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Throw In The Towel

It was into unchartered territory and my first visit to Stoke City's Britannia Stadium. Winter's frosty claws clung to the air at East Croydon station at 7.45am, I was aware that the corners were open at the arena so multiple layers were the order of the day. The weather had hardly altered by the time our coach wound its way through Gordon Banks Avenue and Stanley Matthews Way. Once again, I managed to catch up with an old uni friend Ben and his Stevenage Borough supporting mum in the concourses for the most despicable pint of Tetleys ever tasted. The teamline ups raised many an eyebrow, with Denilson and Diaby selected on the flanks, with Stoke boasting the narrowest pitch in the Premiership, Wenger obviously felt he could squeeze Stoke out of the match. As Almunia lined up to keep goal in front of us, he put his hand to his chest to intimate a gesture of apology for Wednesday evening. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I feel Nasri at least should have been selected, the midfield we selected did not have the ability or imagination to support the front two. The selection wasmnaifested in a display that looked sapped of confidenceand lacking nascency.

Arsenal began relatively well, dominating possession early on, but Stoke were ruhtlessly well organised, getting numbers behind the ball and looking to hit Fuller with diagonal balls at every opportunity. However, Arsenal's early probing was ephemeral. Clichy had to clear into touch, Diaby might just have prevented the ball from exiting play. Lamentably, he didn't bother trying. Delap launched a juggernaut into the Arsenal area which flew into the net, via the head of Ricardo Fuller. I have yet to see any highlights of the match, but standing behind that South goal, I'm not sure I saw a touch. In any case, the goalkeeper was not dominant enough. Toure and Silvestre offered zero in the form of organisation or authority. (In fact, it was Clichy who motioned Bendtner and Adebayor backwards from the halfway line as Delap shaped up for the throw). The lack of authority displayed in that first throw in manifested itself in our display throughout the game. Twice I watched Pat Rice on the edge of the technical area furiously motioning to Toure to gee his troops up. Those who chastise our current first choice skipper so relentlessly might like to think about that for a second.

Stoke were buoyed by their goal as Arsenal shrunk into their shell, but the reality is, they were not good enough to ever threaten us from open play. The throw ins were their only way through. However, that meant they had one more tool for getting to us than we had for getting to them. I cannot remember an Arsenal performance so lacking in attacking threat. Bendtner's touch was woeful all afternoon, Adebayor was once again inhibited. The Gunners lost the confidence to play their own game and instead played Stoke's, aiming long balls at a crowded out Bendtner or Adebayor. With no Nasri or Walcott, we had littleor no inegenuity from midfield to support our ailing strike force. Wednesday night's gross overconfidence transmogrified into a totallack of belief on our style of play. A weak Almunia punch caused hearts to flutter in the away end as his contact reached Delap, his looping header was cleared off the line by Gael Clichy for a carbon copy of the clearance he produced against Everton two weeks ago. I can honestly tell you that Clichy was the only player who showed a clear desire to right the wrongs of Wednesday.

Bendtner might have done better to control Fabregas' swerving through ball, but other than that, Arsenal could not threaten Stoke and were furiously booed off at half time. The tunnel is positioned down in the South West corner next to the away fans, many made a beeline for the corner of our enclosure particularly to shout abuse at our departing players. I'm not sure how that is supposed to help at half time of a game we only trail by one goal. Arsenal were not losing any battles, as I have heard infuriatingly reported by the media today, a fallcy regurgitated to support their 'Arsenal don't like it up em' edict. I suppose actually watching a game and analysing it for what it is is too much for pundits being paid large sums of money. Arsenal were getting through their tackles and were not being bullied, Stoke didn't have the tools to threaten us in open play. Our big problems were the throw ins, which we didn't seem to have a contingency plan for and our lack of belief in our game going forward.

Arsene might just have damaged some crockery at half time, because the Gunners emerged rejuvenated, trusting their passing game again. Moving the ball with pace and conviction, Stoke were panicking and were forced to punt the ball into touch whenever they could get near it. But Arsenal's flowwas disrupted. Andy Griffin plunged through the back of Adebayor's achilles with the ball already well in touch and he went down in agony. Seconds later, Sagna twisted his ankle in a much fairer challenge. Adebayor was booed by the Arsenal fans for being injured. Unfortunately, I am not joking. Walcott came on for Sagna as Adebayor tried to soldier on, barely able to walk. Arsenal forced another corner as Stoke were struggling to cope with the pressure, Fabregas' inswinger was met with a volley by Kolo Toure which flew inches over the bar. But Stoke were allowed to exercise their monolithic threat as another Delap throw in was unconvincingly cleared to the edge of the box, Salif Diao's low shot was excellently tipped away from his bottom corner. Adebayor could go on nolonger, his ankles were strapped and he was stretchered off. As he passed us down the tunnel,he was booed relentlessly and somebody even tried to aim a bottle at him. This being Arsenal 'supporters' adminstering this treatment. If the team reached a nadir yesterday, the supporters have surely plumbed their lowest ebb. (Incidentally,the moron that threw the bottle was swiftly slung out. Hopefully he'll never be be given the chance to repeat such behaviour at an Arsenal game). Adebayor had a horrible game, but that reaction was childish beyond belief. I think the belief was thatAdebayor was feigning. I don't believe that the doctors pitchside were as in on the act of sabotage as to strap his legs up and take him down the tunnel.

Worse was lurking ominously around the corner. Another Delap throw in just was not dealt with by the centre halves, both Silvestre and Toure had not the authority, and Olofinjana bundled home a scrappy goal. We have a centre half who is aerially dominant and able to stand up to this kind of bombardment. Unfortunately, he is now playing for A.C. Milan, while we appear to have bought a carthorse from United. No wonder Ferguson had no compunction in selling him to us. Wenger spoke of Silvestre as a leader, from where I was sat, he would struggle to lead a fish to water. Lamentably, it was the youngest member of our back four who showed the most testicular fortitude. Clichy may have problems engaging his brain when Arsenal are coasting, but when we're losing there is no more determined warrior. And when we're losing there is no temperament less circumspect as Robin van Persie. As Sorensen dithered to collect the ball, van Persie stupidly charged the goalkeeper and was duly awarded his marching orders. I thought a red card was massively harsh, though I am yet to see it again. I did not see an elbow or a kick, a simple shove. No arms were raised. Andy Griffin kicked Walcott and Adebayor out of the game and was punished with a yellow card in injury time. Something is rotten in the state of English football. That said, I can hardly defend van Persie, he was always inviting trouble and it was a petulant act. Sorensen's appalling acting seems to have drawn little opprobrium however, had Lehmann been guilty (and let's face it, in that situation he would have been) I am sure Match of the Day and their ilk would have produced vainglorious perorations on how despicable he is.

The Stoke fans taunted us with 'are you Tottenham in disguise?' At this point, Tottenham were the ideal inspiration, needing as we did two goals in injury time. A brief flicker arrived, as the free kick that saw Walcott kicked out of the game, quite intentionally I might add, Fabregas squared to Clichy, whose low drive deflected into the net. What a shame that his first goal for the club would prove to be so inauspicious, I think we all imagined his debut net rippler to be one of great significance. The final whistle sounded and the players were once again relentlessly booed off as they passed us, desperate to avoid the scrutinising gaze, daring not tolift their heads towards the foam mouted travelling contingent. We were not outmuscled, but we lacked imagination and purpose upfront. We lost the confidence to play our game and ended up playing Stoke's. We are asking very young men to do mens jobs.

I can't be arsed frankly to repeat points I have ruminated over ad nauseam since September 2nd, but this now goes beyond a defensive midfielder or a centre half, there is a collective mental weakness present in this side. Arsene looks to have misplaced his faith in players who, in truth, just aren't good enough to challenge for big prizes. There was a complete lack of idea or conviction in our play, no leadership and a lack of a sturdy spine. Stoke hurt us little in open play, only looking vaguely impressive on the long throw. But that still meant they had one more way of hurting us than we had of hurting them. We looked at our best passing the ball and moving it with pace, regrettably we did not do it enough. When poor defending curtailed quite good spells for us in the match, nobody had the cahouns to calm us and keep our players focussed, instead we shrunk into our shelland abandoned a style of play that always brings us results in the final third of the pitch. We now face United shorn of any recognisable frontline, but you never ever know, it may turn out to be a good thing. If Bendtner and Vela can perform next Saturday, then perhaps a few players with ideas above their station will buck their ideas up. I won't hold my breath against opposition of that quality, but the good ship Arsenal is currently rudderless, and there's nobody to blame but the manager. We now have to focus on preserving 4th and hope for a cup, it's a sad state of affairs, but we now have to hang on in there until January when we can reassess our squad. Should Wenger fail to blow the dust off the chequebook, serious questions will be asked. Because I sat with 3,000 Arsenal fans yesterday and I can tell the manager that none of them have any faith in the personnel that we have.LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday November 2 2008

Time: 7:15PM

Your Comments

Good report LD. Things are dismal indeed. Even 4th spot is not guaranteed, with Villa looking good, and Arsenal looking so weak that we could lose to the other clubs in the top4 (Villa has already played 2 of the top 4). Wenger is obviously to blame for taking an unnecessary risk with this squad. Wise additions would have seen us move forward, but the mental strength is severely lacking in this squad. I'm simply hoping to avoid the worst (which is 5th place).
prits
Cracking piece of prose Tim. Top drawer.
cropped
I can't believe the Ade part. Disgraceful
gunnerkid107
oh dear! things are not tickety-boo at the Emirates Towers are they?
merlin
yeah who are these mororns ? And I thought the 'real' Arsenal fans were the away ones. Excellent albeit horrible read at the same time, cheers Tim.
hazzagooner
Wenger's reputation took a major dent in my eyes at his treatment of Gilberto, a man who was not only a sound footballer but a wonderful human being. Wenger's subsequent decision to hand the captaincy to William Gutless and his obstinancy are but two reasons why I felt going into this season that we simply had no chance at major silverware despite Wenger's spin to the press. In all my years of listening to Mr Wenger, I have never felt that I could take him at his word. It's always been a case of "watch what I do rather than what I say". Consequently, when he announced the need for defensive reinforcements to start the season, I took a wait and see attitude. When he switched gears and claimed the current talent pool adequate, I simply shrugged and looked foward to the season. I will continue to watch the team regardless of our standing in the league but I habour no illusions about our prospects for silverware this year or the next. January signings generally do not radically alter the outcome of a season as players need time to integrate into a squad. Therefore, the next redo will have to be the offseason although I doubt that this leopard will suddenly change his spots. A rather pessimistic view you might say but more realistic in the grand scheme of things.
czar
While I do not condone the fans' treatment of Ade yesterday, it may reflect a deep seated resentment at his summer's shenanigans which saw him rewarded with a huge contract. It was always going to be a risk to award Adebayor for one good season if only because there is a sneaking suspicion that Ade, who is not a natural finisher by any means , would be hard pressed to duplicate his feat this season.
czar
LD - your reports are always the highlight of my post-match reviews. I was already feeling pretty down about the current state of things, but your report of the booing of our players has plunged me even further because I always thought the away support represented the 'real' fans. Clearly, the belief has disappeared from our Club - and by Club I mean both players and fans. It appears it's only Wenger's that hasn't. Seeing United, Chelsea and Liverpool, it's plainly obvious that we are not in their class - as a team or a squad. The hardest thing about this is that we had got so used to being the main challenger to Man Utd and in the top 2 and now we are not. Still, its our job as fans to support and the booing fans have to stop.
Gooner_Vin
I am always the first to applaud the traveling support whenever I hear them, but from what I read here in LD's report, on the blogs and arsenal sites, we have some of the most fickle lot in the world. Players and Wenger receive and will continue to receive flack and criticism of all sorts because they have earned it in abundance, but majority of the fans never have the balls to look at themselves and say that they are simply utter ****s who deserve to watch nothing more than Eastenders on Wednesday. I am disgusted to be put in the same bracket with these 2-brain-cell morons who express their frustration by motivating the players with a tossed bottle at an injured player. Sometimes I wonder whether Gooners as a group and not as individuals deserve anything more than what they are getting. Any crisis and dip in form is accompanied by Gallas-like petulance and hysteria, toys are flying from the pram and suddenly we have 60,000 away fans at the Emirates. I am banning the majority of the virtual Arsenal community from my laptop.
G4L
I'm constantly reading that Arsene picked the wrong line up yet the team was very similar to the one that looked so fluid and resilient against bolton..so from that point of view I can fully understand why the manager started with that team..the players simply let him down
Anon 1
They were isolated incidents, but troubling ones nonetheless. For the large part, the support was pretty good but there is a lot of frustration around, which is understandable. But the club of people who ran down next to the tunnel at half time was unacceptable. The idiot who threw the bottle was just one moron, the bottle (I perhaps should have added that it was plastic) was thrown fromthe back row and was never going to hit the pitch, so it ended up hitting another Gooner. The abuse meted out to Adebayor, when someone had clearly ploughed through the back of him was utter stupidity. The guy even tried to play on. A great many people thought he was faking it, but the doctors would not have strapped his legs if that were the case.
Little Dutch
As for the performance, I believe the lack of confidence has translated from the players onto Wenger... when have you seen Arsenal pick their squad according to the setup of the opponent? AW realized that morale is low so he picked a team that was supposed to go to Stoke, shut up shop and get a point in the form of a 0-0. Toure once again proved that he is the perfect Robin and never a Batman. My final word is on the lack of guile and cunn(t)ingness from our players - a bit of Carragheriality, Andygriffinness, Lampardity and Gerrardability to con fouls (even Eboue stopped doing it because it's 'immoral' and 'unethical' according to gooners' standards), penalties, yellow and red cards from the opponents. While the aforementioned get away with murder 10 out of 11 times, our decency is biting us in the arse. Ricardo Fuller would have never scored on me like that.
G4L
LD, I'm just referring to that as a symbol of our fans' way of expression. I am sure frustration is reaching high levels, but calls for Wenger's head, Usmanov back in the tune of the immortal "Robin Van Persie" chant, equal plain stupidity. The general mood is that of spoiled kids histrionics when being told off by their parents.
G4L
Wenger sat down after the first goal went in and did not rise from his seat again for the whole game. Rice was manning the technical area, Wenger looked utterly deflated. He has to realise that he has placed too much faith in toomany young players. To be fair, Wenger has been criticised for years for not setting up to augment opponents. I felt it was a decent decision to bring in some bigger players, unfortunately they did not do their job. But personally, I think we should have played at least one of Walcott or Nasri, preferably Nasri. It does reveal the manager does not have the faith in his players that he tells us, that being the case, you have to say this summer represented Wenger's biggest and most baffling misjudgement of his tenure by a million miles.
Little Dutch
Exactly my thoughts re- the line up. While we were thinking about Stoke, we forgot who we are and how our football produces results. This side was set out to neutralize Stoke's only threat, which although falling in the category 'playing to your strengths' is actually quite sad and makes Allardyce's Bolton a classy side. AW tried to neutralize them, but ended up neutralizing Arsenal by offering Cesc zero options. The decision on Nasri is somewhat acceptable as it is his first season and I doubt he has witnessed anything of the sorts in his career, but Walcott's presence from the off would have added pressure on their leftback and back line in general. But as someone said above, Wenger is being let down by the players big time. Toure luckily is Toure and not Gallas, Adebayor or Eboue, оtherwise he'd be subjected to a different treatment.
G4L
And if anyone decided to throw in the towel I haven't and I'm right behind the players and the manager come the next game.
G4L
I think its fair to say that Arsene has put the carears of some players ahead of the progression of the club. We will find it difficult against uinted, pool chelsea and villa in this form and will replacements in january be too late for 4th place
aka_damo
I think it's very difficult to bring through so many youngsters at the same time. I'm not sure if AW is doing this for moral reasons (trying not to impede the development of the players) or to prove a point/satisfy his ego (that he can win trophies without spending huge amounts of money like ferguson and mourinho have). At the end of the day you have to give the fans some success before their patience runs out. I'm still behind AW and the team and don't condone the cretins who boo their own players, but I can understand the frustration building up around the club.
jubair
If his youth policy fails to win any trophies, I'm not sure AW's pride will let him admit he got it wrong and bring in some experienced signings. I've got a feeling he'd rather quit or get sacked before that happens after persisting with this policy for so long.
jubair
....We are tottenham from the lane We beat liverpool in the rain This result was insane But hey we wont complain The might arsenal were again so tame And now there excueses are gettin so lame The joys of the beautiful game.
123spurs
...and if newcastle get a point tomorrow, at the bottom you'll remain.
gooner303
if big if..................if ur happy at the bottom clap ur hands...........u say ur 7 points of top..............we are 6 points 7th, plus u hope they get a point cause at mo u an villa for 4th
123spurs
You sum the mood up well LD... I've never felt so dejected supporting our team - it's the way we fumbled to our losses this season that's unbearable. It sits squarely with Wenger - he has simply got it wrong this time. He's stubborn but he's not stupid so I think that now he's had the evidence of our weakness properly forced down his throat, he will do what he needs to and sort it out as soon as possible. There is no excuse for booing a guy who is down injured though - only an idiot does that. Aside from that, give me fourth place right now and I'd bite your hand off!
Andy-bayor
riverly aside 4th at best, unless ye buy in jan
123spurs
Agreed with most of the good points made overall, especially the part on likening Sorensen's with Lehmann and V Persie's stupidity to Griffin thuggery. Just like to share my thoughts on two issues - Adebayor. The reportedly "throwing of bottle" act was totally unwarranted and a pure cowardly act and the so-called "gunner" should be banned for life. I don't think it is right to boo our own players either (shouldn't wash dirty linens in public) but I can understand the frustrations felt by them. I think Adebayor did not feign injury and am sure he felt some pain though I can't be sure how bad it was. But if he had been consistently showing the desire and willingness to fight for the team throughout the season (Sat's game included), I just felt some sections of those who "booed" would have applauded the commitment shown instead. LD you mentioned Adebayor was "once again inhibited" but how long more should we endure before he "awakens"? I see it differently and he is plainly disinterested and I just can't stand this "can't be bother" attitude". Perhaps we are biased on Adebayor in our own ways. Secondly, Almunia - he is a decent chap and probably a decent enough keeper as well. But I just feel he is not THE keeper that could win us games nor the stature. Sat's 2 goals were a collective defensive (including keeper) responsibility and Almunia could have stamped some authorities to organise the defence better nor did he displayed the "excellent shot-stopping" ability that top-class keeper might have otherwise pulled off. He did pull off a decent save but preventing 1 goal from 3 attempts on target barely earned him the keep of his weekly wages. Coming shortly after the NLD debacle, I just think we should also seriously look into the keeper position as the whole defence is being scrutinised.
Temasek
we could get delap.. 3mil? he's more creative than cesc+pirlo combined!
korodon
lol korodon, if we dont get anything this season, i believe mr wenger will admit it, just not publicly, hell just sign some big signing and spin it as the guy has top top top class quality which can add the squad, which was always his reason when the media ask at just about every transfer window if hes gonna bring anyone in...throw in the towel, why? its just one bad season, look at spuds...theyve had 100 bad seasons and they still support their team, maybe we should copy them, if we beat united this weekend ( its this weekend isnt it? correct me if im wrong?) lets make a dvd, oh no, make it better..HD DVD...oh no...make it even better still...BLU-RAY...HUZZA! take that u thugs!
gooner_till_i_die
G4L 'I am disgusted to be put in the same bracket with these 2-brain-cell morons ' don't worry mate, you're not. They were isolated incidents, and although petulant, some people don't have the ability to articulate their disdain through leaving comments on websites. Adebayor in my eyes deserves grief, but not for getting injured! And all this badge kissing, reminds me of the TA quote around not needing to prove commitment by kissing the thing.
shewore
Quite true, badge kissing is a very empty gesture that has become sickeningly cliched. Especially when performed by the likes of Adebayor. I don't recall Keown, Bould, Adams, Bergkamp or Parlour ever doing it, the point was they didn't have to. On the supporters, I'm sure several will regret their actions, like I said, there was a fair bit of frustration flying around and some people don't handle it as well as others. I know I've blown my top in a stadium before and said some stupid things. (Though I don't believe I've ever thrown a bottle at a stretcher. That's a result of being a braindead ****). It's perhaps a very sad mark of this team right now that I didn't really get angry, I expected this kind of result from the second the transfer window slammed shut. The only time in the whole game I got demonstratibly angry was when Walcott was intentionally kicked out of the game and the referee did not punish it appropriately. Yet during the unbeaten season I remember leaving Goodison Park absolutely fuming after a 1-1 draw, how expectations shift!
Little Dutch
Exactly, i'm completely pessimistic about the whole thing to be honest. Oh, and monsiuer Dutch, come one mate eh, RvP's was a red - can't really argue with it ;-)
shewore
The next time someone shepherds the ball out for a goal kick and the striker shoves him, is that a red card? I fail to see the difference.
Little Dutch
They threw a bottle? Damn.. Sicko, whoever that was!
JT_daniel
LD in your honest opinion wold the availability of Eboure and Gallas made any difference? Before the haters of Eboure come on he does seem to link up with Sanga fairly well. Further would the inclusion of Ramsey made any difference? Last but not least whats the point of Booing the team off at half time, (let alone full time); that must really spur the team on.
alwaysgunner
Gallas couldn't have done much worse than Silvestre or Toure in that he would have tried to organise the defence. Whether he would have won many headers himself I'm not so sure. Eboue wouldn't have made any difference, he is not threatening in the final third and that is what we missed, we weren't bossed in the game at all. I understand Wenger selecting players he thought would augment Stoke's physical threat, but I think Denilson or Song should have made way for Nasri to give us better balance and give us something in the final third. Many have screamed for Walcott to have been included from the start, but he came on for 35 minutes and did not really do anything. (There again, he was hacked down on the few occasions he had the ball). Nasri has the kind of guile in the box to support the strikers and run in behind the defence and give the front two some support. Walcott would have got to the byline and been thwarted by a lack of options in a box crowded with Stoke players.
Little Dutch
not one to listen to commentators but they were saying your lot didnt fancy it and were a disgrace etc, you've lost to 3 teams you normally would have beaten in a canter, got to be a lot more to it,you more than likely wiil beat the mancs as they will come and play
springy
Great write-up LD We would have needed to have turn up to throw in the towel!
hackneyval
 

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