos’ future at Arsenal only saying:

Senderos is not available at the moment, he is injured.  Phillipe is free at the end of the season, at the moment he is a player for Arsenal football club.

If, as many are speculating, Senderos did leave it would be a sad day for many, myself included, as he was a fan favorite.

Meanwhile, Wenger laughed off speculation about Cesc moving anywhere.

And finally, as if to put the last nail in the coffin of the Arsenal transfer market, Wenger addressed many supporter’s wishes to sign a “big name:”

What is a big name? For me a big name is a player who makes great performances, that is why you have the opportunity to make your name for Arsenal Football Club. Put a great performance in and the next day you are a big name. We have plenty of good young players who can do that.

With that said, it looks like Arsenal’s transfer window is closed. You know, unless someone like Mario Balotelli can be had for £5m or something crazy.

Good Bye Paddy

As we all know now, Patrick Vieira has officially passed a physical and signed for Manchester City. The image above is probably not safe for work for many Gooners who will see it and scream out “WHY PADDY???” Thus revealing that they are messing about at work when they should be reading TPS reports.

Window Closed

That’s it for transfer speculation today and it looks like Arsenal’s transfer window is closed until some time in June. Wenger’s decided to go to battle with the team he has, which frees up the “I told you so” brigade to fire up their cannons now and remind blogs around the world of their claim that Arsenal won’t win anything unless they sign a big name.  Then if Arsenal don’t win anything they can spend all Summer gloating… in the fact that they didn’t win anything.

That’s a proper Arsenal supporter for you.