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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Arsenal 2 - 1 Fulham - please coach the defence


Samir Nasri sent Arsenal to the top of the Premier League with a superb brace in the win over Fulham yesterday. I slagged Nasri mercilessly last season but it appears his broken leg in pre-season may have held him back badly. Having had a good rest over the Summer, and a full pre-season, Nasri is currently the key player in this Arsenal team. Sadly, he limped through the final ten minutes yesterday and must be a doubt for Wednesday's game against Partizan Belgrade.
With Chamakh having his most ineffective game of the season, and Rosicky completely non-existent as Cesc Fabregas' replacement it fell to Arshavin and Nasri to provide Arsenal's sparkle yesterday. The two little men were excellent throughout and were responsible for all our best moments. Arshavin has started to put in the effort recently, that had been missing for the whole season until then, and Arsenal are reaping the benefits in forward areas. When the Russian is up for the game he is World Class, and he was certainly "at it" yesterday. Nasri's two goals were exquisite finishes of individual skill, reminiscent of Kanu at his best with his tight control in the penalty area.
The game should have been done and dusted inside 25 minutes...again. As it was, we got caught out at the back and were hanging on near the end...again. Our profligacy in front of goal remains an acute frustration. If we could get the goals from a simple majority of the opportunities created then we could get away with being crap in defence. Not enough of our players take responsibility in front of goal, and would rather try one more pass than break the back of the net.
Koscielny and Squillaci are simply not good enough as a pairing in the Premier League. The best thing that happened to Arsenal's defence yesterday was Koscielny's injury as it brought Djourou in to the action. The big Swiss proceeded to win every header that came his way because he was willing to attack the ball, whereas the two Frenchmen seem content to let the ball bounce all the time. Squillaci was particularly poor yesterday in every part of his game. I thought the two full-backs were much improved yesterday and both Sagna and Clichy were good going forward too. The rare sighting of good crosses (at least one each) from the pair of them was a joy to behold!
To go top of the league was a huge bonus yesterday. Hopefully it will fill the team with the necessary confidence to consolidate our position. However, our defensive problems are still there for all to see. We are still completely disorganised at the back - the sight of Gael Clichy marking Brede Hangeland at free-kicks, with none of the taller players even noticing it (and Clichy not exactly making his voice heard it seemed) was frightening to say the least. All of this could be cured if Wenger would swallow some pride and bring in someone with a specific job of coaching the defenders. We all know of Keown's involvement with the defence in 2006. What he proved (with a defence of Flamini, Senderos, Toure and Eboue) is that you don't need the best defenders in order to defend brilliantly (as did Fulham under Hodgson). It wouldn't matter unduly that Koscielny (who is not as good as Senderos, or even Cygan) is poor at his job - if organised properly, with a few basics drummed in, he could do the required job. If Arsenal could sort out the defence, and protect their goalkeeper better, we could win the Title. Make no mistake, that is our problem. We have a defensive midfield player in Alex Song who needs to be told exactly what his job is, and a back four who communicate and move in unison. With this we could be Champions. Please Arsene, bring someone in - Keown, Tony Adams, anyone with some defensive savvy - it might just be your most important signing ever.

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