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Hate To Say I Told You So

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.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday September 28 2008
Time: 12:41PM

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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.
28/09/2008 13:24:00
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.
28/09/2008 13:55:00
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
28/09/2008 14:00:00
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.
28/09/2008 14:54:00
Adebayor played too high up and should have tried to get at the defenders more while Van Persie dropped deep and didn’t 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.
arsenal column
28/09/2008 15:22:00
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.
28/09/2008 18:14:00
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 !
28/09/2008 18:45:00
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.
28/09/2008 18:57:00
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.
28/09/2008 19:22:00
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 – 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 can’t 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 – when Cesc goes for the goalmouth directly, he doesn’t clear the first man properly enough times, and when he takes them short to RVP it tends to fizzle out. I don’t know what the stats say, but I know what my eyes are telling me, and that’s 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 – i.e. not yesterday… (4) Gallas – 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 it’s an energy distraction. It’s disheartening to watch us not put up a fight, and it’s somehow offensive to hear them talk as much as they do, when they should rather concentrate elsewhere.
28/09/2008 20:28:00
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