Sunday, 24 January 2010

Eleven conclusions from Stoke-Arsenal

1) There are no longer any mitigating factors: time and again he has been given chances and time and again he has failed to deliver. Theo Walcott is not an Arsenal quality player.

But today it got worse than that: he was more of a hindrance than a help. He consistently gave the ball away, didn't make a single good cross and generally looked completely anonymous. We would have been better off with ten men.

2) Picking a weakened team in the domestic cup competitions is understandable if annoying. But choosing a nineteen-year-old, debutant to lead the line on their own is a tall order alone. Asking a midfield player to do this is simply unforgivable. Undoubtedly Arsene Wenger knows how to develop young players; but this was asking too much, too soon. JET did okay under the circumstances but that does not negate the fact that others could have played the role and when it is easy to be over-awed by the occasion, having Theo Walcott and Carlos Vela as the other two of an attacking triumvirate is not a recipe for success.

3) Picking Cesc Fabregas was a smokescreen which dissolved spectacularly: but this was no surprise. Sure, he played well but we still didn't create much. The crucial thing about this match was defending well. If Wenger was going to pick senior players then Gallas and Vermaelen should have played.

4) Sol Campbell is both fit - he lasted 90 minutes without looking knackered - and still a good defender. Whether he can marshall the troops a la 2002 is another matter: the first goal was as a result of poor defensive organisation.

5) Speaking of that first goal, it didn't seem possible but it genuinely was funny. 60 seconds in - including thirty for Delap to dry the ball - and we were a goal behind. From a long throw. It was so unbelievable it was funny.

6) If Portsmouth played Armand Traore as a winger then why does Wenger still insist he can play left-back? It is patently obvious to anyone who watches him that the boy cannot defend. If he wasn't allowed to play defence for one of the worst teams in the Premiership, why is he allowed to for a team harbouring hopes of European glory?

7) Further to this, with the news this week that Kieran Gibbs is out for the season, today's match only re-inforced how fragile our defence has become: Clichy has a dodgy back and both Gallas and Vermaelen are yet to pick up injuries this season; if two out of three of these players pick up long-term injuries, we will win nothing this season.

8) Its easy to criticise the team selection; but bear in mind that the first team lost at the Britannia stadium last year and it was 1-1 when the so-called 'big guns' were sent on. There is more value in criticising the substitutions as a whole: the game was still in the balance when they were made, but rather than making a triple sub then, Theo should have been taken off at half time.

9) 20 fouls and no yellow cards - Stoke today. As a surrogate father-figure (JK) pointed out to me, the new tactic amongst opposition teams seems to be to rotate who does the fouling. Judging by today, it worked.

10) Arsene Wenger really will clutch at any straws imaginable: I was there today, just as I was at the JJB in 2008 when we drew 0-0 with Wigan. Then, it was fair to say that the pitch played a part in the result. Today, we were poor - its that simple; it is particularly disingenuous to argue the pitch played a part when Stoke scored the opening goal from a throw-in - something which has nothing to do with the pitch.

11) Finally, as Kevin Whitcher has pointed out on Twitter, considering that the 5th round takes place between Liverpool (H) and Porto (A), it would have been another weakened team we put out. And we've seen once already this season that doesn't work at Man City.

Two final comments: firstly, kudos to my friend Avi for driving 300 miles today; but more importantly, the importance of today can only be seen a couple of weeks down the line - if we beat Villa on Wednesday and do well in this difficult run of games, then Wenger will have been vindicated.

Keep the faith,


Anonymous said...

You really are an idiot. It's theos first game back'
, give the boy a break

Naija boy said...

it pains cos wenger always make the lads look incompetent through his stubborness of fieldin an entire second team in this type of game. It gave stoke beliv from onset. To be honest, can arsenal get all twelve point frm the crucial games? We nid consistency!!! Gunners till death

Adam said...

Indeed it is Theo's first game back. But can you remember him playing well this season?

Jimbob said...

Can you remember him playing well ever? Apart from 1 run against Liverpool 2 years ago (and a hattrick for England, but then, Luther Blisset also once scored a hattrick for England), the boy has NEVER had a good game. He's no more than a Championship-level player.

Anonymous said...

Arsenal were poor from the word go, Stoke took the game to us from the outset and once again they out muscled us in midfield. They stopped us from passing, so we gave the ball away cheaply, and we had no plan B. With poor attacking threat, Vela again useless as ever, they forced us down the wings and cross the ball in, and with Traore and Walcott crossing, and no one that can header the ball, we were lucky to score 1 goal. If we played them at home it would be us going through,
But now with the FA cup out the way we can concentrate on bigger things! Bring on Man Utd