Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chelsea must be quaking in their boots...

What hope, then, this Sunday, in the continuing quest for a win in a match that matters?

Taking Liverpool out of the equation, as they no longer represent much of a force, Arsenal are gripped in a miserable run against the dual leading lights of English football. In their last two visits to "fortress" Emirates, Manchester United have racked up an aggregate scoreline of 6-2 in their favour; Chelsea, a frightening 7-1.
There is no way that this hasn't affected the Arsenal players. They surely suffer from an inferiority complex now and the only way to turn that around is with a positive result against one of those teams.

Fate has been cruel and left Arsenal looking a little patched-up heading into their latest daunting date with the Blues. The gaping wound that is the goalkeeping crisis is a self-inflicted one, but it seems a little unfair that the absence of Vermalen will most likely leave Drogba in the hands of Squillaci and Koscielny, a pairing fresh from getting humiliated by the great West Bromwich Albion. Then again, Drogba has battered every Arsenal opponent he's faced so far and so maybe it's no bad thing that we will be fielding a partnership that doesn't have to fight those psychological demons.

Scrabbling for positives, I happen upon the fact that Arsenal will also not have to settle for fielding a Russian midget in the centre forward role, as they did in both games against Chelsea and the home one against United last season. And Chamakh has, as stated before, started very well at Arsenal. He carries a threat in behind as well as in the air and his hold-up play tends to be good. His finishing looks a little... hesitant, shall we say but he does have a knack of falling over when touched rather than shooting, which leads to penalties, which means some other prick can miss the chance instead.

Which leads us to the problem of GOALS for this Arsenal team. I don't know if I'm blowing this out of proportion a little but I can see this team dominating games and not winning them. Fabregas may be the best finisher in the squad and you wouldn't call him a natural. He's had to work very hard at it- and he may well not be fit for Chelsea anyway. Arshavin still looks wasteful too often- when he trashed one in early on against Partisan, you got the feeling he'd turned the corner a bit, only for him to produce a woeful penalty that was easily saved later on. Beyond that? Rosicky's always been a three-goal a season man if his glass legs would allow even that. Nasri has had a spurt of late but as he has done in the past, maybe he's about to make the step up.... aaaaannnndddd that's all the straws I can clutch at for now.

Really, there is probably no need to go into this much depth when previewing a game against Chelsea. Even with the squad at full strength and in fine form, I would have grave doubts about their ability to deal with Chelsea's physicality and style. After they got bored to death by Mancini's purveyors of catennacio last weekend, Football365 opined: "Chelsea look all-conquering against Blackpool, Wigan et al, but when presented with a competent defence and a robust tactical game, they looked flat, uninspired and far from the swash-buckling champions elect". If true, that should provide encouragement for a lot of teams. But Arsenal have neither a competent defence nor the capacity to devise a canny tactical plan to stop Chelsea. They will most likely weave some pretty patterns, plant the flag of their principles, and watch it all get steamrolled by a real winning machine.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Failings so Familiar: Arsenal 2-3 West Brom

It's the worst-kept secret in football: Arsenal operate without a competent goalkeeper. Almunia is very, very poor. His understudy is laughable- he makes a mistake in every game he plays.

Arsene Wenger deserves flak now. He deserved it when the transfer window shut with Arsenal still essentially keeperless (and there was SOME uproar) but many stored up their sense of rage, maybe in the blind hope that Almunia would somehow transform himself into Lev Yashin, or even just Mark Fucking Schwarzer.

At the same time, the problems run much, much deeper than the mere lack of a decent keeper. All of Arsenal's great flaws were simultaneously on show against West Brom. Some act as if signing a goalkeeper would solve it all- bullshit. Arsene Wenger, as Myles Palmer is fond of stating, does jot coach defence. If we were talking Brazil 1970, that may not be such a problem, but as I've been saying for a few long and often painfulk years now, this Arsenal team is not half as good as it thinks it is. They are an arrogant bunch despite having collectively achieved nothing, and their attitude often stinks, especially in home games against teams like West Brom, where they assume they just have to turn up.

Here was a performance that had all the negatives. Lethargic, lazy start. Lack of tempo. Shambolic ball-watching at the back, making Brom look like Barca. Ridiculous mistake from goalkeeper.

Injuries have also left the team looking toothless up top. Fabregas is vital now in terms of his goal tally as well as his penchant for running midfield- and with he and RVP absent, goals could become a problem. Chamakh has been impressive but does not look confident in front of goal. Arshavin remains an erratic enigma. Judging from his goals and the minute-by-minute report I read, Nasri was carrying the fight alone at times and deserves some credit.

What has become most irritating to me about this team's character deficit is the players' insistence on offering quotes every Groundhog Season testifying to how they've changed and matured. It's on the pitch they need to prove that- enough of the fucking soundbytes.

How must Cesc Fabregas feel? Another year of this?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Story So Far

It would be an exaggeration to say Chelsea have the league sewn up in September, but their impressive form coupled with the stuttering starts of Manchesters United and City has established Ancelotti's team as clear favourites even at this early stage.

United will doubtless improve as the season progresses- they always do- but the concession of stoppage time equalisers in their last two away games betrays a fragility that has never in memory been a United trait. It's particularly unusual to see them lose a two-goal lead- let alone a two-goal lead they carried into stoppage time.

Remember, too, that Chelsea were Champions last season despite the absence for many months of Michael Essien. If Fabregas is, technique-wise, the league's best midfielder, Essien is probably the most effective. If he stays fit this time, Chelsea may well romp home.

I can't take an Arsenal challenge seriously because Wenger has again insulted the supporters with his ridiculous refusal to sign a proper goalkeeper. They have started well but the results are less impressive when you consider that 3 out of the 4 opponents so far have been reduced to 10 men with the scores still close. Injuries are biting already and I'm expecting a familiar collapse at some point this season. Arsenal may well spend chunks of this season, like the last, close to the top, but does anyone truly believe they can win the league? The sad thing is, as has been the case for years, they are not THAT far away. A couple of necessary signings might make all the difference. GROUNDHOG DAY.

Chamakh, while not a natural finisher by any means, is mobile and links the play well. He could blossom into Adebayor circa 07/08, only with a first touch and a better attitude. BUT, he has to stay fit for the next couple of months or we are, AGAIN, strikerless.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

No Keeper...

No Chance.