Mother Hen

Quick blog as the day’s got a bit away from me. Still, as long as it’s longer than a tweet I can justify writing this here, I suppose. So:

But for some resolute defending and an international-worthy display by Wayne Hen(nessey) refusing to let us count goal(den egg)s pinched from his much guarded ne(s)t, we’d have taken the three points yesterday. Frustrating as it is we didn’t. But hay.

What we did do was pretty much dominate possession, but fail to get any reward from plenty of shots and fistfuls of corn(ers). Okay I’ll stop.

In all seriousness though it’s hard to be too critical. Against eleven men we created chances and against ten we just couldn’t find the second. I can’t say too much about Fletcher’s equaliser. It was lucky. From a deflected assist, he was onside and he put it in the only place Szczesny couldn’t have got to it.  I feel a bit silly because before the goal I was about to bemoan the Nervous Ned in front of me who was cursing every mistake (and player making one) like he’d a made a pact to piss me off. But it turns out he was right. That time.

Still, him calling Mertesacker a “pussy” was hard to swallow.

The positives are that Yossi did well in Theo’s position (and was probably knackered when he came off), while Rosicky, The Little Mozart, conducted himself well and hardly played a bum note.

It was his driving run, cut back and pass to Benayoun which enabled Gervinho to look the most assured he did all afternoon and put us one up. It was also Rosicky who – a couple of times – used his trademark feint turn (keep an eye out for that one) to get away form markers in the midfield before driving forward. And he also played some midfield and defence splitting passes before almost, almost, setting up the big German for a headed goal with a beautiful out side of the right boot flicked cross.

Super Tom could be on his way back, and I think Rambo’s got a fight on.

Having said that, the Welsh captain did well when he came on, and added that enthusiasm from the bench that I’ve mentioned we certainly need. More starting with effective, older and more experienced players would be a good thing I think. Let’s make the younger guns work to impress.

Random thoughts on a couple of other players:

Chamakh – I think that was Mauro’s eighth appearance of the season. Scoring one in every four, he now owes us a goal…

Arshavin – Was a pass, pass, passer when he appeared lacking the edge and guile we needed…although his little backlift, snap-shot was a reminder of the ability in those feet. Oh, how I wish it had gone in.

Anyway, what with all the teams around us (bar Spurs) dropping two points, we’ve missed a chance to sneak up the table. But it’s done. Onto QPR, and here’s hoping Paddock Kenny is unable to keep our ball game off of his grass.



The Benefit Of Older Heads

The glorious thing about last night’s 2-1 win over Villa is that Benayoun proved what some of us have thought for some time. Experience can deliver. After the Man City game, Yossi tweeted:

Very disappointing result today and also not to play at all but I’m sure better days will come soon..have a nice evening everyone

Now the thing about Yossi, the thing I’ve always admired about him (even in the Chelsea kit), and the thing I looked forward to when he joined us is his genuine desire to play well and help his team. He’s one of the most experienced players in this Arsenal squad, he’s a national captain, and he’s a bit of a player.

But he genuinely works, and keeps on working. He replaced a disappointing Aaron Ramsey, scored to grab the three points, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be giving Wenger something to think about in terms of team selection. “Should Benayoun start?” was the question on the lips of a few. Perhaps, Ramsey’s off days have been rare considering the amount of games he’s played this season, and after all he is still 21. He won’t play a blinder every game, his consistency is improving, and he’d surely be the first to admit his game last night was below par. But there might be a case.

Frimpong too played indifferently. As much as I love the young Ghanaian, he looked slow on the ball an somewhat indecisive. But again he’s 19. We shouldn’t expect too much of him, and while some people might think that the quality of Jack Wilshere at such a young age is something we should be getting used to from Arsenal’s youngsters, they’d be very wrong. Wilshere’s a standout talent – we’re talking “top, top quality” at a young age. Not quite world class just yet, but if he stays on course then he might just be.

Frimpong was replaced by Tomas Rosicky, who had an immediate impact in playing direct passes forward and between Villa players. The Czech captain looked alert and full of energy, at one point losing the ball and then sprinting back after his man and performing a quality sliding tackle to regain possession.

It had me thinking that it’s players like this we need to bring off the bench, but usually it would be the young upstarts replacing the experience, and eager to impress. Perhaps we’ve got it a bit back to front at Arsenal, but if that’s the case last night should have Arsene wondering if he needs to reverse the trend.

Of course if everyone is fit and firing it’s a tough question of who starts. Song would have played against Villa were it not for suspension, and we can think on  Wilshere challenging Ramsey, Rosicky and Benayoun in the near future, but at the moment Jack’s not available and the question of either Rosicky or Benayoun getting a run over the Welshman is something I think needs consideration.

Rather haphazardly, this talk of experience brings me to AA23, Shava, Sharky, Mr Arshavin. A player I rate very highly but a player who doesn’t look the £15m Russian dynamo it seemed we’d acquired. He actually won the corner from which Benayoun scored the winner, but he wasn’t brought to Arsenal to win corners. Although if he only did that and we always scored from them then I’d crown him a football wizard and have nothing to say.

Alas, I do. Perhaps it’s unfair of us to expect Arshavin to track back 40 yards and to win tackles, but he’s surely in the squad to provide drive and guile going forward. Composure on the ball, a bit of creativity, some assured play (he is, after all, another national captain). But he’s doing very little of that currently.

I’m right behind him like I am with any Arsenal player every time he takes to the field, but when his first touch is a mis-control and he then plays a blind pass straight to an opposition player it’s hard to be encouraged. When he does that regularly, even more so.

There’s talk that he might be off in January, but I can’t see it. What I can see is that he needs some of whatever is in Benayoun and Rosicky’s pre-game meals, and perhaps a little bit of support and encouragement from thefans as much as his teammates. I can also see that we’ve a decent amount of competition in midfield. Last night proved that, and Arshavin should be a bigger part of it. Well, hopefully Rosicky and – perhaps, particularly – Benayoun should inspire him to be just that.

Cup Final Thoughts

Well I know it’s a bit late in the day, but let me get straight into it.

That was hard to take, but that’s football. Now let me explain yesterday’s post:

Essentially I felt that we lost the game rather than were particularly beaten. I know that Birmingham won the game and fair play to them for that, but the mistake which led to the Martins’ goal was an Arsenal error. Bad communication between defenders and keepers happens, but if a defender has committed he should lump it. I know I’m not alone in that opinion, and I feel for Koscielny that he had to learn that particular lesson yesterday.

I’ve heard people refer to that incident as one that was about as freak as the classic Nayim shot that beat Seaman. Not true: Nayim’s shot was a moment of cheeky genius, that caught out a great keeper. Martins’ goal was a piece of opportunism presented to him by two very good but young pros. I suspect Martins’ was bought and brought on in the game to snap up half-chances and he duly delivered.

It’s also worth remembering that the first goal came about as a result of a passage of play where Song and Wilshere had a rare moment of misunderstanding which led to a Birmingham corner. Two errors punished in the worst way possible then, but again that’s football. Birmingham should have had a penalty, we had a few chances, both teams hit the woodwork and we struggled to find the rhythm that thuds resoundingly when Cesc is on the pitch.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we struggle without Cesc, but I really didn’t foresee Rosicky starting in the midfield three. Arsene no doubt felt he deserved a shot and was ready, but with the greatest will in the world Cesc’s role in this team is possibly the hardest to fill. I like Tomas as a player though, he had a decent game, and I was tiring fast of other Arsenal ‘fans’ at yelling at him (and Arshavin) when something didn’t come off. Let’s not forget he had a good effort go just wide of Foster’s post in the second half, and that could have made it 2-1 to us.

I guess really that’s all I have to say. I know there were travel problems, but the sheer scale of the Arsenal support that left when Martins scored saddened/surprised/disgusted me. I stayed so long I must have been one of only scores of Gooners left, but trips to Wembley shouldn’t be taken for granted, and the sheer joy and sound of the Blues support was a sight to behold. Don’t get me wrong; I felt like I’d been kicked in the chest when the ball left Martin’s boot and nestled in the net, but I was sure it wouldn’t be an easy day at the office, and it didn’t prove to be.

The good news is that we’re still in three other competitions, and another Wembley trip (or…whisper it, two) could still be on the cards. I know the players will be hurting, and perhaps more than some of us who can go into work the next day and disassociate from the emotional depression football sometimes provides. But we fans as well as the players, and all those who work at the cub are all The Arsenal: There are plenty of games to go this season, and more challenges ahead.

Plus, sometimes, sometimes, disappointment will be followed by joy.

Here’s hoping this season proves that the case.


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