COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
The game opened on an even footing with both teams coming to terms with each other and as early as the 10th minute the Blues could and maybe should have laid down a marker when Coleman outpaced Fabregas and put in a great cross that the usually dependable Cahill managed to make a mess of when a header on target would surely have opened the scoring as the goal gaped.
Arsenal had survived our opening pressure and started to assert some of their own and alarm bells rang in my mind as our central midfield pairing of Arteta and Heitinga seemed to be misfiring spectacularly. Arteta just could not assert any pressure from his position and Heitinga was trying the patience of the Ref with some lunging tackles with the least of these bringing a yellow card but maybe it was for the totting up principle.
Due to Arteta and Heitinga being less than active, Arsenal had the better of midfield and Arshavin twice flashed shots just wide from midfield promptings. Fabregas got away with a stamp on Distin as the Everton man cleared the ball by going down and feigning injury, although it was right in front of the linesman (you just can?t call them assistant refs); only a yellow was shown.
With 10 mins to go from the break Arsenal put together a fast passing move that saw Nasri shoot low toward the corner and Howard making a decent sprawling save that pushed the ball away toward the touchline. Arshavin was first to it and he pulled it back to the right back Sagna who fired home past Howard at his near post. From my seat, I thought it was the keepers? error but maybe I am a bit harsh.
This took the wind from our sails and until half-time we were more laboured and the crowd increasingly becoming agitated with the performance of both Arteta and Heitinga as they struggled to show urgency and desire.
Half-time break and the chat centred on what the hell was up with Arteta and Heitinga. The outcome of that conversation was that Arteta has flu and Heitinga just doesn?t want to know... as well as carrying a knee injury??
Second half and Heitinga is replaced by Rodwell (the manager would probably say it was to prevent a possible red card). Also Arsenal replaced Wilshere, who had been prone to leaving his foot in, with Denilson. We had barley appreciated how the change may affect us when Arteta virtually gave the ball to Denilson and two passes later Fabregas was stroking the ball home with some aplomb. 2-0 down and still 42 mins to go ? what would the manager do?
Nothing was the answer... leaving those who had got us in the mess to sort it out. Rodwell almost did; after some good work by Pienaar, he strode forward, received the pass but shot just wide. We got a bit desperate now and Arsenal were looking to pick us off and on the hour mark almost did ? twice.
First Nasri went past Jags with pace that made Jags look as though he was walking but Howard rushed out and narrowed the angle and blocked the shot away with his body. Then Fabregas got clear down the right and put in a superb cross only for the Arsenal striker Camackh to shoot over with the goal open.
Surely the manager would do something to liven us up as we were giving the ball away and Arsenal, being Arsenal, kept it for long periods without really going anywhere. On the 70th minute he made two substitutions: Yak and Beckford replacing Neville and the right out-of-sorts Arteta. These changes also saw us go 4-3-3 (now there?s a novelty!), Yak left, Saha through the middle and Beckford right.
Yak and Saha soon changed places as it wasn?t working and going into the final 15 mins we started to play with more passion. Cahill was driving from midfield where Arteta failed, Pienaar seemed to get a second wind, and Jack was doing the best he could after so long out. Coleman was at right back but not afraid to charge forward and for the first time we started to pose questions of the Gunners with the pace and determination not shown previously.
Arsenal did have a two-goal cushion which enabled them to sit deeper and try to soak up this pressure but we were getting closer and Beckford with one delightful turn and shot brought a top class diving save from the keeper. We gained in confidence and the keeper made two more good saves from Saha and Pienaar.
Just a minute to go and our pressure caused mayhem in their box and Cahill scuffed home. A good portion of injury time went up on the board and I wondered ?Could we??... well we tried but the Gunners saw it out. A muted end to the game from the faithful ? no boos... no calls for manager?s or chairman?s heads ? just an orderly filing away.
Overall I thought it was a decent game but very frustrating as in particular Jags, Arteta, Heitinga, Neville and Baines had a really off-day and all are players we know can offer so much more. Whatever the problems, it is certainly something for the manager to address. Rodwell was well off the pace but I am sure as he gets some games under his belt, he will be fine... but the way the league is this season time to sort things out is of the essence.
The crowd were quiet for most parts of the game except for rising to some of the ref?s (Mr Webb) decisions, especially when Saha was brought down from behind by the last man, who only got a yellow; but Arsenal fans were just as disappointed with him and in one chant they sang out that he was ?Fergie?s rent boy?.
MotM was hard to call but I would give it to Cahill for putting in a good shift wherever he was asked to play. Pienaar and Distin also had sound games. Arsenal didn?t play that well today but we played that bit worse and lost. If the tempo and determination of the last 15 mins had been shown all game... who knows?
Sunderland away next and no doubt another stiff test... ? Will we step up to the plate? See you there to find out.
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 15/11/2010 at 01:49:10
I have never been so excited. Found our seats ok, another pint or two in the ground and was ready for the Z-Cars theme. From this point forward I was disappointed.
Now it is my first time so if it's not always like that, please put me right, but there was absolutely zero atmosphere. No chants, singing, nothing! Apart from the Arsenal fans. Would be interested to hear people's opinions but surely it's not like that every home game?
I went away disappointed, not only with the display but with the lack of noise and atmosphere.
2 Posted 15/11/2010 at 04:29:12
A. Well for me and I suspect others, NOW will do as good as any other.
We made mistakes, everybody makes mistakes so what's new? Trouble is that the better the team you are playing the more they are likely to make you make mistakes due to their skill and pressure AND punish you.
Howard's booming kicks from hand, where the first bounce is on the edge of their box, one of those came right back at us and 0-1
How many point-losing cockups is that? 3?, 4?? Add in Heitinga, Jags, Fellaini and now Arteta all around the centre-mid area. Arteta has been stinking the place out for weeks. I think his knee is physically (and a bit mentally) not what it was and may never be again. Dispite all the rave he gets, his corners have never been that good, he was hitting the 1st man on a regular basis well before his Op.
On Personal note, I have been there with the weak, never to be the same knee and could never strike the ball as well as prior to the injury. You compensate, you hold your leg 'stiff', coz the lateral 'twisty force' (sorry to throw in all the medical jargon) you could take before would do you in, post injury. In his defence, Baines was pressured into giving the ball to a man with 3 around him.
So back to the last straw... Is it Taxi for Mr Moyes? I have noticed over the years that, in football and my own life as well for that matter, 'things' seem to go in 4-ish-year cycles. He has had, it could be said, two of these: The 1st was the consolidation phase, the steading of the ship as we are so oft told. Well thanks for that, Davey, it needed doing.
The second 4 was the foundation of the new order. Trouble is, others have been watching how he laided his bricks and hired better brick layers and more of them We still keep getting, in it's various forms, yet another version of Moyes 50% seasons (04-05 being the classic).
We have here now one that could fall to 40-60. If it turns to a 30-70 then the WestHams and the Wolves could be having some once illustrious company. Is, as has been said else where, Moyes's head is 'Empty' ? and some might say there wasn't much there to lose.
Then maybe it is time for a change, before it's too late, sometimes hard decisions need to be made. But I don't see BK as the man to make them. IMO, It is touch and go, right on the cusp, Moyes has done his dash.
B&Q has no paper left for the the cracks.
3 Posted 15/11/2010 at 09:04:22
I agree with almost everything that Ken mentions in his report, except that I was quite encouraged by the genuine chances we seemed to create especially in the last 15 minutes. Arsenal were clearly hanging on by their fingernails in the final minutes.
I saw it as a contest between two equal teams ? one team took their chances better, and another did not. (The score could well have been 3-2 as well as 1-4).
Arteta and Heitinga were poor. Neville did OK even though he put a few poor passes. Jagielka and Pienaar had one of those up-and-down games. I thought only Distin, Cahill, Coleman, Baines & Saha played as you would expect them to. Yakubu & Beckford tried hard when they came on, and so did Rodwell (who was clearly rusty).
Next game ? Sunderland, who thumped the champions in their turf!
This year, the league has been very, very strange. At this point, we have equal chance of finishing in the Top 6 or in the Bottom 3. As do a number of other teams...
4 Posted 15/11/2010 at 10:28:21
5 Posted 15/11/2010 at 11:23:58
6 Posted 15/11/2010 at 16:04:51
Give a bench place to one or two youngsters and see if they can 'cut it'. Bily should also have a few reserve games to give him some match practice. Sitting on the bench every week is no good for a player who cost us money...
7 Posted 15/11/2010 at 17:10:13
8 Posted 15/11/2010 at 18:27:39
9 Posted 15/11/2010 at 21:41:15
10 Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:17:48
11 Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:30:10
It reinforced one of my conclusions in that, despite all the obvious ones like class striker and right midfielder etc, this season so far we don't seem able to have enough players on form and firing at the same time in the same game.
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