Watching the Gunners play this season has been pure agony. Gone are the free flowing attacking displays. What we have now we saw yesterday against Middlesbrough, a tortured and flawed performance from a team flirting with mediocrity.
You don’t see Arsenal players smile anymore, well … they do if they happen to score. Most of the time they scowl at each other, they argue and they glare. It’s obvious there is no chemistry on the field and it has to be the same way in the locker room. Who’s to blame? Gallas, van Persie, Adebayor, Bendtner, Eboue are the names one suspects could be to blame, but I don’t know. All I know is that you see it. It is palpable and Wenger hasn’t purged the problem.
Looking at the squad this year you see players not stepping up and performing to their potential. Prior to this season I told my mates that this season would be a great year if Walcott, van Persie, Bendtner, Diaby, Eboue, Rosicky, Song, Djourou and Denilson all stepped up their games. Only Walcott and Djourou have stepped up their games significantly, Denilson a little. The rest have yet to convince me that they are improving.
Looking at the squad one see’s that there are problems everywhere, but particularly in midfield. Our defence is suspect, but playing behind a weak midfield just magnifies their problems. Our forwards are okay, but a weak midfield doesn’t provide enough support or service. Ironically the team is filled with midfielders, but they are not tough enough, or too young, or don’t play the position we need.
In goal Almunia is adequate. He’ll win you a couple of games a season but no more. Yesterday’s performance saw him inexplicably not catching an easy cross and leaving Sagna with a throw-in near the corner. On several corners he looked vulnerable and he didn’t always appear to be communicating with the defence. He did make a fine save off Downing, but you wonder whether Fabianski would be better if he had a run of games in goal.
Our fullbacks are not playing like the Premier League all stars they’re supposed to be. Sagna has not been healthy this year and he isn’t the threat he was last season coming forward. I seldom see him make a good cross, but I’m hoping he’ll get healthier and better by the new year. Clichy is probably our best player right now, yet he’s afflicted with making one or two gaffes every game, most of them turning out to be fatal. He’s looking like he’s taking Senderos’s place in the mistake department. Yet he plays with conviction, has undeniable talent and is our most significant threat on the left.
In the middle Gallas and Toure have both been suspect. Gallas has made some critical mistakes, yet he’s too valuable to bench. Silvestre has played better than I thought he would in the middle, but it’s still not what we need. At least Djourou has started playing well and against Boro he was one of the few who had a decent game.
In the midfield yesterday we had four central midfielders and no width. It was telling that Wenger didn’t even want to bring on Eboue on the right. Diaby had another poor game. Once again he was stuck out on the left where he doesn’t play well and once again he didn’t deliver. What is his best position? Maybe just to play the fifth midfielder when we play with just one striker. I don’t know. Denilson was on the right and though he tries hard he is no outside threat. He cannot play the holding role either and against Porto he showed that he cannot run the offence either. Song is our best defensive midfielder, but he had a terrible game passing today. He just seems a little slow and doesn’t play that well with Cesc. Will Wenger buy a new holding midfielder? I hope so. Fabregas played a little better today than he has as of late, but he is still not the Fabregas he was last season. One of these midfielders needs to become a scoring threat, but today only Diaby had a couple of chances.
Our squad lacks a genuine winger at the moment and the prospect of us playing until March with Nasri and Eboue on the flanks makes me fearful. Nasri is not the hardiest player and Eboue is Eboue. Ramsey is not the winger as advertised, preferring to play inside and Wilshere is just too young (as is Barazite, whose loan spell at Derby ends at the end of the month). The team needs a player who can trouble fullbacks and who can cross the ball from the baselines.
Up front Adebayor and van Persie show flashes, Bendtner shows his colourful boots, and Vela shows potential. Fans are salivating with anticipation of Eduardo’s return, all in the hope that he’ll change our fortunes up front. Van Persie frustrates me the most because when he’s hot and on his game we become a much better team. Unfortunately this has happened much too rarely. Adebayor doesn’t run as hard as he did last year and he constantly glares at the others when they don’t pass the ball to him. It’s an offence that has sputtered as of late, not scoring as frequently as they did in the first 12 games of the season.
The most frustrating part of all is that this team is likely to play brilliantly next week against Liverpool and then stub their toe against Villa or Portsmouth. On their day they can produce good football and play with passion. However too often they play as they did against Boro, Portsmouth, or Wigan. I’ve almost lost all hope this season and Wenger needs to make major changes to save the season.
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