Everton 1-1 Arsenal; “We’re watching the season unravel”

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Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Late van Persie Blockbuster

Telegraph: Robin van Persie Rescues Arsenal at the Death

Match Video

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Quote of the Day

Timmy knows where the ball is going to land every time, if I could learn how to do that, it would be great. I’m learning from all my team-mates. They are all older than me with greater experience and I am picking up things off them.  But Tim has a similar role to me and I watch him very closely in games and during training. He’s the main man and is so decisive in front of goal. Long may that continue.

Marouane Fellaini attributes hard work, having experienced players show you the way, and good team spirit to his success. Who’d have thunk it?

The Good

Robin van Persie has now had a hand in every single goal that Arsenal have scored in the month of January. Everton, aware of that threat, used three players at nearly all times on Robin and he still scored.

Good? No, great.

He is 25 years old and reminds me so much of Dennis Bergkamp in his first season at Arsenal (who was 26 then). Just a month ago or so, I had a chance to watch those old tapes courtesy of my friend T-Town Alex and at the time I think I said something like “man, Arsenal could use a guy like that now.” If you remember Bergkamp’s first season started out rocky and then he took off, put the team on his back and went on to become an Arsenal legend. I think RvP is doing that same thing right now. While some of the players were sniping at each other yesterday, Robin was busy working hard, tackling, playing defense, making runs, and more than once I saw him leading the team. Where would we be without him? That’s not a pretty thought is it?

I also want to single out Fellaini here, because, well, there isn’t much else positive to say about Arsenal. Here’s a guy who is a central midfielder and Moyes had him playing Adebayor’s role, which he did with aplomb. But worse than just being embarrassed by having a central midfielder making the target man role look easy he made Adebayor, Song, and Diaby look like shiat with his work rate, tackling, ball handling, well, in just about every way. It seems like I say this week in and week out but seriously, Arsene, you’ve got to see that Arsenal need a player like that.

The Bad

If Song and Diaby are the “engine room” of Arsenal, then the engine room has thrown a rod. Put aside for a moment the fact that Diaby got the assist and was Arsenal’s top passer at 86%. He doesn’t dominate anything. Maybe that’s just his personality but he doesn’t act like a central midfielder; he acts like a center forward.

Worse, he’s often guilty of trying cute passes instead of just making the easy pass. These cute passes never work and are frustrating to his teammates. You could see it on their faces and in the way that Adebayor threw his hands up after yet another easy pass was overlooked in favor of some crazy back heel flick.

Your center forward is the guy who makes the crazy back heels, your holding midfielder is supposed to be the rock. The guy who you can count on to make the good decision, the easy pass. You know, keep possession, not throw it away in a dangerous area.

Song, well, when Song tries hard I like him, when he doesn’t try hard, he’s fucking useless. Since we don’t know which Song we’re going to get then overall Song’s just a little bit crap isn’t he? He’d be good on a team like Charlton, we should let him go back there and dominate league 1.

Unlike Song, I feel bad for Denilson. He is a feisty little player who may turn out to be one hell of a central midfielder one day, but he will never, ever, ever, be a wing player. I knew Wenger was going to play him out wide too. Wenger loves playing “defensive” players in the wing role it’s one of the many in his growing list of insanities.

And hey! What about that Nasri, eh? I actually don’t blame him for yesterday’s performance. If Wenger kept Clichy back, once, maybe twice, in a game, then Nasri wouldn’t be called upon to play fullback for 3/4 of the match while Clichy foraged forward and put crosses out of play. One of these days though, a strong wind will knock that ball down and that cross is going to find one of our players and BOOM Clichy will get an assist.

The Ugly

What the hell happened to Adebayor? Last year he played nearly every game like Fellaini did last night and this year he seems like he just doesn’t care. Worse though, he’s now turned to complaining at his teammates when they play a ball in to him and he stands stock still and watches it roll past him.

I literally did a facepalm in the first two minutes of the game when he and Clichy combined on a throw in and Clichy played an excellent ball into space that any striker should be able to reach and Ade just kind of stood there and shrugged his shoulders as the ball went out of play.

I would be tempted to say that Arsenal should have cashed in on him in the summer, except then we’d be left with Bendtner as our target man and, well, Bendtner is crap. And don’t even try to tell me that Wenger would take the money and buy someone else, we all know that’s just not true.

But the worst part of all this is that the goal that Arsenal conceded was just downright maddening. Leighton Baines, who I suppose is Denilson’s marker (who knows anymore, what with Wenger playing a modified 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1)  was left alone in the box for so long that I think he finished the first two chapters of Ivanhoe before putting in a cross that fell to the unmarked Tim Cahill. Disgusting, couldn’t he read something with a little more literary merit than Ivanhoe?

Conclusion

Everton is a tough team; they have a lot of heart, and they are well organized. Given that Arsenal don’t have a lot of heart beating outside of the chest of maybe three players and are in utter disarray as far as formation it was a lucky escape for Arsenal.

In fact, as I sat there watching Everton outplay Arsenal at every turn, and score despite the fact that they were using two midfielders as strikers, I couldn’t help but think “this is what it looks like to see Arsenal’s season unravel.”

But here’s the silver lining to all this. From now on, whenever Clichy plays a ball into row Z, or Diaby plays a back heel that goes straight to the opposition, or when Eboue is mysteriously introduced, or Adebayor is seen balancing his checkbook on the pitch rather than getting back and trying to win the ball, I’m just going to accept that this is the team that we have.

What else can I do? None of this makes any sense. Arsenal say they have a huge pile of cash reserves and yet they act like a team on the verge of bankruptcy. I mean, surely if I, some cock sandwich AMERICAN blogger, can scout Fellaini over the internet Arsene Wenger, a God among coaches (right?) with a vast scouting network, can see that Arsenal need a quality player like Arteta or Fellaini or Lucas or Diarra or Flamini or FUCK ANYONE BUT SONG in the midfield and go out and buy that person and bring them in and save the season.

No. I’ve resigned myself to the reality that they don’t want to save the season. Either that or the whole club has come down with acute Neurosyphilis and are barking mad. I’m going with the latter, it’s the only thing that explains anyone at the club still thinking they have a chance to win the title.

Everton v. Arsenal match preview

Good morning Kickers. Maybe my coffee levels are surging just right or maybe the whole no news on You Know Who is clearing my head, but man, I feel optimistic today! Plus, I had a glance at the last few season’s record against today’s opponent and I have to say, this won’t be an easy match but really we should come away with three points.

Lord knows we need a win what with Villa’s new signing, Heskey, banging in the only goal of a very poor match against a quickly crumbling Pompey.  That win gives the Villains a 6 point lead over Arsenal and even sent Chelsea to 4th place. Villa can’t really be this good can they? Sigh…

Villa’s merits is it’s own post, right now, Arsenal have Everton: an Everton team that, should they beat Arsenal today, could seriously throw the club and the supporters into panic mode. A loss today leaves Arsenal 9 points adrift of the surging Man U and no matter what Everton boss David Moyes says the title race would be widely viewed as officially over for Arsenal.

Moreover, a loss to Everton would further constrict the “top six” and leave the Gunners fighting Chelsea and Everton for that coveted 4th place.  The Gunners would be 2 points above Everton and with Chelsea playing at home and thus almost certainly dropping points against ‘Boro Arsenal would be between 4 and 6 points away from 4th place with just 15 games left.

So, when you hear that “3 points are vital,” now you know why: this year I’ve already said “this is a pivotal game” more times than I care to count, but really this game is pivotal.

One thing that really strikes me is how, for the first time as an Arsenal supporter, I looked to the January transfer window for some help but didn’t understand that the January transfer window doesn’t help very much. There are 15 matches left at this point and for some teams there will be just 14 matches left when the window closes on Monday. So by the time you get a player in and acclimated to the league any challenge for the title or 4th place could very well be over. The best you can hope for is a January signing who is already acclimated to the league and is able to provide a small boost. Heskey has already done that for Villa and was a very shrewd signing for them.

So, in a sense, I can see what Arsene means when he says that getting Eduardo, Theo, and  Cesc back are “like new signings.” I know that I’ve ripped him for saying that but they are proven Premiership talent, they strengthen squad depth, and thus they provide that little boost that is the realistic expectation from a January signing. I’m not saying that a signing won’t help too, just that Arsenal supporters should feel like their club is in a good place. The team has been holding on even though they are missing several key players and the future looks damn bright with Eduardo, Theo, Cesc, and Rosicky coming back — in that order. So, signing or not, Arsenal are in a good place to maker a big push at the end of the year.

Right, but first Everton.

Everton made a great addition this summer in Marouane Fellaini. He’s a hard tackling, no nonsense, box-to-box midfielder and exactly the type of player that some bloggers (ahem) linked to the club during the summer transfer season. I haven’t seen a player like Fellaini in the EPL since Patrick Vieira and what’s funny is Fellaini’s disciplinary record reflects that comparison. Already on 10 yellows, he will no doubt be ready for this match and “get stuck in” early and often. We don’t know the lineups quite yet but I suspect that Wenger will play Diaby and Song in the middle in order to counter the threat and hopefully unlock the defense provided by Fellaini. Nasri and Denilson will be on the wings with Sagna, Clichy and Djourou at the back. There are question marks over Gallas today but if he’s healthy he’s a better option than Toure who is really struggling at the moment.

Everton’s biggest asset is their defense with Jagielka and Fellaini bossing that area and their biggest flaw is their offense with no one bossing that area. That said, they are a very, very solid defensive squad and will look to grind Arsenal down and score off set plays rather than open Arsenal up the way Villa did.

For Arsenal, our best asset is a healthy van Persie. He’s a goal machine against Everton scoring 3 times in his last 4 matches against them. If you want to know how much Arsenal have missed van Persie look at this:  you have to go all the way back to Arsenal’s 7-0 win over Everton in 2005 to squeeze 4 matches out of Robin. Thankfully, this season has been very different from his others (knock on wood) and he has been healthy all year and is just now ramping up his game, like champions always do. Arsenal need a big, big game from him today.

Adebayor is important too, having scored 2 goals in his 4 appearances against Everton and I’m sure he’d love to make up for his fluffer against Cardiff.

Finally, I need to mention that this is always a classic battle: a tale of contrasting styles that usually contains some controversy despite Arsenal’s 5-1-2 dominance over the last 4 years. The last 4 matches have seen 4 red cards with Arteta getting a cheap one for a Cesc dive being the most memorable. The referee today is none other than Andre Marriner who already has the red part of Liverpool in a huff over his controversial decision to rule out a Gerrard goal for a Kuyt offside. That said, he’s usually a fair ref who doesn’t like a whole bunch of argy-bargy so Everton will need to be on best behavior in order to keep Fellaini and company on the pitch for the whole match. Even if the ref gets control of the match early, this is always a cracking affair and both squads are known for late late goals. Don’t leave this match early! I would bet the house on at least one goal in the last 10 minutes.

Anyway, the match is being shown live at 11:45am pst today on Setanta and if you’re a local, head down to Doyle’s for a sandwich, a pint, and a raucous battle at Goodison. If you can’t get off for lunch, then meet up with me at 5pm-ish for the television replay. See you there and UP THE ARSE!

Arsenal have NOT agreed to a deal with Zenit — Full Stop

Just as I get in to work, the dot com reports that Arsenal have not agreed to the fee with Zenit over Andrei Arshavin.

Also, they are not worried about the deal because Arsenal are playing Everton tomorrow.

Also, Usmanov has not bought anything, apart from a box of Krispy Kreme’s.

Also, the only place where we should be getting our news about transfers is from the dot com.

Also, no deal is none.

Also, I’m not mentioning this any more, unless he signs for Arsenal and I read about it on the dot com and there is a picture of him holding up the number 613 shirt or what ever “squad number” we have left over.

Full Stop.

I SAID FULL STOP