The Clean Sheet Doesn’t Paper over the Cracks

By on February 21, 2010

I should start out with a brief apology to my regular readers and a great thanks to those who kept commenting on older stories when there were no new posts. Your enthusiasm for the blog keeps me trying to get it done in the midst of an unbelievable work load in real life. So, thank you guys. Now on to the business…

Following a week off from Arsenal Station, I gladly returned to the football world on Saturday morning. The day could not have started better as Everton, my favorite non-Arsenal club to watch this season, denied United points. I don’t think anyone expected Wolves to get anything from Chelsea but the after the Everton victory the stage was set.

It was a classic “Arsenal v. Bottom-Half Side” kind of match. We dominated possession for much of the match, spurned a few golden chances, could’ve conceded at least twice from over the top counterattacks, and held a 1-goal lead until the dying minutes. Sound familiar? It should. The only thing missing was a glaring goalkeeping error.

In a match which we dominated the run of play, we could have easily lost 3-2 had Sunderland had even the slightest inclination to finish their best chances. That said, we did seem to get back to creating scoring chances in a way we haven’t over the four weeks due to improved movement and passing.

Stranegly, I thought Theo had struggled for much of the match and was left hugely frustrated with his performance. But, after watching the MotD highlights, you can see that he did put in a few half-decent balls. But surely not enough for the amount of chances he had.

To be in the box on the right with no one near him and to put his cross into the front row behind the goal, numerous times, is an exercise in frustration for the supporters watching. Still, with the little amount of football he’s played in the last six months, it was inevitably going to be a long road back. At least he was able to use his pace to consistently get into threatening positions.

On the plus side, I thought Nasri and Eboue looked great, especially on the ball. No one in the side makes threatening runs at defenders more consistently than Eboue. Yet, he frustratingly lacks the final ball like Walcott. I also thought Ramsey looked good… much better with Cesc and Song than Denilson. The youngster had a few giveaways in midfield from holding the ball but overall he had a few scoring chances and distributed the ball well.

A clean sheet and all three points still cannot paper over the defensive cracks. Silvestre is still as much of a disaster in central defense as he was in the FA Cup loss to Chelsea last year. Even though Sol is mobilely-challenged as well, he at least thinks like  CB and is able to compensate somewhat. The struggles for our full-backs continue and you have to begin wondering whether Clichy or Sagna will ever get back to the form they had in 2007-08 when both were the best in their league at their respective positions.

And finally… the keeper. While Almunia was relatively error-free on Saturday, I think everyone knows we need a true, quality keeper. Almunia isn’t going to get any better as his confidence seems to have been permanently unsettled and Fabianski is still a few years away, AT LEAST, from being a real #1 option for a title-contending side.

With the money we still have and better players available, I believe Arsene will be making some key moves this summer. But, until then, we just have to pray that the attack can get back to their scoring ways thereby neutralizing the opposition’s best scoring threat, our own keeper.

Steve Bruce questioned the penalty insinuating that Arsenal were getting a penalty that Sunderland would not have. He doesn’t seem to realize that this season it is the other way around. Cesc’s penalty was only the second penalty kick we’d been awarded ALL SEASON!!! 27 MATCHES!!! If anything, the bias has been against us all season-long and we have been the victims of “missed” or ignored penalty calls all season. Anyway, now we need to get some momentum before the return leg of the Porto Champion’s League tie and this was a decent start.


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  1. aj

    February 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    “In a match which we dominated the run of play, we could have easily lost 3-2 had Sunderland had even the slightest inclination to finish their best chances……….”

    In any match where your opponent has at least one chance, you can see if their’s had gone in and ours hadn’t, we would have lost. Sometimes you do lose games where you are dominant (e.g. Old Trafford) but that is not a reason to be too negative. We should work on reducing the number of chances that the opponent gets.

  2. Wilsheres Dad

    February 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Without doubt Almunia has looked a liability at times this season, but in the same breath as giving him a slating commentators have said how leaky the defence is!! The logic has been that the defence are wobbly because they are fearful of what Almunia might do,but no one seems to entertain the possibility that it might be the other way round.
    He’s had a couple of good games on the trot now during which the defence has been as susceptible as ever to balls over the top or flicked on, & has made some fine ‘one on one’ saves..maybe time for a re-think???

    • ArsenalStation

      February 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm

      That is an interesting comment, W D.

    • Ted Harwood

      February 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm

      It is indeed, and also why slagging off one or two players in a team sport is not only silly and counterproductive, but almost impossible over the long term. Well, most of the time.

  3. Wombledin

    February 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Theo Walcott etc always have space to run against shite teams like Sunderland who just sit back and give us space at the Emirates. His final decision making, shooting and crosses were pure shite yesterday, face it.

    It’s pathetic really that our most dangerous attacking player was EBOUE. Eboue was man of the match. That’s how crap we are at the moment.

    Once again we looked like a team without a real striker. Bendtner is a one-paced donkey who can’t shoot for shite. Wouldn’t make Man Ure or Chelsea’s bench.

    Yeah yeah I’m sur Wenger will spend up large this summer and sign key players this summer. HAHA don’t make me larf son.

    • Greg

      February 22, 2010 at 6:31 am

      For god’s sake! Eboue has one of his best games in an Arsenal shirt and that’s an excuse to berate the rest of the team? How is it pathetic that he played a blinder? What’s pathetic is that, whilst he has worked hard to improve his game, some people are too narrow minded to believe that people can improve through desire and application to succeed

      • ArsenalStation

        February 22, 2010 at 8:37 am

        I thought Eboue was fantastic regardless of the rest of the side’s performance. It says alot about the FBs right now that both Eboue and Gibbs, if he was fit, would both have good opportunities to take the starting spots. What a fall from grace from both Clichy and Sagna in the last 18 months!

      • ArsenalStation

        February 23, 2010 at 12:03 am

        I totally agree, Greg. Eboue was fantastic and that doesn’t minimize any one else’s performance. The fact is that Eboue is one of the most threatening players we have with the ball at his feet… it’s when it leaves his foot that the threat goes away. ;) He just needs to develop a final ball and he could be a great attacking FB.

  4. mr negative

    February 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Wow 3 points not enough for you guys?
    We completely out played the opposition, kept a clean sheet and played some great football. Or did I watch a different match?
    In terms of the full backs, the formation is really tough on them. We have great fullbacks, they do their job admirably.

    Against the very best teams, our formation gets us in trouble, we could look at a 4 5 1 but don’t have a good enough striker . Either way our current formation suits the team really well and the football is fantastic to watch. We have only earned 2 penalties in the pl which Is hard to believe.
    Go gunners, you have my support 100% whether you win or lose .
    Arsenal forever
    In arsene I trust

    • ArsenalStation

      February 21, 2010 at 11:20 pm

      The irony of a reader named “mr negative” telling me that I’m being too hard on the club is just too funny.

      • J

        February 22, 2010 at 12:23 am

        He did it on purpose you dimwit. Read the message not the name.

        • ArsenalStation

          February 22, 2010 at 12:35 am

          Do you really think I don’t know that? If you had seen the stick I’ve been given over the last month on this damn blog for trying to keep a positive attitude, you’d understand the comment better.

  5. am

    February 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Get Gallas a two year contract Mr Wenger.

    Or you will be shopping for 3 new center backs as Campball, Silvestre and Senderous will all go with him.

  6. RoyVasey

    February 21, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Anyone who plays the game can close a shot. Doesn’t make them a great keeper, look at the blocks most teams make against us, should we sign them and put them in goal?
    I notice nobody mentions the sliced kicks and weak punches. Almunia out!

  7. redandread

    February 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Defensively we still look vulnerable. I have been a bastion of positivity all season but we look like the 3rd best team in England right now and not much else. Who know’s where we would have been without ALL the injuries but presently we are not good enough to win either the league or the CL.

    Yet amazingly, we remain in the hunt for both. Next week’s match against Stoke will tell us a lot about the team’s ability to work wonders over the remaining few months of the season and defy the odds. Our defense will be under extreme pressure in this match. We need a solid display and 3 pts! Each game from here on in is a must win match.

    Good to Theo getting back to form, lets hope he learns to do something with that final ball though. IN fact lets hope that most of the team learn to do something with that final ball!

    Keep it Goonerish!

    • ArsenalStation

      February 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm

      Exactly how I feel. I keep wanting to believe we can win the league or the CL but I haven’t seen ANYTHING in the last 6 weeks-the most crucial of the season-to justify even a smidgen of that belief. Stranger things have happened but if we win either competition it won’t be because the best team won. Nevertheless, we won 13 in a row to end the 1997/98 season and win the league… you never know and that’s the beauty of football and sport, in general.

      • Ted Harwood

        February 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm

        Maybe in the CL, we could say that we won despite not being the best team, but for me, the Premier League table doesn’t lie. 38 games should be enough sample size to more or less nail down who was the best team, and it’s the one at the top. (Which is also why this business about a playoff for the final CL place is total bullshit).

      • Ted Harwood

        February 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm

        I mean, both we and Chelsea, along with Liverpool, beat up on Man U last year, and nobody was saying that they weren’t the “best” team in the Prem come year’s end, you know? (That’s maybe more a function of the press in the UK than anything else, though).

        I understand where you’re coming from, in a way, because for long stretches of the year, they didn’t look like the “best” team either…but over 38 games, they took the most points, facing the same 19 teams as everyone else.

        • ArsenalStation

          February 23, 2010 at 12:04 am

          I just think back to 2002-03 and 1998-99 when we were, without a doubt, the best team in the league and didn’t win it…

  8. al

    February 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Walcott is the fastest footballer in the world but offers nothing else…. its pointless to have him on unless the team is wining hence in a position to counter-attack. Thats why he played well on Sat. If we are loosing and the opponent parks a bus he’s useless, if we are level against lesser rivals as well…. Rosicky is always a better option to start, he’s versatile, mature and creative. He should be a sure starter when fit.

  9. J

    February 22, 2010 at 12:19 am

    The Eduardo uproar killed our penalty chances. Thanks FIFA.

    • ArsenalStation

      February 22, 2010 at 8:33 am

      I know. It’s unbelievable. Thanks alot Sky.

    • RoyVasey

      February 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

      Bet nobody on the BBC or Sky will
      echo those sentiments…

  10. RoyVasey

    February 22, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Does anyone truly believe we will keep
    a clean sheet against Stoke and the Rory show?I’m gonna have my stopwatch out to see how much time he wastes towling the ball down..
    With Eddy and Andre out anyone noticed the strain Cescs under to score? Could see the relief on his face when the pen went in and the points were wrapped up. Biggest laugh of the weekend was at MOTD 2, were a papers headline was, Apparently, Brilliant Bendtner!!
    How?!? He scored a tap in from the impressive Eboue? Wow. He’s worse than Barndoor, that whore needed 10 shots per goal Nic looks like needing a dozen!

    • jonathan

      February 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm

      agreed. Bendtner is god aweful, but we dont have any other options at the moment. i just watched some RVP highlights, and boy do i miss him on the pitch. Sign Chomakh in the summer.

  11. Daxxjoker

    February 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    That said, we did seem to get back to creating scoring chances in a way we haven’t over the four weeks due to improved movement and passing.

    Aha.And here I am,thinking – we didn’t create those chances over the last 4 weeks because we have played top teams,and top defenses – so it wasn’t “Arsenal v. Bottom-Half Side” kinda match.

    Bendtner scored a great goal.He is amazing.Leave it out.The amount of arrogance and self-esteem you catch off that guy is unbelievable.Someone would think he has 5 seasons behind him,scoring at least 30 in every one of them.He is David Villa.But only in his head.

    And Wenger talking about referees after Porto game – it just doesn’t get sadder then that.Fabianski was outstanding and the referee screwed us.How stubborn do you have to be to look at it that way ?!

    Like one Serbian commentator said during Chelsea game – “Wenger is undeniably the greatest talent-spotter ever,but he simply doesn’t have the eye for goalkeepers.”

    And not having a top class keeper during his tenure at the club – proves that point.Buying someone like Almunia from Celta and Fabianski – 3rd keeper of Poland – won’t help your team.If Almunia was any good – stronger teams from Spain would have bought him.Not the top 4 clubs,but teams stronger than Celta.

    Over the summer – Wenger will only add Chamakh.Nevermind he is not Arsenal quality – Wenger can get him without transfer fee.And that is the most important thing.
    No new gk,no new cd,no top class striker – just Chamakh.

    • ArsenalStation

      February 23, 2010 at 12:05 am

      I believe Chamakh, a keeper, and a new contract for Gallas will stand us in good stead for next season.

  12. peachesgooner

    February 25, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Hi guys, thanks for popping onto our blog in London, I’ve added you to our blog roll so expect some UK traffic to come your way.

    This is the link to our headline piece today which was written by London who enjoyed watching a game at Nevada Smiths


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