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Hate To Say I Told You So

Another 5.30 kick off as troubled Setanta desperately try to flog some subscriptions. Good to see an old uni mate Benj pre kick off for a fair few jars. With Chelsea and Liverpool winning, the Gunners would need three points to reassert their authority at the top of the table. A small number in the Red Section set the tone for a disappointing day, when Mikael Silvestre's name was read out over the tannoy, a small number in the Red Section booed. Seriously, who the fuck are these morons?

The Gunners started the game at a moribund pace as Hull surprisingly elected to play two upfront with Geovanni tucked in behind. After a pedestrian first half an hour, Arsenal briefly awoke from their slumber when Sagna's searching right wing cross found Adebayor on the backpost, but the Togolese striker's header was chalked off for a foul on Paul McShane. Frommy vantage point, there seemed to be little evidence of infringement. Buoyed, Arsenal slowly clicked into gear. Denilson played a sumptuous through ball to Theo Walcott marauding in from the right, but nerves appeared to infuse his limbs as Andy Dawson came back with a tremendous last ditch challenge. Walcott would again be guilty of lacking composure in the box when Eboue whipped in a left wing cross which just evaded the head of Michael Turner, catching Walcott by surprise as he miscontrolled in front of goal. Now I'm no member of the 'shooooot' brigade, but Arsenal's next opportunity was an example of trying to foolhardily walk the ball into the net. Cesc found a small corridor of space on the egde of the penalty area and executed a perfect slide rule pass to Eboue who had just the keeper to beat from ten yards out. But panic stricken, Eboue attempted to pass to a crowded out van Persie. Yesterday was a massive step back for Eboue, at one point his histrionics by the corner flag were booed audibly by his own supporters.

Presumably Wenger instructed his troops to raise the urgency in the second half as the first goal arrived six minutes after the break. Denilson played a ball wide to Walcott, who excellently weaved between two defenders before cutting a low ball back to Adebayor, who helped the ball towards goal for a hybrid of Fabregas and McShane to fumble the ball over the line. Hull's resistance broken, pretty much everybody in the stadium expected Arsenal to progress and win comfortably, myself included. Therein lay the problem as lamentable complacency set in. Geovanni had been allowed a searching strike in the first half, you don't have to conduct a great deal of research to gather that Geovanni is an excellent striker of the ball. But withiut a midfielder who specialises in winning possession back for the team and who protects the back four, Geovanni was again allowed to wantonly cut in from the left unchallenged and unleash an awesome swerving strike into the top corner. The idleness and reluctance to close down was really quite stark. But with nobody protecting the back four, you are always liable to concede this type of goal.

As well as eschewing the idea of a midfielder who can retain possession, Wenger chose to ignore the fact that we have two centre halves who cannot head the ball. It's an obvious weakness and one every team we have played so far has looked to exploit. Most have done so successfully. Daniel Cousin's low shot was desperately hacked over the bar by Cesc, who is still visibly suffering physically. The resulting corner saw Geovanni swerve an outswinging corner to Daniel Cousin who outlept Kolo Toure as Gallas watched idly by and looped an excellent header into the top corner. Three goals conceded from corners suggests the manager's decision not to buy a centre half in favour of a centre back pairing who simply cannot play together looks more baffling by the game. Gallas is having an absolutely terrible season thus far, but when there is no competition for places in a squad, there is little incentive for players to improve. That it is why it was always obvious Fulham was no one off, you'll see this pattern emerge over the season, a shocking result followed by a brief flurry in response, before the likes of Gallas, van Persie and co. slip back into their complacent apathy. It's exactly what happened in the 2005-06 season, the last time we began a transition. Wenger affirms faith in his youngsters, yet we used 13 players in the three away games at Bolton, Blackburn and Kyiv, which suggests he hasn't as much faith in him as he attests.

The Gunners were shellshocked and for the first time in the game, began to look urgent. Walcott cut in from the right and threaded an excellent ball through for van Persie in the right channel. I didn't even get to my feet, van Persie's right foot is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard. He inevitably dragged the ball wide under no pressure. If you cannot use 50% of your body, your effectiveness as a striker is massively impaired, I simply do not understand how guys who play football seven days a week can be so poor on their weaker foot. I also struggle to understand the good will shown to van Perse by our supporters when a guy who hasn't kicked a ball for us yet can be booed. Robin obviously has a great deal of individual talent, but individual is the by word here. I'm struggling to remember him passing the ball to anybody in a threatening position, which for a link player is poor. He's become our answer to Steven Gerrard, playing only for himself, punting the ball towards goal at every opportunity in an attempt to be the hero. This was exemplified when he brilliantly turned Dawson inside out at the byline, but with Adebayor and Denilson placed for the cutback, RvP attempted a ridiculous shot with the outside of his left foot. Robin could not strike up a partnership with Henry, nor Bergkamp and now nor Adebayor. This is because he is not a team player.

Wenger threw Bendtner and Vela into the fray, Bendtner was bafflingly deployed on the right and threw in a number of impressive crosses. Ideally, as our best header of the ball, you would want Bendtner in the area and on the end of said crosses. Hull's centre halves, Turner and Zayatte, dealt with them admirably, as did Boaz Myhill in the Tigers' goal. Though fortune would prove a frustrating mistress, Fabregas tossed in a late corner, Gallas crained his neck excellently and headed the ball onto the crossbar. The rebound hit Vela on the goal line but ricocheted wide. It would probably have gone in for him on Tuesday night and if only Gallas had been as aerially vigilant in his own area. Fabregas hit an injury time exocet which was brilliantly turned over by Myhill. The assistants tried to help the home side with four minutes of injury time. I'm really not sure where that mauch time emanated from but it was a gift horse I wasn't exactly looking in the mouth. Toure scuffed over from another Fabregas corner and van Persie's venomous strike flew narrowly over but it was all in vain as Hull had an unthinkable victory.

Arsenal fans redeemed themselves after the final whistle by sportingly applauding Hull off the pitch. They deserved it too, having set up to hit Arsenal on the counter attack they surprised the home side. The Gunners were guilty of the same complacency and lethargy that plagued them at Fulham and this is a result largely of at least ten of our players being absolutely guaranteed their places in the side. The two areas the manager refused to strengthen were the exact areas Hull punished us and I really do not know now what the manager can do about it, I hope he does. But I would put money on seeing a reaction now for the next three or four games before those same weaknesses are exploited again and that same lethargy will re emerge as there is simply no incentive for players to improve when the squad is so small and the manager does not have the faith in his younger players to displace more established pros like van Persie and Gallas. Fabregas is clearly still struggling physically, given his exertions last season and in the summer, this was always likely to happen. Quite how depleting the numbers in our midfield was supposed to offset that I don't quite know. But then there are a lot of answers I don't have regarding this squad. If Mr. Wenger has them he will need to be forthcoming and quickly.LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 28 2008

Time: 12:41PM

Your Comments

Yours is the first report I've red on the match, having gone to bed upset miserable and totally bewildered. After we scored the first goal I thought here we go how many but football is a terrible mistress just when you think you have it in the bad she comes and wallops you behind the ear. I have not been able to eat or read all day and usually I read every article about the match even though I watched it several times on the box. I wished they had kicked us off the pitch or the ref had given them an unjust penalty I could have hung my hat on that but alas there was nothing. I agree with your comments on RVP he is class but lately it seems to be all him. Theo tried and tried and I do feel he has turned the corner this season, but he is still learning the trade. Where to from here I dont know, the sun has not set and as always I live in hope but i am worried very worried.
alwaysgunner
Statistically this was Fabregas' most energised performance of the season. Both in number and accuracy of passes plus goal attempts. The weakness came down the flanks. As with Fulham this wasn't a failing in central midfield. Hull set up to stifle our movement in those wide areas, succeeded in nullifying us offensively and took advantage of Walcotts poor defensive work. Geovanni's goal was really a result of Walcott not closing him down though maybe as Cesc was covering that side of the pitch defensively he might have played a role. It was a good shot that found the corner perfectly and no matter who you have in midfield that can happen to anyone. But you don't need a specialist midfielder to close a player down - anyone can do it though on this occassion it was Walcott who allowed him the space. Our real worry is in dealing with corners. If Gallas was picking up Cousins and presumably he should have been then he was not close enough to him and was too slow in getting to the ball. A lack of concentration unacceptable in a player of Gallas' experience.
Amos.
Geovanni had a similar strike in the first half where he was also not closed down. It happened against WBA too, Kim Ho Deon played off the main striker and had the freedom of the pitch every time he picked the ball up because there was no midfielder taking defensive responsibility. Against Blackburn too, Rovers midfielders were allowed to run into our box untracked, fortunately bad finishing saved us that day. It's quite clear that we have a big defensive hole in our midfield. The only game it came close to being plugged was when Song played in alongside Denilson and Cesc. Yesterday was Cesc's best performance, but still a long, long way from his best and you can see he's not quite up to top level yet, which is to be expected. Particularly as we pushed him too hard in August and got him injured, again pointing to the fact that the manager does not trust anybody to come in and do a job, he'd rather have had an unfit Fabregas for the Twente first leg.
Little Dutch
Excellent analysis of the game Tim. The one thing that I would add is that it is the manager's responsibilty to properly motivate the team for a game, and to judge by the demeanor of the team at the outset yesterday, they did not seem up to it. Part of a manager's job is to use whatever motivational tactic necesssary to achieve that end. He may have to tailor said tactics for some players individually but it is still his reponsibilty. My impression is that Arsene coddles too many of these players when a swift kick in the bum would have been the better option. Consequently, a number of these so called first team players have no reason to fret. In the wake of Ade's midsummer antics, all he got for it was a new and improved deal and an apologist's plea in the press by AW for the fans to show him their support. The manner of this loss is most troubling because we all know that it will happen again as you so eloquently pointed out. The bitter pill in all this is that Arsene knew of these shortcomings before, indicated that he would address them, had the means we are told but chose not to.
czar
Adebayor played too high up and should have tried to get at the defenders more while Van Persie dropped deep and didnít have the desire to get into the box, instead opting for the cut back. Anyway lets be positive and let's see how we do when or if we get our players back. http://arsenalcolumn.wordpress.com/
arsenal column
its turning out to be like a merry go round. sory if you guys disagree but i hope we lose on tuesday, its just my view. maybe wenger will realise that gallas and toure just dont click. at least give djourou a chance to make MISTAKES. Maybe he will learn. gallas cant learn a new trick. excellent write up.
gunnerchi
well i remember what happened after a home game against Blackburn not so long ago, if we are going to have a few bad results, let them be now, and then start the season from there. every team has them, they all have a few bad games, look on the bright side, you could be tottenham !
PUREGOLD
Denilson did get to Geovanni in the first half hence he didn't have time to line up his shot and had to get his shot away quicker than he wished. Most of the time that's all it takes. His shot sailed over the bar. For the second and scoring effort there was no one near him. Walcott left him and then stood and watched as he got his head over the ball and scored.
Amos.
I'm counting the days for Eduardo's return as he seems to be the only striker at the club, with the possible exception of Vela, who shows any kind of cutting edge in the penalty box. It is troubling to see Theo lose a bit of regress to his former self with those extra unnecessary touches in the area. I still have not given up hope completely as I think Alex Song may develop into a good DM and Silvestre could sure up the defence enough for a sustained title challenge. However, like LD, there is a part of me that is starting to feel that Wenger's stubbornness is becoming a problem.
VanPersie11
The only good thing to come out of this game was that Hull deserved their win, and showed us that points still have to be earnt. The fact they played and did it resiliently is a compliment to their team. I met one of their fans on the train afterwards and he lifted my miserable mood, for a few stops anyway. Like czar said above Ė there must be an element of our players being coddled too much, otherwise how to explain that apathy and lack of spark. There is the maturity thing too - when you have a collection of younger players, you get the volatility of on the one hand a bewitching exuberance, and on the other, a collective non-chalance which they canít shake as there are no figure-heads or battle-hardened old hands to grab the bull by the horns. .. (1) That we let Geovanni score that fantastic goal was a collective fault rather than one player alone - we are not man-markers. He did well to change position but nobody closed him down ..(2) The way we take corners is diabolical Ė when Cesc goes for the goalmouth directly, he doesnít clear the first man properly enough times, and when he takes them short to RVP it tends to fizzle out. I donít know what the stats say, but I know what my eyes are telling me, and thatís that Nasri does a better job at creating danger out of them than Cesc. (3) Have to agree with LD that RVP is an individualist player, but there is a space for such a player when the team is firing properly Ė i.e. not yesterdayÖ (4) Gallas Ė what is going on with him? His desire to lead and to defend seems to be vaporising. (5) Could we possibly impose a media blackout on our players till Xmas? Am I getting irritable in my old age, or is anyone else also bothered by reading their knowing musings in print? Maybe its needed PR, but itís an energy distraction. Itís disheartening to watch us not put up a fight, and itís somehow offensive to hear them talk as much as they do, when they should rather concentrate elsewhere.
Andy-bayor
Cesc's corners last season were the source of a hell of a lot of goals, but the short corner thing with RvP that worked on its first outing against Liverpool, is predictable and pointless. I'm tempted to pin it on the lack of experience, yet Gallas and RvP were amongst the worst performers. I think there is a problem in midfield, every team the opposing team has possession, it's inevitable the ball ends up on the egde of our penalty area. In that respect, we are playing a basketball style that will see us punishedmore often than not. We need to be better at regaining possession in there and for me that means playing Song in with Denilson and Cesc and dropping RvP. It's been my conviction for sometime that 4-5-1 suits usand until Eduardo comes back and reassumes the understanding with Ade that they moulded brilliantly last winter, that's the way forward for my money.
Little Dutch
You might be right LD, but Nasri's corners always went to the edge of the 6-yard box, creating immediate danger. On the midfield, there's no doubt that given his style, a dedicated anchorman suits Cesc perfectly, but right now as we don't have one what do we do? Personally I would give Cesc a month off: maybe send him home for a fortnight and then bring him back slowly. He is still our heartbeat - when he plays, we play well etc, so we cant afford to have him so jaded. The dynamic has changed now anyway and I'm not so sure we can quite find another player who perfectly slots into the 'Flamini' role for our Cesc, so maybe 4-5-1 for a while might be worthwhile. Anyway, the tactics are important but what we really need to do is shake up our collective mentality.
Andy-bayor
Well done LD. You have captured everthing that needed to be in that report of yours. Agree with everything you say, and this does feel a bit like the 2006 season already. However, man for man, we ought to have been a better side, and thats why blaming Wenger might be a bit misplaced (although understandable, as the buck stops with him). The players need to respond and not just for 3-4 games. RvP really looked anonymous in the 1st half, atleast Ade tried to go wide in order to be involved with play and try to make something. Eboue was actually involved in about 3 of our half-chances, despite having a terrible game - I dont quite know what to make of that. Is that an indictment of the rest of the team ?
prits
i dont understand the criticism heaped on rvp, what are you expecting from a player who has just recovered from a long term injury? he is not ready, so give him time to gain his form, its as simple as that. but his "individual" attempts, audacious as they may be and perhaps somewhat selfish at times, is EXACTLY what we need. i feel we have become a bit predictable in some of our attacking play, thats why teams like hull and fulham are able to congest areas that we use to create our chances. i still believe if rvp stays injury free he WILL be our top scorer this season, you can quote me on that. my problem is a certain striker who compared himself to henry when he hit "a bit" of form last season but has gone missing this season hitherto. his so called "effort in going wide to get more of the ball" is complete time wasting for me. ur a central striker so play like a central striker. at least bendtner and rvp drops back effectively to link midfield and attack, but adebaywhore drifts left and congests clichy and nasri's space. is he a winger? NO! is he a good crosser of the ball? NO! so what the hell is he doing on the left? he should be troubling the defence and drawing players to him to allow more space for rvp and cesc to drift into the box to take shots, and have theo and eboue around the edge to take the rebounds and put the ball back into dangerous positions around goal. im not worried about this result because i have been watching hull since the start of the season and can understand their threat to all the teams in the EPL. we will bounce back without a doubt, because our players are the hungriest in the EPL. even though its nice to be on top of the ladder, i think being 2 points off the top is ideal, theres to much unwanted attention when ur at the top and when you slip up, the criticism is sometimes exaggerated. so let us be the quiet achiever and let chelski and liverfools to take the headlines. as long as we are within a touching distance (2 points), we can mount the challenge in the last half a dozen games of the season.
supersof
We deserved what we got, the better team won.
hackneyval
On one hand we're too predictable in attack, but on the other Adebayor should stay in one position? RvP has been fit for some time, but this conclusion is based on the last couple of years, not just this season. He's 25 now and I don't think he has grown up much. We never have problems scoring goals or creating chances.
Little Dutch
Thanx for the write up and all the comments. I agree wt u guys. All we needed on Saturday was more dedication and the ability for a "CAPTAIN" to be able to change things around on the pitch. Both Chelsea and manure hv won games on their off days, we shld b able 2 do same. I personally fealt that Theo and Ebou should have changed wings immediatelly geovanni moved more to our right. Gallas has been lacking this season both for Arsenal and France this season and shld b dropped for abt 3-4 games. Song is pure class and should b a regular. I would prefer that Ade is used as a sub for a number of games, he does not seem capable of scoring even sure bankers. Cesc also shld b a sub for a number of games. I am happy for Hull. I trust that Arsene would c these things but then we do not have the bigger picture and can only speculate, he does c a bigger picture, so lets get behind the team and lift them up!!
phreddy
Exactly, it will most certainly happen again. No apologies needed to say "I told you so," it needs to be said over and over again. I knew we had no chance of winning the league this season (once I saw that AW wouldn't strengthen to address the areas where we needed it) but I didn't expect to see it confirmed so early in the season. SIX games into the new season and we've dropped 6 points already--against teams we should be beating, not the likes of Chelsea or MU. In 7 months we've suffered humiliations at WHL, OT, throwing away a 5pt lead in yet another springtime collapse and now losing to HULL CITY at home! AW looked bewildered after the game, mentioning our lack of height and not knowing what to do about it. Well, gee, Arsene, ya think? Ever think of the novel idea of adding some height to the defense? Oh, and btw, Hull beat us by PLAYING FOOTBALL, not by kicking us all over the park.
jaelle
Though it's little compensation, at least we at Pompey stuffed spurs & kept them bottom.
storagematt
yeah, thanks for that storagematt!!
jaelle
got what you deserved, well done Hull City....................!
horseworrier
two defeats in six games - not title winning form is it?
merlin
It's still so early in the season. I really would have preferred to see more of the CC squad out there in this match. With a HUGE CL match coming up at the Emirates on Tues. I think Wenger would have been better served fielding more of the young lads than he did. More needs to be done to incorporate these lads into the first team before this type of play becomes commonplace. IMO, the side that showed out against Sheffield United, had more desire and heart than anyone of the players who started Saturday. Gallas' play and attitude have become inexcusable. He almost carries himself as though he is resigned to losing, yet can do no wrong himself. Give it up Willie, no man is bigger than the badge, now stop whining and act like it!
brewtowngunner
Lots of words here from worried Gunners, face it on the day you underestimated Dull
Red Wimp
I disagree with the article in general. Gallas is the exception, I think he should be replaced - now. It's way too early to say "I told you so" I'm keeping the faith. The criticism of RVP is laughable and so "knee jerk" it's embarrasing. Hope you write a huge "I was wrong about RVP" article when appropriate. Booing Silvestre bears little difference to this article imo. It's negative and out of proportion. We have a "new" midfield and it will take time to gel. And so many comments are aimed at Geovanni not being closed down, which is true. But that comment should be quaified with who it was that was watching while he spent all the time he needed lining the shot up. Yes that's right, Theo. Great player, still a lot to learn.
FAB 4
Fab, I take great umbrage at the suggestion that this article is similar to booing Silvestre. This is an article written analysing a bad performance well after a game. I air none of these criticisms aloud in the ground and do nothing else but vocalise my support for the team in every ground we play at. Criticising the side whenthey perform badly on an internet site and booing a guy yet to kick a ball at the club are VERY different things and I'd appreciate it if you got that straight. Being unhappy does not make you a bad supporter and what rubbish job I'd be doing if I came out after a game like that and smiled and said, 'comme ci comme ca.' Were you in Kiev? If you travelled 2000 miles and paid £600 to watch the players trudge off without acknowleging you you perhaps would not have this jaundiced view about mollycoddling players. How can my criticism of RvP be kneejerk when I've been voicing it for two years? You don't have to agree with me, but please don't spout this kind of ***** because frankly, it's an insult to the time I put into this site and this football club.
Little Dutch
Fair enough LD and I appreciate your efforts on the site. However I too travelled far and wide over many years to watch many much, much poorer Arsenal sides than the our current one and my main gripe with this article is that it seems out of proportion to our situation this season. Manure lost at home to City, and at Bolton and Wet Sham last season yet were champions. For whatever reason, we have a new midfield to all intents and purposes and it will take time to click. So maybe you'll be right, and after 6 games it looks that way, but we've won 4 with no draws yet, which is good and over the years, many of our best seasons have come from emerging out of a "crisis" to a considerable unbeaten stretch. I think what's most important in the P/L these days is less about how many games you lose (obviously within reason) but more about how often you turn draws into wins. And as far as RVP is concerned, you are in a huge minority in questioning his quality. Sure he's been injury prone, but his right foot is better than many of his peers and might I say, a certain Mr Brady too. He was no mug, I named my son after him. We can agree to disagree on that, but you'll be wrong about him by the end of the season.
FAB 4
I certainly hope I'm wrong on RvP, the fortunes of the club far outweigh my estimation of my own ego and I'd be glad to be proved wrong, as I was with Flamini. My gripe never has been with his talent, but his suitability to the team and willingness to work for people who aren't named Robin van Persie. I've levelled enough criticism at Steven Gerrard for being the same sort of player that I see in van Persie, it would be subjective and wrong of me not to criticise RvP for the same things. Being in a minority has never particularly bothered me, I was in a minority in suggesting that Henry leaving would be the best thing for Arsenal some three years ago and I feel to intents and purposes I have been proved right. I was also in a minority of people who felt Baptista would come good and I was definitely wrong about that. I feel the article was in proportion because the questions I and many others were asking in the summer have not been answered and the glaring weaknesses have been exposed for all to see, a number of things I said in the Fulham match report came to fruition in the Hull game and I think they'll happen again. Truthfully, I think you'll see straight wins until we travel to Upton Park, at which point we'll see another below par display and probably a defeat. It's a pattern I see re emerging, my gripe is that I think the manager has made things unnecessarily difficult for himself. You're right, proportionately we are a much better side now than some of the dross that has been served up in our lifetimes. My first year as a season ticket holder was 1994/95 and that lot would have been obliterated by this team. But how long can you assess individual situations that way? I recognise the bigger picture, but when dissecting an individual match in context, it's not worthwhile to say, "oh well, we've played worse." I'm sure our players didn't cover themselves in glory in the 8-0 defeat to Loughbrough in 1906, but I'm sure as hell not going to assess every individual match by that criteria.
Little Dutch
Nor the 6-1 and 4-0 vs Utd, 5-1 vs Spuds etc. But that's the point, sub par displays happen. After writing I checked on the Manure results of last season and saw that after defeats on 4 occasions, they won 8, 5, 4 and 6 games consecutively. That's wins, not unbeaten. I think we have the same potential and don't believe that the Hull and Fulham performances, whilst worrying, lacking in desire and cohesion and unacceptable should signal alarm bells questioning the manager and players who I believe are still finding their feet. Obviously we see it differently and whilst the writing is on the wall, imo it's a little early for "I told you so's". This is a no win argument for you b/c if you're right, we'll all be gutted and if you're wrong then it'll be a great season. I know as a fan you'd prefer to be wrong so instead of putting yourself in that position, wait a little longer please??!!. We can talk again after Wet Sham (God forbid not before!!!!)
FAB 4
I'm a nail my colours to the mast kind of guy, fence sitting isn't my style. The truth is, last January I was dismayed we didn't make a signing in the transfer window but because we were playing well, I kept schtum. So when I came to complain about it around about April time, people rightly admonished me for not speaking up sooner. My only mandate to myself and anyone who reads is that I'll say what I think regardless of any ire it might attract. You may be right, I may be premature in writing us off, but this is a representation of how I'm thinking at the moment, so I write it down. I'm no propagandist, I'm not here to do a service for the club or for any media or corporate entity. If I'm thinking something, I'll put it down. Otherwise I don't sleep well!
Little Dutch
 

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