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Archive for October, 2008

One word to describe our defence: Disgraceful.

To concede 4 goals at home is simply unacceptable. To concede two goals to our arch rival at home in the final 5 minutes is just disgusting. This team doesn’t seem to learn their lessons, even after horrible performances against Fulham, Hull City and Sunderland. When will they wake up their idea?

Points to note:
1. We need to change our attitude towards matches. Players are paid to win matches. You don’t just go out there and “enjoy yourself” and collect tens of thousands pounds per week. A match is 90 minutes plus injury time. A professional would need to stay focus throughout the match, otherwise you are just a kid, albeit a talented one.

2. We need to learn to defend as a unit. By that, I mean the defenders and keeper and midfielders, and even strikers. Right now, we simply do not know how to defend.

3. Clichy is at fault for the third goal. Almunia is at fault for the third and forth goals. But to concede four goals at home, everyone on the pitch (plus Arsene Wenger) is responsible.

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Almunia : 8 – A few good saves from West Ham’s counter attack.

Eboue: 6 – A few stray passes but overall ok performance.
Gallas: 8 – Led by example, cut off opposition’s attack well.
Silvestre: 6 – Average, overshadowed by his centreback partner
Clichy: 6 – Seemed a bit off pace.

Walcott: 7.5 – Always look threatening when running at defense. Would be awesome if he improve on his final ball.
Cess: 7 – Decent performance, have a few great passes but unlucky not to have any assists.
Song: 7 – Strong in tackle, join the attack occasionally. Some lapses in concentration leads to opposition’s counter attacks.
Nasri: 5.5 – Did not do much.

RVP: 5.5 – Always easily dispossessed, did not link up well with the midfielders and Bendtner. Got a great free kick that hits the post.
Bendtner: 7.5 – Very bad first touch in the first half but worked very hard and help out in defence too. His game improved when Adebayor came on. Great assist for the second goal.

Subs:
Ade: 8.5 – His mobility and work rate change the game for us. Combine well with RVP and Bendtner.
Diaby: 6 – Did not do much. He’s better operating at the centre than on the wings.

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A few thoughts on the match. Gallas seemed determine to prove himself and did well for this match. The partnership of Bendtner and RVP doesn’t seem to work well as both seemed to play the support striker roles. The coming on of Adebayor provides a more dynamic partner for the two and we suddenly have more variation around the penalty area.

Bendtner seemed to combine well with Ade, which is quite a surprise to me.

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Almunia: 8 – Solid performance.

Eboue: 7 – Excels at rightback. Somehow he attacks better when playing rightback than right midfield.
Song: 6 – Poor performance, but good to score a goal.
Silvestre: 5.5 – Slow and awful. Scores an own goal though not exactly his fault.
Clichy: 6 – Average performance by his own standard.

Walcott: 8 – Always look threatening with his run. Showed composure in his goal.
Denilson: 6 – An average performance. Doesn’t look strong enough to be a defensive midfielder.
Fabregas: 8.5 – Great defence-splitting through balls. Done well dictating the offensive moves.
Nasri: 6.5 – Had a rather quiet game.
Diaby: 8 – Good attacking play. Good goal.

Ade: 7 – Scored a nice goal. But didn’t run as much as other games, probably due to the early lead.

Subs:
Ramsey: 7 – Doesn’t look like a 17/18 year old. Reminds me of Cesc 3 years ago.
Djourou: 6 – Not enough time to impress.
Vela: 6 – Not enough time, but show some good movement.

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Overall, I think the scoreline flatter us a bit. Part of the reasons for the big scoreline is that Fenerbahce is awful in defence.

Song and Silvestre partnership is awful. Both of them lack pace, especially when we are playing a high defence line. Denilson doesn’t look strong enough to play defensive midfield. Diaby is good in attack, but where would be his position in a 4-4-2 ? He is too offensive minded to play alongside Cesc and I doubt he has the discipline to hold his position if he is to play defensive midfield. Walcott is gaining confidence as he constantly runs at defenders, but he still need to improve on his decision making in the final third.

Anyway, we are top of the table after one home game and two difficult away games. Getting through to second round shouldn’t be a problem.

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Almunia: 5.5 – A few good saves, but still susceptible to some very bad decision making. Not quite confident in him handling crosses and corners.

Song: 4 – Not exactly his fault that he was played out of position. What was Wenger thinking when he put Song at rightback when he had Eboue around?
Kolo: 5 – Should really cut down his hoofing of long balls. Its getting nowhere. Also, he and Song were at fault for Everton’s goal.
Silverstre: 6 – Win quite a number of headers.
Clichy: 8 – By far our most consistent player.

Denilson: 5 – Got forward far too often, leaving the defence exposed. I would prefer him to break up opposition’s play and let Cesc joined the attack more often.
Cesc: 6 – Not quite effective. Tried a couple of long shots that were off targets
Nasri: 7.5 – One of our best players on the pitch. Keep the ball well, incisive enough to shoot and score a goal.
Eboue: 6 – He seemed running out of idea when playing right midfield, but played very well when he was deployed as a rightback at second half.

RvP: 5.5 – Wasted loads of chances. It’s worrying because he was supposed to be our most clinical finisher at the moment.
Ade: 5 – Very poor first touch, not getting very involved, looked quite off pace.

Theo: 8 – His dribbling and pace proved too much to be handled by the Everton’s defence. But he still had to improve on his decision making in the final third, or else all the dribbling would be ineffective. Scored a very good goal though.
Diaby: 6 – Good assist to Theo. Now that he is back, where and how often would he play? He looked too offensive minded to play CM with Cesc, yet I am still not quite convinced with him on the wings.

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Seriously, it had become very frustrating watching Arsenal plays. There were some very bad decision of Arsene. Firstly, Song doesn’t have the pace to play fullback. Why not put Eboue there and start Walcott on the right wing? Secondly, I am still not quite convinced about the partnership of Denilson and Cesc. But at the moment, Denilson is the best option we have, and if this partnership doesn’t work out, it’s Arsene’s fault for taking such a big risk at such an important position and leaving no other options.

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I read somewhere that Arsene believes the current team can become as good or even better than the “invincibles”. Well, he could be right but at this moment this team is no where near the unbeaten team of 2003-2004 season. There will be a new crop of interesting youngsters coming up, like Jack Wilshere, Fran Merida, Heri Lansbury, together with those that are already in the first team like Ramsey, Walcott, Vela, Bendtner, so the future would be rather interesting, or at least unpredictable. Of course, provided Fabregas stayed, or else we will be going through yet another rebuilding phase.

Alright, so I will just do a simple comparison between the current first eleven and the invincibles:

GK (Lehmann vs Almunia)
Jens Lehmann then was obviously more experienced than Almunia. Lehmann had better judgement, more confident, and better leadership.
Verdict: Invincibles 1:0 Current team

Centre back partnership
The partnership of Sol Campbell and Toure is much better than the current partnership of Gallas and Toure. The present partnership is vulnerable to aerial attack. Also, I think Sol did better in organizing the defence than Gallas.
Verdict: Invincibles 2:0 Current team

Rightback
Lauren was reliable and consistent, but he was prone to get beaten by fast wingers. Sagna is also reliable and consistent, and I think he was a bit better both offensively and defensively. Its a close match but I am more inclined towards Sagna.
Verdict: Invincibles 2:1 Current team

Leftback
Cole vs Clichy. Clichy is faster and has better dribbling skills. But Cole was better in defence, and had more end products in offense than Clichy, who always looked threatening with the ball but lack the final ball. It will be a tie between them.
Verdict: Invincibles 3:2 Current team

Right Midfield
Ljungberg vs Walcott. Walcott has better dribbling and is a bit faster than Ljungberg. Ljungberg was more experienced, had more intelligent off-the-ball movement, and was always a goal threat. I believe Walcott will be better than the past Ljungberg in one or two years time, but right now its a tie.
Verdict: Invincibles 4:3 Current team

Left Midfield
Pires vs Rosicky/Nasri. It doesn’t matter whether it is Rosicky or Nasri. Neither comes near to Robert Pires, though they are all very good players. Robert Pires was, in my opinion, a top 3 left midfielder in the world.
Verdict: Invincibles 5:3 Current team

Central Midfield partnership
Vieira/Gilberto vs Fabregas/Denilson. Alright, it could be a tie if Fabregas’s partner is Flamini. But right now, our central midfield partnership just isn’t comparable to the Vieira and Gilberto partnership. Denilson is very inconsistent right now. Fabregas I believes is suffering from the constant changing of midfield partners (not only Flamini, but Hleb and Rosicky too).
Verdict: Invincibles 6:3 Current team

Striker partnership
Henry/Bergkamp vs Ade/RVP. The invincibles striker partnership wins hands down. Adebayor is nowhere near the class of Henry. RVP doesn’t quite have the creativity, vision and precise passing abilities of Bergkamp.
Verdict: Invincibles 7:3 Current team

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We managed to clinch a last-minute away draw with mighty Sunderland, thanks to a Fabregas header in injury time. To most fans, this is not an acceptable result / performance, especially after a crashing home defeat to Hull City.

After the mid-week thrashing of Porto, I kind of fear that we might go into another shocking performance at Sunderland, or Everton the week after. Every time I watched Arsenal, I did not know what to expect. It could either be a free-flowing football with loads of goals, or a frustrating passing game that ended with a equally frustrating result. That’s the inconsistency you would need to accept, when you have such a young team, when Fabregas is considered a senior player at the age of 21.

When Walcott played like Maradona in one game, don’t be surprise to see the same player looked like a headless chicken the other game. Afterall, what are you doing when you are 19 years old? The players we have, may already have experiences at top league and international games, but the fact still remains that they are youngsters, that their games are more easily affected by external factors like the atmosphere/morale/media/hype/personal problems.

There are a few unresolved problems currently which I think is Arsene’s responsibility:

1. Defence problems

Our CB pairing of Toure and Gallas is extremely vulnerable to aerial attacks. The defence as a whole can’t deal with corners, free kicks and any crosses into the penalty area. We have no leader in defence, Almunia is not a leader, Gallas is not leading by example, and Toure I don’t think have the qualities to organize the defence. I had been hoping during the summer transfer windows that Arsene would bring in a top class center back in the mould of Sol Campbell to replace either Toure or Gallas. But instead, he brought in Silvestre, a thirty-something pass-his-best, injury prone player who is not good enough to play regularly at Manchester United. And then he sent Senderos on loan to Milan.

2. Midfield woes

Last season, our first choice midfield is Rosicky-Fabregas-Flamini-Hleb. Arsene let two of them (Flamini and Hleb) left, while the other one (Rosicky) seemed destined to stay at the treatment room. He also let Gilberto leave without any replacement (unless you call the injury prone Bischoff as a valid replacement, but I thought Arsene bought him to keep Rosicky company). The only midfielder that comes in is Nasri, whom I think did a good enough job so far. But our failure to sign a quality and experienced central midfielder has now come back to haunt us. Denilson is inconsistent, Diaby is equally inconsistent plus injury prone, and Song is an unproven quantity at the moment and I’d also expect him to be inconsistent.

As for wide midfielders, we have Nasri, Walcott, Rosicky and Eboue. Arsene also likes to deploy RVP and Diaby on the wings, but it is clearly shown that these two are not suitable to play on the wings. Now we have Rosicky who is forever injured, Eboue who is still adapting to his new position, and Walcott who is still trying hard to be consistent. We are clearly short on the wings but still Arsene do not intend to bring any one in.

3. Attitude problems

We lack the urgency to kill the game off early. Very often, we step up a gear or two only after the opponents scored, or when it was the last 10 minutes. We also do not show the hunger or character to win games, very uncharacteristic of a top team that was trophyless for 3 seasons. I believe we lacked a leader on the pitch, a player whom the youngsters can look up to and drive the team forward during crisis. Flamini could be such a player, it’s a shame we couldn’t hold on to him.

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We bounced back from a shocking defeat by Hull City with a convincing win over Porto at Champions League. Well, I am not surprise anyway, as we are afterall still an inconsistent team.

Here’s my rating:

Almunia: 6.5 – A few good saves, good to keep a clean sheet.

Sagna: 6.5 – Support the attack well, good in defence ecept for occasional lapse.
Toure: 7 – Reliable and hardworking.
Gallas: 7 – Same as Toure, but somehow feels that he goes forward too often.
Clichy: 7.5 – Look threatening running down the left flank

Walcott: 8.5 – His confident is soaring high, his dribbling is more threatening and purposeful than before.
Denilson: 7 – Solid performance but nothing spectacular.
Fabregas: 7.5 – Much improved performance, good distribution but still not quite back to his best.
Nasri: 7 – Good in keeping possesion, but still not back to his best.

Ade: 8 – Good assist for the first goal, good header and penalty.
RVP: 8 – Two excellent finishes, caused Porto a lot of problems.

Subs:

Bendtner – 7.5 – Looked lively when he came on.
Eboue: 5 – Not much impact.
Vela: 7 – One superb run.

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