Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal
What a deeply frustrating game that was from a “not ready” Arsenal.
Post-match, both Wenger and Henry banged on about potential and how well we’d played, and to a degree they have a point. Henry missed two presentable chances to score plus several free kicks, van Persie hit the post and missed two even better chances to make City’s keeper work for a living, Toure also hit the post, and on another day we might have romped it. This was not like some of the feeble capitulations of last season, it’s true.
But we lost, thanks to a dreadful piece of defending from Justin Hoyte, who was, correctly as it turned out, perceived as the weak link in the Arsenal back line by City. He had a torrid first 45 minutes. I won’t defend him just for the sake of it, but he is a right-back playing left-back, and an inexperienced one at that, and I do think he’s otherwise been OK this season. Djourou and Eboue too had their shaky moments yesterday, and for me it highlights not simply Hoyte’s poor performance, but the callowness of our defence in general. Djourou is 19, Hoyte is 21, Eboue 23 and even Toure, the elder statesman of our back line, is only 25. What we need is for Senderos, Lauren and Clichy to return, and to bed the others in at a slower pace. It would also explain why trying to sign Gallas would make sense – for his experience as well as his ability.
In the middle, we performed pretty well, with Fabregas pivotal in many of our moves. I don’t think we were muscled out of it at all, despite the relatively lightweight nature of Cesc, Hleb and Rosicky. The real problem is that we didn’t take our chances when they came, and we also over-elaborated wildly, a trait that is becoming pure Arsenal.
When the strikers have no luck, as was the case yesterday, our midfield needs to chip in with goals. Fabregas, Gilberto and Hleb probably scored no more than ten goals between them last season – less even. Perhaps that’s what Rosicky will do – let’s hope so.
We also could do with one or two reinforcements to add depth to the squad, but I think Wenger, despite his upbeat diplomacy, is well aware of this.
So no reason for wearing hairshirts and wailing, but we do need to learn to be more ruthless in front of goal. Otherwise, if the opposition knows we won’t have a pop, it’s relatively easy to shunt us into dead-ends.
This morning’s transfer rumour is Nigel Reo-Coker, a player I like a lot, but a transfer I can’t see happening.
Anyway, that’s yer lot.