There are very few teams that can claim they have been victorious over Arsenal in the past 7 years as Arsenal itself. We did it again, we flushed two more points down the toilet in a heart-breaking manner.
Today I watched the match against Fulham and despite jumping in the air just like Giroud himself after two opening goals, after Berbatov scored first goal for Fulham, I knew what will happen…or sort of. Our defending was terrible, only this time Sagna was the one that left too much space for Fulham’s attacking line (remember what happened when Richardson got injured – he had too much space on right side of our defense) and we nearly conceded a fourth from that side. Of course, we shouldn’t blame just Sagna for our horrible defensive performance since all the defenders were poor. After our match, I watched Aston Villa against FAnchester United. Aston Villa had a 2:0 lead but when Hernandez scored his first goal, I knew what will happen. Simple – there are teams with winning mentality, those teams are the ones that win trophies and we are not one of them.
It seems that after “Arsenal’s-No.9-curse” we have another one – “Arsenal’s-armband-curse”. That one is even more dangerous. Both our captain and vice-captain were bad today. While Vermaelen’s poor performances are something that keeps happening ever since he had issues with the flu (and it was before the match against Manchester City!), Arteta’s performance is a reason to be worried. I can’t understand what kind of blackout he had before conceding the penalty. His attempt to stop Ruiz from scoring was very poor and showed a lack of defensive skills. If we had a natural high-class defensive midfielder, maybe we wouldn’t concede neither the penalty nor the third goal.
At the end of the match, Arteta did what true captain’s would do: he took a final risk on himself and tried to make up for his mistake that led to the third goal. His penalty was saved by Schwarzer (I can’t avoid symbolics when I compare Arteta’s and Berbatov’s penalty – while Mannone failed to blink properly when Berbatov shot, Schwarzer managed to pull off a save in the very last second of the match) but I have to say that if I’d had to decide who will take the penalty in the last seconds, I would pick Arteta. I just hope Mikel will recover quickly because this team needs him and his leadership. There is a proverb that says: “It is better to have an army of mices led by a lion than to have an army of lions led by a mouse.” Hopefully Mikel will prove he is the lion.
Now, what worries me is something that I have noticed this season and that is poor decisions our players are making on both sides of the pitch. Whether we are talking about Vermaelen’s mistakes against Olympiacos, Chelsea, Norwich, Manchester United or Schalke, Gervinho’s horrible shots over at the Etihad or dribblings where he dribbles on both his opponent and himself, Ramsey’s fouls today that had sense only if he wanted an early shower or everything Santos did while he was on the field this season, our players showed poor footballing intelligence too many times, especially when it came to defense. Yes, we have had that kind of black-outs in previous seasons but we had players like Fabregas, Verrader or Na$ri, not to mention champions like Bergkamp (just take a look at that Einstein-intelligent goal against Newcastle), Henry and Pires, that could nullify those mistakes, at least in matches against opponents like Fulham or Schalke. People tend to laugh at Steve Bould and his work at Arsenal. I’m afraid that Bould can’t do anything when players like ours do stupid mistakes.
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And it all comes down to Wenger again since his decisions are not as good as they used to be. When we were the best team in England and one of the best in Europe, Wenger was hailed as miracle-worker. He was capable of making a good player look like a world-class player and, further more, he was capable of finding proper replacements. He is not capable to do that anymore. Even worse, it looks like he is doing the vice versa – Santi Cazorla looks jaded and spent, after just three months since he twitted: “Gunner!” while Lukas Podolski is a story of his own.
Andrey Arshavin is another one that could have had a much better career at Arsenal than he’s had so far. Performances of Mannone and Schwarzer today proved a lack of good decisions when it comes to goalkeepers as well. The Australian was heavily linked with us a few seasons ago since he is an experienced goalkeeper that could solve our problems. However, Wenger didn’t want to spend the money on him and Schwarzer stayed at Fulham.
Then, there is another thing. Years ago Wenger sold players like Kolo Toure, Adebawhore, Anelka, Petit, Overmars, Hleb…and they failed to reproduce even half of what they gave at Arsenal. Recently, players like Na$ri, Adebawhore, Clichy or even Fabregas managed to win some silverware in their new clubs while Verrader’s new club sits on the top of the table. Hell, even Sol Campbell’s last trophy has less dust on itself than ours and Campbell played for Portsmouth. We can talk about the character of certain players but they were selected by Wenger. If he didn’t know how to educate them better, it’s another problem.
Despite all these things, there were a few positives in this match. We finally scored a header. Two, actually. Both of them were scored by Olivier Giroud who picked up his first brace for Arsenal. The Frenchman was a constant danger and his partnership with Walcott gave us goals. Maybe he was a better option to take the penalty but he already missed one this season (against Coventry in Capital One Cup) and, like I said, I would rather give it to Arteta since I watched the Spaniard converted the penalty in the very last minute (last season in the weird match against Blackburn, while he was still playing for Everton, Arteta converted a penalty in 92nd minute for 1:0 victory). He should take these goals as another injection of self-confidence and, given that he reached six goals in all competitions so far, maybe we will get 20 goals this season from him. Theo Walcott has to be praised for his crosses – he created two assists today for Giroud and let’s just hope his injury is not serious. We need him and maybe our board should re-consider which “W” should get a new contract from Arsenal and which “W” should be replaced with either Pep Guardiola or Juergen Klopp if there is any chance of that. If Arsenal has any ambitions at all, Walcott must get a new contract.
Another mini-international break is on its way and we will pray that none of our players get injured. The previous international break broke our good form so maybe this one will restore the order. We need to get a grip because our next opponents are the Spuds and there will be no room for stupid mistakes. If we don’t get three points from that game (SPOILER: possible sacrilage coming!), Arsene Wenger should be sacked immediately after the match.