Tuesday, 9 November 2010

11 conclusions from Arsenal 0 Newcastle 1

Arsenal 0 Newcastle 1

1) In 2008, Arsenal fielded a weakened team away at Porto in the Champions League and proceeded to draw their next three games; in 2009, Arsenal sloppily gave away a last minute equaliser to AZ Alkmaar and then drew the next game; in 2010, we played slap-dashly in Donestk and followed up with a defeat in the Champions League. Is it any surprise that this team doesn't learn when their manager clearly doesn't?

2) On that note, Wenger gave a performance of quite startling ineptitude. Leaving out Arshavin was a massive mistake - when has starting Theo Walcott ever been a good decision (Blackpool aside)?

But it wasn't just that. Never before have I seen him make such poor substitutions, and that's really saying something. Sunday's game proved that Wenger is unwilling to ever take Fabregas off unless he's injured. Removing Nasri, our best player was bizarre. Introducing a patently unfit RVP was even odder. And then staying four at the back against a team trying to hold onto a one goal lead just seemed completely wrong. It's unsurprising the team performance was this poor, when Wenger managed them as badly as this.

3) Indeed, as Goodplaya points out, Wenger's substitutions were all the more baffling in light of the fact that we actually started the second half quite well. RVP's first touch was a great touch; but it was also pretty much his only touch. Nasri was our one midfield player having a good game and he was withdrawn. Our one good period in the game was ended by our manager, not the opposition. His substitutions were so incompetent that we didn't even manage our customary late flurry. That is really worrying

4) Theo Walcott's performance was absolutely woeful. Making a very heavy-handed joke, I suggested the only reason the Newcastle defence chucked their shirts into the crowd, rather than their shorts, was because the shorts would have been very heavy with Walcott in their back pocket.

The promising start he made to the season is over. He makes one or two good runs at the beginning of each half and is then completely anonymous. Against Donetsk it was less noticeable because he was at the centre of our best moment. Against Newcastle, with a full 90 minutes to show his talent, he failed spectacularly. With Theo Walcott, it still seems to be a case of one step forward and two steps back.

5) Laurent Koscielny's red card was unwarranted because it wasn't a clear goalscoring opportunity. But what exactly was he doing pulling Nile Ranger's shirt? I'm dubious he knew Squilacci was covering as the last man, so presumably he thought he was the last man. In which case, actions were terrible defending.

At any rate, what was the point of fouling someone who was going nowhere? It was quite clearly a foul if nothing else. At the very least, Newcastle could get a free-kick (and the ball) and waste a minute of stoppage time. When our premier centre back is out injured, Koscielny's actions are all the more baffling and show he is naive 'footballistically'.

6) The problem with Fabianski is that time and again he has shown a mistake is not far away. He may be capable of good performance - nay, he showed he is against Man City. But as long as the mistakes are there, he should not be in goal for Arsenal. Period.

7) In fact, the story that Szczesny is not being played because Arsenal don't want to pay him more for his new contract is really worrying. It's absolutely baffling. The way we're playing at home, it won't be long before they stop selling out these 'smaller' matches against teams like Newcastle and West Brom. That would really cost the club money; paying Wojciech 5k more a week won't.

8) As well as having a really poor game up front, Chamakh failed to track Carroll for the goal. It makes the team selection in Donetsk all the more baffling. In short, Chamakh looks jaded. So why several senior players were allowed to stay at home, but Chamakh wasn't, is yet another question Wenger has to answer.

9) Can somebody please tell Alex Song he's not a striker or an attacking midfielder?

10) How Arsenal are missing Thomas Vermaelen. He's the sort of player who would get us going in these lethargic first halves which are becoming commonplace. He'd have stopped Andy Carroll heading that ball first. And he helps us going forward. His injury may well not just be his achilles heel, but Arsenal's.

11) The bottom line is the most worrying: thus far in November, played two lost two. 3 goals conceded, 3 individual mistakes. This could well be a very long month.

Keep the faith.

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