Two losses on the trot, where the opposition scores on very few shots, and it seems that Arsenal’s aptly named charity of the season, “Be a Gooner, Be a Giver” has infected both our on and off-pitch performances.
Off the pitch, the boys are doing great things for the children at the Great Ormond Street Hospital, they donated all of their pay from yesterday’s match to the charity. On the pitch, our team defense is shipping goals in an alarming fashion and thus we are “giving” games to our opponents.
Wenger tediously reminded everyone that Chelsea scored, like Sunderland last week, “on their first shot” which is somehow meant to dismiss the final scoreline. Have a look at the games this season and you’ll see that a lot of teams are scoring on more than half their shots on goal. This is not an anomaly as Wenger would have you believe. Opponents did it to us last year, which we often decried as them “parking the bus.” But it can’t very well be an anomaly if it happens time and again. Rather, it’s got to be seen as an effective tactic to use against us.
The reality is that this is a byproduct of the Wenger system: hold the ball, hold a high line, try to score the perfect goal, and if everyone doesn’t defend when we eventually lose the ball, the opposition gets a chance. If they take their chances, as it seems all of our opponents are capable of doing, then we get stretched, we need to attack more, and occasionally we end up on the wrong end of a 3-0 beating.
Even more frustrating is that this team’s philosophy is to outscore the opponent yet for large stretches of yesterday’s match we didn’t even force Cheech to make a save. In fact, Arsenal only had 2 shots on goal, both of which were tame, and none came after the 60th minute. Worse than that, Arsenal didn’t even take a single shot (on goal, off goal, INTO THE F*CKING BLEACHERS, ANYWHERE!!!) after Thomas Vermaelen’s free kick in the 70th minute. It’s not like they didn’t have chances, they just preferred to dink the ball around, dribble, and then hopelessly cross the ball into the taller Chelsea defense.
Clearly, Arsenal need to find a way to be selfish.
ESPNSoccernet: Drogba at the double.
Telegraph: Desperately seeking to accelerate along the title road, Arsenal were promptly flattened by a juggernaut called Chelsea yesterday. For all the beauty of some of Arsenal’s football, this was heavyweights overpowering middleweights, Didier Drogba knocking over Diddy Men. No contest really.
No one got injured and November is now over. Time to regroup and prepare for Manchester City in the Carling Cup.
Man of the Match
As I said to my friends yesterday, Arsenal don’t need a Chamakh in the transfer window, we need a Drogba.
A lot of people wonder why Arsene Wenger pulled Song and put in Walcott instead of taking off Denilson but it made perfect sense to me: down 2-0 the Wenger philosophy dictates that you remove the most defensive of the two defensive midfielders and put in an attacking player. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no way I would have done that, Denilson was having a poor match, but I totally understand why Wenger would think it’s a good choice.
It almost paid off, too. Arsenal started the second half very bright and looked the most likely to score, once they decided that lobbing balls in to the Chelsea defense wasn’t going to work. All their work led to a shot by Arshavin that was called off because in the buildup Eduardo was judged to have either kicked the ball out of Cheech’s hands or a high boot or to have hit the keeper, or something, depending on the account. Andre Mariner isn’t the best referee in the league, and I think he had a poor match overall, but I hardly think he is in particular biased against Arsenal. That call could have gone either way and much like Chelsea’s penalty shout he made a judgment call.
Like I said, I don’t think Mariner is the worst ref, but the yellow card for Traore in the 25th minute highlighted something that I think is much more pernicious; that there’s one set of rules for Arsenal and one set for the rest of the league. There is no other team in the league in which players consistently get yellow cards early in games for their very first foul. It wasn’t even a particularly hard foul and yet Traore picked up a yellow, in the 25th minute. In the whole game, ESPN has Traore down for 2 fouls and 1 yellow. Compare that to Mikel who had 6 fouls, all of them hard fouls, and didn’t pick up a yellow until the 70th minute. This pattern happens a lot, especially in big games, in the Man U match Song picked up a yellow in the 23rd minute for his first foul, while Darren Fletcher committed 6 fouls (that were counted) and managed to escape the match without censure.
In America we’ll often attribute this to a team being young and I think that there’s some of that at work with Arsenal, but I also suspect that there’s a hefty dose of good old fashioned xenophobia at work as well. After all, as all the English players like to point out, it’s only the foreigners who dive and cheat.
The whole match was ugly from an Arsenal perspective, but seeing the empty stands in the last 20 minutes as Arsenal dinked the ball around and failed to even take a single shot was the lowest moment of this season.
That was followed by scenes of Chelsea’s on-pitch celebration, as if they’ve won the league already, and if that celebration doesn’t spur something inside this Arsenal team then nothing will.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. For his part Arsene Wenger astonished everyone in the room during his post-match presser by saying
If you come, on Tuesday, I’ll give you the (statistical) analysis of the game, physically, technically and you will be surprised.
Combined with his insistence that goals taken on their fist shot basically don’t count and there’s a picture here of a man who at the least is simply talking out his ass and knows better or at the most is seriously out of touch.
I prefer to think the former, that he is just talking to keep the team spirit up. Either way, I really wish he would stop. I’m not so sure that this team benefits from these weird post-match interviews in which Wenger seems divorced from reality. In fact, I think this team needs an old fashioned dressing room ass kicking, not some pile of stats which show that we should have won the game because we completed more passes: passes don’t win games, goals do.
Talk will now proceed to who Arsene Wenger will buy in January, but January is a long way off and by the time Wenger is able to bring in reinforcements it may well be too late. Instead talk should be about the guys we have stepping up and doing something with this opportunity. If by the Hull game on the 19th they still haven’t stood up and made a good account of themselves, then yes, they should be targeted for replacement. The excuse of “killing” their careers can no longer be made, their careers are already under way and by all accounts last night they got off to a very rocky start.
In the mean time, it would be nice if Wenger shows a little initiative himself and change things up a little bit tactically. We need him to guide this team to a string of good performances or the season will them be truly lost.