Ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, and former partners in business, once you walk out that door you can’t go back, because in the time that you’ve been gone, both parties will have changed irrevocably. Take Arsenal as an example, in the time since Keown left us (the end of a history breaking defensive run in the Champions League) Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have changed pretty radically. Gone is Thierry Henry up front and gone is Senderos, the player that Wenger pegged as a future Arsenal captain at center back. No matter how much he loves Arsenal I have to wonder if the chance to do something new with Tony Adams isn’t more enticing.
I’m not saying that I don’t want him, hell, Keown could hardly do worse than we’re doing right now. In fact, as I think back, this club has been shaky dealing with set plays since he left so maybe taking him back in is exactly what we need. Or maybe it’s just as simple as something that Lee Dixon pointed out yesterday. Basically, Dixon explained how the old Arsenal defense dealt with corners and (in the case of Delap) throw ins. There was no man-marking, they played a zone, and they had three players who would basically just stay on the end line and go after the ball. Ignore the attacker, just go for the ball. The pure simplicity of this is genius: you get a running start at the header (we are currently attacking the ball from a man-marking spot which gives the attacker an advantage because he’s running to a spot and you’re jumping from a stand-still-ish) and by clearing up some of the bodies in front of the goal it both gives the keeper a chance to claim the ball and if they do win the header there are more attackers in shallow midfield to start the counter-attack. Dixon was talking about this in the context of the Delap throw-ins but I have to wonder how much this strategy would help in other areas.
What harm could it do to try it? We could hardly be worse from set plays.
And one more thing on that topic, because I might as well say it now, Almunia is at fault for both of those goals against Stoke and apart from a good performance at West Ham he has been a joke this season. After Stoke’s first goal I turned to T-Town Alex and said “why didn’t Almunia claim that?” I mean, the ball was at the 6 yard line and it’s not like Fuller jumped for the ball at all, why is he just standing there watching his central defender tussle three feet away from him and not going up and claiming the ball? Moreover, he was miserable against Spurs and I know this is an unpopular thing to say, but despite his saves against Fener, he was at fault for their goals as well. It seems like the closer he gets to his English citizenship, the more like an English keeper he becomes. Wenger needs to sort this issue out and I’m afraid that it’s going to take more than just some New Age scam artist’s book to put Almunia’s head on straight.
Unfortunately, as Gael Clichy is the latest Arsenal player to point out, it’s not just one person’s fault, the whole team has to get together and play harder.
Against Stoke I think we lacked a bit of everything. Up front we couldn’t keep the ball, in the middle of the park we didn’t run enough and at the back we conceded goals again. So all the team was to blame again and I think we have to really work harder and to give the confidence back to the boss because every day he is giving us a lot of credit. I think now it is time to realise that we have got the quality but we need to work harder because football is not only about playing nice football and scoring goals. We have to really work as a team and maybe everything will be better in the future.
This idea of working hard and winning ugly has been echoed by a few other players these last two weeks and I have to wonder if there isn’t a rift in the team between the people who want to play purely Wenger’s way and the people who think we need to win ugly. Again, that’s something Wenger needs to sort out, it’s why he gets paid the big bucks.
But of course, all of this is in the past and I’m not trying to live in the past, more like trying to understand the past so that I’m not doomed to repeat it. For example, I have a hamstring pull and two weeks ago I tried to play on it and pulled it again. If I keep trying to play on it, it will just get worse. So, I’ve rested it a whole week and now I’m going to start slowly recovering — which is exactly what Arsenal need to do. Take a day off, rest, and start slowly rebuilding.
Us supporters also need to take a look at the past and rather than relive it try to learn some lessons and rebuild. It’s going to be a tough season, this is a young and uncertain team and that means a lot of inconsistent performances. Note that I didn’t say they are inexperienced, they aren’t, but they are very clearly uncertain of themselves. That will make it very difficult to win in the Premier League which requires tremendous consistency but some of the other tournaments will be well within our grasp. All you have to do is look at the wildly inconsistent Spurs run in the Milk Cup last year to see what I’m talking about: Arsenal are still in 3 cups that only require some lucky draws and a few moments of brilliance to win. We’re not out of any of those competitions and our Carling Cup squad looks really, really strong this year. Why not?
Speaking of which, Arsenal host Fenerbahce tomorrow! I’m still not certain who will be healthy (Theo is rumored to be ready to face Man U but Ade and Sagna are uncertain) and what the team selection will be but all of that will be cleared up this afternoon when Arsene gives his press conference. I do know that Doyle’s will be playing the match at 11:45 tomorrow, and I’ve asked to have it replayed at 3pm. I’ll be sure to post more details about this in tomorrow’s post.
That’s it for today, I’ve got to get ready for work and, huh, what else? Oh yeah, go vote for a secret Socialist Muslim terrorist for President because I’m not a real American.