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Monday 27 August 2007

The Blunder Of You

HI folks,

You'll have to forgive me if I've repeated a couple of points from a previous post in the following piece, but I wanted to pick the best points for my Examiner piece

I know there were plenty of Gooners who felt I was being a bit harsh on Fabregas after the Blackburn game and there were others whose comments suggested that there was absolutely no justification for my criticisms (although I can't help but wonder how many of these opinions came from people who were present in person to watch the game at Ewood Park?). In fact I'd even begun to wonder if I'd got it wrong myself and as a result I spent much of the 90 minutes against Man City scrutinizing Cesc closely, through my binoculars, instead of following the ball.

Now I don't know whether Cesc is following instructions, not to waste his talents doing too much donkey work, nor can I believe Fabregas has gone from being a self-effacing, humble 100 per cent grafter, to an egotistical, lazy, less committed Gunner, overnight. However the more I see of Cesc, the more convinced I am that there's some cause for concern about Fab's recent performances.

Saturday's game wasn't the best game to judge Fab by, as when Sagna was subbed for Denilson and Flamini went to right back, it was Denilson who was playing as the more advanced of our two midfielders, with Fab tending to hold back. What's more, with two fit centre-backs allowing Gilberto to rejoin the midfield, we might look a little more balanced and a little less lightweight in the centre of the park. With our Brazilian enforcer back in place to break up opposition attacks, perhaps this might free Fabregas from some of his defensive responsibilities, so that he's best placed to launch a counter attack. However there have been several instances in the past couple of game, where I would've expected Fab to stay with the run of one of the opposition, thereby preventing a problem for Flamini, whereby he was struggling to cover two players.

Moreover there will be many games where we are under the cosh for certain periods of the match, where we must defend as a team with everyone accepting some defensive responsiblity, to ensure the opposition won't always have an easy ball to an open player. We saw evidence of this in the second half on Saturday. From where we sit in the lower tier, closer to the south end of the ground and the fairly vocal City fans, it was patently obvious that the visitors had chosen to target our right flank, where Flamini was trying to fill in for Sagna. Virtually every one of City's attacks came down their left flank, where we appeared particularly vulnerable. The obvious point of view was that Flamini was at fault because he failed to pick up the wide man every time, but he was also torn between staying in touch with Kolo, to ensure there wasn't a gaping hole between the two of them and so we don't really know if someone like Hleb was to blame for not helping out and providing the necessary cover out wide.

Meanwhile with Gallas injured (yet again!) and Senderos joining him on the sidelines, we are looking decidedly short on centre-back cover and while I am all for the youngsters gaining more experience out on loan, you have to wonder at the sense of allowing one of our best prospects, Djourou play for Birmingham, while we are having to make do with Gilberto! But in truth, we have got awat with it up until now, as I'm sure most will agree, we continue to look a long way from being secure at the back and we've yet to face a truly potent strikeforce.

At least it was good to be able field two genuinne strikers at home, instead of Van Persie operating on his own up front. Adebayor might've had a bit of a stinker, but then surely we can cut him some slack with his first game back. You can train all you like, but as we all know, there is no substitute for competitive match practice and I'd like to think that if Manny was match fit, he wouldn't have been caught on his heels in the box and might have anticipated a couple of the balls played across the face of goal on Saturday, in time to connect and slide at least one of them home.

Hopefully the return of Sol, Lauren and Kanu next Sunday, with a Pompey side that usually comes to play against us will act as suitable inspiration for everyone and in the meantime there's the small matter of a Champions League game which is far from over, until we make it so with the first goal on Wednesday

Come on you Reds
Big Love

When the Elvis tune “The Wonder Of You” blasted out of the PA, prior to the teams trotting out for our first home game, a couple of weeks back, I mistakenly assumed that this was merely a tribute, to mark the 30th anniversary of the passing of “the King of Rock n’ Roll”. I pooh-poohed the suggestion that this was to be the Arsenal’s new signature tune, as I simply couldn’t fathom the reasoning behind such a barmy choice of songs.

It seems to me that there are only two criteria for the choice of music to mark the entrance of the teams into the arena. Either it’s a song which has some specific association with the club concerned, or a stirring anthem that’s been chosen for it’s capacity to rouse the passions of the crowd, thereby getting the adrenaline pumping through the bodies of the home team and hopefully making the visitors quake in their boots at the prospect of the ensuing encounter. Heaven only knows which category Everton’s “Z Cars” theme tune falls into, but I don’t doubt that there are plenty of Toffees’ fans whose hairs still stand up on the back of their necks, when the first few bars of this somewhat bizarre choice of music, blare out at Goodison Park before a big game.

By contrast, when it dawned on me on Saturday that we are likely to be enduring the dulcet tones of this boring Elvis ballad, before every home match for the foreseeable future, I imagined the players in the tunnel dozing during this lullaby, with the resultant deceleration, rather than the desired quickening of their heart rate! I’m afraid I have to concur with Morrissey’s suggestion that we should “Hang the DJ”!

Then again if all I have to grumble about is a musical difference of opinion, then I guess we’re in relatively good shape, compared to some. Considering many of us have spent the past couple of months suffering the merciless “bon mots” of our Spurs mates, as they took such great pleasure in teasing us about the demolition of each successive cornerstone of Arsène’s North London empire, leading to the somewhat premature predictions of the imminent downfall of the Arsenal dynasty, there will be few Gooners who’ll have failed to relish the delicious irony of the footie media’s focus on the skullduggery of the suits at Spurs.

In truth the suspension of betting on Jol’s sacking last week should’ve been evidence enough that something was afoot. I’m somewhat surprised we haven’t heard more about an investigation into this attempted betting coup. But then a bit of insider dealing is probably par for the course for some of the White Hart Lane wiseguys. Not that we haven’t our fair share of Footsie finaglers, ever since a Club Level membership became the latest ‘must have’ accessory for every self-respecting City boy (City of London, as opposed to Sven’s mob).

It was almost worth enduring all that rampant pre-season optimism from the wrong end of Seven Sisters Road, if only because it’s so much more fun, watching them fall from such a height, as the Spurs board manages to shoot themselves in the foot, yet again. I suppose he could always make them an offer they can’t refuse, but I have to admit to feeling some sympathy for their Dutch Tony Soprano. His almost untenable position is a sad reflection on the panic-ridden state of the farce that is British football at present, where the lunatics at the helm of the Lilywhite asylum were giving their leader £40 million to spend, whilst seemingly simultaneously plotting his replacement in the absence of immediate results.

Fergie was perhaps the most relieved man at Old Trafford on Sunday. If good-fortune had instead favoured the visitors, it would’ve been ol’ Red Nose on the end of the Glazer’s hook, as the grisly bait for the piranha like feeding-frenzy of those tabloid pariahs. Yet nowadays, sadly the demands for immediate success are such, or more’s the point, the dread of being drawn into the relegation dogfight and the risk of losing one’s place at the Premiership trough, is so potent, that most every manager is only a couple of bad results away from becoming the bookies favourite for the “tin tack”.

Consequently, even in light of the recent turmoil and the loss of Dein, his right-hand man, I can’t envisage our own Arsène Wenger wanting to swap the security of absolutely ruling the roost at the Arsenal, for all the relative uncertainty of a clean slate at another club. However you only have to witness the anguish that many managers experience on the touchline, to appreciate that the intense pressure of Premiership management is hardly conducive to one’s good health. Thus if it wasn’t for the fact that Le Prof’s young squad is a work in progress, Wenger might find the prospect of walking away from the unrelenting strain of day to day management somewhat more appealing.

Listening to the post-match phone-ins at the weekend, I was surprised by the proposition that we were the most in-form side. Even the most avid Arsenal watchers will admit that, to date, Arsène’s current symphony has appeared decidedly unfinished. In fact, following the groans of frustration that greeted the umpteenth overhit pass, or our unconscionable penchant for providing meat and drink to messrs Dunne and Micah Richards, by constantly playing to their aerial strengths all afternoon, I turned to the missus to suggest that if you didn’t know better, you would’ve thought that we were the motley collection of mercenary strangers, rather than Man City.

Nevertheless, few Gooners will moan, least of all me, if Cesc continues to conjure up an 80th minute winner every week. Yet Fabregas’s goal cannot mask the fact that apart from a rare individual effort, he has struggled so far to produce the sort of midfield promptings necessary for a significant impact on the overall proceedings. In my humble opinion, the influence of an in-form Fabregas is vital, if this Arsenal side is to rise above the somewhat tepid efforts seen to date, to truly come to the boil.

Most will argue that so long as we are achieving results, where in the past we probably would’ve dropped points, who cares if we continue “winning ugly” whilst we struggle to find our customary, more artistic form. Aside from providing a valuable demonstration of some newfound mettle, just imagine what we have to look forward to when our fluid passing game really starts to flow!

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phatosas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
phatosas said...

Maybe you see things differently from the pitch than we see on TV because I didn't see anything wrong with Fabregas performance. He looked overweight in preseason and didnt come into the season in full form but he is slowly getting back into his game. He is probably not driving enough as he used to and he might be leaving gaps defensively but it is hard to question a player that has scored two goals in four games from midfield. If there is something specific you noticed about him, give him time. Half of the team is not yet fully fit on in form. By September you would see the best of this Arsenal team. The important thing is we are getting the results in August.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this article. I'm a season ticket holder and think that it's impossible to scrutinise cescs performances on tv(im not trying to be snobbish, its just that its impossible.

Prior to his goal, I thought he was pretty poor all round. I know he scored and it was a cracking goal, but his general play for the other 79mins was pretty sub standard for him. I know he's set a high standard but it was the basic short passing and lack of vision that was worrying. I hope it is a tactical thing, or he's just settling into the new season. Either way, Denilson looked better, and Flamini played with the type of grit and determination that I like to see.


Bern said...

I can remember watching the highlights of the Fulham game, where it showed a couple of Cesc's incisive passes, including the one for the goal and I can recall thinking that anyone watching these would think he had a great game.

Perhaps it wasn't so obvious from the Blackburn highlights but most present can confirm that Fab has set such a high standard that over the 90 minutes he's looked a pale version of the prodigy we've grown accustomed to. As a result I guess I was being hyper-critical, actually looking for the runs of the Blackburn midfield that he failed to track.

In pre-season I decided he looked tired, but he's such a crucial cog that I'm now concerned that it might be less a case of fatigue but that he's become a little jaded, struggling to for the sort of hunger we'vy become used to.

Then again, our full-backs apart and Flamini, who works his socks off within the limitations of his ability, no one has been playing particularly well so far and since football is so much more pleasurable when a team is playing well, hopefully Fab's form will perk up along with the rest of the lads.

I know it's a dreadful cliché these days for footie professionals to be kissing a badge one minute and crapping on it the next, but you only had to see Cesc celebrating his goal, to know that the feeling still remains. I simply hope he can be encouraged to express it a little more before we start wondering how long its going to be before the real Fabregas is going to stand up

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Agree with you on Cesc, poor all season, including pre-season. In his defence, Wenger has said that he's recovering from that virus which kept him out for a game or two in pre-season, so that may explain why he appears drained of energy. That said, Cesc may also be suffering from being over-rated. The Arsenal fans and media would have you believe he's our only talent. The truth of it is that Cesc is a very neat, classy player, but certainly needs to be 100% on top of his game to compete physically in the Premiership. He isn't a physical specimen. He's not the most creative either. His talent is in holding possession and finding quick simple passes to team-mates around him. Whilst that is fantastic, it shouldn't be confused with the genuine creativity and trickery of a player like Hleb. Cesc, along with most of the team have one objective, to get hold of the ball and give it to either Hleb or Rosicky, or Henry when he was still with us. The crowd get frustrated with Hleb and want him off, without any understanding of his role to the team. He is our play-maker, without him, we would be rediculously toothless. So Cesc is a lovely player, but let's not over-rate him, and if he's not fit enough to be able to control the midfield, and get the ball to Hleb, then he should be rested. We'd have won more ball in recent games with Song playing in the middle. Denilson came on against City and actually started making some tackles, something we hadn't seen for a few matches, and this gave us the impetus to take over the final quarter of that match.

Anonymous said...

having read last weeks column I kept an eye out on Cesc this week and have to agree, he seems to pull up after making a token track back.

I was suprised not to hear your opinion on Rocisky as I thought he was a bit of a non event and I expected more of him this season

Bern said...

Can't agree with Hboy, as to my mind Fab is far more of an effective playmaker than Hleb (at least from what we've seen to date). Although Hleb might run with the ball and try to take players on, I don't think we've anyone in the team with the genius of Fabregas when it comes to picking out killer passes.

I am not a statistics person, but sadly the vast majority of Hlebs efforts come to nought and I wouldn't mind betting that despite the number of times he runs with the ball, Fab has a much higher completion rate when it comes to the question of effective contribution

And as for Song, I have to admit that (from what I understand), he was quite effective for Charlton but I'm afraid that whenever he comes on for us, he tends to look a bit of a headless chicken (a poor man's Obi Mikel?)

You are correct Joel, Rosicky has been very disappointing to date and if we'd ended up dropping points against Fulham, or not scoring in the 80th minute against Man City, I am sure he'd have come in for quite a bit of criticism, for an almost total lack of any significant contribution.

However I have to admit that from my vantage point against City, while his positive contribution still wasn't much to write home about, from what I recall he was grafting and for a little geezer, he doesn't mind getting stuck in. I guess that's probably why I have cut him some slack

Yet we didn't buy Rosicky for his tackling ability and if he doesn't start having an impact in the other penalty area soon, I am sure Gooners will start getting on his back.

If ever there was a better opportunity for Tommi to pull his finger out, it will be tomorrow night against his former club (I was actually hoping we might see something from him in Prague, where he's such a big deal, but sadly his contribution was still negligible). A couple of those 25 yard screamer's and we'll all be happy :-)