Dec 26

The Kids Are Alright

When Zat Knight rifled in a ninety-second minute equaliser I was left screaming.  Standing up with TV remote in hand, I pondered throwing it against the wall, before choosing to wing in it into the safer option of the sofa.  There was an overwhelming and painful sense of Deja-Vu that every Arsenal fan around the world was feeling, as the pretenders to the fourth Champions League spot ran to the corner in euphoric celebration, but at least we were spared the nonchalant arrogance of a certain Agbonlahor.

The first half of the match was a circus.  Calamitous is a word that perfectly sums of the defending that was carried by the likes of William Gallas and Kolo Toure.  Once again Arsenal were left bemoaning an injury, this time to Johan Djourou in the warm up, one of the only players to hit some form.  Sidwell hit bar before it ricocheted of a statue-eque Denilson on the line.  Nasri gave Milner half the park to hit the post and Curtis Davies floated a suave shot onto the bar.  All this before Bicycle Bacary Sanga cleared off the line in the most acrobatic of styles.  Then suddenly, out of the blue, Arsenal’s ever present Denilson popped up to calmly give Arsenal the lead and a samba dance to boot.

Second half and Arsenal were a different team.  Abou Diaby morphed from a carelessly poor passer to a figure of passing dominance and pace, out running Agbonlahor on one occasion.  Diaby’s goal was a thing of beauty, a true Arsenal goal.  Blazing down the wing with a nutmeg before exchanging through balls with Eboue and stroking the ball over Brad Friedel.

It was after this goal that Arsenal reverted to the style of play that has all too often abandoned the team this season.  The moves were fluid and passing triangles were appearing all over Villa park.  Van Persie should have killed off the game by capping of another Diaby orchestrated maneuver, but the goal post was left shaking.

Arsenal were a team in cruise control, putting Aston Villa under pressure at will.  The influential Diaby was everywhere and the intricate passing moves were not holding up.  It was this majesty that made William Gallas’ tackle on Agbonlahor all the more infuriating.  Penalty, then a goal that Villa’s second half performance did not deserve.  The rest is history, once again Arsenal failed to deal with a routine cross allowing Knight to level in the most frustrating of circumstances.

Despite the immense, crushing and infuriating result there are positives to be taken from the Villa debacle.  Simply look at the team that was on the pitch and a lot is revealed.  Had we had a fully fit squad Song, Eboue, Diaby, Silvestre, Ramsey an Toure would not have started.  As I have already mentioned, Johan Djourou, a player responsible for shoring up our defence, was injured in the warm up.  Theo Walcott is out for three months, Tomas Rosicky has been out for eternity,  Adebayor was suspended for the most ridiculous red card of the season, Gael Clichy was nursing a calf strain and Captain Fabregas is out for the hideous length of four months.  There is not a club in the Premier League that has had to deal with the sheer number of significant and lengthy injuries to integral players.

Aston Villa were also without their captain Laursen, but have yet to deal with significant injuries to the talismanic duo of Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor or even Barry or Milner.  Take away six of Aston Villa’s best players and I guarantee you they would not be able to put in a performance like the Arsenal team did.  Tellingly, Villa have only used 16 players for the entire season, their injuries will come.

For me, the positive is that this team can clearly play and play well.  Denilson and Diaby are often savaged by Arsenal fans and the Villa game served to show that they really have what it takes to succeed in the Premier League.  We have to look at where the mistakes came from and surprise surprise they came from the back four.  Kolo Toure was somewhat rushed into the team after being out for a number of weeks with a calf injury, and Gallas is still searching of his “joie de vivre”, in between learning which side of the attacker to stand on.

It’s easy to sit back and spout the same old complaint that the team is too young to compete, but who keep making the mistakes? The experienced players!  The staring back four against Aston Villa had a total of 159 international caps between them.  To put that in perspective the midfield had 40 international caps, and they had 5 players.  So the consistent accusation that the young players are to blame for the demise of Arsenal appears to be completely unfounded.  The Liverpool game was another one when Gallas should have marshaled the defensive line with more skill and tracked Keane before the goal.  Meanwhile down the other end, Denilson, Diaby and even Song were putting in heroic shifts only to be thwarted by the lack of a striker.

For twenty minutes Arsenal’s football was spellbinding.  The midfield was working in perfect harmony and churning out pure Wenger-ball.  This was the work that was undone by carelessness on the part of the two most experiences players on the pitch, Gallas and Toure.  It is them who should be subject to the barrage of criticism, not Abou Diaby or Denilson.

The Villa game was perfect in showcasing how important confidence is for this side.  At 2-0 up Arsenal were a different entity and playing in a fashion that would scare any team in Europe.  The injury to Cesc Fabregas will ensure that we will be seeing a lot more of Abou Diaby and fans should take heart from today’s performance despite the result.  With the obscene amount of injuries before the game and the two during the game the performance was stunning.

In midfield there is definitely strength in depth, as the Villa game exemplified, the area left lacking is defence where Wenger simply must purchase another centre-back.  In an episode of the ArseCast, the ArseBlogger talked to Alex Fyn, a friend of Wenger’s who revealed that Le Professeur had been on the tail of two defenders in the summer, and seeing as how we have two word class full-backs, I presume they were both centre backs.  It is this interest that has to be followed up by Wenger, because it is clear that the midfield can cope.  They did against Chelsea and they did against Liverpool.

With a struggling Portsmouth to look forward to and with our Fabregas-less midfield coming into their own, the only thing preventing us from getting the right results is the centre-back pairing.

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15 Responses to “The Kids Are Alright”

  1. Del says:

    The midfield is not good enough and there is no depth.Song and Eboue are poor.We need a top quality defensive midfielder a centre half and a right winger with pace.There is a distinct lack of pace in the team.This is a far cry from the time when Arsenal could and would cut teams to shreds with their electric pace.

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  2. adam says:

    good article. i agree with it. denilson is really good.

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  3. A says:

    Good article, sadly the doom merchants will have a field day with this result. Fuck them all to hell. All we need is a new goalkeeper and a new centre back to partner Djourou and we will be alright…

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  4. RomfordPele says:

    Nonsense. The midfield is the worst we have seen since Morrow, Jensen, Selly and Hillier. Its too easy to blame Gallas for every goal we concede. I was at the game and thought Sagna and Gallas defended well with as usual zero protection from the midfield. I have seen enough of Diaby,Eboue, Almunia and Song to see that there is some talent there but it will never be enough for this club. Please give Ramsey a run while Cesc is out.

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  5. Mr.T says:

    You were not the only person screaming and throwing stuff. I threw the bottle of cologne ma girlfriend bought me on the floor and nearly kicked the door down. I’m in the dog house thanks to Arsenal.

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  6. Yep, good post. Cruel blow to lose JD20 in the warm up. He’s been a pillar of calmness in recent games. He can also head the ball clear. No one else in the defence appears capable of this.

    I thought Kolo Toure had the worst game I’ve seen him play. He was guilty of some bad errors last season, but today sank to low depths. It looks to be more loss of technique than confidence, even if he was rushed back in today.

    Ashley young was not in the game. Eboue played him well. I thought that Denilson and Song worked tirelessly and had fair games. They’ll be great for us in the weeks and months to come. Game of two halfs for Diaby. Very poor in the first, much better in the second.

    I think Gallas will go at Christmas, I think Silvestre should never have come. That leaves JD20, Kolo and Song as centre backs. I think we need to buy a mid-fielder to play beside Denilson and Diaby until Cesc is back. I’d be OK with Song and JD20 in defence. Kolo needs to come back from the widerness.

    All of these injuries underline the need for more depth in the squad though. o doubt in my mind that AW will buy. Cesc’s absence is a bridge too far.

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  7. Al Cunta says:

    I thought Silvestre played well tonight. You tell me what he did wrong? It’s because he played for Man U that many Arsenal fans are on his back. The man was playing out of position and still did well. BTW our midfield is miles better than Hillier, Selley, Parlour and Morrow. Those 4 would never have scored a gola like Diaby’s.

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  8. dave says:

    we r soo shit and im starting to lose faith! the league is soo good this season and we are quiet a way behind the top four this season i think! denilson was top quality today and diaby was fuckin shit it the first half but fixed up in the second. fulham have a better defense then us. ramsey is light weight and gallas needs a slap

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  9. Al Cunta says:

    Dave. If we were shit we would have lost. We didn’t. We got a valuable away point at a place that none of the top 4 have won at. Fulham do have a better defence than us but that is partly due to a hesitant goalkeeper when it comes to crosses.

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  10. davi says:

    WALCOTT IS NOT A FIRST TEAM PLAYER
    He has NEVER kept eboue out of the starting line up when both are fully fit
    and good job too!
    sick of reading that

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  11. I understand what you’re saying, and to a certain extent I agree – but I don’t think certain squad members are good enough and it’s a bit short-sighted to just blame Toure and Gallas for our problems.

    Yes, Gallas was quite frankly an idiot to make that tackle (it was on the byline and not exactly a clear shooting opportunity) but he hasn’t just become a bad player overnight. He had great success at Chelsea and so has Toure with Arsenal in the past. I would have to say with a better midfield (instead of players like Song and Eboue) then as a whole the team would defend better. You can’t just single out players in the back four.

    The midfield today was average at best. Eboue is very hit and miss, and I am baffled that we have sunk so low that Song is wearing an Arsenal shirt. Seriously, the player is a liability. The only thing he does is commit stupid fouls and put his hands in the air as if he was innocent. Okay, that’s two things but you get my point.

    Diaby and Denilson are very good squad players. They can do a job alongside 8/9 first team players of excellent quality. For example in the invincibles season they could easily play 10 or so games if we had any injuries. Unfortunately they are being let down with the lack of quality alongside them.

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  12. davi says:

    but yeah, sorry i liked the post
    we were missing a huge amoutn of players
    and djourou is probably the most important one
    couple of signings would definitely be nice too!

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  13. gunner from Malaysia says:

    So far all the postings concern AW’s failure to sign players in summer.However is there any guarantee that the new signings will really rejuvinate the gunners?If it doesn’t work what then?
    I think AW shd have signed players when Arsenal were threatening to win the title last season .As it is if with the new players signed,and no improvement it will be a waste of money and time.
    Time is of the essence in football.
    So don’t be surprised if AW doesn’t buy any player and Arsenal finish 5th.

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  14. Richie says:

    When Zat Knight scored in injury time Villa had 4 men in the box and 1 on the edge. We had 3 inside and 1 outside. Now read that again. 2 mins in to injury time we are leading a game which we could have lost after half an hour and we are outnumbered in our own penalty area, unbelievable!
    This is not about individual errors, it is basic schoolboy defending by the team as a whole.
    If the boot was on the other foot, we would see 2 banks of 4 lined up in front of their area defending like mad, and its hard to break that down.
    To make matters worse as we all know this is not the first time we have adopted this attitude when we just needed to defend a lead for a few minutes. Which is why even when 2-0 up after an hour every Arsenal fan was still thinking ‘we can still lose this’
    Can you imagine that if the defence Arsene inherited was still there. They would not have allowed the players in front of them to behave in such a gung ho manner, and this is where the heart of the matter lies.
    There is not enough backbone and leadership in this team. Lots of silky skills which is wonderful to watch, but we badly need 2 or 3 leaders to change around the attitude of the side.

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  15. spaz says:

    not really sure what to say about that match except that arsenal would not have deserved a win from it and that your second goal was excellent. if you going to play an attack i would play diaby behind adebayour myself in a 4-4-1-1, that would be a great combo up front. but anyway…

    good luck against portsmouth, although i would be worried.- in the last few years, the most annoying player arsenal have had to face is peter crouch and i feel portsmouth will use that. and portsmouth have not been playing badly as everyone says, and i think they will really push arsenal hard. stop crouch and youll have the game half won, not that i can see how arsenal can do that. djourou maybe?

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