Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0
Shambles. Gutless. No teamwork. Pathetic. Can’t defend. Worst goalkeeper ever in the history of world football.
I’m sure you’ve heard all these jibes at this Arsenal side following the defeat at Chelsea on Sunday. Some of it, is probably merited; but the vast majority is hyperbole and plain nonsense.
What is true though, is that from the outset, the tactics the team were sent out to play were a tactical nonsense.
Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin may have hit a relative glut of goals when they first arrived at the club; Cesc Fabregas does go through some purple patches when he bangs the goals in left, right and centre; Abou Diaby may occasionally smash one home; but as a group of four players, they are more likely to not score in a game than to score.
Yet, they were the forward line. It was they who were expected to score the goals to try and get us a result at Stamford Bridge. Now perhaps I’m wrong, but this was the error with the Arsenal team on Sunday.
To blame the players who were on the pitch is disingenuous: perhaps Bendtner wasn’t fully fit, but by the time he was introduced, the game was realistically lost. If he had played a barn-storming 45 minutes, scored a couple of goals, and then had to be withdrawn because he looked tired that would be one thing. But he played for half an hour and looked fresh as a daisy at the final whistle.
It’s obvious this Arsenal team isn’t the greatest at defending; so to blame Vermaelen and Song for losing their men at the corner which led to the opening goal, whilst fair in one sense, is unfair in another: that, has almost come to be expected.
But what we also expect is to see a bloody good attacking side. They’ve shown throughout the season that this is their strength so they might as well play to it. And yet they didn’t. A side which began the season playing 4-3-3 is now playing 4-6-0.
It’s defending without defenders. And this is where the finger has to be pointed at the manager: because looking at the Arsenal teamsheet before the match it hardly seemed to be bristling with goals.
And the remarkable thing is that Wenger pointed this out: when there were goals spread around the team, whilst acknowledging it was impressive, he also conceded it was not something we could depend upon all season. So the manager himself saw this coming, it wasn’t just the supporters.
Alas. Faced with the chance of improving our team by something called the transfer window, he did nothing. No strikers brought in, because Bendtner was going to be fit. And it was obvious that this run of four games would go a long way to deciding how our League campaign finished.
So the supporters could only believe what the manager said: that the striker would be fit. But he wasn’t: when he was needed in the big games against Man United and Chelsea, he could only give us half an hour each time.
So the team with five creative midfield players in it, has scored two goals in its last four matches, both of which were deflected.
It’s an absolute tragedy: five brilliant – and uniquely different – midfielders’ talents are being wasted because there is nobody to finish the chances. Sure, Bendtner is ostensibly a finisher but he’s not playing so it’s a moot point.
Blaming Almunia for a lack of talent is unfair: its probably true but you cannot blame a player for his own deficiencies. We do have two centre backs with a desire to play centre forward; we do have a left back who cannot really defend; and we do have a goalkeeper who lets in goals he should save. But this is nothing new: we’d counter-acted this by scoring lots of goals.
If we were playing a couple of strikers who just happened not to be scoring that would be one thing. But the manager sent out a team who did not have within it a proven goalscorer. The result of the match tells you exactly what happened. Better, to have a half-fit striker than none at all.
The question is where do we go from here: its possible though unlikely that we will still win the League. But that would merely mask the deficiencies within this Arsenal team: at the moment we probably have eight elevenths of a good side.
That cannot be changed before the summer but the left-back problem may be solved by the return of Kieran Gibbs. It has been said before and it will be said again: Robin Van Persie is not a player who can be depended on to last a season. No other player at the club has the ability to score goals in his numbers so we need another striker who can play next to him: hopefully, Chamakh is the answer. But it is the goalkeeping situation which is the worst because I genuinely pity Manuel Almunia. His fall from grace has been spectacular and its hard to see how he can return to form.
The problem is that there are also clear problems with Fabianski and Mannone and perhaps the hope is that eventually Almunia will get out of this dreadful rut of form.
Realistically, we have one competition left to play for this season: for all our many shortcomings, perennially we seem to at least get to the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Perhaps we’ll get a friendly draw and somebody else will knock United and Chelsea out. What this season has emphatically shown, is that we sure can’t.
It’s not a good time to be a Gooner right now. Let’s stick together and maybe Liverpool will allow us to lift our spirits slightly.
Keep the faith,