It’s Not As Bad As It Seems… Yet

By on February 1, 2010

Now, having had almost twenty-four hours to cool down, I believe I am ready to assess Sunday’s match with Manchester United in a decidedly non-Arsenal Action-type way. I won’t be calling for Wenger to resign and I also won’t be pronouncing our title challenge dead on arrival. My regular readers will know that I am fully behind and committed to Arsene Wenger and that I am hardcore optimist when it comes to the Arsenal. While others around me lose their heads, I try to be the lone voice of reason… or hope.

Despite some of the stuff I’ve read, I didn’t think we played a terrible match. If the two own goals cancel themselves out, we were beaten by two counterattacks. Two very ugly counterattacks, defensively-speaking, on our part. And here is where I will ask a question of the Boss. The fixture has left me wondering if maybe there is such a thing as “too much attack.”

How many times did we lose possession on the edge of our final third only to find the ball quickly pumped up to Rooney, who then found himself with the opportunity to run at an isolated defender? Almost too many too count. Where is the defense? No one appreciates the club’s footballing ethos more than myself. But I wonder if, in the big matches like this one, we really must find a way to temper our attacking enthusiasm in a bid to protect our already vulnerable defense.

Let’s be honest. Even with the addition of Vermaelen, our defense is a far cry from what it was for most of the 2007-08 season. Clichy is a shell of his former self and so is Sagna, for that matter. Gallas is better than he was for much of that season and Vermaelen is better than Toure was but we still ship goals against quality sides at times.

Our whole approach, at least in the big matches, seems to have an air of naivete′ around it. Do we really think that we can approach United or Chelsea like we would, say, Pompey or Bolton? Even at home? I believe Wenger must realize that we have to begin to compromise-just a bit-when it comes to our tactics against bigger sides.

Opposition does not have to worry when we get the ball into wide areas because they know we have no one in the box capable of scoring with their head. The return of Bendtner is promising but he is obviously far from being anywhere near 100%. The fact that Theo is also far from his best means that, at the moment, we have no extra speed or aerial threat. It makes it much easier for sides to clog the middle and when everyone pushed forward yesterday you got the sense that we were falling for United’s trap.

Don’t get me wrong. I respect the Boss and his footballing philosophy and I certainly don’t think some big overhaul is needed in either management, personnel, or tactics. But, look at what United did to us yesterday. They were content to cede much possession in return for playing most of their game on the counterattack. And it was highly effective. We should learn and take something from that.

On the other hand, we created more than enough chances to win that match. Arshavin alone had enough chances that he should have realistically had at least two goals. Sometimes, the gods punish those who try to do the right thing. We couldn’t take our chances yesterday for whatever reason and the match certainly had that “it’s just not going to go in” vibe about it. But, unlike in the past, it wasn’t for lack of trying. The team came out shooting but they just wouldn’t go in.

I’ve said for years that the thing that distinguishes the current team from the Invincibles is our lack of an effective counterattack. I guess that’s to be expected from a team that dominates possession, even against the other top sides. It has improved recently with the addition of Arshavin, but we play at a far slower pace now than we did in 2004. Having a side willing to go on a fast counterattack is the difference between a draw, or loss, for this side and a win for the 2001-04 side. Yesterday, United looked more like the Invincibles, in that respect, than we did.

Either way, we can make up the ground lost at Chelsea next weekend and be back where we started when this run of fixtures started. It won’t be ideal, but it could be worse. Next Sunday now becomes a sort of acid test for this side. I try to avoid pronouncements like that, but after the Villa draw and the loss yesterday, we can’t see it any other way. We will not be able to make up another double-digit deficit on Chelsea or United at this stage of the season. On Sunday, we will see just how bad we want it and how much Wenger has learned from the two spirit-crushing home defeats.


  1. Peter Jones

    February 1, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Humiliation. Maybe now Gunners fans will lose their arrogance and stop shouting “Hoof” every time an opponent plays a long ball – its schoolboy stuff, because for all your pretty football you will win nothing – again!!

  2. Tom Foolery

    February 1, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Peter Jones….. go Fuck yourself

    • Peter Jones

      February 1, 2010 at 8:25 am

      Now, now, calm down there’s a good fellow. Not very nice is it? Gooners need to eat a big slice of humble pie, they have been far too arrogant in thinking their football is the best…when results and success say otherwise.

  3. Tasha

    February 1, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Great comments, you’ve actually made me feel less depressed. It’s such a shame that all the early hope and fantastic performances this season feel like they’ve been cancelled out by this defeat. We’re not as good as we thought we were bascially.

    • ArsenalStation

      February 1, 2010 at 8:07 am

      I don’t think that’s true, Tasha. I don’t think you can judge a team’s quality on one match, or even two 4 months apart. I think you have to look at it more holistically. This is just one defeat, three points dropped-not 10 points or 5 losses.

      We can still do this as long as we show up at Chelsea with the most fight we can muster, get three points, and go on from there. You gotta believe, otherwise, what’s the point? Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. islington haye maker.

    February 1, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Your having a laugh if you think we played well….We was all over the place and we have to many players who dont deserve to wear the great red and white shirt.

    And as much as i hate to say it the 2nd goal from wayne rooney was world class….Please tell me is Gallas a defender or a striker???…..I just can’t make it out.

    We were simply outclassed and that is something as a fan i ca’t accept.I have stuck by Arsene through thick and thin and have always been behind the man all the way.But i cant take getting done twice the way we did against chelski and utd.We are not learning from our mistakes and thats what hurts.

    Every Arsenal fan in the country knows what we need and Wenger still sits on the fence….When will this change???

    • ArsenalStation

      February 1, 2010 at 8:12 am

      I didn’t say we played well… only that I didn’t think the match was as lopsided as the score or that it was “boys against men” as some papers put it.

  5. JoeB

    February 1, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Too right… In recent times we’ve had a good shout at having the best full backs in the country, this is no longer true.
    I think the 3-1 result flattered utd to an extent, it wasn’t like they played us off the park. We overcommitted players and they had relatively easy chances as a result. If Gallas or Vermaelen run forward, someone in midfield must track back to fill the gap Song leaves as he (hopefully) falls back.

  6. The Saint

    February 1, 2010 at 8:07 am

    You’re right; it’s not as bad as it seems because David James is still available but for a very, very short while more.

    • ArsenalStation

      February 1, 2010 at 8:11 am

      I agree that something needs to be done about Almunia, as soon as possible.

  7. JoeB

    February 1, 2010 at 8:11 am

    And lest we forget.. Arsh had 2 opportunities to square the ball for an easy goal in the opening minutes. Had he done so the game could have gone completely differently. Ifs and buts I know…

  8. islington haye maker.

    February 1, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Joe the result didnt flatter utd at all.They played like a real team and we showed no desire what so ever.It should have been more.Everytime they came forward we looked so shakey.I f***ing hate utd with a pasion but come on they smashed us.

  9. Steven

    February 1, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Sorry Peter Jones, are Arsenal fans any more arrogant than Man Utd, Chelsea or Liverpool fans? I dislike it when pple make such baseless commenst at back of our loss to United.If your reference is to ‘hoofing the ball upfield’ as Villa did leading to a postmatch verbal clash btw AW and O’Neill, we stand by our comments.English football does hoof the ball and part of the game but we dont use it too often.

    The last time I checked, Barcelona has won six titles in the last one year and they have a system that Arsenal is learning to perfect.Not to forget they beat both Chelsea and United enroute the finals for the CL.

    Arsenal’s loss was due to AW’s tactical error of ‘ultra-attacking’ system against such big sides as Man Utd and Chelsea which even Barca didnt do. If we had played as we did earlier at OT, we wont have lost.
    We still lack the workrate AND intelligence that Barca adds to their 4-3-3.We have to learn to defend from the opponent’s area, press them hard, close them down and tackle them hard if we have to rather than ball-watching. The day we add these to our game, is the day we are ready to compete with the top teams.

    Above all, let’s dust ourselves down and get ready for Chelsea and Liverpool. We lost a game of the run of four big games;hardly the end of the title race as these teams will still meet each other and they WILL DROP POINTS.When they do, we should be in a position to capitalise.

  10. neville

    February 1, 2010 at 8:35 am

    peater jones is a cunt

    • Peter Jones

      February 1, 2010 at 10:28 am

      The name is Jones, Peter Jones my dear fellow!!!! Good to see you can spell cunt however. Tally Ho!

  11. spit yo game

    February 1, 2010 at 8:38 am

    ARsenal station ,do you ever give in,just let it go and breath if yesterday gives you hope that we can muster up a win at stamford bridge you must of been watching a complete different game to alot of other people..

    • ArsenalStation

      February 1, 2010 at 10:39 am

      spityogame, why would I give in or give up? I support my club, no matter what. I also believe in my club. We went to Chelsea last year with a weaker side than this season and won, so yes I believe we can win there on Sunday. Obviously, we have not been playing as good as we can in the last few weeks but I believe in Arsene and the players. I’d hate to ever become so jaded that I’d turn into one of those supporters whose main interaction with the club is criticizing everything it does. Besides, being a football supporter is about believing in your club and believing in the impossible.

  12. stephen

    February 1, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Let’s be sincere.Man-u produced a classical performance,however their win was not out of overall good performance but rather due to three colossal errors.Arsenal have a tendancy of putting up a good performance but resultantly void.I think it is time W enger stops working on philosopies and set-pieces to bringing out an all guns blazing side with consistancy else the invincibles will turn out to be a perfect team of players well without their coaches input rather than a well breed team

  13. BOB RYAN

    February 1, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Average review….but I like your positive outlook.

    We still make the same mistakes over and over again against most teams but they go unpunished against the poorer finishers.

    No tall CF so why does Almunia keep punting it long and the full backs cross it in to no-one?

    AW has had his day folks just accept it and lets get someone younger in who can play some different tactics and gee up the players from the touchline.

    People didnt like it when Goerge Graham left as they thought it was the end of glory but look what happened…

    AW should move upstairs and be remembered in a positive way before he starts getting boo-ed!

  14. GoonerSinceThe80s

    February 1, 2010 at 9:53 am

    It’s a defeat. Nothing more, nothing less. Wenger was as dissapointed as us during the post match interview. He knows we played the wrong tactics, again. Though this is no excuse. United played worst than us at old trafford than we did at the emirates but still came away with a 2-1 victory.

    What really does bug me, a LOT, is the the inactivity in the transfer market. Im sick of hearing “we have the money” THEN SPEND IT ARSENE.

    We all know what he has done for the club. and we appreciate it. But its time for him to step down at the end of the season. That would be very admiral of him. This current team has not proggresed enough through the trophy-less run, some say that weve actually gone backwards and not proggresed at all.

    Some Arsenal players are simply not good enough to play for the Arsenal. Simply not good enough.

  15. Davi

    February 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Spot on analysis. Everyone has this inclination to just blame all the players for not being good enough but clearly there were many tactical errors. Denilson shouldnt have played though. He was awful in the previous game and doesnt look right atm.
    I dont think hes a bad player, hes either extremely low on confidence or still suffering from his back injury. I know from experience it can be difficult to run at full pace cos ur afraid ur back wil just go again.
    Even then he’s always been inconsistent and I think the boss relies on him far too much. As he has always done with walcott.

  16. Ted Harwood

    February 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Watching the match, one did indeed get the sense that SAF had told his players to clog up the box and, as soon as possible, get the ball out to Rooney so that he could charge upfield. The fact that we either didn’t anticipate this strategy or that our players at times couldn’t be bothered…well, what can one say? The players know that they have to work harder now; it’s up to them to go out and show 110% desire and spirit. I fully believe that they are capable, so let’s hope that Cesc can drive them on and get them believing in themselves again.

  17. androus

    February 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Don’t despair guys, we can still win the league. do i hear laughter? fact is we can and will if the players stop and learn. Believe it or not Arsenal were not passed off the park in that game. nor were we well thrashed. Nor if we were to play the same guy tomorrow will we be beaten. We had as many attempts as man u with no goals. infact had Arshavin squared the ball on at least 3 occasions even before man u had scored we could have been the one in the ascendency.

    The reason we lost that game is all too clear. Arshavin was a bit selfish -yes arshavin, many here dare not say it -but to be fair to him he is not selfish by nature and is indeed a team player. but the fact he has not scored in a long time had this pyschological impact on him and instead of squaring the ball to players who only need to tap the ball in he tried to win the game by himself. perhaps wenger or others said to him you are a better player than what you have been delivering so far. And i really think it affected his game and he had a one track mind of “i must score in this game no matter what”. this is the only reason why we lost. not because we were inferior, or we are defensively worse than at any other time. its not because we did not buy, it was because we did not play as a team when the opportunity came to score.

    In regards to conceding 3 goals i accept that it is important that if we concede a first goal we do not throw the kitchen sink at the game especially when we have plenty of time to equalise. its different if you are losing 2-1 and you have 5mins to go. the end result will be either 2-2 or 3-1 which can happen to any great team.

    Our issue was we took off the handbreaks and attacked and attacked even with our defenders. i am not saying our defenders should not attack as this is the arsenal way and if it wasnt for the verminator we would not have scored. All i am saying is that we should be more organised and have at least 3 players drop off and wait for the lose ball or the counter. Especially in games with other big teams like ourselves but its good practise at anytime.

    We made that game all too easy yesterday and i bet knowing ferguson man u will not be counting their chickens. he knows that on another day it could have been all too different and they could have ended up 3-1 down themselves.

    Our mindset should be to play as a team, try and score the first goal and even if we concede and there is plenty of time on the clock not to rush things.

    Finally, most of us are like the scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk in 1704 who when he found himself stranded – we look at our material resources and wish we had more.But a different possibility exists for us as well – the realisation that more resources are not necessarily coming from the outside and that we must use what we already have to better effect. More so now that the transfer window is closed.

    So lets not be rash. so we lost against man u and the nature of it was bad. But 2 seasons ago we did the double on them and beat chelsea but did we win the league? its not all about beating our main rivals though it feels good to do so. usually we get undone by the smaller teams. so let the smaller teams take points of man u and chelsea and believe me they will. Losses come in the most unexpected quaters.Our aim is to ensure we are snapping at their heels until we are ready to strike.Man U and chelsea will lose at least another 3 games this season and draw a whole lot more. Lets just make sure that we and not just the players have the right mindset to go out there to make the most if it

    Some come on Gooners spread better vibes. For it is within Arsenal to go all the way.

    we are the Arsenal after all.

    • Davi

      February 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

      Yes. We outplayed Utd at old trafford and “gave them a lesson” there FAR more than they did to us at the emirates.
      We had chances but didnt take them and they beat us tactically, NOT because their players are better.

  18. Daxxjoker

    February 1, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Dude – where do you draw the line ?! ?! ?!
    Next weekend,when we concede 5 – what will you write ?!
    5 years from now,when we finish in the lower half of the table – what will you write ?!
    You will still be seeing the bigger picture,same one Wenger sees.That picture started revealing it self 4 years ago and it shows powerful Arsenal in the season 2016-2017.
    Bendtner is averaging 2 goals per game.Walcott is killing on the right flank,Vela doing the same on the left.Denilson plays like 2 Essiens.It’s their fifth season without Fabregas and Song – both of them now playing for Barcelona.And fourth season without Vermaelen,who joined Real Madrid.
    Two rounds before the end,Arsenal secured return to Premier league.
    Yeah – I see that picture now.It’s realistic.


    That little piece of Russian shit,who’s been playing like shit all season long – says it’s hard to believe in winning the title now.Well,my son – with your shitty performance yesterday,when you screwed 3 great chances cause of your selfishness – you made me stop believing,also.
    All season long he’s talking shit.Chelsea and Manchester are stronger,Arsenal can’t win the title . . . Andrei mate,I agree with you.Only morons don’t agree with you on that,cause those teams showed on the pitch that they are stronger.And Chelsea will show it once more.But,let’s go with another approach.Stop talking crap and play football once this season.But I understand you and your lack of faith.
    You got twice past Rafael and you didn’t score.That was all.And you know that Ivanovic will eat you alive at the Bridge
    There was no need to imply that we can’t count on you against Chelsea.If no one else knows that – I do.
    Come on,Gooners – get ready for another humiliation !
    Drogba and co will rip us apart ! ! !
    But don’t worry ! It will get much worse before it gets better !
    Is that right – Mr. Arsenal Station ?!

    • Mr. ArsenalStation

      February 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

      Daxx, if the point-of-view of the blog upsets you that much, perhaps you would be a much more appreciative reader of Arsenal Action.

      I agree with your assessment of Arshavin. He should have scored twice. Had he done, we’d all be talking about a draw. It’s not as though we didn’t create chances. It was just one of those days when you’re not gonna score.

      However, this, I do not appreciate: “AND DO NOT – DO NOT – COMPARE THIS SHIT OF THE SQUAD WITH THE INVINCIBLES ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ”

      Do you understand that there are two kinds of comparisons? Favorable and unfavorable? My comparison was actually unfavorable so I don’t understand why you would be so upset. I’m actually criticizing the side. And why should I not be allowed to compare versions of the same club separated by only a few years?

      The Invincibles were not holy or sacred. No matter how it might look in the highlight films, Henry and Pires and co. did not take every chance. Between 2001-2005 when we won 2 leagues and 3 FA Cups, we also lost a few matches by big deficits. To think of the past as 100% golden and the present as 100% shit does a huge disservice to both sides.

      Also, I will give Arsene the amount of time that he needs. Conceding van Persie’s injury, I would be disposed to at least give us until next season to win a major trophy, i.e. the league or the CL (not the FA or Carling Cups). At that point, should it not happen, you will not need me to yell for Wenger’s head because he will just not sign a new contract, or, if he does, he will know the team needs to be adjusted. This much he has already said back in May.

      • Daxxjoker

        February 3, 2010 at 9:20 am

        Give him all the time you want.This team – with the current gk,current weak midfielder and only one top-class striker – will not win anything.

        Wenger finally admitted that he has 30mill to spend – money he got from City last summer.And he wanted to buy David VIlla.
        Way to go,Arsene ! Lie some more !
        He also said – even if the price of the player is 30mill – we can do it.Ok.Summer is coming.Give that money to Wolfsburg and you will be THE GREATEST JACK.
        VIlla is the world’s best striker – but he will be 29 in december.But Dzeko will soon turn 24,and he will repay money invested in him.Seriously – whoever gets that guy – can be really happy.

        As for the invincibles – you can not write – I’ve said for years that the thing that distinguishes the current team from the Invincibles is our lack of an effective counterattack.

        This current team does not:
        1)have a goal-machine (someone who will score almost every match,like Thierry did)
        2)have a free-scoring midfield (Pires and Ljungberg knew to collect 10-15 goals a season each,and get 7-8 assists each)
        3)have a real holding midfield (Patrick and Gilberto were forces ! Also,Patrick knew to give a lethal pass,knew to go forward and score,and Gilberto could score with his head)
        4)have a back-up midfielder (these two did not get injured,cause thwy were strong.But when they did,or were rested – Edu would play.Not someone like Ramsey or Eastmond,but grown man who was not pushed and knocked around)
        5)have a physical strength
        6)have a killing counter attack,like you said.Back in the day,our every counter attack was 75% of the goal in it’s beginning
        7)and most importantly – have authority and does not enjoy enormous respect among the opponents.

        These are the stuff I remembered at the moment.Maybe I would have some more numbers in the list if I give it a little more time.But I don’t want to – 7 is quite enough.It was important to say that between The Invincibles and The Short and the Strengthless is more than one difference.

  19. Tazz

    February 2, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Yeah you guys are bang on with the title of the post. It’s not bad yet, it could get worse! Remember we travel to Bridge up next, victory their looks highly unlikely, especially now that Drogba is fit. He ran rings around Vermaelen last time around. Hope Arshavin can forget his dismal performance the other night & come with a stellar show this time around. Keep faith Gooners..


  20. androus

    February 3, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Drogba is not going to get round Vermaelen this time. And as long as we get our tactics right we can draw it if not win it. Wenger must be aware now that twice we got beaten by 3 goals at home by none other than chelsea and man u. I am sure he has learnt from that. Our game plan will be different. We will be more assured and more controlled. Its not as if we played badly against man u but you dont give man u a 2 goal lead and expect to win the game. Everyone cried blue murder after we lost. Both those who want to get rid of wenger and those who dont. But it only takes one game to change the outlook. everyone thought that chelsea had hulls game in the bag but i didnt. like i said earlier chelsea will lose more games and draw many more by the time the season is over and so will man u, Arsenal just have to be in a position to take over. Losing a game against man u and chelsea willl not in itself determine if we will win the league.had arshavin squared the ball we could have won. so at least we know why we were defeated lack of team play but i am sure wenger will fix that