They KNEW how to defend
Same old players, same old formation, same old mistakes, same old throwing away leads. SAME. OLD. SH*T. "Ah, but it's only pre-season" I hear you say. Well, my answer to that is "Stop burying your head in the sand and look at what is happening at Arsenal." Today we saw everything that we've been seeing for the past four years - two lovely goals, too much meandering around the pitch and, before you know it, two defensive howlers causing us to throw away a two goal lead. Again.
I have so much I want to complain about right now, but getting it on here in a coherent way is going to be very difficult indeed. Let me start with the week just gone and our continued inaction in the transfer market. At a time when Arsenal were going all out in their advertising campaign to try and sell tickets (unsuccessfully if today is anything to go by) for the Emirates Cup I am amazed that a marquee signing has not been made while I was away on holiday. I was convinced that at least one player would be confirmed this week. Added to the fact that we are now two weeks away from the real thing I have to further question the way the Club is run - and I don't just mean Arsene Wenger. We really must call in to question the role of Ivan Gazidis and his appointed executives. Not only have we failed to add the required quality at the earliest opportunity, but we don't even appear to be making any real attempts to sign anyone - Gazidis is the man who is supposed to be in charge of this kind of thing. I had no time for David Dein, but at least he got things moving and got players signed. And then there is the situation with Gervinho's squad number. I know it might seem a bit trivial, but with up to 120,000 people heading to the ground this weekend it is absolutely scandalous that people are being discouraged from getting his name printed on their replica kit as Arsenal haven't decided if he will actually wear the number 22 shirt. They call themselves businessmen, experts in corporate governance, yet this is so amateurish it belongs on The Apprentice. Thousands of pounds to be made, and yet Arsenal let it slip through their fingers while banging on about their "business model." These prats couldn't organise a prayer in a mosque. Like I said, I have a lot to complain about.
Now the Fabregas situation. Arsene Wenger has finally admitted that Fabregas is "unsettled." In other words, he wants to leave Arsenal. And yet he is still Captain of Arsenal Football Club. Why? Today Fabregas was in the stands but, while the other players all wore the official matchday polo shirt, the Captain sat there in a designer t-shirt. Would it really have hurt him to wear his Arsenal gear - after all, he is still an Arsenal player, is he not? I found that entirely disrespectful to his team mates, the fans, and to the Club. Ultimately Barcelona are the ones who can "rescue" Fabregas by stumping up the asking price. Until that happens no amount of sulking is going to help him. If he wants out then he should get his mates in the Nou Camp to talk less about Arsenal and get them to persuade their employers to part with sufficient reddies to force Arsenal to sell.
And so, to today. I've been wondering which of the various match reviews I should copy and paste in order to relate what happened against Boca Juniors. Two super Arsenal goals putting us two ahead, two defensive cock-ups throwing away that two goal lead. This is nothing new. This has been going on for far too long. It was an education listening to Martin Keown on ESPN this afternoon. It took him two minutes of analysis to show the problems Arsenal have, not only in the back-four, but in defending from the front. He identified how and why our attempts at zonal marking fail time and again (incidentally, I noticed how he picked out that Nasri found himself in the key "zone" at an opposition corner - Andy Gray picked that out in a game before Christmas last season, so it is obvious that Arsene Wenger and his staff have made no attempt to rectify the problems - they still believe there is nothing wrong for God's sake!) If Keown can do that in such a short space of time, and viewing replays from one half of one match, just imagine what he could do if given the opportunity to work with the players on putting it right. While I'm on the subject of Keown and ESPN I have to wonder how he had the restraint to not slap Robbie Savage and Ray Stubbs - what an odious pair of clowns they are.
I was pleased with Gervinho again. I thought his movement off the ball and work on it was superb. His ball across to Van Persie for the opener was pin-point. Again, I don't believe this formation plays to his (or anyone else at Arsenal's) strengths, but he has made a very encouraging start. Jack Wilshere was again outstanding. It took 50 seconds for Martin Atkinson to cheat Arsenal out of a penalty when Jack was fouled in the penalty area (and a further ten seconds for Craig Burley to accuse WilshereFrimpong was all action again, though his positional sense in this role is as bad as Song's - again this is down to bad coaching (or no coaching as the case may be). Carl Jenkinson also did well again (and was laughingly booked late on - given Wilshere's treatment in the first-half it summed up just how awful the refereeing is likely to be again this year), as did Armand Traore - he isn't good enough, but is still better than Kieran Gibbs.
Half-time saw a raft of Arsenal changes and you just knew that Squillaci's presence would lead to problems (I'll come to that shortly). However, his presence was far from the most annoying thing to happen. Samir Nasri emerged as Captain for the second-half. This was surely the final insult to the Captaincy of our Club. How can Wenger make Nasri the man to lead Arsenal, even for half of a pre-season friendly, when he wants out even more than Fabregas? It was absolutely scandalous given that Arshavin and Ramsey were also on the pitch at the time. I wonder what Tony Adams and Frank McLintock make of it all? The second-half started explosively with a tremendous goal from Aaron Ramsey. The goal came from an exciting run by Carlos Vela and was finished with a rasping shot by the Welsh midfield player. Sadly that was about the last time Vela touched the ball as he spent the rest of the game wide on the right again - another victim of this formation. Marouane Chamakh remained anonymous throughout. After the goal we reverted to type and started to mess about. It was only a matter of time before it happened, and our centre-backs did not disappoint.
I can honestly say that Sebastien Squillaci is the worst centre-half I've seen at Arsenal. People can talk about Gus Caesar, Igors Stepanovs, Pascal Cygan, Mikael Silvestre etc all they want, but this guy is the pits. Arsene tells us that he will only sign players that will be an improvement on what we have - so why the hell did he buy Squillaci last season? Kyle Bartley was forced to sit on the bench today and watch this clown try to dribble his way past the opposition, only for the inevitable to happen and the ball end up in the back of Arsenal's net. If Wenger honestly thinks that Bartley isn't better than Squillaci then the sooner he gets himself off to Rangers the better - he has no chance to play for Arsenal. The equaliser was then a certainty, wasn't it? Djourou had looked fine in the first-half, and he was our best centre-back in Vermaelen's absence last season, but he failed to deal with a simple through-ball yet again. Rather than just smacking the ball away, he chose to try and be flash, leaving Vito Mannone without a hope. Never has the need for defensive reinforcements appeared in such stark focus. Surely, now, Wenger must see it. Having said that, it almost doesn't matter who is brought in to play, if there continues to be no organisation.
Yesterday, I read some quotes from Andrey Arshavin where he said that Arsenal want to play a "pressing game" and would be better "at set pieces both in attack and defence." As ever, actions speak louder than any words. On today's evidence these are yet more empty sentiments from a member of the Arsenal team - if you get a chance to watch Martin Keown's analysis then you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.
I'm going to the game tomorrow so I will get a chance to see, properly, the way things are coming along (it's great being able to watch the game on TV when you can't be there, but it doesn't show you anything like enough). The highlight, almost regardless of the outcome, will be seeing Thierry Henry playing. I watched New York's game on telly last Sunday and it's fair to say that the MLS is not much of a standard - regardless of Thierry's performance, if Arsenal can't beat them then we have a problem that is on a completely different scale to anything we have yet imagined.