The Arsenal squad - anyone can shoot boys
During the Emirates Cup, after we had struggled past Celtic, I wrote a piece that questioned what exactly had changed since last season. I contended that we were no different this time around, with lots of fancy play and not enough end product, playing in front of a defence that is far too brittle. If ever there was an example of how Arsenal have not changed we saw it today. In the game at Chelsea last season Arsenal dominated possession without really posing a credible threat to the opposition defence, before conceding goals through our inability to defend properly - see the first-half as exhibit one for the prosecution.
I've just re-read an article of mine that was published by the online gooner the day after the Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge in February. It can be found at:
Read it and you will see just how similar things are. Honestly, I could write almost the same article (changing the odd name here and there) and post it again tomorrow. The way we played today was identical - the way Chelsea played was also identical. I would have to admit that, with Chamakh up front (and giving Terry problems) we did pose a bit more threat today, but how many times did Cech have to make a proper save? Sky posted a stat midway through the second-half to say that we had, by that point, had nine shots at goal. I can't recall the nine attempts.
After the game Arsene made the point that we should have been out of sight early on, which is partly true. Koscielny's "header" (if you can call it that) in the first minute was one of the worst attempts at goal you will see all season. Why did he turn his head away from the ball? All he had to do was nod it in to the empty goal. Wenger went on to lament Arsenal's hasty shooting in the first-half. What?! If we did actually have a go at goal from time to time we might get some Lampard-style good fortune. After all, we must be the only team in world football with a centre-forward who would choose to beat a defender, rather than slot the ball in to an empty net with the goalkeeper lying on the floor fifteen yards away.
The substitutions were marginally better today. I was pleased to see Jay Emmanuel-Thomas come on, but less than impressed that Jack Wilshere was the one replaced. Alex Song should have come off as, at 1-0 down with ten minutes left, Song was going to offer nothing going forward - even is he does seem to think he is the new Maradona - more on Song below. Emmanuel-Thomas was willing to run at people, and he actually set another sub, Carlos Vela, through on goal, only for the Mexican party-boy to fall over the ball. I thought Diaby did well today, up against Mikel, but Rosicky coming on was necessary due to Diaby's lack of match-fitness.
Chelsea's second goal, a pile driver of a free-kick (once in twenty-five attempts at best) from Alex, should not have got as far as the goal. When he hit it I said to my wife that Song had got out of the way of the ball. If you watch it from the camera behind Fabianski's goal you will see that I am right. Alex Song moves out of the way of the ball and turns to see it find the top corner. Yes, the ball was going like an exocet, but Song is paid thousands of pounds every week to take one for the team and, more importantly, for the fans. I have a bit of a downer on Song right now. People who know me are aware that I have been a huge fan of Alex Song over the past couple of years, and he has become integral to Arsenal's midfield, the improvement in his play has been immeasurable. But he is only effective if he does what he is good at - standing in front of the defence and breaking up play. He has now regressed to the player of two years ago who is cumbersome in the tackle and he is giving away far too many free-kicks (how he didn't get booked today for persistent infringement I do not know). I believe that Song is now in the comfort zone. I said all Summer that we needed to sign some cover/competition for Song in the close-season. That signing did not happen. I hope that Wenger gives Song the necessary kick up the arse in a fortnight and brings in Denilson to replace him.
This time last year we lost to Man Utd and Manchester City within a couple of weeks. The writing was on the wall for the remainder of the season. This year we have lost to West Brom and to Chelsea. Like I said, nothing much has changed since last season.
More fallout tomorrow.