Sunday, 21 November 2010

Arsenal's Fans Are Let Down By The Players.

Today's title is truly apt as that is how I feel this morning after yesterday's defeat at home to The Spuds. It all looked so good at half time as Arsenal led 2-0, and had played their best football of the season so far. Some of the people around me whispering about how we had let things slip against The Spuds at home a couple of seasons ago, but I was confident that the players had learned their lessons and would go on to win by even more. What transpired in the second half is almost too painful to describe, and no excuses can be found for it.

The team was similar to what was expected, but I was surprised to see both Jack Wilshere and Johan Djourou on the bench. When Arsenal beat The Spuds 4-1 at their ground in the Carling Cup Wilshere ran the game, and showed the desire and commitment that was sadly missing in the second half yesterday. Djourou has improved with each game he has played this season, and should feel aggrieved that he didn't keep his place in the team.

None of that seemed to matter in the first half as Arsenal came out of the blocks very quickly, and Samir Nasri was almost in after a matter of seconds. He was beaten to the ball by William Gallas, and he got a smack in the face to go with it, which looked deliberate to me. It wasn't too long before the first goal came, and it was that man Nasri again who scored. A long ball over The Spuds defence by Cesc Fabregas was met by Nasri. As the keeper came out Nasri took the ball around him, but he had to go very wide. Considering he was on his left foot it looked impossible for him to score, but somehow he managed to cut the ball back, and it trickled over the line to put Arsenal 1-0 up.

Arsenal continued to dominate, and it looked like only a matter of time before that lead was doubled. The second goal came when Arsenal broke very quickly, and Andrey Arshavin put a ball into the six yard box that Marouane Chamakh managed to get to first and divert home. There were other chances in the first half too, and the best of them were missed by Cesc and Chamakh. Cesc put the ball well wide of the post when he was in a position that he would have scored from last season, and Chamakh cut back when he was played in, rather than go for goal. I have commented before about his lack of confidence when faced with a one on one with the keeper, and it was glaringly obvious yesterday.

At half time it seemed like a matter of how many goals Arsenal would score, but all that was to change in the second half. The lack of commitment was unbelieveable for me, but the attitude of virtually the whole team was the worst thing for me. Arsenal handed The Spuds their first two goals on a plate, before trying to get back into the game, and eventually throwing it all away just before the end. I'd like to know how a team that is 2-0 up can be caught on the break, but that is exactly what happened for The Spuds first goal. Arsenal had a corner, and when it was cleared down the middle Jermaine Defoe won a header which bounced off Bakary Sagna, into the path oh Gareth Bale, who ran on to finish past Lukasz Fabianski into the corner. There were a catalogue of errors from Arsenal players in the build up to the goal, and how the ball was allowed to bounce in front of Sagna I just cannot understand.

The second goal was yet another gift, as The Spuds won a fee kick outside the Arsenal box. I didn't think it was a foul, but the referee gave it, and what happened next was a joke. When the free kick came in Cesc put his arm over his head and blocked it, and the referee had no choice but to give a penalty. He did exactly the same thing at home to Liverpool last season, but he got away with it on that occasion. Van Der Vaart took the penalty, and put it away with ease to make it 2-2. It was time for Arsenal players to step up and show what they are made of, but instead all that we got was a half hearted, disjointed attempt to get back into the game.

Then the worst case scenario came about as Younes Kaboul met a Van Der Vaart free kick to head past Fabisnski, and put The Spuds 3-2 up. I looked for a reaction from the Arsenal players and it never came at all, as players resorted to hitting long balls in the general direction of The Spuds goal with no conviction at all. The Spuds managed to keep possession for almost all of the five added minutes, and it finished with the incredible scoreline of 3-2 to them.
The obvious lack of a leader on the pitch was there for all to see, and when the going got tough there was nobody to take control. I don't know if Thomas Vermaelen is the man to do that, but if he's not then there are no other contenders for the role. The manager looked a broken figure on the sideline in the second half, as he looked as let down by the players as the fans were. He looked to be throwing a tantrum at one stage, and I don't think he shook their manager's hand at the end. If he didn't that's unacceptable, as he could have no objection to the way they played the game, and it is just childish in my opinion.

The opportunity to go to the top of the table was lost, and as it turned out we would have stayed there as Chelsea lost again. The big winners yesterday were "Manure" as they beat nine man Wigan 2-0 to move up to second place, and Arsenal dropped to third. Arsenal are only two points off the top of the table but they have lost three out of seven league games at home this season. It looks like nobody wants to win the league, and Arsenal are certainly not out of it yet.

I would like to know if the players understand just what a North London Derby means to the fans, and if not, why not. It's been five and a half years since Arsenal won a trophy, and judging on yesterday's performance it will be a long time before they win another one. The current team have no idea how to control a game as it enters the later stages, and they always look likely to throw away a lead.

The three substitutes that came on yesterday were ineffectual at best, and I couldn't understand why Arshavin and Nasri were taken off. Robin Van Persie was again only introduced when things were going wrong, and expected to turn the game around, despite being short of match fitness. It's unfair to expect miracles from a player who hasn't started a game since last August. Walcott is best with space behind the opposition defence, but it was crazy to bring him on yesterday, and leave Wilshere on the bench. Wilshere could have offered some fight and poise in midfield, as both were missing in the second half. Rosicky tried his best, but he had very few players looking to keep playing football throughout that second half. Clearly there is something missing from the team as a whole, as they find it so hard to bounce back from disappointments on the pitch.

It's been a very topsy, turvy season so far, and as it stands the Premier League is still very open. The shame of it all is that Arsenal are in third place when "Manure" and Chelsea are struggling. If both of those teams can find their feet will Arsenal then be able to keep pace with them. I just don't know the answer to that after yesterday's capitulation, but I really don't want to hear the boss say that the players have learned a lesson from it, and that it will make them stronger. The lessons should have already been learned, and Arsenal should be strong now.

I guess it's a glass half full, and glass half empty situation, and I'm choosing to go with the half full scenario for the moment. Next up Arsenal travel to Braga on Tuesday night to try to ensure their Champions League qualification with a game to spare. After that there's a league game against Aston Villa on Saturday, followed by a home Carling Cup quarter final against Wigan on the Tuesday after that. Three wins would ease the pain, but nothing can put it right until Arsenal travel to play The Spuds in the league in February. That is a game that has to be won for the fans!

Here's the highlights from yesterday's game.

That's it for today.

See You Tomorrow.

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