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Sunday, 7 November 2010

Start kissing goodbye to the Premier League

I said last night that Arsenal might have problems if Newcastle played Carroll and Ameobi up front today. The pair of them gave Squillaci and Koscielny an absolute battering, in the best sense of the word. Andy Carroll could easily have been Drogba, so easily did he outmuscle our defensive players - with the exception of Jack Wilshere who showed how to tackle properly and go in hard against someone so much bigger than himself.

Arsenal's performance today was probably even more abject than Wednesday night. Right from the off the players looked lacklustre. There was no effort, no pace, no excitement, no passing. Samir Nasri was the only player to perform at his best out there in the first-half. Theo Walcott finally got his chance to impress, but looked decidedly more like his old self than the new Henry-lite that he was seeming to become. I just don't get it with Theo sometimes. Time after time today he had his full-back one-on-one, but at no point did he ever go past him on the outside. Gareth Bale has been taking the plaudits in recent weeks for his attacking play - all he does is knock the ball on the outside of the full-back and hare off after it, as does Aaron Lennon or Ashley Young. Theo Walcott is quicker than all of them, possibly a better footballer too, so why the hell can he not see how to use his best asset?

Once again, as we headed towards half-time their goalkeeper had been worked only once, when he made a wonderful save to deny Nasri. At no point did we create anything, or look like creating anything. It was no surprise to see Mike Dean give a very dubious free-kick on the stroke of half-time, and sadly even less surprising to see Fabianski make a complete mess of it. Fabianski has done alright since coming in for Almunia, and I think the reaction of the crowd to this latest howler probably reflected that. However, the fact is that his mistake has cost us yet another home defeat. How many times do we have to see our incompetent goalkeepers gifting points to the opposition? A top goalkeeper wins you points, a mediocre one gives them away. Therein is the problem.

When the second-half started I thought perhaps Arsenal might show a reaction to a half-time bollocking. In fairness they did, for about five minutes. Wilshere suddenly started to come forward and create problems for the Newcastle midfield and defence. Walcott smashed a shot off the bar with our best chance of the entire match, and Newcastle had suddenly weathered the "storm." Shortly afterwards we were back in the Arsene Wenger twilight zone of substitutions as Nasri was withdrawn. Arshavin came on and put in more effort than we've seen all season, which may bode well, but I can not understand why Nasri was the man to be replaced. It got worse a few minutes later when Wenger decided that Robin Van Persie would be the Messiah and Lazarus all rolled in to one, being brought back from the dead to produce some kind of miracle - at the expense of Marouane Chamakh. Today wasn't Chamakh's finest game, but he got no service at all. Quite how Wenger thought RVP would turn things round after ten weeks out injured is bemusing. The final change saw Bendtner come on for Jack Wilshere. I can't believe that anybody at the ground today wouldn't rather have seen Fabregas taken off. Cesc was abysmal today. He continually gave the ball away and chose the wrong options in possession. He was also incredibly lucky to stay on the pitch when he dumped Barton on his backside (not without its merits, I grant you) off the ball, and right in front of the referee.

Arsenal swiftly ran out of ideas today, and the last ten minutes saw them lumping balls towards an ever more isolated Bendtner and/or Van Persie. There was a certain sense of the inevitable really as the clock wore down. Newcastle came under no real pressure and, in Carroll and Ameobi had two strikers willing to work their socks off to keep the ball in Arsenal's half. There can be no complaints with Koscielny's red card as nobody was going to catch Ranger, but it was another example of our defensive frailties, even if we were supposedly chasing the game. I can't let the referee off though without mentioning his conduct today. Throughout the second-half Newcastle's time-wasting was pretty awful. Fabregas was constantly pointing this out to Mr Dean, who kept shrugging his shoulders as if to say "they're doing nothing wrong" or "what do you expect me to do about it?" That we should see only four minutes of injury-time should be worth an inquiry in to the conduct of the referee on its own. It won't happen, of course, but Dean is a horrid little runt of a man who struts about a football pitch seemingly believing he is the star of the show. No doubt he'll be back to making the tea, or counting the paperclips at his incredibly important day job tomorrow. Cretin.

So what does this mean for our season? Chelsea's defeat at Liverpool appears to make it less of a catastrophe than it might have been, but I don't believe we should let that cloud the issue here. The fact is that we have lost three matches already in the League, two of them at home. You can actually get away with getting stuffed at Stamford Bridge, as long as you dispatch the rubbish - especially in your home matches. We have lost those two games at home against sides that could, at best, be described as mediocre. Ours is not necessarily a lack of quality (though defensively we remain sub-standard) but the attitude is clearly wrong. I said on this site after the game in midweek that we lose too many games because we don't try, and we did it again today. This reflects very badly on the Manager and his staff. On Wednesday we go away to another physical, hard-working team at Wolves, and we will struggle badly if Wenger doesn't shake the lethargy out of the players. Liverpool have gone from the bottom three to the top five in a fortnight - Arsenal could be heading towards mid-table very swiftly unless they start to play properly. One thing now appears more certain than it has at any point since August - Arsenal will not be bothering the top spot in the League come May. We could be in for a long six months ahead, and the Carling Cup is beginning to look ever more important.

Before the game today I was asked by a regular reader if it's possible to leave comments about the blog. It certainly is possible, and I would like to encourage it - a bit of debate would certainly not go amiss. In order to leave comments you need to register with Google, through www.blogger.com and become a "follower" of It's MY Arsenal Opinion. As the season progresses further, there might just be a lot to talk about. More tomorrow, if God spares us.

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