Monday, 16 May 2011

Arsenal 1-2 Aston Villa - Same Old, Same Old.

The Arsenal players got their chance to see off their fans for the summer yesterday in their final home game of the season against Aston Villa. It was a chance to send the fans home relatively happy, but it ended up as another example of exactly what is wrong with the current Arsenal team. There seems to be some sort of belief in the Arsenal team that they don't have to start the game with any intensity, and by the time they eventually started to play they were already 2-0 down.

There must be a problem with the motivational skills of Arsene Wenger if he cannot get the players built up to play at a high tempo from the start. If Arsenal had approached the game with the same intensity they had in the recent win over Man Utd then they would not have found themselves two down after less than 15 minutes. The goals may have come from individual mistakes at the back, but there was no pressure on the ball when Villa were in possession, and that was a big factor in both goals also.

Darren Bent managed to beat the offside trap for both goals, and found himself in acres of space each time to finish with aplomb. The first time he was played onside by Sebastien Squillaci, and the second time Bacary Sagna was the culprit, but Squillaci didn't exactly cover himself in glory either. There was very little Wojciech Szczesny could do on either occasion, and he wasn't exactly happy with his defenders.

When Arsenal eventually managed to play a little they weren't helped by some extremely incompetent refereeing, as Michael Oliver showed he had absolutely no understanding of the game of football. How he didn't give a penalty to Arsenal, and a red card to Richard Dunne when he took Jack Wilshere down as he was about to score was quite unbelievable. Later in the first half he gave a free against Robin Van Persie when he had set Wilshere up to score, but he was the only person who saw anything, as RVP had been the one who was actually kicked.

The referee didn't cause Arsenal to go two foals down, or to play as if the game meant very little to them, but his incompetence certainly prevented them from getting back into the game. In the second half he disallowed a goal from substitute Marouane Chamakh for what he considered to be a push on a defender, but again he was the only one he saw anything wrong with it. When Arsenal eventually managed to get a goal back in the last minute through RVP, I fully expected him to disallow that too.

The boss had said on Friday that Gael Clichy was fit to return to action, but he didn't even make the match day squad, which I thought was a little strange. Johan Djourou didn't play either, as apparently he was injured too, which meant Thomas Vermaelen was partnered at centre back by Squillaci. Neither Cesc Fabregas or Samir Nasri passed their fitness tests, and the boss said after the game that their injuries have worsened, as only Arsenal injuries can.

Cesc won't be able to play in the final game away to Fulham next week, and it would seem he will be out for up to four weeks, and won't be available to play for Spain either. I am highly suspicious of some of the injuries that Arsenal players are supposed to have, and I have a feeling the manager is using the final games of the season to see how some of the fringe players do in the team. It seems to me that the boss has been more than economical with the truth about injuries to certain players on a quite a few occasions this season.

It meant that Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin were the wide players for Arsenal, and they might as well have stayed in the dressing room for all the good they did. The midfield trio of Wilshere, Alex Song, and Aaron Ramsey were so slow in their play that they created virtually nothing between them, and both full backs were very poor too. The less said about Squillaci's performance the better, and it meant the entire team was carried by the goalkeeper, and two outfield players.

Thomas Vermaelen was playing his first game since August, and he may not have been at his best, but at least he tried his very best. RVP did all he could to win the game on his own, and it was clear how much the defeat was hurting him. He scored Araenal's goal, hit the post, and did all he could to get Arsenal back into the game. His attitude has to be admired, and we need more players with his passion and desire in the team.
At half time Squillaci was taken off, and Chamakh came on instead of him, with Song moving to defence.

Nicklas Bendtner replaced Arshavin 15 minutes later, and he was played on the wing yet again. It is incomprehensible to me for the boss to think Bendtner can play in a wide role, but he persists in his belief Bendtner is up to the role. To be fair to him he was no worse than Arshavin had been, but then again he didn't have to do much to match Arshavin's poor efforts. He made enough of a nuisance of himself in the Villa box to allow RVP to score his goal, but that was when he took up a central role.

Man City will move into third place if they beat Stoke on Tuesday night, and it leaves Arsenal with the prospect of a fourth place finish, and a qualifying round for next season's Champions League. Three defeats in the last four Premier League games have seen a poor finish to the season become almost disastrous, and it's very difficult to see how the team can get any sort of result at Fulham next Sunday. The only way Arsenal can finish third now, is if City make a mess of their last two games.

Arsenal's points haul for the season is 67 points now, and they have lost eight league games. Their form against the lesser teams had been good until the Carling Cup final defeat, but since then even that has suffered badly. Arsenal have managed to beat each of the other teams in the top four, but recently they just gave not raised their game against the so called lesser clubs.

The boss may say the players are having trouble with their confidence after their recent run of poor results, but if that was true why were they able to raise their game against United. For me the problems run a lot deeper, and it would seem the players are unable to raise their game unless they are up against the bigger teams. That is a problem the boss has to take the blame for, as it's his job to send them out ready to play every single game in the right way.

He needs to explain why the players were up for the United game, but unable to perform against both Stoke and Villa, and he needs to buy some players who will not just let their season die without even seeming to care too much. I am no longer sure he is the right man for the job, and I never thought I would utter such blasphemy, but he has to take responsibility for how his team has played in the last two months, and even more so in the last two weeks.

If he is not prepared to make the changes that are needed then he could be the biggest change of all that is needed. If Arsenal had challenged right to the end, but still missed out on the league title I could have taken it a lot better than the absolute collapse yet again for the third season in a row. It is obvious to all but the most stubborn of Arsenal fans that they are missing the vital ingredient that a team needs to deliver trophies, and it will take new blood to change that in my opinion. That new blood has to come in from elsewhere, as it would seem the one thing not taught in the Arsenal academy is how to fight for every minute of every single game.

As it stands it's impossible to see anything but a sound beating against Fulham next Sunday with virtually the same team that played yesterday having to take the field again. It seems like such a long time since Arsenal were playing fabulous football, and looking like real Premier League contenders, but it's only been a couple of months. In those two months the boss and the players have lost the faith of the fans, and I'm not sure they can ever recover it. If next season isn't a success I can live with it, as long as the players give all they have, and to me that clearly has not happened at the business end of this season.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from yesterday's game, with thanks to 101greatgoals as always.

See You Tomorrow.


  1. It was quite frankly pathetic from Arsenal.. there seems to be no urgency in midfield.. Our midfield tempo is not high at all.. probably the 3 man midfield is not helping us.. a 4-4-2 means the players have to quickly pass it forward and wide.. here, the players seems to content playing "keep ball" in triangles..

    For me, the players have let AW down and AW has let fans down by not making the right decisions.. The cutting down of costs for Emirates has come to hurt them big.. I cannot comprehend what was Wenger's thinking behind letting players like Gilberto leave.. What Arsenal lack is leadership and though I don't want to have Cesc as captain for various reasons, he is one of the few who actually wants to win..

    Nasri, RVP, Wilshere and Cesc are the only guys who actually have tried a lot though Cesc has spent more time in stands..

  2. Also, I felt Chamakh tried his best after he came on and he legitimately scored the goal but for the useless ref.. I find Wenger's treatment of Chamakh very baffling to say the least...

    He was excellent when RVP was not fit and suddenly, he does not get the respect he deserves.. He is a fighter, one of the very few at Arsenal and there is a reason why we have done well with him in the team...

    If Chamakh leaves, I will be angry at Wenger.. and all these ppl who slag Chamakh need to understand that he is no impact sub.. he should start a game and he wears out defenders and creates opportunities for others.. It is not a coincidence that Nasir performed very well with Chamakh in the side..

  3. The 4-3-3 suffers when Cesc or Nasri aren't playing the pivotal role, and there needs to be another way of playing when necessary.

  4. RVP is the first choice and the boss tried to spread any other games between Chamakh and Bendtner. Chamakh's form definitely suffered and Bendtner was far from great as well. As long as RVP stays fit Chamakh won't get too many chances, but he needs to take them when he gets them.