I have a question for Gooners all around the world. Are we becoming the nearly men of English football?
Speaking before yesterday’s loss to Chelsea, Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger had this to say on the teams fortunes over the last five years
“I am not happy we have not won the Premier League but we have not been completely in the desert. We have been in the Champions League Final; we have been close to winning the Premier League. We have not been seventh or eighth. We have always been there. You have to acknowledge that Chelsea have been better than us in the last five years. We are in a league where teams win the Champions League—it’s difficult”
Unfortunately, and increasing number of supporters seem to think that this is not good enough. Is it then a case of nearly there or will never get there?
After a while the silent whispers turn into moaning, grumbling fits and then revolt.
Opinions differ on the performance of our team so far this season. The stats say one thing but the visible performances of Arshavin, Chamakh, Koscielny and even Squilacci say something else. It's not very often that you have very divergent opinions on an Arsenal player. It’s different when a player starts out very poorly and eventually wins over the affection of the crowd.
Every day, I hear calls for Arshavin to be dropped from the starting eleven. To me it’s a tough call as he gives you both sides of the coin. The little Russian can be brilliant to devastating effect, as in the game against the Spurs, or be simply anonymous during long periods of the game.
During the course of last week, an interesting stat popped up about Arshavin. Pl 63 Goals 23 Assists 23. These stats are pretty impressive, but they don’t show the fact that he is often pedestrian off the ball and hardly ever tracks back when he loses possession, hence putting more pressure on the full backs who then need to cover up for him. Sometimes he simply looks disinterested when he comes up against weaker teams.
Some say Chamakh is too tentative with the ball and he should be more decisive in the final third. Isn’t that an issue with nearly all our players? All things considered though, are we really playing to his strengths?
Marouane is the best header in Europe and is a constant threat if he is fed the right service throughout the game. What our full backs and wingers need to do is utilize his abilities more by working on the precision of their crosses.
I thought Song played better than he has all season but he is still a long way off from the form that made him one of the first names on the team sheet every week.
Diaby was surprisingly effective although we worry about how long he will be out for after being hauled off as a result of Essien’s challenge.
I consider the game to have been a 0-0 draw that ended 2-0 in favour of Chelsea. There were two reasons for this: firstly, we were not clinical enough to take our chances against Chelsea, and secondly, our momentary lapses in concentration always cost us against the big teams.
I hold Nasri partly responsible for both goals. He should have tracked Ashley Cole more closely and prevented him from making the run into our half before squaring for Drogba who was fortunate that his flick went in off the post and not out for a goal kick.
It was also his sloppy pass that fell to Anelka and forced Koscielny into conceding a free kick which was blasted through the wall by Alex. Maybe we could have done better defensively on the wall as Malouda was simply allowed to open up a space in the wall for Alex to shoot through. There was nothing Fabianksi could do about both goals.
While Mr. Wenger was graceful in defeat, you can’t help feeling that he expected an Arsenal win at Stamford Bridge. He said;
“I just think we have made a demonstration that you can play well and lose the game. The game should have been over before we started it—we had the first two chances in the first minute and I don’t know how we managed to miss the header from six yards. At that level you get punished.”
“Their strikers were more clinical than ours and that made the difference because apart from that I believe Chelsea suffered a lot today. They were on the ropes for long periods in the game. I feel sorry for my team because they had an outstanding attitude and an outstanding display.
You can only congratulate them for that attitude. I feel sorry for the fact that they have not been rewarded but we live in a realistic world and when you don’t score and don’t take your chances then you don’t win big games.”
“Chelsea are one of the candidates to win the title but there is a long way to go. This game was not decisive game. They are in a strong position but they can drop points as well.”
We should take lessons from this defeat and move on as quickly as possible.
I can say that there is still a long way till the end of the season and nothing is decided yet. I took away many positives from yesterday’s defeat. Firstly, whilst there is still a gap between Chelsea and Arsenal, the gulf in quality is not as wide as it was at this stage last season and will only shrink as the season progresses.
We have more quality on our bench than Chelsea, and this proves we have more depth provided we can keep our best players fit.
Barring the absence of Lampard, Chelsea played their strongest possible lineup while we were short by 7 or 8 players. I sincerely hope that when we do welcome them to the Emirates in November, we will have all our players fit and ready to roll. Only then can I be assured that the story will have a different ending.
I believe Lukasz Fabianksi was excellent throughout the game. His shot-stopping was top-class and he seemed to be more confident than usual. He made two fantastic saves against Chelsea: a shot from Drogba by diving to his left, as well as a one-on-one against Essien which could have left us in a very sticky situation.
Could it be that he knows he will play in goal at least until Manuel Almunia returns to full fitness?
Unfortunately for him, as was the case with Vito Mannone last season, the International Break comes too soon and two weeks is plenty of time for Almunia to regain fitness.
I wonder if the boss will gamble on restoring him to the starting line-up or whether he will continue with Lukasz Fabianski. I feel he should allow him a run of games for confidence's sake and who knows, we might just see the Fabianski all the players see in training. I’m very hopeful about that.
Even if the players aren’t away on injury duty with their national teams, the left-out ones will be training at Colney and they are equally as likely to get hurt there.
Still I’m pleased we have an impressive roster of players who will be available after the break. Bendtner, Fabregas, Walcott and Van Persie should be back while Koscielny, Song, Denilson and Vela won’t be involved this time around. Barring any freak injuries in training, we should have almost a full squad to face Birmingham at home on the 16th of November.
Till then…Victoria Concordia Crescit.