That was as pitiful a performance as I have seen since Spurs beat Arsenal 5-1 and promptly had a bunch of mugs and tee shirts and videos printed up.
There is this sort of starry-eyed optimism that Wenger often preaches. Of course, you have to have faith if you’re going to manage a team at the highest level. But Wenger’s faith in a player like Eboue is mind-boggling at times. As I said when he first moved Eboue to the central midfield role, we would have to wait and see if it was a master stroke or enormous flop. As of yesterday? It’s a flop.
Lost isn’t a strong enough adjective for what Eboue was doing in the center of the park. Was he loster? I don’t know. I do know that Denilson was actually “loster” than Eboue. Which would make Denilson’s performance yesterday what? Brimming over with lostitude? Nah, it was just pitiful.
And, of course, without a proper midfield the perfect little world that Wenger creates on the pitch, that world where movement and passing is king, falls to pieces rather quickly. Without a proper midfield stopper, the defense is exposed. Without a proper midfield creator, the attack is toothless. And since neither Denilson nor Eboue seemed able to make a pass we didn’t even have beautiful football to watch. It was the kind of game that you want to switch off. The kind of game you want to leave early to beat the traffic.
Yesterday exposed the fact that more than ever, this team has nothing to fall back on. I don’t mean the personnel, personnel be damned for a moment. I mean a playing style. The team, like a religious fanatic, just kept trying the same formula over and over. When the beautiful game fails, you need a backup plan. If the backup plan has to be Lump and Crunch that’s fine by me but a backup plan, any backup plan is surely needed. Because even if Arsene spends Chelsea money to bring players in (as everyone seems to want) there will still be days like yesterday and champions overcome days like yesterday. Certainly, Fabregas’ target and this writer’s fantasy signing (Xabi Alonso) would have added a lot of quality to the center of the park yesterday. But the facts are that even with Alonso, Arsenal could have played poorly yesterday. What Arsenal need, to be champions is both new signings and a backup plan. And the truth is that Arsenal, right now, are not a championship quality team.
And who is it that’s supposed to whip the team up? Change their formation? Make them win? The captain. And yesterday, captain fabulous made one mistake and crawled into his sulking little shell and let the whole game just fall apart around him. It was as poor a display from William Gallas as I have seen both in letting in the goal and in the captaincy. I keep imagining the theatrics that Gallas would have launched into had Toure let that big oaf score on him like that; so completely and without even a hint of effort from the defender. Whenever I think of something like that it’s actually comical to me to let that man continue as captain of this team. For me, addressing this issue of William Gallas as cheerleader captain of Arsenal is actually more important than signing new players. Because Denilson’s going to be called upon to perform again, and if he starts having the kind of nightmare he had yesterday the captain needs to snap him out of it. William Gallas just cannot seem to do it.
Up front, you can’t really be too mad. Ade only had the one chance, really, which he narrowly missed. And for all the criticism that “Adebayor is profligate” it was RvP who looked wasteful to me, not Ade. But that’s what happens when you can’t get service and you’re not Thierry Henry quality. Neither of Arsenal’s strikers, right now, are Thierry Henry quality; take over a game and create something from nothing.
If either of them were, Arsenal would have at least rescued a draw.
The boss has his work cut out for him now. He’s calling for an enourmous performance against FC Twente. Hell, I just want a decent performance. Let’s start there and work our way up, shall we?