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Priced Out

'What we did tiday was just not good enough.' Succinctly put by Arsene Wenger, it's certainly a few expletives short of exactly what I think of yesterday's performance. That's a real shame because the day itself otherwise was a pretty nice one. I've spoken before of my fondness for trips to Craven Cottage, and Fulham away on August Bank Holiday weekend was as much as I could have asked for from the fixture computer. We began the festivities nice and early, meeting in the Boat House pub at 1.30pm. Picturesquely located on the bank of the Thames, the place was swollen with Gooners enjoying the sunshine. From there we made our way over the bridge to find a very noicy Eight Bells, a baying throng of red and white in fine voice, before making our way through the park and into the stadium.

The jollity ended there as Fulham completely outplayed Arsenal in the first half, Bullard and Murphy pulling the strings in the centre of the park and Arsenal's complete lack of desire meant we refused to capitalise on Fulham's lack of muscle in the middle of the park. Wenger's decision to wait to buy a midfielder looked every bit as stupid and naive a risk as I felt it would be. Denilson toiled but had a real off day, misplacing passes and uncharacteristically pulling challenges. Basically put, Eboue was our best player. A brief flash of invention was evident after 15 minutes, Walcott overhit a cross from the right, the bristling Nasri neatly cut the ball back and the anonymous van Persie flashed a shot wide. But the Cottagers took control, Seol played in Zamora who smartly turned Toure, but the beefy Ivorian got the tackle in. The resulting corner was a microcosm of the game itself. Bullard and Murphy worked the short corner and swung in a cross and Brede Hangeland wanted to meet the ball more than William Gallas and studded the ball in, with Denilson turning his back on the challenge. Gallas has to ask serious questions of himself for that goal, when the captain won't fight for the ball you have to ask why.

The Gunners reply was immediate but short lived. Sagna, who also had a rare off day, swung in a beautiful cross from the right and Adebayor's header thumped the foot of the post. But Fulham went in at half time deservedly in front. In truth, steeped high in the Putney End, I wasn't at all worried. I thought Fulham would burn themselves out and Arsenal would cruise the gears in the last twenty minutes. The truth is, Fulham were too resilient and we didn't work them hard enough. Adebayor was starved of service and largely a peripheral character. van Persie was entirely ineffective, refusing to drop back and link the play between midfield and attack as he is supposed to. I'm struggling with him, I really am. Too often he is a cerebral character in a match and I get the impression he has no concept of team work whatsoever. There was an incident with five minutes left when Arsenal won a free kick on the right hand side of the penalty area and van Persie elected to shoot from an impossible angle. What infuriates me most though is that van Persie is something of a golden child amongst supporters, as evidenced yesterday. Criticising him is an act of heresy that will not be tolerated. Eboue, despite being our most committed player, still bore the brunt of acid tongued ranting in the away end, while van Persie swanned around and received no ire. In fact, in the twenty minutes Bendtner was on the pitch, he produced more than Adebayor and van Persie put together.

With around ten minutes remaining, Bendtner produced a 180 degree pirouhette and lifted a gorgeous through ball to van Persie, but the Dutchman was again guilty of rocking back on his heels. Long shots from Adebayor and Song were all we could muster from a Fulham side who were rigid. van Persie collected a pass from Sagna and fired a long shot just wide. Fulham nearly caught Arsenal on the break with a flowing move, Bullard fed Zamora who tucked the ball back to Davies, but he didn't trust his left foot and sliced horribly wide with the outside of his right. The final whistle saw the predictable outburst from the away end. The supporters really got my goat yesterday, I'm starting to wonder if football fans even watch the game anymore, it seems they arrive armed with their cliches and preconceptions and fire them off at will. So no matter that Eboue actually had a good game, it's his fault. No matter that van Persie was woeful, he's the favourite so no blame can be attributed to him. Somebody behind me fumed, 'Denilson can't control a game like Fabregas can Wenger!' If that gentleman could find a midfielder who can and who is willing to sit on our bench for six months a year, please be forthcoming with a name. Ultimately, Nasri and Eboue apart, we did not perform as a team or as individuals. The lack of depth in the midfield has hurt us like I knew it would. Wenger may want to wait for deadline day and save us a million or so on a midfielder, which is great, but we've lost a very attainable three points in waiting. That is a price we just cannot afford.LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday August 24 2008

Time: 10:42AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Bit of a wake up call methinks!
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24/08/2008 11:11:00

Bendtner has all the ideas but not quite the deftness of pass for his ideas to bear as much fruit as they should. But did he really contribute more than Ade and RvP combined? Not entirely fair to judge a player on 30 minutes but the reality is that other than half a dozen good passes at best he made no difference. Sagna's off day will have had more to do with not having Eboue in front of him and having to cover for the woefully unproductive Walcott than any loss of form.
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24/08/2008 11:51:00

we lost the premiership by four points last season. kind of puts this loss in perpective. we really need to be winning these kinds of games so as to not put undue pressure of "must win" situations when we face the top four teams. i thought our guys looked lost on the field. not knowing where each other were or what they were supposed to do. i dont want to single anybody out becos it was a collective bad effort. i dont think a magical signing of one DM will solve all our problems so i have no issues if wenger wants to wait til the final hour to sign someone (if he does at all). i think its more of a problem with the team not gelling. this IS only the second game, and we DO have quite a few injuries. so lets see how the lads bounce back midweek and the following few games. go gunners!!!
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24/08/2008 12:24:00

Very true Merlin. If Wenger wants Alonso then he has to phone Rafa this morning and just give the man his money. If we really can't afford the big payout then Wenger needs to tell us and we can move on and accept that we've got to deal with what we've got and that we just can't compete at the moment. But if he keeps insisting that we've got that cash then he's got to bail us out before we're out of the chase before the end of September.
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24/08/2008 12:24:00

Superof - The thing is without Cesc that midfield has no collective premiership experience whatsoever. And in that part of the pitch it's crucial to be on the same wavelength and we gotta be dominant.
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24/08/2008 12:31:00

Though I think there is a small element of being away on international duty having an effect, the bigger factor here is that the core of our team last year that played so well isn't together - Rosicky, Cesc, Hleb, Flamini - and it's going to take time for the team to gel. Sufficient depth and experience in the squad cost us last year; clearly we haven't rectified this. Maybe this defeat and performance is just what was needed to make Arsene realise that he needs to take action because we're unlikely to win anything other than plaudits for our beautiful game otherwise.
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24/08/2008 12:51:00

Bendtner tried to create something in that last half an hour, which is more than RvP and Ade did. True about Sagna, but he also just had one of those days where his distribution was off kilt and he couldn't control the ball, it happened to Clichy too. It happens. But I'm struggling to remember what Walcott produced, one overhit cross which Nasri rescued. Fulham realised Theo needs a couple of seconds to hit his stride before he can run at people, so Fulham crowded him instantly. He really needs to work on the basic skill of controlling the ball properly. But again, he is somehting of a darling amongst Gooners, so let's not criticise him and, in the words of Jackson 5, "Blame it on Eboue." That's much easier.
Little Dutch
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24/08/2008 12:54:00

Good interview by Amy Lawrence with Cesc. I honestly feel he should be made our captain - he has Arsenal in his blood more than Gallas I feel and is our real figurehead on the pitch, the symbol of our club.
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24/08/2008 13:20:00

Sorry, here's the link -
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24/08/2008 13:21:00

Again that's an easy target. We didn't lose yesterday because Gallas is a bad captain anymore than we beat West Brom because he's a good one. I'm not sure what Gallas has to do, he scores important goals at the Reebok against Twente, and nobody puts it down to good captaincy, but we lose and apparently it's because that small piece of material on his arm didn't conjure up this magical power to all of a sudden make our midfield play well. Cesc doesn't need the captaincy to be our best and most crucial player and we don't need to lumber him with yet another responsibility. Part of Henry's deterioration was down to the fact that he took all set pieces, penalties, top scorer, top assists etc, etc. Fabregas can be a great captain in a few years, but there's no essential need now. It won't change anything,in fact, the only discernable effects it will have will likely be detrimental. We also have to make sure he has targets, if we give him the captaincy now, he will have hit the ceiling as to what else there is to strive for atArsenal. I'm happy to have it as a little carrot dangling just above his head for a little while yet.
Little Dutch
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24/08/2008 13:54:00

We'd have got more out of this game if we had played Eboue instead of Walcott down the right and maybe Song in the middle. Those critical of Eboue's selection ahead of Walcott may perhaps understand that a little more now. Fulhams midfield wasn't better than ours though, collectively, their wide midfielders contributed more than ours. In a calmer moment no one would seriously wish for Bullard and Murphy over even Eboue and Denilson, but Walcott in these games needs everyone else to be playing 100% to get the dominance we need for the forwards to get something out of the game. Notwithstanding that it was sloppy defending that cost us one point the reason for yesterdays defeat was Wengers selection error in picking a player in Walcott who is maybe 2 years away from a regular first team start in away games.
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24/08/2008 14:21:00

i dont think magical DM signing will solve everything, adebayor is a little spoiled brat who cant care less about himself, and RvP thinks hes alreadi a bergkamp, and well denilson, he blieves too much in himself, i say we put eboue back where he belongs, and song back as a holding midfielder, on the other hand....WHY DOES TOURE LOOKS SO DAMN FAT?
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24/08/2008 14:27:00

LD - it's not that I'm necessarily targeting Gallas after yesterday's result/performance but I don't believe he has an affinity and love of our club as much as previous captains or captains at other clubs (although I personally thought making Henry captain wasn't the right decision). We need more than one leader out there and Gallas could be one even if he wasn't captain and stiil score those important goals (like he used to at Chelsea). I don't agree that it would be detrimental for Cesc, in fact, it could enhance his development even further. Just my opinion.
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24/08/2008 14:33:00

Ok it was a dreadful performance, and the midfield needs reinforcing, and by that I am actually in favour of spending a lot of money. I will be disappointed if we bring in another French teenager, because that's not what we need. But, one thing that *****es me off is that maybe, we do not have 'strenght in depth'. The media make us out to be the only team without any, but in fact, I'd say Chelsea are the only team WITH any. Man Utd for example suffered in the first game because their precious Ronaldo was missing, as well as Hargreaves and Tevez. Fergie replaced them with Fletcher, Campbell and Giggs. They ended up bringing on the O'Shea, Possebom (sp) and da Silva. Doesn't look like quality depth to me. With Silvestre now gone, if United pick up a couple of injuries in defence to say Vidic and Rio, and Neville IS fit; their back four will look like this: Neville, Brown, O'Shea, Evra. I think with the likes of Cisse and Healy up front, Roy Keane will be licking his lips, let alone Wenger, Scolari and Benitez. Liverpool, when missing Torres and Gerrard, will struggle to beat Hull/Stoke, not to mention teams in the top half. Our 'second XI' is much stronger than United or Pool's, and with Fergie finally suffering some overdue injuries, I think they'll struggle to retain their title this year. And finally, I'm contradicting myself a little here, but writing us off after one defeat is purely idiotic. Somehow you get the feeling the media wil consider United strong contenders, despite dropping points in the first game, and missing their golden boy.
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24/08/2008 16:24:00

Your right the second half Eboue looked our biggest threat and was cynically fouled everytime he burst forward..I think we were very unlucky in getting an injury to Cesc at a time when Arsene was most porbably thinking that with Cesc and Denilson in the centre we could survive until he makes a new signing...however if this was last season and we had no Cesc, Rosicky, Hleb and Flamini we wouldn't expect to win would we?...Yet two victories in a row and we'll be sitting pretty again so it's important not to press the panic button just yet...united drew their first 2 games and lost the third last season lest we forget...
Anon 1
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24/08/2008 16:54:00

But the Fabregas injury is something Wenger must take responsibility for. Precisely because he wouldn't sign a midfielder, he tried to rush Cesc back and it's no surprise for a player to pull a muscle in that scenario. I fear for Cesc this season now because he's had no pre season and an injury early on, usually you find players struggle for form and fitness in those circumstances, think Bergkamp after WC98, who was also rushed back from a calf problem and took months to get back in the swing of things. If Cesc plays on Wednesday, it's proof that Wenger is panicking and has mismanaged this situation very, very badly.
Little Dutch
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24/08/2008 17:00:00

I can't help but feel there is an element of sod's law in picking up another injury in the one area where we were looking to strengthen..Song should have undoubtedly played yesterday..Wenger is very cautious with his players and I don't feel he would ever rush anybody back unless he is absolutely certain that they are ready..
Anon 1
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24/08/2008 17:22:00

Arsene we understand your'e trying to secure a future for this club, but please just look at the quality of the last great arsenal squad and compare it to the present one. Surely a man as smart as yourself can see we need better players.
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24/08/2008 22:08:00

Gone are the days when we had Wiltord Reyes Edu VBronchorst on the bench, Ljungberg and Pires running the wings, Bergkamp and Henry tearing defences, Cole and Lauren bursting forward, Vieira and Parlour shielding the team, Campbell and Toure repelling everything coming thier way. We had match winners in every department. now we are reduced to having 2 or 3 match winners in the entire squad
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24/08/2008 23:46:00

i made the biggest mistake of watching "49" (our famous unbeaten dvd) just before the fulham game. hand on heart, i can say two players from todays squad would be good enough to play in that legendary team. we had a team of winners, experience and strength. how we miss vieira! having said that.... our younglings need our support so lets get behind them. our team needs us more now then when we kept winning.i just really wished we snapped up etoo/owen/villa when we had the opportunity. having said that, our boy eduardo will be back so all is not doom and gloom. arsenal for life!!!!
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triceratops, coincidence that i was watching the same thing before the fulham match and admiring the beautiful simplicity of the football played by the invincibles. who knows if the current squad will develop to the extent of the invincibles? then again, this current crop might get to 50!!
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25/08/2008 02:55:00

It looked to me like we suffered from the same old problem from a few seasons back....opposition coaches would simply say " get right into them...give them no time on the ball...don't let them settle "...and the players we had out there could not cope with that. I am not suprised at all that we lost.....Eboue is Crap, Denilson is inconsistant and not ready to be a midfield general. I think that AW seriously under-estimates the opposition in this league. There are some damn good players out there playing for what some might class "ordinary" teams .... God help us if this is any indication if things to come.....I wonder how we will fair against Ballack, Lampard, Essien, Deco etc etc. I worry we are lightweight in midfield and we are going to get kicked around with key players sufferring , and the ones we have coming off the bench are either not ready or not good enough...
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25/08/2008 11:41:00

As much Wenger might like youngsters, there's no denying the fact you lot need experience on the pitch. The midfield you lot put out is nowhere near that of any of the remaining big three. And Eboue in midfield? Just won't work. And now even Senderos is gone. Though ofcourse I'll love to watch that, but Essien, Deco, Ballack and Lampard will eat you lot in the middle of the park. Alonso IMO is the best readily available option for you lot. And even Barry would do a lot for you guys, much more than he would do at Anfield.
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26/08/2008 20:22:00

Ok, I just realised that, sorry for saying "you lot" in almost every sentence of my post!
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26/08/2008 20:23:00

We now have no choice, but to spend and quickly, our 2nd team is just not good enough, we need depth in our squad, so that if we have injuries we can still put out a team that win beat the likes of Fulham.
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27/08/2008 16:49:00


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