Isnin, 28 Februari 2011

Arsene tried to be too clever

Once more.
And Arsenal were let down by a goalkeeping error.

Once more.
And, equally, by a performance from their centre-halves that was as embarrassing as it was dire.
Once more.

And what will Arsene Wenger do about it? Nothing.
Once more.
In the end you run out of things to say about Arsenal because you have said them all before.
And then they threaten an improvement and you think they might have finally turned the corner.
Except it's a cul-de-sac.
Same old, same old, same old.
The ones you feel for are the Arsenal fans who have maintained such faith in Wenger.
This faith is such that, rather than questioning him, they think they themselves must have got it wrong. Because Wenger, surely, can't.
Except it's gone too far this time.The Frenchman, as we know, doesn't give a toss about the Carling Cup.
He made that abundantly clear once more when he replaced Robin van Persie yesterday after 70 minutes.
Yes, Van Persie may have been carrying some sort of knee injury. But if winning Arsenal's first trophy in six years meant anything to Wenger, Van Persie would have stayed on.
He had already brought Arsenal back into the game with a stunning equaliser in the 39th minute.
And his more presence on the pitch meant Birmingham defenders were watching him and leaving openings for others.
Arsenal were already without their talismanic skipper Cesc Fabregas. And Theo Walcott.
They needed every big-hitter out there for as long as possible.
But, no, off came Van Persie.
He was followed eight minutes later by Andrey Arshavin despite the fact the Russian was causing Birmingham all sorts of problems.
In his place came the extremely unremarkable Marouane Chamakh who appears to have disappeared up his own rear end after a bright start to his Arsenal career.
It was almost as if Wenger was throwing in the towel. So he must have been surprised by the reaction of his team at the final whistle.
I haven't seen such a dejected set of players since witnessing the Bayern Munich team lying strewn round the Nou Camp pitch like trees flattened by a hurricane in 1999.
Wenger may not care about the Carling Cup but these players most certainly did.
As did the massed ranks of Arsenal fans who, having absorbed the stunning shock of their team's implosion, then headed for the exits.
It's not just about the goalkeeper either because Wojceich Szczesny showed against Barcelona that he has a huge future at the club.
True, he should have been sent off as early as the second minute when he took Lee Bowyer down in the box and then contrived with Laurent Koscielny to hand Obafemi Martins Birmingham's shock, late winner. But Szczesny should come good.
My gripe is he shouldn't have been in goal in the first place.
Wenger should have gone out and bought a new keeper as soon as it became blindingly obvious Manuel Almunia was not the answer.
But we have been down this road too many times before.
Koscielny, though, was a disaster. Johan Djourou, though much improved this season, wasn't much better.
The first goal came because Roger Johnson beat Koscielny to a corner at the back of the box. Djourou and Van Persie were then unable to deal with Nikola Zigic who nodded home.
The winner? Zigic outjumps Djourou to a cross, the ball bounces and Koscielny and Szczesny make a pig's ear of it.
What is Wenger (below) doing messing around in the French First Division and signing players like Koscielny?
Especially one who had played just ONE season of French First Division football.
He then goes to the other extreme, buying another centre-half no one has ever heard of - Sebastien Squillaci - nearer the end of his career than the beginning.
What's wrong with spending proper money for a proper defender like Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka? Too easy, of course. Le Professeur has to make it far more difficult for himself. So he looks smart.
Except he's never been much good discovering central defenders.
He's brilliant when it comes to Henry, Anelka, Vieira, Petit and all the other midfield players and strikers.
But centre-halves? Senderos and Stepanovs.

Now what for Arsenal, having lost the easy one?
Would anyone be totally surprised if, having beaten Leyton Orient on Wednesday, they are knocked out of the Champions League in Barcelona and then see their FA Cup hopes ended at Old Trafford?
Not to mention a couple of shock defeats in the league that hands the title to Manchester United.
Please God it doesn't happen because you really feel this Arsenal side deserve to win something.
And you don't want Arsenal supporters, unable to take any more, all going off the side of the cliff at the same time. When you haven't won a trophy for so long, you cannot have priorities. You have to get the first one under the belt, irrespective of what it means to you in the grand scheme of things.
I said last week that Arsenal had to use the Carling Cup as the springboard to greater things.
Now they have to use the blood, sweat and tears of defeat as the glue that binds them together.
To come back off the ropes - as they have done already a few times this season - and show they are not just a bunch of pretty boys who collapse as soon as the squeeze is put on them.
Full marks to Birmingham, though.Someone described them as a bunch of waifs and strays and it was spot on. Men like Bowyer, Barry Ferguson, Stephen Carr and Martins himself.
But the rocks on which the Arsenal ship foundered were the outstanding trio of Ben Foster, Johnson and Martin Jiranek.
A goalkeeper and two central defenders.
If the message doesn't filter through to Le Prof now then it never will.
Then, again, how many times have we said THAT?

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