War-saw, What Was It Good For?

An all-too familiar sight.

Yesterday’s match in Poland against Legia Warsaw still has me scratching my head wondering, “What the hell was that?” Some have suggested that yesterday’s 6-5 victory over a team that finished 4th in the Poland encapsulated both the positives and negatives of the current side. We can score a ton of goals, but we also concede a ton. (Highlights on the right).

Of course, it’s impossible to judge a team based on pre-season results against lesser sides, as Arsene has said. However, there is no denying that what we all witnessed yesterday was nothing less than disturbing. And to still be without a 4th center-back, with Anfield a week away, is even more disturbing. A Liverpool side, revitalized by the arrival of Hodgson, could’ve scored 12 goals against our defense yesterday.

All this is further exacerbated by the keeper problems. Perhaps 1-in-10 Arsenal fans have any confidence in Almunia. Even less in Fabianski. We can all agree that Szczesny is a right prospect but not ready for a title challenge. Arsene must’ve been hoping that Fabianski would put the past behind him and put in solid enough performances over the pre-season to quiet criticism of the keeping situation especially as Fulham continued to rebuff his interest in Mark Schwarzer. Instead Fabianski goes out tripping over his own defender’s leg in front of his hometown crowd. He just doesn’t seem to have ever been able to put Porto behind him.

Nasri continues to shine to the point where it almost seems wrong to push him out of that central role when Cesc returns. Gibbs also appears to be getting back to his best. While many seem happy that Gibbs and Wilshere have been called up to the England squad for the most meaningless and inopportune of friendlies, I can honestly say that I’d rather they hadn’t been.

I can’t conclude this post without mentioning the criticism of the official website over the Spahic article. It is without a doubt hypocritical on the club’s part and embarrassing. This is most embarrassing because the article has an Arsenal player, Bacary Sagna, talking about another club’s player. But this isn’t something happening for the first time. It’s been going on all summer long with these ridiculous “Transfer Linked” articles. Since the summer started, I have been unable to understand just exactly what an official website is doing posting things like that. How can we complain about Barca’s players talking about Cesc when we have linked ourselves with 20 players on our own website since May? It’s obviously such bullshit anyway because anyone who knows Wenger knows that he would never let the club put a news article about a player he’s interested in on the website. That would only drive up the price further or, worse, alienate the other club into not dealing with us. So, please Arsenal.com, do us all a favor and remove the entire section and all the articles from the official website.

Up to Standard?

Tuesday evening brought us one of the strangest matches this supporter has seen in a long time. Arsenal completely dominated the entire match yet they won only 2-nil and Standard Liege hit the post twice. Coming back from injuries, we saw Carlos Vela get a long-awaited start and Theo Walcott get in on some action, but we also saw Kieran Gibbs go out for months just seconds from the final whistle and William Gallas look worse than Rocky after 12 rounds with Apollo Creed. We saw three clear penalties that weren’t given because, as Alan Parry said, “They must not have penalties in Austria,” referring to the officials’ home.

I am conflicted as to what I should think about the match. The injuries to Arshavin, Gallas, and Gibbs certainly overshadow the great attacking performance. I certainly don’t agree with Paul Merson and Myles Palmer that Arsenal could’ve lost this match. Of course, Standard’s first time hitting the post came before Nasri had opened up the scoring but even at 1-nil down Standard rarely looked a threat going forward.

Song had a great match and news of his newly-signed long-term deal yesterday was more than welcome. But it seems all eyes were on Vela, and rightly so. Ever since his magnificent introduction to the club with some truly wonderful goals in last year’s Carling Cup, we’ve all been waiting for him to get a right chance in the first team. He didn’t do as well we would have hoped the other night but he has been out injured for most of the season. Nevertheless, the internet’s resident bitter idiot, Myles Palmer, wrote, in an article entitled, “Carlos Vela needs to grabs this chance.If not, adios”:

It’s about time his Arsenal career took off. Seriously, how long can anybody be a promising young striker? If Vela was any good, shouldn’t he be in the team by now?

Huh? He’s been at the club for a year. He was injured at the start of the season. How long can he be a promising striker?? Are you serious, Myles? Not half as long as your beloved, English Theo Walcott, that’s for sure. “If Vela was any good?” Anyone who saw his performances last year in the Carling Cup KNOWS he is good. His problem has been that he is not only stuck behind van Persie but Eduardo as well and so he has not gotten the kind of playing time we all would have hoped. Is everyone else as sick of this tool as I am?

The injury to Gibbs is the most problematic for Sunday as I doubt many of us have much confidence in Traore or Silvestre stepping into the left-back spot against Chelsea. I would think the Boss may have to bite the bullet and play Eboue there.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers…

John Utaka, We Hardly Fouled Ye (Video Highlights)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Arseblog wrote yesterday: “I suspect there are students of Arsenal statistics out there who may well prove me wrong but I can’t remember a start to the season so filled with goals.” Well, I am a “student of Arsenal statistics,” so let’s figure this out. Keeping it to the Wenger-era, we have not had such a goal-filled first two matches. However, in 2000-01 we did score 10 goals in our first 4 matches. In the run-up to Nottingham Forest’s record at the start of 2004-05, we began the season with a 4-1 win against Everton and then went on beat Middlesbrough 5-3. We followed that up with the 3-nil win over Blackburn that gave us the unbeaten record, thus giving us 12 goals in the opening three matches. So, while we have never had more goals in 2 matches, should we be held to 1 goal or less at United, our start will not be as “goal-filled” as 2004-05.

Anyway, on to the match. Two days on, there is not much I can say that you probably haven’t already read elsewhere. Song made way for Abou Diaby, who went on to give a very good performance. It shows that we may already have enough options should Song depart for the African Cup of Nations in January. Ramsey also looked good when he came on and it looks as though either Diaby or Ramsey can come on for Song with Denilson falling back into a more defensive role. Nasri as well can take the same role. It’s not exactly ideal, but what team has two class defensive midfielders?

John Utaka, We Hardly Fouled YeI should also mention the officials’ decisions. I must admit that when seen live it did look like it could very well have been a foul on Gallas’s part. However, after seeing the replay, especially from the reverse angle, you can clearly see that Utaka tripped over his own foot. I’m sure Paul Hart must’ve felt like an idiot after making those statements following the match. On the other hand, I was screaming at Almunia for not stepping up and attacking the cross which led to Kaboul’s goal. However, once again, the reverse angle seemed to tell a different story. From that angle, it seemed that Almunia may very well have been impeded. Of course, either of those calls can go both ways but it seems like for the first time in a while we have luck on our side.

Both Hart and Utaka came out after the match claiming it was a “clear foul” by Gallas. Admittedly, this was before they would have seen the conclusive replay and Hart’s view was likely obstructed by his shirt collar (see video and pic below). Yet, today, Utaka was in The Sun, of all places, claiming Gallas “admitted” to the foul and that he “smiled” at Utaka. He also claimed that Gallas was pulling his shirt but you can clearly see on the replay (below) that it is Utaka who is pulling Gallas’s shirt. Also, it isn’t clear if the smile is what Utaka was considering the admission or if he actually verbalized it. Seems highly likely to me that Gallas wasn’t smiling, but laughing at Utaka for tripping over his own feet. Since the highlights above omitted the Utaka fall, I have included the MOTD highlights (with the sharp, unbiased, and always insightful analysis from Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer):

The other issue, which seems to have carried throughout the first three matches, regards the lack of goals from our “strikers.” Arsene has made the point that the strikers are the ones creating goals and that he is confident that van Persie, Eduardo, and Arshavin will score goals. I am inclined to agree with him. I really don’t care where the goals come from and for a team that has been sorely missing goals from midfield in recent years, I find nothing to complain about. Besides, in reality, the only true striker we had on the pitch was Eduardo. Van Persie is at his best linking up play, no matter who he is linking up with. Not to mention that he also tested James three times. On another day, van Persie could have had two  goals. Also, does any of this really matter when you have William Gallas creating a new position: striker-back? Rather than seeing this as a problem, I will take the optimistic route and see this as a positive.

Turn em down, Paul!

Turn 'em down, Paul!

Defensively, we may have had a few shaky moments for what seems like the first time this season. The defense was gotten in behind a few too many times and Gibbs was getting pushed off the ball far too regularly. He looked nothing like the player he was at the end of last season. But, besides for a 15 minute span, Arsenal bossed the entire match and I don’t think the scoreline was flattering at all. One really has to sympathize with Paul Hart -and, no, not for the way he wears his shirt collar- but for what is going on in the board room and even more for what is going on on the pitch. With James set to want out in January in his bid to secure a World Cup place and the fact that Kranjčar will surely be the next to go, one has to fear for Pompey and their genuinely enthusiastic supporters.

Arsene Wenger’s Post-match Interview: