Sunday, 30 December 2012

Theo - He's Better on the Right.

So we were treated to a bonanza of goals at The Emirates yesterday seeing an extraordinary ten goals in what proved to be a catalogue of poor defensive mistakes with the occasional hint of superb finishing. For a long part of yesterday's game you have picked any outcome and it wouldn't have surprised anyone. However, Pardew appeared to wanted to shut up shop and they ended up shipping another four goals.

The Goals

1-0 - Walcott 20' - Good work by Podolski against a hapless Simpson saw him release Walcott with a measured Fabregas Esq pass and Theo slotted him like a former number 14 (Not Keown). Walcott's pace and Newcastle's high line left them exposed and it could have been avoided as Coloccini tried to play offside only to find Santon was behind his centre half and playing Theo onside.

1-1 - Ba 43' - Newcastle won a free kick on the edge of the box after a very poorly timed challenge from Sagna. Ba stepped up and Wilshere cost Arsenal a goal by turning his back on the ball in the exact fashion Nasri did it against Manchester United. This left Szczesny clutching at thin air. 1-1 HT and both goals could have been easily avoided.

2-1 Chamberlain 51'- A goal created by Podolski's pressure and determination to get us the ball. He won a header from a Newcastle throw in and Cazorla laid it to the feet of Chamberlain and Santon didn't close him down in time and he lashed home from just outside the box.

2-2 Marveaux 59' - The second equaliser of the day and a catalogue of errors. First up Bacary Sagna, if you offered me Sagna v Obertan I'd take that match up all day without any worries at all. However it appears Bac's head is elsewhere at present and his performances are suffering. Obertan breezed past him and got the yard he needed to get his cross in. Koscielny got a foot on the ball but I'm not convinced his position was as good as it should have been. Then you have Marveaux stood all alone at the back post in about ten yards of space with seven Arsenal players standing watching. Pathetic defending but that would get worse soon after.

3-2 Podolski 64' - Wilshere owed us a goal yesterday and he duly delivered a peach of a pass. Jack hustled Tiote of the ball and stood up a fantastic cross that took Krul completely out of play. It was Coloccini v Walcott and with the threat of an own goal the Argentinian could only head against the bar and Podolski beat Tiote to nod in from about an inch.

3-3 Ba 69'- Marveaux turned creator this time and he picked out Ba with a superb outside of the left foot pass. Gibbs was once again beaten and after watching replays he actually looked at Ba before the ball came in but he completed ignored the threat of one of the hottest strikers in the league and we were punished yet again. Totally unacceptable and we just cannot continue to defend like this, we were fortunate in some respects that we played a side that defends worse than us. Then the fun began.

4-3 Walcott 73' - A patient build up from us that again had Podolski at the heart of it. He held the ball up well and this allowed Gibbs to run off Cisse and Gibbs learnt from a previous moment in the second half when he elected to shoot instead of laying it back to the penalty spot. He looked for Podolski but the German couldn't connect but that left Walcott unmarked, he managed two touches before setting himself for a shot on goal. Now the finish was sublime, many strikers would lash it towards goal but with six players between the goal and the goal he clipped the ball into the roof of the net with Bigirimana launching himself at the ball.

5-3  Giroud 85' - It's great having the big Frenchman back leading the line and he was on hand to thump a diving header home. Walcott whipped in a ball that David Beckham would have been proud of (maybe his one to one coaching did help) and with Giroud up against Perch and Santon there was only one player getting on the end of it and Krul had no chance.

6-3 Giroud 87' - A positive if not slightly ambitious run from Walcott saw the ball fall kindly to the feet of Giroud. He got his body in front of Coloccini who risked giving a penalty away and Giroud created a yard for himself on his weaker right foot before he thumped a shot home past Krul at the near post. The keeper shouldn't be beaten there.

7-3 Walcott 90' - The rout was complete. Walcott looked happy to run the clock down with the ball in the corner but he decided to run at Obertan, Ameobi, Tiote and Santon. Obertan had clipped Walcott and I'm not sure Foy would have given the pen given the scoreline because refs don't hesitate in the situation. However play continued and with Newcastle players feeling sorry for themselves he picked himself up and dinked the ball past Krul and it capped off a memorable night for Theo.

Theo Walcott

Now since his talks broke down and Arsenal re-started discussions again, he then finds himself playing upfront in consecutive games, coincidence? Everyone says he's a striker but I'm still to be convinced. Yesterday Theo scored two as centre forward and when he reverted to the wing he scored one and created two. Theo is proving that he does have a killer instinct in front of goal and it's refreshing to see but he has much to work on if he thinks he is as good as his contract demands suggest.


Didier Drogba started the lone striker revolution because he had it all but now a lot of side go with a lone front despite not having the necessary attributes. Most 4-3-3's quickly change to 4-5-1 at various stages of games and that leaves the front man isolated and if you are under pressure then that ball has to stick upfront. Now we've only really been under pressure at Wigan but Walcott's lack of physical presence has seen knocked off the ball quite easily.

Then the fundamental flaw in our 4-3-3 system, what side plays wingers with a striker who lacks any form of aerial ability? We do of course. Although we seem to delivering flat crosses but Walcott seems to be happy to take up positions between both centre halves, he needs to be running across the near post, as the benefit of a 4-3-3 means Podolski should be loitering behind him for any scraps.

Then we have his link up play, his pass to Cazorla sums up where that is at present. As a striker he has to thrive on involving his team mates. We had a three versus two in the second half and he snatched a shot that was never on target yet Podolski was free on the left. This is why I prefer Giroud because he does all of the above.


Undoubtedly his pace is his greatest asset and it also provides at outlet we've probably missed since the days of Marc Overmars being able to punt it forward into space can help the defence get out but we must ensure the midfield isn't deep because that can bring out the weaknesses in his game.

Theo's finishing has also improved but it's instinctive, he knew what he wanted do with his first from the moment he got it and his final two were reactionary. It's very much the Andy Cole school of finishing.

The Future

I think Theo would thrive in a 4-4-2 paired with Giroud. It has the making of an old fashioned Smith/Wright but it's never going to happen as 4-3-3 is here to stay. Also the lack of positive noises from Theo's side lead me to believe he's following Robin's path and until he signs a new deal I find it difficult to get excited about anything he does because in juts under six months he may no longer be an Arsenal player. For the next few months though we need Theo on the right with Giroud in the middle.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Is the end nigh?

Saturday was hard to take wasn't it? So many aspects of our game didn't work, too many players failed to turn up and this against a side who can keep possession well. It all added up to a truly dreadful day and a cacophony of boos, which in truth for those into the pantomime booing culture were richly deserved.

We are left yet again discussing the future of the manager and even the usually supportive Gary Neville stated on MNF that Wenger has never been under more pressure at Arsenal and he's spot on. Before we look a Wenger though, I'm going to give this some form of perspective. It's not the first time we've appeared at a crossroads around the Christmas period, who can forget the 3-1 home defeat to Blackburn in 1997, with Wenger's unproven pedigree in England, questions were asked and he responded by winning the league in that very season. I want to highlight the end of the George Graham era. The game I want to focus on was a home game against Leeds United, a Saturday 3pm kick off in December 1994. In that game we lost 3-1. It wasn't so much the result but the performance that left the Highbury faithful disillusioned. We were one step behind the play, failed to press the ball and got punished by a clinical Phil Masinga. We managed to get ourselves back into the game at 2-0 by sticking Andy Linighan upfront but moments later we conceded again and the game was over. Now, the bung scandal was the main source behind the departure but ultimately the board wanted a way out of that set up. At that time we were reigning Cup Winners Cup holders and the season before we had completed the FA & League Cup double, so it's fair to say we had it good at the time but he was replaced (temporarily) and Stewart Houston who led us to another Cup Winners Cup final. 

The reason I've chosen to focus on managers is because I feel Saturday was all Wenger's fault. It was his fault because we weren't prepared. For three consecutive performances I've seen us fail to press the opposition anywhere on the pitch, the formation is never adapted but players are expected to adapt there game for better or worse. Look at centre midfield, Arteta was stunning as the box to box midfielder last season but at present he looks lost. He's reluctant to get into the final third and we certainly havent seen any efforts like those against West Brom, Manchester City or Villa. Could we really expect a player to adapt his entire game to be a success?.Yes, he covered well for Song on many occasions last season but he isn't a tough tackling midfielder. There was a chance of Rangel in the first half, Arteta is beaten easily in the build up, we don't press the ball when it goes to left wing, then again when Shecther has it in the box, he plays it to Rangel with a caught out Gibbs scampering back to close down, this led to a shot being well saved by Szczesny but the ball rebounded to Rangel and not one player reacted until the ball fell at his feet again and Szczesny turned it away. Now this isn't me singling out Arteta for our woes, it just sums up our current situation. I here time and again from Vermaelen and Wenger that we have a great team spirit but I just don't see it. I see a side that is confused and lacking drive, something Cazorla admitted to at the weekend in this article. He said

'We don't know exactly what the problem. Take the Fulham game, we were 2-0 up. You can't then be drawing within five minutes.Those points aren't coming back.'
He's bang on but it doesn't change the fact it happens time after time. It's just different players using the same phrases and because of that Wenger has to feel the heat. Enough heat that he can hopefully react but then I feel I have this discussion on far too many occasions. I can't listen to pre or post match press conferences anymore. It's just stuck on a constant loop. He said we were 'jaded' on Saturday, he said words to that effect after Villa, Everton and now Swansea. Surely that means he has to ease the training routines in order to regain some form of sharpness? Or is that just too obvious? Whilst Wenger is right that buying players isn't always the answer in the transfer window but what he does have to do is work with what he's got and I'd suggest he starts the window by recruiting a centre forward, so that when he does rest our main goal threat we might still possess a vague threat to the opposition goal. I was speaking to my mate when we travelled home from Everton and we looked at the upcoming league games - Swansea (h), West Brom (h), Reading (a), Wigan (a), West Ham (h) and Newcastle (h). Now judging each game on its on merits we should be winning each fixture but realistically we know that in at least 2-3 there are some surprises and already one has reared its ugly head.
The truth is Wenger's head should be on the block right now but we all know it probably isn't. 6 points from a possible 18 is pitiful, even for a side whose ambition it is to finish 4th. Some will refuse to even discuss that fact but if you put it into context that a manager who had won three major honours over the course of two consecutive seasons, can you really not question a manager that has won nothing in seven years? This cannot go on much longer.