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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