I’m going to start by saying the unpopular though. Leyton Orient were pretty poor. There, I’ve said it. They weren’t great, they sat back, they defended for 89 minutes and looked content to lose 1-0 instead of gambling on conceding a second or scoring themselves. No one told the lad up front though and he provided the only bit of decent play they conjured up in more or less the entire second half and scored a pretty solid goal. You’ve got to hope the keeper does better there, but credit to the lad for putting the ball in the net. He seemed a bit out of the game plan anyway, in the dressing room he cleaned his boots instead of joining the huddle and then just walked out on camera. Seemed odd, especially as no one seemed to give a shit that he’d scored.
Anyway, everywhere else the media seem overly concerned with “credit where it’s due” or “Leyton Orient deserve all the plaudits”. They don’t. They were part of a dull match where one team wanted to lose by as few goals as possible and the other team couldn’t really be arsed to score more than one. Arsenal were pretty dire, but I’m not using that to suggest Orient don’t deserve credit – they don’t deserve credit because they were equally poor. On reflection 1-1 was probably a fair result, as neither side really took the initiative. Some might think I’m being harsh in my assessment of Orient, but the game was there for the taking if they wanted it. Was Denilson going to stop them? Was Bendtner going to stop them? No, of course not, but instead they conceded the game from the outset, and that deserves no credit at all.
Arsenal were dire, as I expected when I saw the team. Song was solid enough (though it’s alongside Wilshere/Fabregas that he truly sparkles), Miguel had a good debut and Arshavin looked like he really wanted to finish the week with more than 1 goal – but those three aside the rest of the team looked lazy, lethargic and dis-interested. Sagna was solid if unspectacular.
It’s something that has annoyed me for a while now. Arshavin, Denilson, Chamakh, Bendtner, Rosicky and Almunia are all players with a point to prove, all players who should be pushing for a first team place. Players who should be putting Orient to the fucking sword and giving Wenger a selection headache. Of those players only Arshavin made a claim, looking as revitalised as Wednesdays goal suggested. It irritates me that the rest of those players manage to be so lethargic. Where is the hunger in the fringe squad? The first team is settled and solid, and probably our best 1st XI for a few seasons now. But outside that there are players like Denilson and Bendtner knocking on the door. Players who do not match the hunger and desire of those ahead of them, let alone the skill.
I’ve picked on Denilson and Bendtner the most because simply, after 5 or 6 years at Arsenal they should be better. They should want to win. They should be showing the spirit and organisation that Orient showed. They should be replaying many years of faith and development by at least looking like they give a shit, not back heeling the fucking ball in our penalty area. I get that players have bad games or dips in form, but as Arshavin has shown, you just have to put your head down and work bloody hard. I’ve stuck by these players through a lot, much to the annoyance of some of you regulars – we’ve had many debates about the quality of Bendtner and Denilson in particular and I have always backed them to shine. I don’t doubt there talent, but I’m beginning to think that until they sort out their fucking attitude they might as well not be here.
You only have to look at the emergence of Jack Wilshere, a player being groomed to replace Fabregas, who is happy to sit back and do the simple stuff if it means playing. A player that doesn’t shy from 50-50 challenges like Bendtner, a player who is capable of passing the ball out of danger when it’s important, a player with intelligence but most of all, a player with heart, passion and commitment to see the lack of those qualities in the fringe squad. He’s bypassed the lot of them in 18 months since his display in the Emirates cup a while back against Rangers.
The ‘b’-team lacks leadership, passion and heart. Who was beating the drum, who was shouting, organising, pushing the players? Was the experienced Tom Rosicky doing this? No. Were any of the players? No. The only thing that passed for leadership on that pitch from Arsenal yesterday was Arshavin chasing every ball down like a terrier and for an Arsenal team that is not good enough. I understand that Rosicky is the leader of the fringe players, but he simply didn’t do enough yesterday, so let’s hope he gets some pointers before the replay.
Still, the extra fixture doesn’t matter too much, as it will mostly be the same players again (so tiredness shouldn’t be an issue), and it gives those players another chance to prove themselves. I’m also trying to work out if the replay will affect the quarter final fixture, as if we progress I think the replay may mean a possible tie against Manchester United will be put back from the same week as the Barca return leg. It may be a blessing if it means we avoid two massive games in 4 days. I’m not sure if that will come off though, time will tell.
Finally I leave you with the best of the weekends action distilled into a single image: