A grumpy man’s belated thoughts

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

I must admit, I haven’t taken this one well. I was exceptionally downbeat after the game on Sunday. As soon as their first goal went in, my mood darkened.

For years, we held the upper hand over Chelsea, and once those things take hold, they can be hard to shift. In recent years it’s swung the other way more than we’d all like it to. But I doubt it’s down to being a jinx or a mental block. The harsh reality is, they remain a better unit than we are, just as we were better than them back then.

Maybe now at times only marginally – Wenger maintains, optimistically, that it’s close – but better than us all the same. More experienced, cannier, more disciplined, more solid and more ruthless.

But let’s scotch one preconception now – we didn’t lose on Sunday because we are by nature shot shy, or as David Pleat put it in the Guardian, “reluctant shooters”. According to @orbinho, we lead the table in terms of shots on goal at 143 (the Telegraph has the stats slightly lower but because they do not include blocked shots). Ordinarily, we have plenty of shots. The trouble yesterday was that we were not able to take any of the presentable or half chances that did come our way. We couldn’t get through and when we did, we fluffed our lines.

Against a team as parsimonious as Chelsea, you have to be ruthless and for a long time, ruthlessness is something we have not been noted for. How many times have we said this now? It’s easy to say of course – but it’s not a tap that can be switched on or off. It can’t be drilled. It comes with experience.

And talking of parsimony, we really need to work more on the defensive side of our game. Yes, I know, as chestnuts go that one is positively antediluvian. But it’s also been true for a long time – I suspect most teams will fancy their chances of nicking a goal against us, and that can’t be right, can it? It is possible to tighten up defensively as a team, but still attack with hammer, tongs and bells ringing.

I don’t think it’s all about the personnel. We used to let goals in with Campbell, Gallas and Toure. Koscielny and Squillaci have both looked good at times this season, but they’ve struggled a bit in recent games and the midfield ahead of them is not helping matters. It’s about defending as a team, and that is something that can very much be addressed on the green fields of Colney.

Positives – yes, the benefit of a day of reflection tells me there were. We put some decent yards in, we had plenty of possession, we matched them physically. An improvement on last year on that front, for sure. Fabianski was solid, Wilshere played well again, and Arshavin at least had his shooting boots on. Sagna showed that his WBA wobble was just that.

But we came up short, again.

As we now head into another international fortnight, we can at least be grateful that injured players do not get called up for duty. We have two weeks to cajole Fabregas, Walcott, Bendtner, Vermaelen and whoever else can be magically hauled off their sick beds back into the first team.

Clear the heads, move on.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Tubes

    Good post, unfortunately this current trend will continue as long as wenger and the board are in charge of arsenal.

  2. Duncan Ogle-Skan

    The difference between Chelsea and us, is that Chelsea make their mistakes (few though there are) 30-40 yards further away from their own goal than us. We used to play (early Wenger years) with two (mostly) defensive midfielders (Viera, Petit) where breaking was key (remember early Anelka and most of Henry’s goals). Not sure why we seem to still need 7-8 players in the final third to force a goal (at least in games against the big teams).

    Diaby was playing ahead of the other MF’s as he can’t be trusted to hold, or tackle for 90 mins. And in fairness as he’s likely to do positive things further up the field. But I’m not sure if Wilshere could do more.

    Song kept running forward, when he plainly adds little in the way of attacking capability. Be a holding mid and love that job, please.

    Mostly, apart from that, I was a lot happier than last year. Which, I suppose, wasn’t hard.

  3. dan

    have read lot’s of stuff in the past few days and the bottom line is we have fallen way behind firstly chelsea and now this year city. we are a second tier team and just have to accept it. we need some serious changes but with wenger in charge it isn’t going to happen. he is too set in his ways and they are no longer relevant when it comes to winning the big prizes. the board were utterly stupid to hand a new contract to him before the season started, we should have seen the progress the club was making before committing to four more years of a failed policy. however the club are more interested in profit than winning and we now see on the pitch the results of that policy. a good team with fabregas but a very ordinary one without him. sadly we will be permanently without him this time next year.

    all very depressing.

  4. jrock

    Let’s be honest. Neither of Chelsea’s two goals came from major defensive breakdowns. Song was hauled down before the goal and Drobga hit the ball in off the post. Kosceilny rightly commited a foul to stop the play outside of the box, and Alex scored a goal that 9 time out of 10 gets blasted over the bar. Remove the WBA performance out of the equation and you have to admit that Arsenal’s defense has been great this year.

  5. miki

    tubes: are you insane?
    to be honest, I’m not that depressed. I do agree with jrock.
    Great post as always eastlower.

  6. Berry Bethell

    jrock, miki, bang on. 1 slightly lucky goal and 1 unstoppable goal, defence hasn’t been bad on the whole, if anything we were found lacking up front, someone just needed to score to change the feeling, shame it didnt happen 🙁 Fabianski was good, perhaps the Partian game reignited something? Anyone reckon Pires will do a Campbell?

  7. Jekyll

    The issues won’t be addressed because Wenger doesn’t perceive them as such. It’s just not in his purview to tighten up defensively. He thinks it’s just all about retaining possession and pass and move. Just get great enough at that and it takes care of everything else. So spending time on drilling defence, tracking back, crossing, shooting is time that could be spent on perfecting pass and move. So he doesn’t do those things. That’s what I reckon anyway.

  8. arsene-al

    thank you @jrock, spot on

  9. RotorGoat

    Jrock – the late goal at Sunderland was avoidable too, to be fair.

  10. Tubes

    Not insane miki, just getting bored of the excuses. I think we could be in a bit of trouble this year, all of which could have been avoided if Wenger had made the right purchases in the summer.

  11. Danish Gooner

    Chelsea can play 90 faultless minutes,defensively they didnt put a foot wrong,we couldnt get out of the first 10 minutes before we had the first calamity.They are a proper tactical hard to grind down unit where we are vunerable in every thinkable department,tactical,concentration wise,physically etc.h

  12. Danish Gooner

    And it is mind boggling that Wenger have had 5 seasons to put this rubbish outfit together,they are as clueless as a virgin in a brothel.

  13. Sir Cecil

    As I’ve said before, and becomes more glaringly obvious each week, Arsenal play five-a-side-style football and their creativity is limited to a 20 yard band in the third quarter of the pitch. Everywhere else they are lacking. It’s like the pitch is expanded for “real” football, but the players are psychologically still in five-a-side mode. When the flicks and tricks work, it’s nice to see, just like in indoor football, but this ain’t what Premier League is all about. Thumbs down to Wenger’s misguided approach.

  14. Hairy Bottle

    It seems we can no longer lose to a better team and improvements no matter how much is not important if we are not winning.

  15. ayslegacy

    I think we have a good enough team to win the league.Wenger just has to be brave with his team selections and substitutions.Most times the man who wins is not the man with the better ideas but the man who is ready to take a risk by putting them into practice.This is the simple reason why chelsea have had the upper hand in recent years.With our style of play if it isn’t working you have to quickly make a change no matter the player, but Wenger doesn’t seem to have his wits about him and his substitutions of late have just baffled me.
    And does anybody know if Wenger has a thing against Mexicans because that is the only reason I can think of for not giving possibly the only fit natural finisher at our club a chance when we most needed to be clinical.

  16. 433

    I like the look of Arsenal this season. I’m expecting the side to hit a good patch of form at some point and string together a long series of consecutive wins – on the order of 10 straight. There are so many good players in the squad this year with Walcott and Wilshere emerging, and Cesc and Nasri at their peak; Arshavin still has a little fuel left in the tank, and between Van Persie and Chamakh, we’ve got the center forward position covered. We don’t have a World 11, but I really enjoy watching this team.

  17. gazgooner

    I too like the look of the Arsenal this season – we are a better unit than last season, of that there is no doubt. There is more experience, more quality and a stronger determination. What has not changed, however, is the injury situation and sadly that looks to again, be our achillies heel (sorry about that – yeah I know – a very poor choice of words!).

    I wonder how hard we have to consider the unimaginable – selling Cesc, Nik and RvP…all are so fragile and seem to spend more time in the medical rooms than on the pitch. And this is becoming far too regular an occurance. It’s OK to have these fabulous players IF they play – but they do not seem to play many games at all throughout the season. Is it time to sell them when they’ll command good fees and invest in some players who can stay on the field most of the year? Is it better to have maybe slightly less quality players who will play all year round rather than have exceptional players made from glass who spend a very small percentage of the season on the field.

    Also what has transpired since last season, is a Citeh, with oil wells of cash, a set of Chavs so totally in the groove, a Manure that just won’t go away despite no serious signings, and a (hand over mouth mumble) tiny totts not being so tiny any more. God forbid!

    Very sadly, it seems to be a battle for 4th place again – the league has gone already – let’s be frank about that. But a cup might well be within our reach. Am I a realist or am I being too pessimistic?

  18. goonergerry

    How many times do we have be beaten by Chelsea before we realise that we have to cut off Drogba’s supply? This game was like watching a re-run of the last 4 times we played them- beaten easily each time. I dont see us beating City, United or Chelsea home or away. We simply are not organised or strong enough to stop them from scoring without being able to score ourselves. The level of tactical ineptitude by Wenger is unacceptable. He does not learn from experience. If we play Chelsea in this way a further 10 times we will lose each one. We are not competitive.

  19. Keith

    Come on guys .. Get a grip. How many of you expected us to get a result at chelsea? I’d have settled for a draw before the game. We have 4 key players missing we dominated possesion at times, matched them for attempts and I thought we looked good. Loads of positives and that run of unbeaten games will come .. We will not be far away this season.

  20. Frankantz

    “Let’s be honest. Neither of Chelsea’s two goals came from major defensive breakdowns.”

    Jrock you’re kidding, right? Did you not see Nasri letting Cole go down our right flank unchallenged? Did you miss both Song and Arshavin leaning away from Alex’s free kick after the Chelsea plant in the wall stepped aside? Defending is a frame of mind that realises that any cross into the box is dangerous. That the defence starts with me – a defence that starts from the striker and goes all the way back to the keeper. Those were 2 goals a team like Chelsea would rarely concede because unlike Wenger they believe in the art of defending.

  21. PD

    We won’t be far away this season ? From what ? I sincerely hope you don’t mean from winning the title. Let’s get realistic; we need to focus on the Totts & Citeh & make sure we keep our CL spot. Our ‘title challenge’ is over. To think otherwise is delusion. You can argue the toss for hours but the facts are simple; 4 seasons in the last 6 we haven’t got to Christmas having even a sniff of the title. It’s very simple : we are simply not good enough. Some of the players clearly aren’t good enough (Almunia, Diaby both being certain first 11 players when fit is farcical at a club with pretensions to winning the title) & Wenger not spending the money during the summer just makes me look ridiculous now.
    But there is also a stunning lack of a winning mentality in this squad. I actually can’t remember the last time I saw one of our players get a bollocking from a team-mate for not doing his job. And so they never learn….
    And when Cesc goes in the summer we’ll be further away than ever. I love Wenger; I really do. What he’s done at our club is nothing short of remarkable. (the stadium,youth system etc) But with the finances now in such good shape the question has to be asked. Is his determination to be proven right greater than his determination to make us champions ??? Is he capable of ever winning the league again ? I genuinely don’t think he is. And that breaks my heart…..

  22. PD

    Just makes him look ridiculous is obviously what I meant 🙂

  23. Dilema

    I agree with PD…its now a matter of AW’s ego, than the needs of the fans of this football club.
    Yes no one argued when we were doing well, and winning..but that’s coz there was nothing to complain about..but now AW has things to think about, but don’t want to. The things he done so well to get us in the position we was, he has abandoned and has no answer to the new problems that arise. A part of managing is about problem solving, but i now have NO faith he is the man to solve them.

    He’s had over 5 years of bad press and complaint, not only from the media, but his own fans..yet he ignores the calls from everyone, and its all about him proving people wrong, and even his own fans!! That’s when things have to change..we can all the faults with this team, no determination, a lack of focus and quality in the final third (and in defense), and a brittle squad…the injury thing at our club is silly. If these players cant stay fit they have to go..coz not only do they not stay fit, they dont apply them selves enough when they are, or some will, but get injured again as soon as they hit form (walcott for example)..diaby the same…even van persie..as much as it hurts to say its true..they spend more time out than on the pitch and its really frustrating.
    it now seems the board and people behind the scenes dont care either, just as long as bills are paid and we cant play CL football..no matter if we win or not..that’s what they think is good enough for the Arsenal!

  24. Jacob

    I’m all for varied opinions and differing views but when those views are as stupid as Danish Gooner’s one has to actually call BS on the comments.

    Danish Gooner’s tiny mind appears to be boggling because Wenger put together a team that went to Stamford Bridge without Cesc, Vermaelen, Walcott – who was on fire before he got injured- and Van Persie who has actually scored goals at Stamford bridge, and that team played Chelsea off the park for looooong stretches. To our Danish friend’s mind the fact that a team missing that many star players doing as well as we did at Stamford Bridge is evidence of how Wenger has wasted five years! How stupid do you have to be to arrive at such a conclusion? As a matter of fact how many teams have actually won at Stamford Bridge recently? what kind of buffoon imagines that Arsenal with all our injuries have RIGHT to win at Stamford Bridge?

    How much has Wenger had to spend in those 5 years compared to Chelsea?… Forget that Danish muppet and tell us how much Wenger has had to spend compared to Spurs!.. if you don’t know the answer google it because the figures are all over the web… And then tell us if you may how this team and what they are doing can be worthy of anything but the highest praise! I don’t know what you lot smoke in Denmark but I’d stick to tobacco if I were you…

  25. Welling Gooner

    Jacob, – last season we went to Stamford Bridge with a team that included Cesc, Walcott and Vermaelen and guess what? We got stuffed 2 – 0.
    The fact is, whether you like it or not – we are completely clueless on how to defend. Has Drogba scored 13 goals against Man utd? Has he scored 13 against Liverpool? what about Spurs, Villa, even Blackburn? Short answer is no. Because their managers understand the threat that he poses. Wenger has got no defensive acumen at all. His approach to the game is to play pretty football with no end result.
    So what if we played them off the park for looooong stretches. How many goals did we score for all that possesion? How many did they score? How many points are they in front of us already?
    If I was you, I’d let Danish carry on smoking whatever he wants to and consider giving up the crack cocaine that you seem to be under the influence of.
    Until we get a manager who understands the art of defending we win Jack shit.

  26. Tubes

    Well said old man! (WG)

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