Not such a g'day Gooners.
I hate writing in the immediate aftermath of a defeat, when I'm full of bile and rancour, without letting the dust settle sufficiently for me to be able to offer a more reflective appraisal. But as loathe as I am to point the finger of blame, quite frankly last night's disaster should come as no real surprise because the writing has been on the wall for some weeks now.
That Yossi Benayoun was our last line of defence in the build up to Lactics opening goal, as the only player in red & white sufficiently on his toes to recognise the visitor's threat, this spoke volumes about an Arsenal side that was never really at the races last night. In fact on this form, if the Gunners had been entered in the Grand National, we'd have been a guaranteed faller at the first fence!
Our recent form has been misleading, as although we've been scoring goals, winning games and somehow keeping all too rare clean sheets, with RVP's purple patch inevitably becoming seriously frayed at the edges these past few games, we've been forced to grind out games with the benefit of more than a little good fortune and the sort of isolated bursts of flowing incisive football which tend to create a false impression when viewed in highlights format.
Having failed to heed the warnings of our defeat at Loftus Road, this was an upset waiting to happen with seemingly to have foolishly set too much store in their own press and believing they only had to turn up, to win this game. With Johan Djourou something of a liability at centre back, with Arteta limping off to be replaced by an Aaron Ramsey who might as well have hit the beach after his last injury, judging by his slapdash lack of intensity since returning to fitness and with Theo Walcott seemingly lacking the capacity to appreciate the need to try and stretch opposition defences by making the pitch as wide as possible, we were always riding for a fall against such totally "up for it" opposition.
And considering the subsequent dip in form of the vast majority of players who've returned from African Cup of Nations duty, I could fully understand the frustration amongst the crowd around me, seeing Wenger sending Gervinho on with 30 minutes to play. As a tactical ploy it was tantamount to going into an Ultimate Fighting Competition with a view to tickling your opponent to death with a feather!
So by the time AW eventually turned to the Ox as a last resort, with only 15 left on the clock, the poor kid is so desperate to have some impact, that he was always going to be trying just a little too hard, lacking the sort of patience that we might get from him if only he'd been given a longer run out. And even if he did give the ball away, he did so while at least trying to make something happen. What's more despite his diminutive stature, the Ox appears a lot more robust than Theo and can therefore be relied upon to put a challenge in when necessary, instead of feebly shadowing a player for fear of hurting his tootsies
But I'd better stop before I go off one one, as you win as a team and you lose as a team and there weren't many in red & white last night who weren't deserving of criticism for their failure to match Wigan's desire.
Still based on that performance, Wigan deserve to stay up and I'd willingly accept defeat last night, if it acts as the inspiration to really show up and do ourselves justice against Chelsea on Saturday. Hopefully at least we'll have Kos back in harness
It’s a shame only 200 hundred Lactics fans made it to the Grove to savour Wigan’s first ever success at our gaff. Nevertheless the visitors received all due recognition for their deserved victory, from many of the Gooners who remained at the final whistle, including myself. The truth is that if it wasn’t for the customary congestion at the bulkheads, I would’ve been straight out the door to spark up a conciliatory ciggie, before dashing around to the pie stall for some comfort grub. But as Wigan wandered over to commune with the miniscule contingent of travelling fans, I felt obliged to stand and applaud their admirable efforts.
In his programme notes Wenger commented on Wigan’s fine form, suggesting it was a warning which should ensure our “complete focus”. With the Gunners already 0-2 down after only 8 minutes, nothing could’ve been further from the truth. Roberto Martinez’s side have been playing some remarkably entertaining football in recent weeks, but they really didn’t need to produce anything particularly special, to prick an Arsenal bubble that’s been puffed up by the disproportionate hype surrounding our Spring offensive for 3rd place. Sure we’ve recently rediscovered the knack of winning games, but we’ve hardly been setting many fires along the way.
We were fortunate to be 2-0 up after only ten minutes at Molyneux last Wednesday. With Wolves being a man down, it should’ve been game over, but sadly we slipped into such a complacent stupor that it was a big relief when Benayoun eventually banged home a third. By contrast, the Wanderers were working their socks off, until Yossi put the result beyond doubt. If any of their earnest endeavours had born fruit and they’d sparked the fervent home crowd by pulling a goal back instead, it might been an entirely different story.
Sadly we started against Wigan, where we’d left off at Wolves, in the exact same lackadaisical fashion; whereas the Lactics were “at it” from first to last minute, putting in a tireless shift, of the sort that made us look like indolent prima-donnas by comparison. Apparently it’s players that win games, not tactics and indeed Wigan were that much sharper and more focused, all over the park. However, typically ungracious in defeat, le Gaffer might’ve poo-poohed the significance of the Martinez 3-4-3 masterstroke, but in my humble opinion, Wigan’s unusual formation certainly played it’s part.
In such circumstances, with the likes of Walcott seemingly lacking the instinctive ability to read the game and react accordingly, our manager’s passive resistance to tinkering with his team is utterly infuriating. With both crowd and players equally gobsmacked by Wigan’s goals, mercifully the Gunners were galvanised into action and had the visitors on the ropes for much of the remainder of the first half. But after the break Wigan rarely appeared the least bit uncomfortable, so long as our far too narrow attack continued banging their heads in vain, against the centre-back brick wall in the middle of the park.
You didn’t need the bird’s eye view from the Goodyear blimp to appreciate that we were playing to the visitor’s strengths, denied any incisive momentum by an obvious lack of width. Al-Habsi could’ve spent most of the second half prostrate on his prayer mat, for all our attacking threat and as the Gunners threw caution to the wind, Wigan looked far more likely to put the game to bed by scoring again on the counter, than we were of breaking them down for an equaliser.
Much like Gilberto before him, it’s only in Arteta’s absence that one begins to fully appreciate his contribution. With Ramsey seemingly so out of sorts, unless Wenger can conjure up his own tactical coup, Miguel might be sorely missed come Saturday. Defeat to Wigan does at least enable me to empathize with my Spurs mates’ frustrations, watching the wheels coming off their Champions League charabanc, by blowing their home banker against the Canaries. But I pray that a more committed Arsenal response will be rewarded with a contrasting result against Chelsea.
We’d all forgotten about Wilshere’s battle for fitness so long as we were winning, but with no hope of our shining knight charging back into the fray, aside from a much-needed moral boost and avoiding being drawn back into an end of season dogfight, we badly need to beat the Blues, if only to afford me an opportunity to tease my pals about stocking up on the new Spurs (& Everton) brand Viagra, for the benefit of all those who can only manage a semi!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Not such a g'day Gooners.