Reflections on Hull City: Where’s the Desire?

By on September 28, 2008
This is becoming a depressingly regular sight... our captain getting beat... AGAIN!!

Behold the weakness of Gallas.

I have never had a piece on this blog which I have looked less forward to writing.  There’s really not much to say as I’m sure that all of us who watched the game are still in shock.  To be fair, I have to give credit to Hull City as they came out and were extremely organized defensively and, while they played rough for sure, never got to a Bolton-level of over-physicality.

So what went wrong on Saturday?  The usual.  We were profligate with our chances early on, squeaked into a 1-nil lead and then failed to nail the game down.  Geovanni’s goal was an amazing strike yet knowing him, he should have been closed down.  Where was Denilson?  But it’s the second goal that absolutely makes me sick.

Once again, Gallas got beat on a set piece.  We have now lost two games this season because our “captain” doesn’t have sufficient motivation or desire to mark and then go for the ball on set pieces.  Where is this going to end?  Not only should his “captaincy” be in doubt at this point but so should his place in the first XI. Arsene Wenger had this to say about being scored on from corners:

“It is a weakness in our team but that’s as well linked with the level of concentration. You can work for hours on the training ground but if you don’t attack the ball on the day of the game it will cost you. We were caught already the corner before when the guy got in front of Adebayor. I believe that’s more down to how much you want the ball.”

He’s absolutely right.  These men are professionals and Gallas is a full international who has won 2 league titles.  Does Wenger still need to teach him how to defend corners and set plays? No.  It’s up to him to do what’s necessary.  Or more, as a captain should.  Look at the picture above.  Gallas let Cousin get in front of him with no resistance at all before Cousin leaped a whole head higher than him.  Cousin wanted it more than Gallas did.  He was hungrier to win the game for his team than our captain was to win it for us.  Plain and simple.  And sad.  For me, Gallas is a glory-hunter.  He’d much rather run up-field and score a goal than save one from a corner at the other end.  Never mind motivating the team, he can’t even motivate himself on a simple corner.  It pains my heart to see our captain (and his partner) constantly getting beat like this and I’m tired of having to hold my breath every time a cross comes flying into the box.

Now, while  it’s not only down to one man that we lost the game, since we should be able to score more than one goal at home against teams like Hull or West Brom, this should have been a match that, at worst, we came away with a disappointing draw.  On days like these, when you are being defended very tenaciously, you need to be extra careful in the back not to concede.  As the captain, Gallas needs to step up and not let that happen.  He needs to rally the troops and lead by example.  However, he seems utterly incapable of doing this.  What does it say to the rest of the team when the captain has given up a game-winning goal because he lost his mark on a corner… TWICE in the first six games?

As for the rest of the side, Adebayor was practically invisible for most of the match and van Persie doesn’t seem to be able to put a shot on goal and actually test the keeper.  It may be time to give Bendtner and/or Vela a shot to nail down a place in the starting XI.  Both have had far more impressive performances so far this season than their counterparts in the starting XI.  If you take away Adebayor’s hat-trick at Ewood Park, he’s been mediocre at best for the first six weeks of the season… and this after signing a nice, fat, new contract.  Once again, where’s the motivation?

Eboue and Walcott were rendered ineffective through Hull’s highly organized approach to defense especially in the midfield.  Their central defense, despite a few puzzling moments, dealt with twenty-five Arsenal crosses.  On the other hand, our central defense couldn’t deal with 4 Hull City corners.  This kind of defending over the course of a long season will barely keep us in the Champions League next season.  The most disappointing aspect is that it’s not necessarily a matter of skill but of commitment.

Nothing upsets me more when it comes to Arsenal than seeing the team display this seeming lack of hunger or motivation.  It was just going to be one of those days, but those are the kind of days where champions still need to grind out points.  We did it last year until March, but we haven’t seemed to be able to do it this season.  We were not able to secure a point at Craven Cottage and we weren’t able to even salvage a point at home to Hull.  Any loss is disturbing for a side of this quality and potential but to lose at home is inexcusable and to lose at home to a promotion side is unthinkable.  Arsene Wenger said that the players were in “a state of shock” in the changing room following the match.  But what do they have to be “shocked about”?  That a below-par, desire-less performance wasn’t enough to get them a win at home in the toughest league in the world?

The injuries to Nasri, Rosicky, Eduardo, and Diaby are hurting the side but they are no excuse for the performance of the team on the pitch.  What was the biggest difference between our teenagers’ Carling Cup performance on Tuesday and this first-team league match yesterday?  One word… desire.

But for all the ranting on the internet that has been going on over the last 24 hours, we must keep looking forward and move on.  For, after all, despite having lost two of our first six matches we are still only 2 points off the top.  Nothing is more important at this moment than getting all three points from Porto at the Emirates on Tuesday night.  The team needs to refocus and take a long hard look at themselves.  I believe it was an off-day but that there are changes that could be made which would be beneficial.  We will be unlikely to see van Persie replaced by the relatively inexperienced Vela for a big Champions League match, but I would not mind seeing Bendtner keep Adebayor on the bench.  We need to respond and we need to respond well.  And we need to make Porto pay the price for what happened in our own house the Saturday past.