Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nil Nil to the Arsenal

"One-nil to the Arsenal" was a refrain that once rang so sweetly throughout Highbury. And whether serious (late 80's, early 90's), or joyously sarcastic (Wenger Era, pre-2008), it was always a delight to be heard. Of course, the songs going around the Emirates these days (e.g. "Booo!" "Get Eboue off the field!" and "Denilson, you f***ing c***, if you give the ball away one more time I swear" among some of the choice favorites) aren't so delightful. In fact, one might even say that the mood is downright surly in North London.

Arsenal supporters all wanted clean sheets. We were tired of conceding goals at the least opportune moment (I mean, there's never a "good" time to concede, but somehow we were doing it at the worst possible times: not early in the game, waiting until the last minute to lose or draw and dropping points, etc.) And we were sick of set pieces inevitably ending up with the ball in Almunia's net as he shook his peroxide mane in frustration. Thankfully, this problem has been solved (kind of). Gallas is quietly regaining his form, and is no longer positioning himself in the best possible place to get skinned by an attacker. Toure looks like he's finally shaken off the blues from the African Cup/malaria of last year and no longer permanently wears that expression of panic on his face. Djourou is coming along. And the wingbacks are still excellent. Alright, Arsene, maybe you were right and ze qualitee was there all along. But now...

Why can't Arsenal score? I suppose this is kind of an easy answer, and now I feel like a chump for writing this all out (I must say, it is somewhat cathartic, though), but I think there's really just three basic things that need to be addressed:

1) Nobody shoots. Juan hates this. So do I. Speaks for itself. But it doesn't matter, because even when we do shoot...

2) Nobody can finish (screamed while staring with a burning expression of loathing directly at Nicklas Bendtner). Again, this really just speaks for itself. Only RVP is moderately capable of doing this, and even he contrives to miss just for the hell of it now and then. Eduardo's one game reappearance showed that we really shouldn't be putting up with this. He was crocked for an entire year, and then within 20 minutes he's on the scoresheet. Guys, it really can't be that difficult. To reiterate the oldest of football cliches: WE MUST TAKE OUR CHANCES. God knows they're not coming as frequently these days, anyway. And that's because...

3) The service from central midfield sucks. Alas, here we come across a problem that can't really be solved. The other two can at least be improved through practice and a shift in strategy. But the fact remains that Denilson, Diaby, and Song are splitting most of the time here. Yes, they're young. Yes, they (and by they, I actually just mean Diaby) have occasional moments of brilliance. But for the most part, they are fundamentally unable to pick out that killer through-ball or long distance pass. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching three Claude Makalele's run around the field. Keeping possession? Check. Short (usually accurate) passes to teammates? Check. Actually advancing the ball or posing any sort of threat? NOPE. (Again, this is a generalization because Diaby prefers to actually just hold the ball for two seconds too long before surrendering it.) Anyway, Cesc can do this in his sleep. Even Flamini was pretty decent. And what I wouldn't give for Lampard, Alonso, or even (gasp) Michael Carrick at this point. Kill me now.

4) Eboue. Wait, I didn't say there were four things? Whatever. This is the fourth. And it's intolerable.

Well, that wasn't really all that insightful, but at least it was therapeutic. And now I can move on and talk about Liverpool (the new Arsenal), United (the Devil), and the amazing Barca-Atletico game. Tomorrow, maybe.