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Sunday, 21 November 2010

No organisation, no idea

I thought that by watching the highlights of the game I might be able to calm down a bit. I've watched it twice now and I'm even more annoyed than before. The TV coverage shows just how bad our defensive organisation is, whether it's from open play or at set-pieces. I'll come on to that later, but I'd better cover the positive stuff first.

I actually thought Arsenal played well going forward yesterday. We dominated the game, especially in the first-half. A 2-0 lead at half-time was not a reflection of the play, and our inability to convert dominance into goals was evident yet again. The final ten minutes of the first-half saw Fabregas and co deciding to slow things down and settle for a two goal lead. Why? Tottenham were a beaten side at that point. You would never see Chelsea or Manchester United taking their foot off the throat of the opposition when they are there for the taking. As bad as our defence may be, Tottenham's is worse. I said on Friday's preview that we could get at them due to their lack of cover, and that's exactly what happened. I thought Arshavin played with more effort yesterday than he has in the whole season so far put together. Marouane Chamakh dominated Gallas and Kaboul in the air, deservedly getting his goal, though for some reason he chose to turn back when through on goal on two separate occasions. We should have lead by four goals at half-time, but we failed to kill off the opposition again. This is clearly a mental problem with this Arsenal team. They are not ruthless enough. After one of the early season games I remember Manuel Almunia saying that the players needed to make the most of their chances in games, and score more goals - basically alluding to the fact that we can't defend. Still the lessons are not learned.

Tottenham made a change at half-time (they had to) bringing on Defoe. Alan Shearer's insight on Match of the Day showed how Defoe ran in the channels between our defence, "causing problems for Arsenal," and then proceeded to show three examples where Arsenal dealt comfortably with him (quality analysis once again). Let's not get wrapped up in any idea that this change was some kind of tactical genius from Twitchy, or that it changed the game. Arsenal continued to dominate and miss chances. However, you just knew that if Spurs scored we were in trouble. Their first goal showed up our lack of organisation in any given situation. Not for the first time (so no lessons learned) we got caught on the break, from our own free-kick, and found ourselves outnumbered at the back. When Defoe won the header in front of Clichy we saw how the likes of Sagna don't have the first clue about defending. The ball bounced high and awkwardly for Van Der Vaart, but Sagna stood off him and let him bring the ball down on his chest and play an easy ball to the onrushing (and unchecked) Bale. When Van Der Vaart took the ball on his chest any defender worth their salt would have been barreling in and taking everything, not standing off and letting their best player pick a pass.
I have to say now that the free-kick which resulted in the penalty was a joke. Alex Song got in front of Modric and ran away with the ball - he didn't even tackle him, let alone foul. That said, what Fabregas and Chamakh did in the wall was inexcusable. At the start of the year Fabregas got away with the exact same thing against Liverpool in the last minute of the match. It was an obvious penalty, and he should be fined at least one weeks wages for such cowardice and stupidity.
Even after this lack of discipline we continued to dominate the game, but then the Manager decided to make his usual ridiculous substitutions. Chamakh should not have been taken off, even though he was tiring. I thought that, apart from the pass for Nasri's goal, Fabregas was crap yesterday (Alan Hansen picked out other stuff and raved about him on the BBC last night - it must have looked different on a TV screen) and it was him that Van Persie should have replaced. Wenger wasn't finished though and he took off Nasri and, unbelievably on yesterday's showing, Arshavin. At that point it was crying out for Denilson to go off (he'd had a decent game, but we needed to win) and bring on Wilshere. It was bad enough that Wilshere didn't start the game having destroyed Tottenham in the Carling Cup, but to then leave him on the bench was ridiculous. Then came the miss of the match. Van Persie gave Koscielny an open goal and he headed over the top. It has to be said, Koscielny is not good enough to play for Arsenal. The lad is not strong enough or tough enough. I can't begin to understand why he played yesterday ahead of Johan Djourou - an explanation from Wenger would be most welcome.
So we come to the winning goal. Koscielny dived in on Bale, giving away a free-kick (Clichy had gone AWOL again). It wasn't until I watched the highlights that I realised just how bad our defensive organisation is. When you're at the game live you can see the players trying to work out who should be going where at every set-piece, without much idea as to who should be marking any of the opposition players. When you watch (if you can bear to do so) the winning goal, just look at who is picking up Kaboul - Tottenham's strongest header of a ball. As the free-kick comes in he is being marked by Fabregas and Van Persie. Meanwhile, Arsenal's centre-backs fill the space (note the word space, as there is not a Spurs player within ten yards of these two clowns) around the middle of the penalty area. What the hell is going on? (Just as a quick aside - when we signed Squillaci Wenger told us that he was very strong in the air. Can you tell me, then, why Koscielny was picking up Pavlyuchenko and Crouch throughout the game? No tactics, no organisation, that is why). The cameras then picked up the reactions on our bench. Wenger threw his bottle of water (like an irate five-year-old) and Pat Rice sat there shaking his head at the defending. Can these two not see that ultimately our defensive problems are their fault? If you don't practise defending set-pieces you can't hope to do it successfully in a match. If you don't instruct players, before the game, who they should be marking, you get the sort of chaos on display in the Arsenal defence. The same thing applies at the other end of the pitch - a set-piece is a goalscoring opportunity, so why neglect it so freely?

Chelsea lost again yesterday, so Arsenal missed the chance to go top. The fact that we are still in touch at the top, despite four defeats, is something of a footballing miracle. However, we can not begin to think we have a chance to win the Premier League. We can't defend. We don't defend. We guess at defending. Back in 2006 Martin Keown came in and worked with a defence of Flamini, Senderos, Toure and Eboue. They went on to set a Champions League record for clean sheets, and rescued fourth place in the Premier League from a seemingly parlous position. This was no coincidence. Keown brought organisation and order. I daresay the training sessions weren't the usual fun and good times because he will have been drilling them in the same sort of way that George Graham drilled Keown and the others in their day, but if that's the price of being tight at the back then so be it. I would also imagine that Keown wasn't a yes man, and wouldn't put up with any crap from people who'd won nothing (Ashley Cole apparently revealed in his book that Senderos didn't like Keown's methods). And therein is the reason, I feel, that Wenger hasn't had him back. Wenger will not let anyone criticise his players, or to disagree with him (otherwise he wouldn't be making such awful decisions from the bench), so we have the yes men that surround the first-team bubble at Arsenal. This has been costing us for the past five years, hence we have won nothing in that time.

I've been saying it for two years, and the shouts are getting louder - Arsene Wenger must go. He has become too powerful at Arsenal, and his "judgement" seems beyond question from within the Club. He has become an irritating caricature of himself and his post-match comments yesterday sum it up. He said that he couldn't understand how we lost, and that we didn't deserve to lose. If he can't understand how we lost then he should resign as he clearly does not see what goes on in front of him. If he thinks we didn't deserve to lose, having seen his defenders show their ineptitude and his Captain give away a needless penalty, then he wants locking up in an asylum.

I'm fuming more now than I was after the game yesterday. I'm sick of seeing the same mistakes week in, week out. I'm sick of Arsenal throwing away winning positions. I'm sick of losing to mediocre teams (and Spurs are very mediocre at the back). I'm sick of hearing Wenger's bullshit after every defeat. I'm sick of the tossers who tell me that the football we play is great to watch. Bollocks. Good football is winning football. The game yesterday was probably the best football match of the entire season for a neutral, but I'm not a neutral. I don't go to be entertained, I go to see us win, and I don't much care how we do it.

I won't get a chance to post tomorrow as I'm out all day and evening, and then in London on Tuesday for a meeting, so there won't be a preview of the Braga match - a game which is now far more important than it should have been. If we lose in Braga (and this is eminently possible with our away record in Europe) then we could go in to something of a spiral with a visit to Aston Villa on the horizon. More on Wednesday.

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