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Arsenal Are Just Never Good Enough

By on November 11, 2009

Andrei Arshavin

Despite getting off to a start that has gone beyond all expectations, the football pundits continue to dig around for any reason to stick to their idiotic pre-season predictions of Arsenal’s impending doom and gloom. The club is 15-2-2 overall having scored 55 goals, 10-0 at home having scored 33 goals at the Emirates. In the premier league, the club is averaging 3.27 goals per match, a higher amount than any other club in Premier League history at this point in this season. However, the criticism continues… Let’s take a look at the two main criticisms coming from the punditocracy:

Defensive Frailty

Thomas Vermaelen

Okay, Arsenal have conceded 20 goals in 19 matches. But, in this case, the numbers are a bit misleading. A more important number to look at is goal different

ial, which overall stands at +35 overall, +22 in the league. Yes, Arsenal have conceded goals but how many of those goals have come when Arsenal have had multi-goal leads. How many of those goals came late in a match that was already effectively over? While, it is disconcerting to not be keeping clean sheets, a goal in the last 5 minutes of a match in which you lead 3 or 4-nil is just not the same as an equalizer.

The late goals to West Ham and Alkmaar were quite a different story. These are concessions that matter, but it looks as though we have learned from those mistakes with the first team winning their next 3 matches 3-0, 4-1, and 4-1.

Perhaps our biggest defensive frailty this season has been the keeper. Mannone deputized well but could not avoid some youthful mistakes and Almunia doesn’t seem to be the same keeper he was back in early 2008, when it looked like he could be the long-term number one. This is the one position which differentiates us from Chelsea and United. I believe Fabianski is the long-term solution but his recurring injuries this season have proved frustrating and forced him to miss a prime opportunity to lay his claim to the spot.

Weak Schedule

Of all the criticisms, this one gets me the most. As the old saying goes, “You can only beat the team that’s in front of you.” Pundits point to the two losses in Manchester, but even they must admit that both were unlucky results and Arsenal were the better side on the day. Certainly there is no shame in losing either of those tough away matches, but the fact that the fixture gods deigned to put them on successive weekends made Arsenal appear, to the pundits at least, as a club in crisis.

However, I would submit that Arsenal’s results even over these smaller teams show much improvement and maturity. Last year, we Cesc and the badgeignominiously lost at  Craven Cottage but this season we came away with a hard-fought 1-nil victory. We also beat Everton away on the opening day, whether they showed up or not, it was a tough away fixture in which Arsenal secured all three points. And, while traveling up north and getting results may have proved problematic before, it really hasn’t been much of a problem in the last 2 years. The only people that think so are lazy pundits who can’t be bothered to check the results and so spew 3 year-old criticisms.

The league is not won in the Big Four mini-tournament. It is won in all the other matches against lesser sides and Arsenal have struggled a bit to get up for these matches in the past. That seems to be behind us as we continually dispatch smaller clubs by multi-goal margins, unlike United who continue to get by by the skin of their teeth.

So Arsenal have only lost to United and City, but have beat the clubs they should have done. What about United and Chelsea? Well, Chelsea lost away to Villa, certainly that has to be more problematic than Arsenal’s loss at City, earlier on when Hughes’s side was actually playing well. But they also lost away to Stoke City. Meanwhile, United have lost to Burnley and Liverpool. What I am saying is that any criticism made of Arsenal at this point surely applies, if not more so, to Chelsea and United.

Arsenal will face its sternest test at the end of January when we play United at home on the 31st and then Chelsea away a week later. The ACN is scheduled to run from January 10th to the 31st. So unless Cameroon go out early, we are likely to be without Song for the United match. More troubling, if Cameroon get to the semifinal or final, he will also miss the Chelsea match. Depending on how their respective players’ international sides fare, Chelsea could have some of their African players back by then. Both of these matches are proverbial six-pointers and they will set the stage for the last 3 months of the season and the run-in.

37 Comments

  1. Ole Gunner

    November 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I think it’s better to beat the likes of Burnley & Wigan than to lose to them as our rivals have done.

    It’s nonsense, this argument that we have had easy fixtures. We’ve had as tough fixtures as any Top 4 side except Man United.

  2. joshhhhhhh

    November 11, 2009 at 10:25 am

    January could be our downfall. I see us winning most of the games up to christmas to be honest. But united and chelsea are games which we need Song for. Wenger won’t bring in a like for like replacement for him, he wouldn’t want to “Kill” anyone, but i think he’ll bring in one for cover, someone who can play centre back and centre mid. I think we should go for marcos senna. He’s beast and is made for the big games as we saw when we played villareal last season

  3. bobbygee

    November 11, 2009 at 10:25 am

    This has been my criticism of the Gunners all season- they lack a striker. A go to guy when it counts to score. A cat who score when he is tied to a bed, one legged, blind and surrounded by twenty guys. This is it. My gut tells me that the EPL champ will have anywhere between four and six losses. Just a guess. This year will be a crazy one. It has so far.
    But the press is the press. Me I call em like I see em. I am right 90-95% of the time. I know sports. God gave me this gift.

    • AnonymousGun

      November 13, 2009 at 1:15 am

      You are a pretty stupid parrot. Parroting the stupidest of stupid pundits and journo dont count.

      Go away.

  4. Gooner77

    November 11, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Forget what the media say, if they big us up it’s bullshit and if they tear us down it’s bullshit too. We’ve had a decent start and had we not committed suicide at OT and Upton Park we could easily have another 5 points on the board. The media widely and fairly confidently tipped us to fall out of the top four, now that it looks like we might make a title challenge they have to reposition themselves and point out that while we play good football we have frailties. Every team has weaknesses but it’s how you use your strenghs which matter. It would be great if we win the title this year, but if we don’t just remember the most important thing is for us to still be in a competitive position come March/April. If our season was ovr by Xmas and we fell out of the top four the media would be vindicated but don’t let them get to you if we don’t win the title this season and start saying Wenger’s methods don’t work. Just remember we are supposed to fall into mid table obscurity this season if you believe what they wrote over the summer. Come on you Gunners!!!!

  5. Gooner77

    November 11, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Rumour has is that Viera might be resigned in Jan….how about a nice swansong for him for the second half of the season…..I know I’m daydreaming and they he should probably never come back :)

    • Xabier

      November 11, 2009 at 11:08 am

      he wont come back. If he did and we won something all the focus would be taken away from the youngsters who did all the actual work and the media would go crazy saying it was Vieira that won us another trophy.

      • rocky lives

        November 11, 2009 at 11:13 am

        I dunno Xabier… I could see Wenger bringing him back for half a season, precisely because he doesn’t threaten the long-term places of Song, Denilson, Diaby, Ramsey etc. He would be solid cover, the fans would love it and who knows, his experience could be important if we’re in a tight battle for the title at the end of the season.

        • ArsenalStation

          November 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm

          The problem there is that Vieira is still hoping to get into the World Cup side. Should France go out to Ireland and that is not even a possibility then a Vieira return may seem more possible, though still not likely.

          • rocky lives

            November 11, 2009 at 2:27 pm

            And if we win the title, I really couldn’t care less if the hacks want to credit it all on a returning PV4…

  6. dave

    November 11, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Good article..

  7. Pat Thompson

    November 11, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Lazy journalism is what it’s all about. Two recent examples.. Jason Cundy on Sky Sports News… “Arsenal always beat the teams like Wolves, it’s the games against the big four that cause problems” Not true , the complete opposite is the truth especially last season……Alan Smith on Sky Sports “Arsenal have problems not winning their group (Champions League) and end up playing a group winner and suffering for it” When did that happen ?? Not the exact words of both pundits but that was their sentiments. Pure lazy…..

    • Xabier

      November 11, 2009 at 11:09 am

      Hehe. That’s why they’re pundits, too shitty to be anything else.

    • ArsenalStation

      November 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm

      Exactly right, Pat. That is what I call it, “lazy journalism.” Many times, I sit and wonder how these hacks get paid to do what they do. The last two times Arsenal haven’t won their group they beat Milan in the knockout round and last year got to the semifinal. Smith sometimes mystifies me.

  8. Gooner77

    November 11, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Exactly Pat, thats what annoys me. Especially on MOTD whenever we beat a team like Wolves, Lineker goes ‘so the Gunners are not a soft touch up North anymore are they Alan’ who in turn agrees, whilst forgetting that we hammered the likes of Bolton and Blackburn and their grounds last season and have countless other examples of sound beatings in seasons gone by. The latest is that we only beat the small teams when last season our only loss against the top four was essentially a meaningless game against Chelsea in May (even though that defeat was still hard to take).

  9. TA6

    November 11, 2009 at 11:06 am

    thanks for an excellent read, cant argue with any of your points.

  10. stephen

    November 11, 2009 at 11:26 am

    We still need a strong powerful DM, we are too light weight down the middle, every team needs a hard man, not one Arsenal player could be referred to as this.

    • Comrade23

      November 11, 2009 at 1:23 pm

      Stephen, I don’t think that’s entirely true. Anyone watching the Wolves match will notice the difference made by the absence and subsequent addition of Song in the side. Without him for the first 20 minutes, Arsenal were chased off the ball and bossed in midfield. Within moments of Song’s introduction, the ship righted itself and we were off and running.

      Frankly I feel that Song is one of the best holding midfielders in the Premiership today. It’s not that we lack a DM, we just lack another one, which is why January will prove so crucial for our success.

      • ArsenalStation

        November 11, 2009 at 1:43 pm

        Totally agree, C23. I believe Song is right up there with the other Big 4′s DMs in Fletcher, Essien, and Mascherano, with the potential to easily be better than all three. A little cover for Song would be nice but he definitely does not need to be replaced. It is his improvement that has played such a big role in the fortunes of Fabregas and the rest of the attackers. It shows how important a DM has been to us in recent seasons… when Flamini emerged as DM-extraordinaire, Arsenal were on top of the league, and last year, as Song learned the position, Arsenal had a bit of trouble.

  11. Ted

    November 11, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I feel that we will beat Man U at the Emirates when the time comes based both on current form (which who knows what current form will be come end of January) and the game at Cold Taffy. Man U just don’t look like they have it this year. Chelsea, on the other hand, are a bit scary at the moment. Looking at it right now, I think we and Chelsea are going to finish 1-2, but I really couldn’t say who will be on top. I think Man U are destined for 3rd, but who knows.

  12. GMR

    November 11, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Why would Song miss the Chelsea match?? The ACN finishes on 31st Jan & the Chelsea match isn’t until 6th Feb. All the African players from both sides will be back for that one injuries permitting.

    • ArsenalStation

      November 11, 2009 at 1:45 pm

      Because Wenger will not throw Song into a Big 4 clash having just played an exhausting tournament followed by a midweek plane trip from Angola back to England. That is Cameroon get to the final four of the tournament. Wenger has traditionally given them a week to ten days to recuperate before throwing them back into first team action.

  13. Anthony Flew

    November 11, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Good article. It’s been great to watch us dismantle the likes of Bolton, Everton and Wolves. The team looks great despite loads of injuries.

    And yet… and yet…

    I still worry that there is a defensive soft centre in this Arsenal team, as evidenced the only times we have played top 6 sides so far – losing both. True, we played well both times, but came away with nothing because 1) we got caught out on the break being too committed to attack (Man City) and 2) we stopped concentrating – twice (Man United).

    Once our defence begins to look more hard core, the doubts will recede but, at the moment, we are winning by outscoring opponents who are defensive virgins – it won’t be as easy against the likes of Chelsea.

    • Ted Harwood

      November 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm

      I can understand where you’re coming from, Anthony, but I would submit as a sort of counter-argument the game vs. Chelsea last November at Stamford Bridge. When their backs were against the wall, shaky D and all, last November, that team found a way to go to an incredibly difficult place to win, and got the job done. This year, our team is mostly the same, but one year older, and with Vermaelen in the back. I think that when it gets to brass tacks, this team can step it up two or three gears offensively AND defensively, and will rise to the occasion.

      You’re right–it won’t be easy–but if the past is anything to go by, I think we can do it!

  14. Ben

    November 11, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    We’re a lot better than last season, but why get over-excited. After 5 years without a trophy it’s about time Arsenal won something, any they’ve won nothing yet. They beat a load of shit teams and lost to Man City and Man Utd.

    Things are looking good, but I think January will be massive. With Song gone to ANC and playing a string of really tough games, this will be where the title is decided. Wenger badly needs a DM to replace Song – I can see Diaby and Denilson fucking up our entire season if they play there.

    • ArsenalStation

      November 12, 2009 at 9:14 am

      You can’t buy someone just to replace Song for 3 weeks. Or at least Wenger won’t. All this noise about Yaya Toure is just ridiculous considering that his agent is complaining about him playing only 4 games and saying, “Why did they give him a new contract, to sit on the bench?” Well then, why would he want to come to Arsenal to be Song’s backup… on the bench? We just have to suck it up and hope that a combination of Diaby, possibly Nasri, Denilson, or Ramsey can get the job done for 3 weeks. They don’t have to be Song…

  15. Bouresli

    November 12, 2009 at 2:25 am

    I think the best available DM is vermaelen.

    • ArsenalStation

      November 12, 2009 at 9:15 am

      Wow, I don’t even know what to do with that. Cheers, Bouresli!

  16. The TROOF

    November 12, 2009 at 7:22 am

    STan Woman beating dogging collymore is the one I dislike the most. The other week he called wenger a cheat for fielding youngster in the carling cup (i couldn’t even understan his reasoning). recently he said we couldn’t win anything with song. This man is a complete idiot. I think Arsenal should do what Man u did in refusing to talk to foolish reporters. If these uneducated un informed hacks continue to disrespect everything to do with Arsenal. we should refuse to give them an interview whether we win by ten goals or losse by one goal.

  17. arnsam

    November 12, 2009 at 9:28 am

    The biggest reason we can’t keep a clean sheet is almunia. who is a special kind of spectator who watches from the pitch, frankly speaking look at the goals we concede in the dieing minutes of the game when all we’ve been all along in the game is attack and attack. the only time almunia is left to do some thing he picks the ball from his net…i don’t know of any first team player that can do any thing near to what song does, no one! may be from the reserves otherwise if we are to miss it again,this is gonna be the main reason.

    • ArsenalStation

      November 12, 2009 at 9:32 am

      I would be loathed to put all the blame on Almunia. However, I think it is obvious that he, and our other keepers, simply do not inspire the confidence in our central defense that is necessary for them to play to their full potential. Vidic and Ferdinand would not have been as effective a pairing for United in the past few seasons if they didn’t have van der Sar behind them. Same for Terry and Carvalho.

  18. clockendjim

    November 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

    You have identified the major problem that I have posted on several occasions – we have just about the weakest goalkeeper line-up in the PL.
    I was watching the Birmingham subs warming up at halt time at the recent match at the Emirates. It dawned on me that their reserve keeper was Maik Taylor who is miles better than any of ours and dont forget I am talking about BIRMINGHAM

  19. clockendjim

    November 12, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Sorry But I had not finished before hitting the wrong key

    You have identified the major problem that I have posted on several occasions – we have just about the weakest goalkeeper line-up in the PL.
    I was watching the Birmingham subs warming up at halt time at the recent match at the Emirates. It dawned on me that their reserve keeper was Maik Taylor who is miles better than any of ours and dont forget I am talking about BIRMINGHAM
    If we had signed a world class No 1 like Shay Given at the start of the season, then most of the soft goals we have gift-wrapped so far would have been saved. Then we would have been top of the PL right now and possibly have stayed there.
    I only hope that Wenger can be persuaded to spend some money in January to complete our fantastic team with a top keeper and we really could be Champions

    • Anthony Flew

      November 12, 2009 at 2:08 pm

      Not sure Maik Taylor is better than Almunia, but I agree with the comment that had we signed Shay Given we would be top of the league tonight. We would have gained a point at Old Trafford (the penalty giveaway) and two more at West Ham (Given would have caught the ball that Mannone gifted to a waiting predator).

      Buying a top keeper like Given or Akinfeev would win us about 8-10 points in a season.

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