Déjà Vu

By on October 21, 2009

Carlos Vela taken down by DembeleduSee below for match highlights followed by Arsene Wenger’s post-match interview.

Tuesday’s match with AZ Alkmaar was full of déjà vu on so many levels. Arsenal created a similar amount of chances to most of their other matches this season. Also, our inability to take our chances and kill the game off with the second goal was reminiscent of last season. The goal conceded in the final minute was not only reminiscent of the kind of things that happened last season but also to the first Blackburn goal a few weeks ago.

We never looked comfortable all evening when balls came flying into the box. Five of the eleven goals Arsenal have conceded in the league this season have come from set plays and it is, without doubt, our most glaring weakness at the moment.

Robin van Persie had two quality chances, one after he calmly brought the ball down in the box and made enough space to get a shot off right at the keeper. Another went just over the bar after deflecting off the keeper. The goal came from high pressure from Arshavin with van Persie eventually pulled it back to find an open Cesc coming on unmarked at the far post.

Robin van Persie and Cesc celebrateIt really is so disappointing to completely control and an away tie in the Champions League only to concede in the final minute from a deep ball into the box because of a momentary loss of concentration. Of course, Arsenal should have been awarded a penalty when Dembeledu clipped Carlos Vela from behind in the box in the 84th minute. From the replay, it is obvious that Vela was fouled, and even more disappointing was that the referee looked to be in a very good position to make the call.

Vito Mannone continued in goal despite the apparent fitness of Manuel Almunia, who did not look very pleased on the bench this past weekend during the Birmingham match. It’s obvious now that Almunia has fallen out of favor with Wenger after a few shaky performances earlier this season. It appears he has SERIOUSLY fallen out of favor.

Mannone has deputized well, but if Arsene doesn’t want to go with Almunia, then, for me, it has to be Fabianski. Mannone has done well to get experience in both the league, against smaller teams, and in Europe, but I would not be comfortable heading into the knockout stages of the Champions League or big league matches against Chelsea or United with him in goal. At least, not yet. The achievement on his part is that I could easily see him developing that kind of confidence in me if he continues to play well and cuts out some of the mental errors.

Yet, this should prove a great learning experience to this side, who seem to have already gotten used to pounding teams that are not of their calibre. Luckily, this was hardly a must-win match for is, in the way their match against Lyon was for Liverpool. An away point in the Champions League to the Dutch champions isn’t anything to worry about and with three matches remaining, Arsenal stand one win away from certain qualification.Cesc Fabregas at AZ

However, in the league this absolutely would not do. We are four points off the lead with a game-in-hand. If we secured the points-in-hand, the match is against Bolton, tentatively scheduled for December 2nd unless we should progress  past Liverpool in the Carling Cup, then we would be level with the Chelsea side all the pundits have been falling all over themselves about for the last two months.

But, with the way the club is generally playing, and considering the strength, or lack thereof, of our remaining Group Stage fixtures, it is fairly easy to not get too upset over last night’s result. I’m disappointed, sure, but getting a learning experience from a draw is better than getting from a loss and I believe this result will prove a lesson, especially to the younger players.

In other news, Samir Nasri came through his return to action in the Reserves’ 2-2 draw vs Wolves last night along with Lukasz Fabianski. Nasri set up the opening goal by Gilles Sunu. Also, some of the press seems to be coming around and recognizing the potential of this Arsenal side. Arsenal have a big week ahead of us, away to West Ham on Sunday, Liverpool at home in the Carling Cup on Wednesday, and, of course, the early-kickoff North London derby on Saturday, the 31st.

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  1. bobbygee

    October 21, 2009 at 9:04 am

    This was hard . The Gunners have had trouble all seaosn long finishing. This could bit them hard in the EPL race.

    • Ted

      October 21, 2009 at 11:13 am

      Luckily for us, though, Bobby, we’ve not had trouble finishing in the EPL so far, scoring something like a billiondy goals and not being shut out anywhere.

      This was a tough way to draw, true, but looking at the result from a more distanced perspective, the AZ away game (along with maybe the Liège away game) was always going to be the match where we might drop points. I expect us to win our matches at the Emirates and probably in Athens, too, although there are no guarantees. There is no shame in drawing the Dutch champions in their house, despite the aggravating manner in which it happened.

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  3. Lucas

    October 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I was actually happy when I got home and saw the score.I thought we might drop points here and there, but I had no doubt that we will go to the knock out round. I think some people might underestimate the teams were playing but there all champions of their leagues, just because you might not of heard of them do not underestimate them.

  4. Comrade23

    October 21, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Again, I have to disagree regarding the keeper situation. Mannone has at least been solid between the sticks, whilst Fabianski, given a long stretch in the side last season has flitted between fantastic and shambolic. It’s that complete lack of consistency and his tendency to have, for lack of a better word, “brain farts” at the worst possible moments is where I lose confidence in Fab. Almunia has failed to impress this season, coming in as the undisputed number one to now be relegated once again to the bench.

    Arsenal’s overall inability to handle the ball into the box can’t be placed squarely on the keeper. However, I nothing I have seen has displayed that Almunia or Lukasz possess the greater skill in the air. Agreed, however, that if he can cut out some of the mental errors and show greater confidence in his abilities, Vito could be a fine keeper this season.

    I would ask this: if the keeping situation remains this up in the air, can you see Arsene bringing in an experienced GK in January, as some are suggesting? I find it hard to believe, but I’ve been fooled by AW in the past.

    • ArsenalStation

      October 21, 2009 at 10:27 pm

      Don’t forget the difference between the sides from last year to this year. If the team had not torn Blackburn apart and the match finished one-nil, Mannone would not look so good. The team has picked up his mistakes, something they couldn’t do often enough last year.

      I think you’re being a bit harsh on Fabianski, personally. And I think that alot of the risks that he took last season was down to having no confidence in the CBs, especially when Silvestre was in there. The Gallas-Vermaelen pairing is much more stable and I think that Fabianksi would not feel the need to come 25 yards out to intercept passes because he knows Vermaelen isn’t going to get beat in a foot race with the striker like Silvestre was guaranteed to. It’s how we lost the FA Cup semifinal last season.

      I agree about Almunia though I am surprised that Wenger has just dropped him like this. It’s obvious the the injury, if not fabricated, was completely blown up to disguise the fact that he had been dropped. Much the same way Lehmann’s was when Almunia took his spot in late-August 2007.

      Would I be surprised about a new keeper? Yes. He has a ton of faith in Fabianski and I can’t see him buying a new keeper. Having three keepers who can play in the first team is a luxury in this league. And he would not impede Fabianski’s progress by bringing in someone new. That’s just how he works… Look how long he waited for Song to come good… and hell he’s still waiting for Diaby to come good (will probably be waiting a long time on that one).

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