It was the wake-up call; it was exposure; call it what you want but Arsene called it correctly
What we did today was just not good enough
There can be no excuses for the performance, it was simply lacklustre, one of those turned in when you underestimate your opponents. Critics will point out that it is about lack of strength in depth, lack of ability to win when the chips are down. It is none of that. It is about a lack of mental fortitude; not one of the players could bring themselves above the mediocrity of their peers, to exalt them to a higher performance. When that happens, you lose or scrape a point. In the wider scheme of things, a point can be delusional; people think that they can play badly and get away with it, the wake-up call missed. A point though is infinitely more preferable to nothing at all.
We can point to the woodwork denying Adebayor and say, “Oooh, we were unlucky” but it is not true. Fulham deserved the win. We did not. There can be no excuses about internationals; as Arsene said post-match, these are part and parcel of the modern game. The players must be able to perform every three days at this stage of the season. Yes, Pantsil should have got a straight red but that would probably not have affected the outcome.
The goal was poorly conceded. Gallas allowed Hangeland to get goalside and then compounded the error by turning his back on the player. A novice should not commit such folly; an experienced international ought to hang his head in shame. It was not the only mistake. Almunia allowed Seol to block his path, more assertiveness was needed. The path the ball took into the area should have been judged by Clichy, attacking it as he had a good view of the cross. Yes, stay on the post if it is going further out in the area but landing at foot height on the edge of the six-yard box? No, leave the post and attack the ball.
Returning from injury, Kolo Toure looked off the pace a little but recovered early on to make a telling challenge on Zamora in the area. Minutes before there had been a rare attacking bright spot as Sagna and Walcott combined on the right, a cross delivered for van Persie to half-volley wide. It summed up his afternoon; the crowd were in more danger of working for the ball than Schwarzer. Who knows, may be his fued with Pierre van Hooijdonk is sapping him mentally. Whatever the case, Robin don’t get physical with him for you will only injure yourself in the process. Probably.
There is not much more to be said on the performance. It has to be the ‘kick up the backside‘ otherwise nothing is learnt from it. On Friday Arsene said,
We have a short squad, yes, and we cannot afford 10 injuries like other teams with big numbers. But I think we have the right number of players who can compete at the top level when everyone is fit
Right now, fitness is the issue but would more availbility have made the difference? Maybe. Maybe not. Cesc has made it clear that Xabi Alonso would be a good choice,
I’d love it!. What can I say. He is my friend and apart from that he is a great professional, a great passer of the ball, he works hard defensively, he’s scoring goals now, he’s experienced and he’s only 26. For me he would be perfect
Of the options mentioned, I said a while ago, Alonso is more preferable than Barry. Nothing has changed there and perhaps Arsene needs to take a chance on the more expensive option. Signing an experienced midfielder is the key for the moment and whilst Martin O’Neill has turned twenty-eight shades of red in the head over Arsene’s comments about Gareth Barry, it is an area that needs invigorating.
Eboue was OK yesterday and maybe with time he will develop into a central midfielder. Denilson is in the same boat developmentally. The question for Arsene to decide on an answer is whether those events can happen over the course of the season. To be honest, I expect the Brazilian to make way in midweek with Eboue, Song or Djourou partnering Cesc. It is less than ideal considering the Spaniard’s fitness (or lack of it) but Arsene has history in this sort of situation, bringing back players sooner than necessary to spark the team.
Back on the trail, Cesc was positive about his future at the club,
Arsenal is Arsenal and this club has something special that no others have. I don’t even want to think about leaving
Fine words indeed, as were those in terms of the captaincy,
I would love it. I respect all decisions. I am a player that accepts nearly everything. I am happy with everything, my No 4, playing for Arsenal in centre midfield and giving 100 per cent every, every game. But if the boss thinks in one or two years I am ready to be captain, I will take the armband
You want more?
I know that I’m privileged to be where I am and I don’t want to lose it
You’ve got to love the little fella.
One thing to remember though on a depressingly wet Sunday. One game, a season does not make. One poor performance, a career does not become defined by. It was collectively poor yesterday, not individually so. No-one escapes censure for it, no-one gets more than anyone else. Here’s to improvement in the coming days.