Wednesday, 12 January 2011

In defence of Arshavin. Late Leeds match report and thoughts.

Arsenal 1 Leeds 1

There's a very nasty tendency among Arsenal fans to pick on individual players when the game isn't going for us.

The thing about the Leeds match, was that things just weren't going for us. Leeds weren't creating anything, but frankly, neither were we. And we can have no complaints about the penalty we conceded.

But then rather than trying to spur the team onto victory the fans start screaming at certain players. This time it was Arshavin and Bendtner, it's been Clichy in the recent past, and Eboué a little longer ago, and it does no good at all. Booing and jeering your own players has never made them play well, it just puts their heads down.

Case in point: against Burnley last year, people were screaming at Bendtner and he couldn't do any right; against Porto his name was sung and he scored a hat-trick. Go figure.

More to the point though, those two didn't even have particularly bad games. When Bendtner moved up front (where he's supposed to be played) he offered a lot more than he had at any stage previously in the game - he's not a winger, and frankly I thought Chamakh was anonymous. Maybe people disagree with me, but I'd rather see a player get into position and miss then just not get the ball at all.

As far as Arshavin goes, I think it's interesting to look at how he played with Fabregas. All his passes were completed because Cesc knows to run onto balls rather than expecting everything played right into feet.

Also, there's a worrying tendency to have it both ways. After City away, everyone pointed out how Arshavin had done well to get in behind the City defence before Boyata's red card, and how this proved we would have won the game regardless.

But after he misses a 1-on-1, there's no praise for his run - only criticism despite Kasper Schmeichel making quite a good save.

It clearly wasn't Shava's best performance, but I honestly don't think he's best when he plays among the squad players. He plays passes which require team-mates who are excellent at reading the game. If they are, they make goals; but if they're not, then its Arshavin who ends up looking like an idiot.

There were a lot of people in the stands screaming for him to be taken off, but seeing as I often criticise Wenger's substitutions, I'm happy to stick up for him when he gets it right. The first change was Cesc for Song. A lot of people thought Denilson should have gone off but it's worth remembering how much football Song has played, as well as my belief that Denilson offers more going forward and is better at instigating attacks.

The second change was Theo for Chamakh. That, too, was the right change - it let Bendtner play his best position when Chamakh clearly wasn't having any impact there and also gave us some pace at the end of the match against a tired Leeds side.

The final change was Vela for Rosicky and while I'm not sure the Mexican did much, Rosicky faded worryingly from a good first half to complete ineffectiveness towards the end. His form is much more of a worry to me than Arshavin's.

I always think that ultimately substitutions have to be assessed on impact, and our equaliser was made by one and score by another. Frankly, it was only a tug but that's what Theo's pace and directness give us and in that sense, he's a great asset. My issue is more that I don't like to see him starting when Arshavin is clearly the superior footballer.

The short-term effect of this is a replay in a week's time. I'd hope that we can beat them with a relatively 'soft' fixure list this month but I said the same thing before this match. Having seen they don't cope well with a forward trying to beat the offside trap, I'd like to see RVP play even if Wenger persists with a weakened team.

The only other thing which struck me about the match was quite how Cesc Fabregas can lecture about giving away cheap penalties: "Hello Mr Pot, meet my friend Mr Kettle". It was a poor tackle by Denilson but it;s better than jumping with your arm in the air.

It's Ipswich tonight, and I personally would have liked us to field a very weakened eleven - we've consistenly struggled at Upton Park and there's no getting away from the fact that this is a very poor Ipswich team. And even if we did struggle, I'd still back us to turn it around in the second leg. Anyhow, with the kind of eleven which has been mooted, we should win comfortably.

You can join me over on Twitter for updates during the match.

Keep the faith.

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