Defend? That’s Not The Arsenal Way. Anymore.
I’m not sure if pantomimes are big in Poland. If they aren’t, they will be now. The Arsenal defence went about introducing the locals to the finer points of the great British tradition, asking where the ball was, to be told, “Behind you!” on five occasions as the net bulged. Fortunately, the attacking side of Arsenal’s game was in fine working order as they breached the Legia defence six times. As opening games for a new stadium go, I am sure that the Poles will not forget this one quickly.
Nor will we. The defence received a necessary wake-up call. Calamitous is the only word that one can find to describe it. Usually I do not take much notice of pre-season friendlies, the tuning up process in terms of fitness and understandings is much important. When those priorities are not there, some friendlies are impossible to ignore. Some highlight fundamental problems that need addressing and Arsene is pretty much out of training sessions to put them right.
Not for one moment do I expect Arsenal to concede at their current rate – one goal every fourteen minutes since Celtic scored their first goal – for the rest of the season. Nor by the same token do I believe we will score every ten minutes to paper over those defensive cracks. Much as I would like to see Arsenal win the Premier League scoring 190 goals whilst conceding 152 (+38 GD), it isn’t going to happen.
With the number of goals conceded, goalkeepers would expect to bear the brunt of the criticism yet Fabianski was only to blame for one of the three in the first half. He made a horrible error of judgement at a corner, tripped over the leg of Vermaelen before ending up flat on his face, watching helplessly as the ball cannoned off Koscielny into the net. Legia’s four other goals came as the defence seemed to be directed by Mack Sennett.
In forty-five minutes though, he might have played himself out of the team to face Liverpool next weekend. Perhaps Almunia had the luck which seems to have deserted him in the past by not making this trip. There is an absence of confidence from the defence in him on the pitch.
It is somewhat disconcerting to hear Arsene say afterwards that the goalkeepers we have are what we have. Protecting the path of Szczesny to the first team is admirable and a course which seems to be correct but when he gets to that stage in his career, he needs competition. A good goalkeeper purchased now would provide the interim cover and also pressure for the future. It is quite simple sitting here for a signing to take place; reality this summer is proving different for seemingly everyone.
Forwards were not pressurised when in possession by full backs, centre backs or midfield; the same problem as last year. All were culpable, without exception, even the normally reliable Vermaelen. The line was too high up the pitch on the final goal, leaving a gap to be exploited and that was before Arsenal decided to give Legia a helping hand by not clearing the ball when the opportunity arose. These are the basics which should be instinctive in players at this level. They were absent yesterday. It is this which will vex and, perhaps perplex, Wenger the most.
The players are intelligent in the footballing sense – I’ll leave it to others to comment on them away from the pitch – yet they displayed a naiveté which does not bode well for coming matches. The players have substantial experience for the most part, a point Arsene was at pains to make yesterday. They have no choice but to put this particular experience behind them. How Wenger and the coaches shackle them into a solid unit, I know not.
Before gloom and utter despondency takes over, there were noteworthy positives. Chamakh showed his aerial ability in scoring the first goal, an asset which adds another string to the attacking bow. Nasri prompted and created, scoring a powerful free kick which saw another goalkeeper fluff his Arsenal audition with the final goal. In-between times, Emmanuel Eboue continued his move towards canonisation with a diverse brace, the first a firm header at the far post, the second a calmly taken finish. It seems that the forwards and midfielders learn more from set-pieces on the training ground than the defence do.
Away from the pitch, Fabio Capello confirmed the worst kept secret in football calling Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs into the full England squad, recalling Theo Walcott at the same time. The Italian found out just how shallow the English pool of footballing talent is by asking Darren Bent and Carlton Cole to pop over and join in the fun. A truly depressing time to follow the English national team when the pair of them are the future. Peter Crouch will not be concerned by his omission from the squad.
Of the Arsenal ‘newbies’, the most concern I have is for Wilshere. Gibbs has made steady progress, interrupted only by injury. Wilshere’s international bow is encouraging because he seems to be a genuinely talented player with a lively footballing brain. But this is a path we have been down before with Theo Walcott and the knives will be out for Wilshere in the same way. Unless, of course, he proves to be as good as Puskas, Cruyff and Pele were in their prime. Expectations are being built which are unreasonable for his nascent career.
Anyway I’ve rambled on enough for today. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on August 8, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 237 Comments.