1-nil to the Aveline! The Good, Bad, and Ugly

I don’t want to fail him, because he has given me everything in football — Cesc on Wenger and the captaincy.

The Good

Looks like Aveline’s new away romper worked! Arsenal got their first win in two weeks and a well deserved one to boot. The good here is that I got the romper a bit too big so she’ll be able to wear it for every match the rest of this season (I hope! She’s a really tall baby and already the 12 month romper is only slightly too big).

But seriously, a win is the perfect way to kick off Cesc’s reign as Arsenal captain and individually I thought he was just outstanding. He didn’t take over the holding midfield spot like I had hoped but he did play box to box and seemed to have tons of energy. Maybe it was the week off or maybe it was the fact that he had been given the armband (which he wore upside down for the first half) but whatever the reason he was certainly more energetic than I had seen him in a long time. In the first half the whole team was more energetic, in fact, at the 50th minute, Setanta put up an amazing stat: Arsenal had completed over 300 passes to Kiev’s 110 or so. That’s a ton of movement, folks, and Arsenal kept that going for nearly the full 90 minutes.

I say nearly because as the second half kicked off, Arsenal came out very flat and Dynamo looked like they were going to steal a goal through hard work and enterprise. But then Cesc picked up the game, started going back into the defense and put in a great tackle to turn the tide around. It was exactly the kind of subtle change that a good captain senses and pulls the team up from.

The cream on the top of Cesc’s performance was the fact that he laid on the pass that Bendtner lucked in for the goal. The young man started his tenure off with an inspiring win and got himself an assist against a team that had publicly stated they were going to play a defensive, counter attacking match that exploits Arsenal’s weakness of late.

The other good that needs mentioning here is that Arsenal used 5 (6, if you count Bendtner) youth team members in that match. Ramsey showed sparks of why the boss thinks he will be a future partner for Cesc. Vela showed the type of class, speed and touch that I haven’t seen from any of the starting strikers this season (save Adebayor when he shows up). And Jack Wilshere was just magnificent if you consider that he’s the youngest player to ever represent the club in Europe. I actually have grave concerns about the club’s ability to sign him when he turns 17. As slight as he is he could start for a number of teams right now, both lower-tier Premier League teams and Championship teams, which means he could be tempted to leave Arsenal by an offer of first team football: AT THE AGE OF 17.

By the way, if you watched Djourou and cringed whenever he got the ball on an overlap, don’t hold it against him, he’s a central defender and Wenger had him slotted out wide. It’s not in him to go forward, frankly, but he did a good job considering how far out of position he was played.

The Bad

Let me preface this by saying that I had the misfortune of watching the video of the first 100 goals by Dennis Bergkamp on Sunday and it’s fresh in my mind. Yes, it’s a highlight reel. No, I didn’t see all the misses, missteps, poor touches, fouls, and frustrations of the man but I did see all 100 of his first 100 goals and each one that came from the run of play was spectacular. Bergkamp was graceful, economical, and always knew what he wanted to do with the ball when he got it.

It is a bit unfair to compare anyone else to Bergkamp, because, as the song goes there’s “Only One Dennis Bergkamp” but I think it’s insightful to know that good players are graceful, economical, and know what they want to do with the ball before they receive it. Which is exactly, 100%, the opposite of what Bendtner and van Persie provide.

Robin van Persie, in particular, has lost a ton of confidence this season. In previous years I’ve seen him strike the ball on the first touch ala Bergkamp, but for some reason this year he seems to want to take one touch, two touch, three touch, dribble, touch, dribble, touch — when he should just SHOOT THE DAMN BALL! It’s almost as if the one guy who used to be our bold striker has succumbed to the Arsenal way of dribbling the ball into the goal. Robin, SHOOT.

And Bendtner, well, I think Bendtner is not good enough. If Cesc had played that same ball in to Bergkamp that Bendtner scored, Bergkamp would have shot that on the volley, when he was wide open. Instead Bendtner kneed the ball to himself, allowed the defender time to catch up, and frankly got very lucky with the near side shot. Bendtner would do well on a team like Birmingham, but he’s not Arsenal quality.

I don’t know if Gallas’ performance was “good” or “bad” but I’m sticking it here because I think he had a bit of a rough match. I mean, it’s good an all that he was able to overcome being stripped of the captaincy and that he came out and played hard and was unlucky to have a goal taken away for an offside. But when he gifted the Dynamo striker the ball in a moment of Clichy-like madness, he was saved only by the profligacy of that player. Further, when van Persie finally did have a shot on goal (after 20 minutes of dribbling around inside their box), he was the one who cleared it off the line for Kiev. It was a Senderos type performance and I don’t want to get down on him, because he is having a bad week, but there can’t be too many more of these types of performances before the boss puts Kolo Toure back in. A Kolo Toure who is now rumored to be looking for a move to Citeh due to his lack of first team appearances.

Arsene… uhhh… seriously… With Gallas being linked to AC Millan and Kolo linked to a move out as well that’s a defensive crisis of epic proportions: Havard Nordveit, ain’t going to cut it. I hate the phrase “get out the checkbook” (especially since it’s always in British and has a god-damned “que” in it) but I think that the phrase is appropriate here.

The Ugly

What the hell was Aliyev doing out there? First, there was the disgusting, shameful, and in my opinion straight red card for rolling around on the ground, trying to get the ref or Arsenal to stop play after he was dispossesed in his half, only to literally pop up and start sprinting when his team recovered the ball. Here’s the video, courtesy of the Arsenalist.

That’s shocking stuff, really. A caution is letting him off easy, that is just plain cheating and a player who is willing to cheat like that has no business playing the game.

Later, Aliyev was sent off… for shoving the ref. Not much to say here except that he really disgraced the game yesterday.

Conclusion

So, Arsenal get into the knockout stages of the Champions League, get Cesc off to a winning start as captain, sign some dude from the MLS to handle transfers, and there’s good news about the big three injured players ahead of Sunday’s game against Chelsea.

Now, all we need is for Chelsea to lose today, get knocked out of the Champions League, pick up some crucial injuries and roll over and let us tickle their tummy on Sunday. Then we’ll be right back where we want to be and I can say it’s a good week.

Late blog tomorrow owing to the fact that it’s Thursday in England or what we ‘Mericans like to call “Thanksgiving” and I’m sleeping in.

Oh, and just for Packy — “one nil to the Arsenal…”

12 Comments on 1-nil to the Aveline! The Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. How can you criticise Bendtner’s goal?? That’s beyond stupid. Have you ever played football? Or were you just joking? I can’t believe you think Bendtner should have hit it first time on the volley?? Are you on crack??
    You talk about economical finishing, the guy took a long cross field ball on his chest whilst running at pace, used his knee to control it into his path and blasted an accurate powerful (left foot) strike into the near post. A great goal. And scored with only 3 touches, pretty economical i’d say, and yet you lay into him. Ok so you clearly don’t like bendtner but don’t make nonsense up about him.
    I don’t mean to be rude in this reply but I can’t believe anyone would write such utter shite!

  2. Bendtner’s goal was a pure class but to be honest he is not a quality enough player for Arsenal to start matches, he can come in as direct sub for Adebayor the most. He clearly need more games to get better and I believe a loan spell with a club like West Ham will be good for him. Let him learn there and get a new striker please Wenger.

    The ugly part should also involve Song and Denilson, I was really frustrated looking both of them playing like some bunch of kids and losing the ball to much, miss passes and they look nervous whenever they get the ball. Just look how calm and alert Cesc is everytime he receives the ball, first he will create spaces for him to get the passes without getting under pressure by opponents, then look around if anyone is there to tackle him (very alert). We need more players like him. Denilson and Song should learn this from him. Cesc is a player i really feel good when the ball is with him, cse you will know that he won’t lose it and create something really special.

    Ugly also was the commentators, they keep telling Kiev was good, very solid (duh of course when you put 11 players at your own half) and the tactic worked…haha they even said Kiev was unlucky for the goal Nick scored, handball where it was clearly his chest. Fuck them.

    Next stop Chelsea and hope we can win there 🙂

    ARSENAL TILL THE END!

  3. Yes, Song was probably the second worst player on either team, right behind that cheat Aliyev. But I rag on Song all the time and I was already up to 1300 words so I let him slide today.

  4. You have lost lots of credibility with your criticism of Bendtner’s goal. I’m no fan of his, but that was an excellent finish.

  5. The criticism stands, “If Cesc had played that same ball in to Bergkamp that Bendtner scored, Bergkamp would have shot that on the volley, when he was wide open. Instead Bendtner kneed the ball to himself, allowed the defender time to catch up, and frankly got very lucky with the near side shot.”

    Bendtner took an extra and unnecessary touch, which closed off angles and allowed the defender to catch up to him. Further, he beat the keeper near side, a keeper of any quality would have saved that shot easily. This is a very common criticism of Arsenal, that they take too much time to shoot when often a more direct approach would work better. Yes it was good to get a goal, great to get a 1-0 win, but Arsenal need to be more direct and less wasteful with the ball — and specifically STOP DRIBBLING INTO THE GOAL. Which is basically what Bendtner did: took a direct scoring opportunity and turned it into an “Arsenal goal.”

    It doesn’t get more direct than getting a ball lobbed in to you, why take an extra touch and then shoot near post? To make the goal more brilliant? No, he hadn’t a fucking clue what to do with that ball just like every other time he gets the ball.

    It is a testament to how poor Dynamo Kiev were that they didn’t score on us when Gallas and Almunia flapped around and the Kiev striker completely missed what was essentially an open goal (Almunia was inexplicable on his knees before the shot was off) and that Bendtner scored that lucky near post goal.

    Sorry but that wasn’t a quality finish. It was luck.

    If you don’t like what I say, don’t read the blog, I don’t care.

  6. On the goal issue, Bendtner is certainly no Bergkamp who was, well hard to find the words as he was so superior to what we have now, but Bergkamp had none of the attitude that plagues this young and over-rated side. The goal against Kiew, though not great and FAR from excellent(how low have are standards fallen?), was a good finish in the end, but Tim is correct in pointing out that against top defenses an extra touch like that and no goal. We don’t score anymore with demoralizing aplomb or ‘how did he do that’ type of finishing embodied by our heroes of yesteryear. I think it’s factual we are far away and seemingly moving further from what we used to be, and that is a bit demoralising in a way.

    On the issue of our players, we need changes asap. We are heavy in the midfield with attack minded players who prefer the creative aspects to defensive duties. I single out denilson and eboue who, to my view, are not contributing suffiently to our basic team needs(nevermind individual performances). Others may have alternate views but offloading these players to make room for two mobile, hardened defensive midfielders, one older, one mid 20s is vital in maintaining our top four status. As makeweights in a deal, they can lower the costs of bringing in new players, we can raise our average age a bit, send a message to our coddled kids, and basically save our season from mediocrity. If we are financially constrained and short of funds we can use that as an excuse to offload these types of players and they’re still young enough with ‘potential’ we may get proper compensation – they are being played out of position right. Also, ramsey, bischoff, wilshere, etc, etc, we’ve got enough of these types of midfield players. This Jan is a good time to re-balance the squad and get us going again with a midfield that looks more like Arsenal and less like a pre-breakfast appetiser.

  7. I was just thinking about the squad Barnaby, and one of the remarks that someone said was how Wenger seems to think he can win the league with a team full of mediocre talent if he just trains them up right. And if you think about it, that’s what players like Bendtner and Denilson are: mediocre talent trained to move the ball and run, who are in excellent shape. They are system players.

    Which is great, I love a good system.

    BUT

    You need impact players. Cesc is one, Wilshere will be one, Ramsey may be one, Adebayor can be one, who else?

    Arsenal need to buy, and they need to buy impact players.

  8. Guys – good discussion. Let me just voice that I am not a big fan of Bendtner. Too many times, the ball gets there first, then he starts thinking about what’s next. Watch the last 10 minutes of the Man City game, and you’ll see wide open Arsenal players in the ManC box that he does not see, only to try a low probability shot. Having said this, the goal against Kiev was in my opinion a perfect finish. I don’t think Bergkamp or Henry would have scored that one any better. Let’s give Bendtner the credit he deserves on this.
    On the squad, I think we all sound like broken records… Yes we MUST get some new players. In my opinion top on the list is a strong defensive midfielder like Appiah. Chelsea is turning Mikel into the new stronger & dirtier Makele. We need a proper response when we play teams like Chelsea.

  9. We have uses for any number of impact players in any number of positions, yeah there’s a snag or two in Wenger’s system(I actually don’t know for sure what his system is but as they say in the database world ‘garbage in, garbage out’, but we’ll give Wenger the benefit of the doubt), but if we need to prioritise spending in what is a depressed economy, defensive midfield is where our need is absolute. Second guessing Wenger in the tranfer market is usually a waste of time but there are impact candidates out there, one I like is JEAN II MAKOUN, who is a beast in a bottle, just uncork and stand back. But again, it’s a waste of time to speculate here.

    In midfield we are just not there. Upon reflection I think Wenger’s system is based on pass and move with super fast players who can out-run other teams and just run and pass them off the pitch. But from what I can see there isn’t enough end product and the results are not promising. I like the idea of investing in players long term but it is very costly to hang on to those who don’t get up to speed in a reasonable amount of time.

    At the moment we need some maturity, composure and strength. Notice how cesc is always composed? That’s perhaps his greatest attirbute he’s always thinking several passes ahead. We lack that in our other players and if you don’t have that, at least have some toughness. That’s not a knock on our current players but they’re just not blessed with the attributes the team now desperately needs. If you don’t know exactly what to do when you recieve the ball, not every player always does not even players like cesc, you have to have the strength to hold off opponents, gather your wits or buy the time needed to know what you should do. How many times did we see vieira, parlour, adams, etc, etc, etc, STEP BETWEEN THE OPPONENT AND THE BALL to fend off challenges, hold up play, keep posession and maintain an attacking move. What about tackles? In a tackle these players would take out the ball, player, player’s mom, coaching staff and whatever else got in the way to make a point – “Fella, it’s gonna be a long day” (kick them off the pitch as they say) to set the tone when necessary. These qualities are now absent in the side – they don’t exist – they’re extinct. This is what needs to be addressed by impact players who can restore our midfield credibility. Name one player in the midfield who can step between the ball and the opponent and effectivley hold off a challenge and make a great pass as a result or who can tackle and intimidate? Where the heck have they all gone??There’s more toughness in a powerdered doughnut than our current midfield. I’ve heard rumours about Arsenal’s interest in Bastian Schweinsteiger, that would be a good start – tough, can run, good all around game – but he likes bm(hometown boy) so we probably won’t get him but that’s the type of physique required but defense minded. The epl requires more toughness than other leagues and that’s the part of Wenger’s system that falls short.

  10. I don’t mean to sound like gallas, his delivery was inappropriate but his words ring true. I also believe Wenger knows what’s needed and if we only see a token move in Jan, I expect he’ll shake things up quite a bit over the summer. Oh, and Ramsey is a playa, i’m betting he’ll keep Wishere out of the side, as well as Bischoff who are both clearly worth keeping around. Jack doesn’t seem the rash sort, and he’s too young to run off for first team play at another epl team, i don’t think he’s that type. I can forsee a time when Ramsey and wilshere feature regulary when cesc does ultimately leave. But you can see my point I would hope, we’re over-loaded in midfield with players that don’t suit our needs or the league we play in.

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