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Monday, 17 January 2011

Not as impressive as most think - West Ham 0 - 3 Arsenal

On the face of it a 3-0 away win against a team we traditionally struggle with is a very impressive result. It's fair to say that West Ham hardly threatened the Arsenal goal, save for one or two mistakes from Johan Djourou (more below) but that does not excuse the second-half performance from Arsenal. After a bright start to the second period the Arsenal players moved back in to their comfort-zone and stopped playing fast-paced, attacking football. Instead of playing to their natural strengths the players started cocking about, happy to play out time. I seem to remember them doing this on other occasions in the recent past, only to be caught out by an opposition taking its chance to make mugs of our defence. Make no mistake West Ham were one set-piece, or one fortunate deflection, away from getting back in to the game on Saturday. I was starting to get very edgy when we finally sprang to life to get the penalty. The Manager should have been on the touchline berating the boys for their arrogance and lethargy, throwing on a couple of subs (not Arshavin) to liven things up. It told me that Arsenal have still not learned any lessons from their past failures.
It seems a little churlish to chastise the team, however, following the most consummate of first-half attacking displays. West Ham's weakened midfield had no answer to Song, Wilshere and Fabregas, whilst Nasri, Walcott and Robin Van Persie ripped the defence to shreds. A 2-0 lead at half-time was not a fair reflection on Arsenal's complete dominance, punctuated by those Djourou errors, which I will cover now. I suppose Johan was due to have a game where he didn't hit his recent heights but I do have an explanation for his display. If you watch the game back you will see that Djourou was constantly looking to his right to see whether Eboue was actually where he should be. This led to the Swiss effectively playing two positions and failing, therefore, to deal effectively with Carlton Cole. Make no mistake, Eboue has become a disruptive influence within an already fragile back-four and Sagna's return can not come soon enough for me. I didn't think I would be writing that a few months ago, but Eboue has regressed in to the player that was booed from the pitch a couple of years ago.
Back in the attacking areas on Saturday Arsenal were outstanding. If the score had been 4-0 or 5-0 at half-time West Ham could not have felt hard done to. I thought we had some bad fortune to go with our usual below-par finishing. When Frank Lampard has a shot deflected the ball flies in to the corner of the net, when we have a shot deflected it flies straight in to the hands of the goalkeeper. Robin also hit the inside of the post only to see the ball come straight out to a West Ham player (that's the third time we've struck the woodwork since New Year, following seventeen such occurrences in 2010 - the most in the Premier League). All in all it was another big three points and keeps us right up there as the chase becomes interesting.

I can't finish without a word about the situation at West Ham. I notice that Gold and Sullivan have said nothing about the issue, but their silence is deafening. Then there is Karren Brady. Can someone tell me what this woman knows about football? Her comments in The Sun on Saturday, amid the rumours of Avram Grant's impending dismissal, that she will give her opinion to the Manager told you all you need to know about what is wrong in the East End. The arrogance of the woman is staggering. She really is the prime example of why women should have no place in professional football. Not content with trying to ruin the last series of The Apprentice with her pretentious "businesswomen of today" nonsense, she now is making a laughing-stock of one of England's most traditional football clubs. West Ham is, rather like Arsenal, known for doing things the right way, from football on the pitch, to an unseen board of directors. At the moment they have a team that is failing (though not through the fault of Avram Grant - appointed by Brady and her cohorts), and a Club that is having its good name sullied by the machinations of an embarrassing set of executives.

The FA Cup replay is on Wednesday night but there is still no sign of a new centre-back at Arsenal. Thomas Vermaelen has confirmed he is to have an operation on his injured achilles and will be out for at least six weeks following that. Even if Squillaci recovers his fitness we are short of at least one central defender, an issue that will surely cost us as the season comes to a close. Wenger must act to address the shortage, and he must do it quickly.

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