On The Ropes, Still Fighting

Before yesterday Arsenal hadn’t won in the league since Feburary – Blackpool seemed like exactly the place to get our season back underway. They play attacking football to the point of suicide – yesterday was no different. Somehow Arsenal managed to conspire to dangle their dignity in front of Blackpool and for the first time in a few weeks managed to yank it back and actually beat the team in front of them. I’m pretty sure most of us sat there thinking “oh for gods sake Arsenal, not again, don’t throw it away again” when Blackpool found the net. I had visions of Blackpool coming away with a 3-2 win, Robin Van Persie hopping off the pitch carrying his right leg under his arm and Diaby suddenly turning to a dusting skeleton like at the end of Raisers Of The Lost Ark.

It started off so well, partly down to Blackpool’s awful defence, partly down to the hunger of the team. Not everyone looked hungry in fairness, I thought the game largely passed our captain by and Arshavin must have touched the ball three times. Fabregas looked good on the ball, but he was clearly marked out of the game at times and didn’t quite have the fitness to muscle in on the action. Arshavin just looks like a player who has already lined up a big money move to some sunny shithole where the natives will applaud him onto the pitch and think his one piece of effort per game is revolutionary. It’s sad to see such a great footballer petering out like this, but if he were the family dog he’d have been dragged outside by now and put out of his misery.

Two quick goals, against the run of play, and a further 7,342 chances made you think that this was routine. I’ve missed seeing an Arsenal performance like that, fluid and dynamic. I’ve not missed the horrible feeling that spurning those chances could cost us though. Diaby and Eboue were great, Diaby was slightly off the pace at times and gave the ball away cheaply occasionaly but on at least one occasion he won it back (starting the move that led to his goal). He also showed a much better sense of positioning and was far more disciplined. His goal showed that you can break and surge when it’s suitable but otherwise hold your ground and not over commit. Eboue was industrious, taking his chance to shine by making no mistakes, defending solidly and getting his goal. That is what I want to see from the fringe players, that they come in and perform to the level we know they can, take their chance and fight for a place.

It pains me that Eboue might well leave in the summer – he’s left on the bench for weeks at a time, getting the odd game here or there and yet he consistently tries hard, is always solid and despite the odd theatrical tumble is generally a very good squad player with a perfect attitude. His attitude is perfectly summed up by his desire to stay at the club when the fans were booing him. He could have easily walked away from such a hostile reaction, instead he choose to drive on, improve and prove the moaning dickheads in the crowd wrong. That is the Arsenal attitude I want to see and that is lacking from players like Denilson, Bendtner et all. If either of those players stay and Eboue goes, it’ll be a travesty.

On a side note, regarding attitude, Carlos Vela is currently warming the bench at West Brom and doesn’t seem to be able to get on the pitch. Unfortunately that seems about his level – I don’t expect him to play for Arsenal again, being one of those players who’s propensity for a party and a natural aversion to hard work and training have put the breaks on an otherwise glittering potential. Mark Randell, on loan at Rotherham has garnered a reputation for being a bit of a cock by all accounts, turning up late to games and generally not bothering. He’s been unceremoniously dropped to the Rotherham reserves. I suspect that Arsenal won’t be Mark Randell’s club for much longer.

Anyway, another player who looks like they’re on their way out is Clichy. Why no one has sat down and explained to him the importance of getting the fuck out and not sitting behind the defensive line is beyond me. How many times this season has Clichy played the opposition on side? He has the tactical awareness of a dead stoat. Seriously awful, I suspect his decline in form has everything to do with no longer playing alongside a commanding centre half. Sol Campbell & Tommy V were both players that screamed at him to get out, to get in front of them to hold the line. Koscielny and Squillaci both seem content to let him think for himself and he patently can’t. He’s great at intercepting balls, he’s great and providing width on the wings and bombing forward, but that is all useless when he doesn’t know how to defend. He was a liability yesterday and the root cause of their only goal.

Jack Wilshere maintained his hunt for PFA Young Player of the Year votes by (again) being one of the best players on the pitch – it’s probably fair to say he was our best midfielder yesterday. Jack is rapidly becoming our 1st name on the team sheet – at a push Nasri can play the Fabregas role – but who would play the Wilshere role of the team?

Lehmann also played well, making a great save with his leg on the line which Fabregas eventually cleared. I was gutted for him when Blackpool scored – it would have been great for him to be the first premier league keeper to keep a clean sheet at Blackpool this season, at the age of 41 being the oldest Arsenal player in the Premier League. You knew when he signed that he’d play at least once. I loved the fact that he said after the game that he didn’t care if he played again – he played yesterday we won and that was that, he’d done his job. Fantastic attitude and I really hope he helps fire the team forward in the dressing room. Crazy Jens taking his gloves off to tie up his shoelace early on when Arsenal were under pressure and Blackpool were about to take a corner was fantastic. The man literally knows everything on how to disrupt the other team, and he’s playing in goal.

Anyway, I climbed a mountain on Saturday, played a full ninety minutes in Dinamo Megahorse’s final game of the season (3-0 win, w00t!) on Sunday morning and then Arsenal put me through the wringer for 75 minutes yesterday afternoon. Until next week, you can stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Kieran (@kieran_delaney)

  • paresh

    Regarding the game itself, I think the players were under pressure and determined to perform, and that they didn’t celebrate their goals showed that. I don’t know if Wenger told them they were fighting for their futures, or if it was just that they felt they needed to respond. In either case, long may that sort of attitude continue.

    I thought on the whole we had a good game, though we did get lucky with a penalty call. I still feel though that there was a foul on Van Persie in the penalty box right at the end of the first half, but Sky in all their wisdom decided that it didn’t warrant a replay. Anyway, as Andrew says, a win is a win is a win.. 3 points in the bag.. Huge challenges to follow. I hope the result acts as a confidence boost and we’re up for Liverpool on Sunday. If we are, I think we should win.

    Oh, and I wouldn’t sell Arshavin.. He may not be first choice, but we play enough games, and he is a player with a certain spark. Too many changes lead to instability, and while I think he can do better, he has justified his place in the squad in my view.

  • vj

    does anyone know why sky dislike arsenal so much? And views on the takeover, good/bad/won’t make a difference. Plus is anyone going to the arsenal ball? the tickets are outrageously expensive

  • paresh

    Because they are wankers??

  • Kodjo

    Good post as always, Kieran…always waitng on mondays to read it….

    Yes it is a sad situation with Vela..he has all the talent but sadly his attitude and penchant for partying has probably stalled a brilliant career. I do hope that he has time to turn it around as his loan spell hasn’t worked out.

    Good to see Jens yell at the back 4 …in the days of old he’d have probably pulled Clichy aside and canned him on the back side. Having said that you’d expect Eboue to track the run of the B’pool player for the goal…although he c’d be excused for not seeing the run until late.

    Any alternatives to Clichy??? as his deputy Gibbs seems to have glass feet. Maybe Botelho might be eligible for the coming season. This means another re-adjustment in defence.

  • paresh

    Vela in football manager goes on to become a brilliant striker – pity he wont be mkaing it in real life – its like kierran mentions the attitude to work hard is not there – i think a slower league will suit him – spain or italy will be the place he ends up. Malaga FC here I come

    truly yours c.vela

  • Kieran

    @ paresh:
    Arshavin’s wages are too high for him to not play regularly. He’s also not got long on his contract – it’s sell him this summer or let him go for free.