'Boro 1-1 Arsenal: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Aliadiere haunts Gunners

Guardian: Aliadière’s head haunts boring but pretty Arsenal

Daily Express: ‘Boro hold Gunners as title hopes fade.

The Good

Adebayor seemed like the only player on the pitch who wanted to win the match. He was everywhere, not just holding the ball up, but chasing the ball down, making runs, and playing defense. Adebayor was our best player yesterday and showed exactly why Arsenal kept him this summer.

The Bad

Gael Clichy is a fine footballer. His ability to go forward and work rate is only matched by a few full backs in the world but he has shown a proclivity for making  elementary defensive mistakes: after the attacker goes by him, he tries to poke the ball away.  Sometimes he gets away with it, sometimes he doesn’t. Either way, it’s a horrible habit for a pub level player much less a seasoned professional like Clichy.

Despite the fact it didn’t cost Arsenal yesterday’s game that type of schoolboy defending from Clichy has in the past (Birmingham) will in the future cost Arsenal points and Wenger needs to sort that out quickly. ‘Boro had a legitimate claim for a penalty denied and perhaps even deserved the three points.

Cesc, after a week off, looked tired and had one of his worst matches so far this season. His performances have gotten progressively worse this season and I’m very concerned about him. There’s no one there to take the pressure off him and he’s currently playing both his role and Flamini’s role. Song is looking the part a bit more every day, but he’s not quite there yet, so Cesc is doing it all and it’s clearly taking its toll. Arsenal could be in danger of losing this young man if we’re not careful. Surely Wenger sees that?

The Ugly

I’m going to say it, damn the consequences, this team is not pretty, it’s fucking boring. I am sick to death of watching Arsenal keep 60%+ possession and have it come to nothing. Not even a shot on goal. Not even a shot at all!

You know how a team, when they are up say 3-0 and there are just a few minutes left in the game, you know how they pass the ball around and the crowd yells “OLE!” at every pass because we all know that they are just passing the ball around to kill off the game? You know that? You know how boring that is? Yeah, that’s Arsenal right now. Sure, it’s a bit prettier than that and sure they are getting the ball forward but there are huge swaths of time where the club does nothing but pass the ball.

In the absence of a dominating midfielder like Patrick Vieira and a dominating defender like Tony Adams, playing keep away is one form of defense. So, it makes sense, but I’m still sick and tired of it. What made the games like the one against AC Milan last year so memorable, wasn’t the beautiful passing, it was the fact that Arsenal passed well, moved well, AND SCORED GOALS.

Every game is the same right now, and when our opponents score their inevitable break away goal, Arsene Wenger simply says “we needed to keep the ball more” or “we gave the ball away in a bad position” or “HURRRRGARRRBLE YOUNG TEAM ARRGUERSAHQAFRAYJK THEY NEED BELIEF GASGYA WE CAN WIN THE LEAGUE.” It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to hear or read his post match comments.

Final Thoughts

A young, free flowing team, with some tough as nails defensive midfielders, a decent back line, and a creative midfielder who has them scoring bags of goals overtook Arsenal for 4th place. But not only does Arsenal have to worry about Aston Villa they have Hull City tearing up the table and 3 points plus goal differential away from overtaking Arsenal at 5th place.

I take some solace in the fact that both Hull and Villa are playing better away from home than they are on their own patch but it is a cold solace because I have to hope that neither team will be able to maintain their current away form and hopefully their home form is their more realistic form. Basically, I’m saying that Hull and Villa have surprised a few teams away (both of them beat Arsenal away) and I would be very surprised if those wins are from genuinely good away form rather than just catching teams unawares.

Still, it is very worrying that Arsenal could drop to 6th place.

Or maybe it isn’t, maybe 6th or 7th place is exactly the kind of shock to the system that Wenger needs to improve the squad in January? And lest you think that 7th place is unreachable, Arsenal host Liverpool next Sunday, travel to Villa Park for Boxing Day, and then host Pompey two days later. I could see Arsenal losing all three of those games.

Of course, with Wenger saying that buying players isn’t important, that we’re a young side, beset on all sides by the iniquities of the press and the tyranny of the bloggers, and that they just need to keep possession more and “get lucky,” I have to openly wonder what league position would it take for Wenger to break out the wallet and buy?

‘Boro 1-1 Arsenal: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Aliadiere haunts Gunners

Guardian: Aliadière’s head haunts boring but pretty Arsenal

Daily Express: ‘Boro hold Gunners as title hopes fade.

The Good

Adebayor seemed like the only player on the pitch who wanted to win the match. He was everywhere, not just holding the ball up, but chasing the ball down, making runs, and playing defense. Adebayor was our best player yesterday and showed exactly why Arsenal kept him this summer.

The Bad

Gael Clichy is a fine footballer. His ability to go forward and work rate is only matched by a few full backs in the world but he has shown a proclivity for making  elementary defensive mistakes: after the attacker goes by him, he tries to poke the ball away.  Sometimes he gets away with it, sometimes he doesn’t. Either way, it’s a horrible habit for a pub level player much less a seasoned professional like Clichy.

Despite the fact it didn’t cost Arsenal yesterday’s game that type of schoolboy defending from Clichy has in the past (Birmingham) will in the future cost Arsenal points and Wenger needs to sort that out quickly. ‘Boro had a legitimate claim for a penalty denied and perhaps even deserved the three points.

Cesc, after a week off, looked tired and had one of his worst matches so far this season. His performances have gotten progressively worse this season and I’m very concerned about him. There’s no one there to take the pressure off him and he’s currently playing both his role and Flamini’s role. Song is looking the part a bit more every day, but he’s not quite there yet, so Cesc is doing it all and it’s clearly taking its toll. Arsenal could be in danger of losing this young man if we’re not careful. Surely Wenger sees that?

The Ugly

I’m going to say it, damn the consequences, this team is not pretty, it’s fucking boring. I am sick to death of watching Arsenal keep 60%+ possession and have it come to nothing. Not even a shot on goal. Not even a shot at all!

You know how a team, when they are up say 3-0 and there are just a few minutes left in the game, you know how they pass the ball around and the crowd yells “OLE!” at every pass because we all know that they are just passing the ball around to kill off the game? You know that? You know how boring that is? Yeah, that’s Arsenal right now. Sure, it’s a bit prettier than that and sure they are getting the ball forward but there are huge swaths of time where the club does nothing but pass the ball.

In the absence of a dominating midfielder like Patrick Vieira and a dominating defender like Tony Adams, playing keep away is one form of defense. So, it makes sense, but I’m still sick and tired of it. What made the games like the one against AC Milan last year so memorable, wasn’t the beautiful passing, it was the fact that Arsenal passed well, moved well, AND SCORED GOALS.

Every game is the same right now, and when our opponents score their inevitable break away goal, Arsene Wenger simply says “we needed to keep the ball more” or “we gave the ball away in a bad position” or “HURRRRGARRRBLE YOUNG TEAM ARRGUERSAHQAFRAYJK THEY NEED BELIEF GASGYA WE CAN WIN THE LEAGUE.” It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to hear or read his post match comments.

Final Thoughts

A young, free flowing team, with some tough as nails defensive midfielders, a decent back line, and a creative midfielder who has them scoring bags of goals overtook Arsenal for 4th place. But not only does Arsenal have to worry about Aston Villa they have Hull City tearing up the table and 3 points plus goal differential away from overtaking Arsenal at 5th place.

I take some solace in the fact that both Hull and Villa are playing better away from home than they are on their own patch but it is a cold solace because I have to hope that neither team will be able to maintain their current away form and hopefully their home form is their more realistic form. Basically, I’m saying that Hull and Villa have surprised a few teams away (both of them beat Arsenal away) and I would be very surprised if those wins are from genuinely good away form rather than just catching teams unawares.

Still, it is very worrying that Arsenal could drop to 6th place.

Or maybe it isn’t, maybe 6th or 7th place is exactly the kind of shock to the system that Wenger needs to improve the squad in January? And lest you think that 7th place is unreachable, Arsenal host Liverpool next Sunday, travel to Villa Park for Boxing Day, and then host Pompey two days later. I could see Arsenal losing all three of those games.

Of course, with Wenger saying that buying players isn’t important, that we’re a young side, beset on all sides by the iniquities of the press and the tyranny of the bloggers, and that they just need to keep possession more and “get lucky,” I have to openly wonder what league position would it take for Wenger to break out the wallet and buy?

El Milagro

dejected

Since the 7-0 pasting at Highbury in January ’06, Arsenal’s record against Middlesbrough is, well, dismal.

Arsenal     7 – 0     Middlesbrough
——–END HIGHBURY———–
Arsenal     1 – 1     Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough     1 – 1     Arsenal
Middlesbrough     2 – 1     Arsenal
Arsenal     1 – 1     Middlesbrough

As you can see, in the last 4 matches Arsenal have taken 3 a meagre points against ‘Boro. Worse still you have to go all the way back to 2004 for the last time that Arsenal beat Middlesbrough at the Riverside stadium. That’s an impressive record for any team, much less a “lesser” squad. So, given the contrast in styles and their complete dominance of Arsenal (they have twice as many points as us from those 4 matches) I’d say that Middlesbrough is our nemesis. Ok, maybe one of our nemesisses (nemesii???).

But that’s ok, because by the grace of Wenger we have ourselves a bona fide Christmas miracle: Gael Clichy (hamstring), Cesc Fabregas (knee), Robin van Persie (thigh), Emmanuel Adebayor (rested) and Bacary Sagna (flu) are all slated to return from the “injuries” that kept them out of the CL clash. Nasri and Kolo are still out with ankle and calf knocks and, of course, Rosicky and Eduardo are still out but all the others are back, it’s a miracle!

As mad as I was on Wednesday that Wenger fielded a very weakened side for the Champions League tie that he clearly felt was unimportant, I would be doubly pissed if a full squad with key players given a rest can’t manage at least a point. Frankly it would be hard to imagine a good excuse for a loss tomorrow. Certainly, the “they are a young team and they will learn from this” or the even more dreadful “they lost focus a little bit, but we were in control of the game the whole time and deserved at least a point” cannot hold water tomorrow. Everyone in the free world knows exactly how Gareth Southgate is going to play Arsenal: funnel the Arsenal attack into the center of the park, invite the fullbacks up, harass the midfield, disrupt their passing, and hit them on the counter attack.

I’d like to see a different game plan from Wenger but I don’t see them changing things up this year, so we’ll need the Dutch Chocolate and Adebayor to put away the numerous chances we know they will get — the earlier the better — or Saturday will be a very frustrating day. It’s funny, because if Arsenal go up early I could see this stretching ‘Boro and allowing for Arsenal to play the type of game that gets them glorious wins, but just the opposite if ‘Boro score first. Of course, I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already seen a hundred times.

Right, it’s a lunch time kickoff over there which translates into a 4:45am kickoff over here. To add insult to injury, the game is only on Setanta which means that I have to go to Doyle’s to watch it, but since they don’t open until 6am, it will be already over by the time I get to see it. Oh well, at least I can watch, I guess. Anyway, a bunch of us are going down there for the 6am replay so join us if you’re around.

All this 6am chicanery is predicated on a little luck: we’re supposed to have some kind of once in 18 year storm tonight. They said it’s going to be almost as bad as the storm that hit in 1990. I was here: the trees were covered in a layer of ice, huge old trees collapsed, and there were icicles and sheets of ice all over the place. Needless to say, travel was impossible except for walking. If that happens tonight I doubt we’ll all be doing anything tomorrow.

By the way, there also won’t be a blog tomorrow because I would have to get up before 4am to write it or write it after and late blogs are not well received. So you won’t see me anywhere but the forums until Sunday. Enjoy the day off!

The other story I want to touch on is that due to his diligence and hard work maintaining and regaining fitness, Dudu has received a more definitive window for his return; 6 weeks, if not sooner. Wenger is saying all the right things about being patient getting him back to his pre-injury level which is probably hard on the Crozilian. You know how it is when you’re recovering from a major injury and you’re just itching to get back and play but you’re not fully ready and you get all frustrated and act like Wayne Rooney? That.

Anyway, I hope he gets better real soon, the boys need him!

Right, see you lot on Sunday. Here’s to a brilliant win tomorrow. Up the Arse!