Saturday, November 26, 2011

Minor blip: Arsenal drop points to Fulham's bald army

Well we didn't expect that. Last evening's performance was an aberration, a departure from the norm, a game to be forgotten and hopefully in the big scheme of things, the dropped two points will average out. Arsenal looked lethargic at the start and overall showed little desire to take the game to Fulham in the first half. To cut the supply line to Robin, Martin Jol resorted to a packed midfield. With Ramsey having one of those days, it meant that we spent a lot of time passing the ball around in our half of the pitch. Any tempo whatsoever in the game was due to Santos' and Theo's runs on either flank. Arshavin remained anonymous and his profligacy on the pitch was exasperating. He has bundles of talent and nobody has ever doubted that. But whenever he's on the pitch, we can see that his heart is not in it. Yesterday when Shava was about to take a corner, he remembered that now Arteta is the assigned guy and very reluctantly put the ball at the spot for him. I feel for Shava who is clearly unhappy over his drop in the Arsenal ranks. I'm a big fan of him, he's an awesome guy off the pitch too but I think he needs few good one-on-one sessions with Arsene where he can open up and discuss his issues. If there's a guy who can revive him, Arsene is that guy.

Despite our lack of zeal, we created decent chances and Ramsey should have done better when Theo laid a perfect ball only for him to shoot skyward. By this time, that uneasy feeling crept up inside but it was difficult to spot the channel from where Fulham could score a goal. Sticking to our principle of making our life difficult, a defensive mixup led to a Vermaelen own goal. Theo could be blamed for not tracking the run of Riise who led to the confusion in the area. But even in that case, our defence should have dealt with it. Vermaelen had an average game until the time he surged forward to place his face at the end of another brilliant Theo cross which resulted in the equaliser. From villain to hero. The goal came about only after the much needed substitutions: Gervinho, Diaby and yes, Chamakh. The tempo of the game was instantly raised and passing was crisper. Gervinho and Theo made numerous forays in the Fulham area and we were rewarded for our effort with Vermaelen's goal.

The last 10 minutes saw us pushing for the winner but Fulham's time wasting tactics, throughout the match, made it difficult to come by. They were helped by Mike Dean who paid no notice to Mark Schwarzer's multiple delayed goal kicks. He deserved at least a yellow. But in a game where Dean ignored any foul on a Arsenal player you wouldn't expect him to notice anything wrong in deliberate time wasting. It's now 10 games on the trot when we have dropped points with Mike Dean as the referee. And what's with Fulham's hairline, starting from Jol to Bobby Zamora, there are bald galore, they're a disgusting team to watch (I like Gerv's hairdo).

Coming back to football, Arsene needs to find the right combination for his team B because there will be frequent personnel rotations running till New Year. Carling Cup QF will allow him another evening of experiment and I hope that our players prove Le Boss right the next time.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Everything remains the same, Robin scores, Arsenal wins

I must admit that it was the most hellish Interlull I've endured in recent times. It almost felt like the summer break. But as they say, patience is always rewarded and it was indeed by Arsenal. After being away for two weeks, it was expected that there will be lack of coordination in the team but there was no dearth of attacking intent. Robin could have scored as early as the first minute when he scoffed a chance from Theo's cross. Norwich City has been lauded by critics for their desire to play football and it was evident on the pitch yesterday. The game was open from the word go and before Norwich scored, Arsenal was murdering them. If it wasn't for Russell Martin's positional sense, Arsenal would have been 2-3 goals up in the first quarter of the match. His acrobatic clearance off the line from Theo's shot was some top class defending. But when Gervinho missed a one-on-one with Ruddy, I started to get a bad feeling that all the missed chances would come back to bite us in the arse. Steve Morison confirmed it when he caught our "big friendly German" (too friendly this time) off guard and muscled him off the ball to score Norwich's only goal of the game.

But given the form Robin is in, there was no doubt that we'll soon equalize. It was once again Theo-Robin combination which provided the much needed relief for Arsenal. Norwich's left-back had a torrid time against Theo and when Theo went past him the nth time, he produced a peach of a cross which Robin coolly tapped in. He saved Gervinho the blushes after the Ivorian had tried and missed with a fancy back heel on that cross. After the goal we dropped our game which made Arsene give his steely eyed stare at the HT. In the second half, it was more the same but with a much more composed central defense. Vermalean and Mertesacker were confident in their clearance whenever Norwich tried the aerial trickery. Except for Santos, our defense looked calm and solid. Song and Arteta who kept giving away the ball in the first half, also checked their enthusiasm and provided a better second half performance. Santos should be thankful to Song because he always covered him whenever he forgot to track back from his sorties. Our second goal came courtesy of a half-foul on Ramsey when Song collected the spillover and sprayed the ball for Robin who controlled it delightfully and chipped it past the onrushing goalkeeper. The goal could be used a lesson in the finishing school of the strikers. In a desperate attempt to come back on level terms, Norwich deployed Grant Holt. The "forward" used his shambolic free-kick winning skills to rob us off two points, but our solid defense kept him in control till the end.

Theo produced a consistent performance which will silence his critics. He was a constant thorn in Norwich's left side, out-sprinted their fullback many times and produced quality crosses. He deserved a goal but was denied twice, first by Martin and the other time by the crossbar. Gervinho had an off day at the office and if he had worn his scoring boots, the scoreline would have looked different. Robin now has 31 goals and need just 6 more to break Shearer's record of the most premier league goals in a calendar year. It's all good when Robin is scoring for us, but right now we're over-reliant on him and others should step-up to share the scoring responsibilities. Unbeaten in last five premier league games, we're carrying some serious momentum. If we can continue this form till New Year, we will be there in the top three. Let's keep it rolling and keep cheering for the Gunners.