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Arsenal 18 Man A 4, Hughes exposed, man behind me verry annoying

At the Manchester Arab game I had a guy sitting behind me who was fed up.  Very fed up.  Not with me, not with my ladyfriend, but with the Arsenal.

From the first moment of the game he said, “too short” – not in a voice that the players could hear, but in a voice that we could hear.

A few seconds later he said again, “Short!”, and then added in “Second ball, Arsenal, second ball” (whatever that meant).

Later there was a third: “too slow Arsenal”.  And “where’s the movement?”

After that we were back to “too short!” and so it went on.

As the headline shows this was great fun.  Arsenal went on the attack, and to their credit City had a meander around in our part of the pitch as well.

The fact that it was such fun was not just down to Wenger’s formation – Theo on one wing, Arshavin on the other, Ade down the middle, and Cesc anywhere he fancied in the Arab’s half, but rather it was also down to the extreme ineptitude of the Hughes manifestation.

Hughes you will remember spent the winter offering 100 million dollars or more to anything that moved, and failed to get them.  Which has left him seriously short of decent players.  Playing Robininininininino or whoever straight after he stepped of the plane from Brazil was daft.  Carlos Vela had a shorter journey and he didn’t even get on the bench.   With his billions to throw around (and actually if some is going free I will willingly have it) he could have bought some sqauaddies, to keep him going.

You will recall that when the Lord Wenger was appointed and was effectively managing the club from the other side of the world, he issued instructions on who to buy.  One was Vieira, another was Reme Garde.  The latter was hardly a stunning winner, but he was a jolly decent player able to hold a game together – and we needed some of those after the debacle of the previous year.

The Ooze (named after a sluggish river that meanders through Bedfordshire towads the Wash, and which demands apologies of anyone who comes near it) has done none of this, and so was horribly short of players.

Maybe that was what the nutter behind me meant with his “Short!” stuff.

He was the sort of guy who was undoubtedly complaining all the way through the dark days of being 5th, and the tragedy is he just can’t see fun when it is there.

You recall all that stuff about how without Flamini, Cesc now has to play so deep he’s behind the back four (well not quite, but you will recall the comments).   Now, with Denilson in full pomp, and Song really beginning to shine, Cesc is liberated.

And this was the masterplan all the time.  The liberation of Cesc because we have a young master in Denilson at the centre of the game.  A player who touches the ball more than any other in the EPL.

That is what it has been all about this season – the creation of that simple combination – Denilson in the middle breaking up attacks (which he does so utterly brilliantly that the Independent and  every other paper that attacked him as a total failure should be on their knees begging forgiveness) and Song as the defensive player, leaving Cesc utterly liberated to run the game.

As I say, this was fun.   I don’t know where they get the dickheads from, but next match, can he not sit behind me?

(The headline is the number of shots each team had.)

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

Re the change in format – sorry if it annoys – we are just playing around with it, because it would be nice to have a banner facility that allows advertiisng on it.

12 comments to Arsenal 18 Man A 4, Hughes exposed, man behind me verry annoying

  • Nhan Le

    Now that we play so well, it comes as a puzzle to me why we struggled mightily round Octorber/November when Cesc, Ade and even Theo was available.

    OK, hadn’t Cesc and Ade been in the game yesterday, we might have had another one of these painful home draw in January. But let’s be real, the team have been picking up some real change without them in the last month. They’ve looked a lot more tidy and organized. Both Kolo and William have looked like they’ve found their true ability again. Eboue starts to remind people that he was one of the best right backs in Europe the year we got the CL final. The team’ve been squeezing out needed results at limited resources available to them.

    It’s really hard to understand why we were so ineffective and disorganized early in the season. Was it because the kids did grow or because we really had some inside conflicts resolved?

  • Gf60

    Bloody awful layout. Please go back to where you were.

    Thanks though for being one of the few that recognises how Song and Denilson have come on. I used to be a Song knocker…now I’m disappointed when he’s not playing. MOM for me yesterday.

  • don't believe the hype

    Nhan Le – the thing is, that young players develop and improve from game to game and with that experience comes consistency. Flamini and Hleb were in their 3rd seasons with Arsenal before we saw the best of them. Thanks to injuries, Denilson and Song have had their first real runs in the team, this has allowed their games to develop so that we see more consistently what Arsene sees from them in training.

  • Ateeb

    About the layout. CHANGE IT. lol. Or try to get the advertisments on one side. These articles in the middle look weird.

  • Ian Trevett

    Hi Tony
    Site looks good. One change I would like (as Terence McGovern commented a few days ago) is for oldest comments to be up first so you can read them in order. The best national site for blogs is the Guardian website for this reason.
    My only regret about the Arsenal at the moemnt is the end of the season is too close. In the league we are just going to run out of games.

  • paresh

    I don’t think we should get carried away. We still have very difficult trips to Anfield and Old Trafford. Plus Chelsea come to visit. I think games against between the top 4 are all toss ups. They can go either way so really a Champs League spot isn’t safe yet. Villa and Everton play each other but they have relatively easy schedules left. We still have time to slip up and with our Jekyl and Hyde team, anything is possible. First things first is Villareal. Losing Santi Carzola is a big deal for them and hopefully we will be able to take advantage. We have a few walking wounded though and I think playing at the Madrigal will be tricky. The team needs its full focus. If we can sneak a 1-0 that will be perfect. Fingers crossed.

  • We are just experimenting with the order of comments, and hopefully should soon have them in the order of posting, as you suggest Ian.

    Sorry to the people who don’t like the changes – the site is not fixed yet, but the previous layout was inflexible, and as I am sure you can understand, running a site like this although a work of love, does take up quite a bit of time, so the opportunity to put up some advertising which might make a penny or three is something I want to do.

    But I will try and get it to everyone’s liking.

    Promise.

    Tony

  • NYmarcus

    “It’s really hard to understand why we were so ineffective and disorganized early in the season. Was it because the kids did grow or because we really had some inside conflicts resolved?”

    It’s not so hard to understand at all, despite the “I told you so” from Tony and many who, like him, just pretend that the first half of the season never happened. Sorry, Tony, but I really have to challenge you on your complacency here. I agree with you about idiots like the one behind you at the Grove — his comments make him sound like one of the many dim bulbs at the Grove.

    The fact is that this was AW’s weakest team at Arsenal — EVER. The fact is that we started the season without AW not even knowing who is best 11 was. The fact is that we lost two key midfielders — one especially influential — who were part of Europe’s best midfield last season, and who were absolutely critical in making us league leaders for 7 months.

    The fact is that we went into this season with AW failing to strengthen in midfield — even tho we know he did try. Many times AW said at press conferences and interviews that his team was short in midfield, that he needed to buy “1 or 2 players” last summer. AW said that, not just critical gooners.

    For whatever reason, he failed to do so (I’m not interested in blaming him, he did try, things just didn’t work out). So that he went into the season having to rely on a midfield comprised of:

    – young, untried players who needed a LOT of improvement
    – our main creative fulcrum (Cesc) exhausted, having played no pre-season games, out of form and still recovering from injury — and who AW refused to rest; in the last 10 or so minutes of games we were winning, he kept playing Cesc for entire games when it was clear he needed to be rested
    – a defensive backline that had no communication or understanding with each other and who were totally unprotected from any defensive anchor in midfield.

    The result was comedic defending, really really poor and embarrassing performances. Apart from that, there were signs of internal tensions within the team. And no, injuries are not the only excuse, in the first half of the season we had Ade, Cesc and Theo all playing regularly.

    Added to that was the obviously bad attitude of certain players. I’ll never forget the sight of Song turning his back on Kolo and shaking his head “no” when Kolo told him to move back for a free kick. Kolo was visibly angry. Then there was Ade refusing to work as hard as he did last season, putting his hands on his hips and shaking his head at his teammates who weren’t giving him good service. I don’t know how many times Sagna crossed the ball toward the box to find no one there to meet it, as Ade refused to make his runs. He just didn’t seem to care anymore.

    Now that he’s got some real competition, and that he’s been laid off for so long, he’s got his hunger back. I hope he keeps playing like he did on Saturday, he worked very hard like the Ade of old. I don’t care if he never scores, as long as he puts in the effort like he used to. That’s all I ask of any player: REAL EFFORT. That’s why I refuse to slate Bendtner, who comes in for so much abuse. The kid tries damned hard.

    Tony, you are really stretching it in saying that all this was some premeditated masterplan by AW, give me a break and GET REAL!

    To anyone who’s actually watched him this season, it’s obvious that AW has been on a learning curve this season. He was very obviously stunned at our dramatic lapses and failures, and all those constant draws. He certainly didn’t look unsurprised at those losses to Hull and Wigan at home, Stoke and Fulham. Nor esp. at the ridiculous draws v. Spurs and Villa, two glaring examples of our losing good leads like the league’s comedians.

    He most certainly did not expect things to go that badly at all, that was very obvious from his press conferences and interviews. His entire manner, his voice, looked very shaken. Our results really affected him.

    In order to stop the comedy defending–caused esp. by the complete lack of protection to our backline in midfield–he told our marauding fullbacks to stop going forward, resulting in more solid defensive displays. However, then our problem became lack of creativity, so we didn’t score for several games. Aw certainly didn’t look happy at having to restrict the attacking instincts of his fullbacks but he was forced to do it because he had to find some way of leaking ridiculous goals.

    One of the most important aspects of AW’s teams are his marauding fullbacks — but he found himself in the awful position of having to cancel out that part of his approach. Believe me, he did not like doing that at all, not did he ever expect to. But he couldn’t rely on his backline nor his midfield from protecting his backline.

    So without our fullbacks going forward and our resulting lack of creativity, we became incredibly BORING, ponderous, totally predictable, unbelievably SLOW, with no movement, no energy, no fluidity. We were playing like absolute dross. Sbragia of Sunderland could come to the Emirates and tell his players “don’t worry about the midfield, they’ll just pass sideways and back, just control the wingers, they’re the only ones creating anything, and you’ll do fine.” And he was entirely correct.

    AW has experimented throughout the season, responding to a tumultuous campaign, he’s had to. This has been his most challenging season. He’s had to try different players in different positions at times, and different formations. At one point, he became so conservative that he insisted on using TWO defensive midfielders against the likes of park-the-bus Sunderland — AT HOME!

    Now THAT was a sign of how deeply chastened he’d become about our horrific defending. For a manager like Arsene Wenger to put out 2 DMs against park-the-bus teams AT HOME tells you everything you need to know about what our manager has gone thru this season — this was no masterplan, it was AW responding to the team’s horrible, horrible results.

    He’s now found a very good 4-2-3-1 type formation, much like Rafa at Liverpool — with two holding midfielders in Song & Denilson protecting a liberated Cesc, who can now go up field and play off the wingers and forward, much like Gerrard does-with Alonso & Mascherano protecting him and their backline.

    But AW did not have Cesc playing so high up in the first half of the season — when the Denilson & Cesc pairing didn’t work at all. That was due to Cesc being off form and Denilson still learning his role.

    It’s taken a horrible season and the return of key players (and the absolutely critical purchase of a creative midfielder) to finally get back on track. It’s taken the slow, gradual development of Denilson and Song to cancel out Flamini’s absence. But we had to go thru a lot for them to find their sharpness and maturity.

    And AW said many times last season he wanted Flamini and Hleb to stay, that he thought it was critical to keep the team together. He said that for a reason. He esp. wanted to keep Flamini, he knew how important he was to us. That’s AW saying that, not just critical gooners.

    The fact is that because we started the season with a very weak midfield, we had to give up any credible challenge to the title as early as October. AW effectively surrendered the league in October by starting out with such a weak midfield. The team he put out at the start of the season was never EVER capable of winning anything, let alone the league.

    We moved one step forward last season, and two steps back this season. So AW sacrificed the league in order to have his new midfield develop and mature.

    Ironically, after such a horrible season, with the weakest team he’s ever put out, the improvements in the players and his purchase of Arshavin has put us in the strong position of us winning a cup trophy. It may well be that we had to go thru all this to finally develop into a top class team again, but don’t just dismiss what we had to go thru to achieve it.

  • admin

    NY Marcus, obviously we disagree fundamentally, and I won’t bore you or everyone else with my detailed replies – we are of course all entitled to our views.

    But on one point let me correct you. You say, “To anyone who’s actually watched him this season,” and that seems to imply I haven’t.

    It is fairly fundamental to this blog that I do actually go to Arsenal matches. Indeed not only did I sit through the 0-0 draws in the league, I also watched the 0-0 away to Cardiff in the cup.

    My opinions may, in your opinion, be quite wrong, but they are based on me sitting (sometimes standing) there watching the games live, and in person.

    And I did make the point in my piece in the Observer during those 0-0 games, what a stunning performer Denilson was becoming.

  • Alex Ice Cream

    NYmarcus,

    Interesting comments there. You know my views but I am not sure that this is the worst AW team ever. It certainly was a few months ago but not now.

    Part of the improvement has been due to improved performances of the players which was part of Aw’s plan. To argue that everything has gone according to plan is fanciful.

    You are the only other person who has said that AW sarificed the Prem.This is the price paid for the development of certain player.

  • Ateeb

    I see where you are coming from. But to say that “The fact is that we started the season without AW not even knowing who is best 11 was….and the Weakest team” are extraordinary claims that you are making. If I remember correctly, Rosicky was suppose to return by September/October, and we had already bought a replacement for the departed Hleb in Nasri. However his injury situation went from bad to worse, unforseable event. Likewise Eduardo, was being touted to return by october/november. And with the likes of RVP, Bendtner, Vela, Diaby, Theo, and Eboue, we had abundance of attacking options. Not regaining Rosicky and Eduardo, was a loss that we couldn’t bare last season, and with Hleb and Flamini departed we possibly couldn’t bare this season. On top of that we lost Cesc, and Theo for significant amount of time. Not to mention Adebayor. On paper it’s a very good squad, with a good blend of experience and youngsters, although slightly skewed to the youngsters more than one would like. Regardless, a talented squad nonetheless.

    I really don’t think that a club like arsenal that operates on a self sufficiency mode, could have coped with such an injury crisis. We’re not Chelsea neither Manu, who continue to add depth to their squad at the cost of their long term financial security. But one should really applaud that given the resources and the players he was left with, Arsene and the young players should be praised that we managed to secure 4th spot, and still in the runnning for the FA cup and CL.

    However I do agree,that the attitude of the players in the start could be questioned. However criticizing Adebayor alone, seems quite biased. He was hardly getting any delivery from the midfield. I personally think, that the loss of Hleb effected us more than that of Flamini. There was hardly any creativity at times. Matches that we drew where the opposing teams parked the bus, weren’t because of a lack of defensive midfielder but rather a player like Hleb to break the defence.

    You are right though about the change in role of the fullbacks. Which has been a crucial part of the way we attack. You could be right that we lacked a defensive midfielder, but to me Denilson was doing a good job even in the start of the season. It was Cesc underperforming. Kolo-Gallas partnership was in shambles. To me the injury crisis holds more weight than any other argument. Take out any 4 of Henry, DB10, Viera and Pires, would you think we would have made it even then? Was there squad depth then?
    We not only lost first teamers, but definte starters from the team this season. Rosicky for Nasri, Eduardo for Bendtner/Ade, Cesc for SOng, Theo for Eboue.

    On a positive note though, the experience gained by the likes of Denilson/Song/Diaby/Bendtner would do wonders for us next season. I personally think, we don’t need to add anyone this summers. We have better squad depth than Livpool and Chelsea at the moment, as players are returning from injuries.

  • Ateeb

    I think it is too early to conclude that we have settled with a midfield of Song, Denilson and Fabregas. We lacked attacking options against City, and were left with little choice.On top of that Cesc was returning from a long lay off, and was released from his defensive duties by playing Song and Denilson.It would be interesting to see if Wenger persists with this formation or returns to the 4-4-2.