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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Wenger gets what he deserves

Cesc and Theo - rescuers of Arsenal today

Arsene Wenger very nearly got his wish today. Thankfully Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott had other ideas as they came off the bench to salvage a draw. As it happens, Walcott and Bendtner both missed chances to have seen Arsenal get a late and undeserved win. Wenger talked yesterday about sacrificing the FA Cup and the players out there today (with one or two notable exceptions) certainly seemed to take his lead. I'm writing this as I watch the second-half of the game back again and nothing I'm seeing on TV is making me think I missed something while watching in the flesh.
I'll deal with those notable exceptions first. I thought that Johan Djourou was once again outstanding this afternoon. The Swiss was quick, strong and dominant in the air. Becchio constantly fouled every time the ball came forward and the referee did nothing about it. Djourou stood up to the physical battering - which included a blatant elbow I've just seen in close-up for the first time and it looks even worse on the telly (Andy Townsend glossed over it, just as he did the clear penalty when Bendtner was tackled from behind by O'Brien). Alex Song was excellent again in the midfield and it was a joke to see him replaced by Fabregas while Denilson and Rosicky stayed on (more on those two idiots below). Theo Walcott came on and his pace immediately rattled Leeds - I had a text at half-time from a Leeds supporting friend who told me Walcott would turn the game if he was introduced. Wojciech Szczesny might have saved their penalty but more than made up for that with a stunning reaction save from a header shortly after. Then there is Cesc Fabregas, who came on and dominated the match. Leeds had no answer to the little genius and some of his passing was on another planet to everyone else on the pitch. He also took a very calm penalty, almost Laurenesque in its execution. In terms of firm positives that's about it.
Now for some significant negatives. First of all the formation adopted again saw Nicklas Bendtner out on the wing. He has taken his usual slagging both at the game and on the internet. Can these fools not see that Bendtner is being asked to play so far out of position? Don't get me wrong, Bendtner is no world-class striker, but he was noticeably better when he moved in to the middle in place of the ineffectual Chamakh. Yes, he missed a great chance at 1-1 but don't forget his superb ball inside the full-back that led to the Arsenal penalty. Another annoying thing with the formation is the fact that Arsenal refuse to change it - poor Carlos Vela touched the ball only once in his ten minutes on the pitch, so isolated was he on the left-wing.
Regardless of the formation this Arsenal team should have still had enough about it to win. The attitude was wrong and it was all-pervasive in some of the players. Emmanuel Eboue is regressing at a significant rate. He has returned to the diving and his play with the ball at his feet is as bad as it has ever been - is it a coincidence that he signed a new contract a couple of months ago and now sits in the comfort-zone? Eboue was not the only one. I won't talk about Arshavin as there is nothing to say that hasn't been said before. I will talk about Rosicky and Denilson though. Rosicky is finished, there is no doubt about it. There is no pace about the man anymore and his football is an embarrassment. Then there is Denilson. The Leeds goal was his fault. Quite apart from his foul which was completely awful, the whole situation was down to his abject laziness. It was obvious that Eboue was two-on-one but Denilson stood there and watched as Leeds played their way in to the area. It was a disgraceful bit of defending from Denilson but was merely symptomatic of his entire display.
Arsene Wenger did not want a replay, but it is actually exactly what Arsenal deserve. Leaving out the likes of Fabregas and Walcott has backfired as they had to be brought on to save the tie. You can't tell me that Fabregas didn't have to expend just as much energy today as he would have had he started, simply by virtue of having to chase the game. One day Wenger will realise that it's much better to get out there and win the game early, then rest players in the second-half, rather than causing ourselves problems like we did today. It's all very frustrating, but at least the replay should be live on telly.

There will be more on Monday I hope - sadly, work calls once again tomorrow as my search for that elusive lottery jackpot continues.

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