Sunday, November 8, 2009

(I didn't watch) Arsenal 4, Wolves 1

"A personal reservation about this phase of Wenger's game-altering reign in English football is that he may have taken a brilliant idea to an unworkable extreme, and left Arsenal short of warriors to pick the team up and drive it forward, as Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit did."

- Paul Hayward, saying it for all of us

How good is this Arsenal side? 

3-0 against Spurs. 4-1 against Alkmaar. And 4-1 last night against Wolves last night. I didn't watch it, though. I had a nap which, unfortunately, went on for the rest of the night. Still, I can't help but feel cheered by the result. We're developing a real momentum now. The frustrating Arsenal of previous seasons (lots of possession with no goals) seems to be a thing of the past. 

But the question remains, can we win anything with this side?

On the whole, I'm not convinced. We conceded a weak goal last night in the last couple of minutes. While it didn't effect the result, it's a worrying sign. Defensive lapses are habit-forming. If we don't take pride in clean sheets, then we're going to keep conceding easy goals, and it's going to hurt us in the end. Just think back to West Ham a few weeks ago. If we don't tighten up at the back, there are going to be more West Hams this season, and it will cost us in the end. 

There's a good article by Paul Hayward in the Guardian about this problem. The Arsenal bandwagon is the prettiest bandwagon in the Premier League. When the team's on a roll, supporting the Arse is the easiest thing in the world. It's only when the bandwagon loses steam, fucks up at the back, loses points and ends up empty-handed at the end of the season that you feel you're getting jibbed. 

What I really want to see in January are a couple of purchases: a good goalkeeper and a defensive midfielder who can fill in at centre-back.  Almunia's been reinstated as our 1st choice 'keeper, which I feel is the wrong decision. He's solid 90% of the time, but it's the other 10% that's going to kill us by the end of the season. And we need someone to take over from Song, at least while the ACN is on. I have nightmares that Diaby will be playing as our holding midfielder in January. Wenger needs to understand that just because a man looks like Vieira, he's not necessary going to play like him. And anyway, Diaby doesn't look like Vieira without the shaved head. 

It's not going to happen, though. I'm resigned to that. Arsene Wenger is a purist. He doesn't believe in defending. He believes in passing, movement, technique and selecting players that look like other players. So come January, Almunia's still going to be around, and he'll concede a couple near-post goals and then talk to the media about our "new-found resolve". And Diaby will be a holding midfielder who can't tackle. I hope he shaves his head so that, at least, he'll bear a passing resemblance to Vieira. That'll help. 

Still, if the goals continue, this may be bunk and Arsenal may win the league this year. And if that happens, Arsene Wenger will probably take it to another extreme and play a 1-3-4-1 next season to accommodate the freakish talents of Vela, Wilshere and Ramsey.

I'd stay up to watch that. 

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