Sunday, 21 August 2011

If we still had Cesc Fabregas we'd be top of the league

I felt sick after we lost to Liverpool yesterday. For seventy minutes it was a very even game, but then Frimpong got sent off and it all went the way of the Comice, Conference, Packham and Williams.

Strangely perhaps, up until that point I was feeling kinda positive. The defensive problems of the past now seem to be just that - the past. We were well on the way to keeping our third consecutive clean sheet (something that was unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago) and the performances of Vermaelen, Koscielny and Miquel (who was preferred to Squillaci) had me convinced that we no longer needed to buy a new centre back.

Meanwhile, Sagna was his usual excellent self and in the absence of Gibbs and Traore (who were both excellent in pre-season by the way) Jenkinson looked like another genius bargain buy by Arsene Wenger. It has been reported by several other sources that Steve Bould has been given more involvement with with first team training with the specific task of sorting out the defence. If that's true, whatever he's done seems to be working.

In front of the back four, Emmanual Frimpong looks like he's finally the answer to our problem of finding a back-up for Alex Song (or perhaps more likely Alex Song will eventually become Frimpong's back-up). The new Patrick Vieira is not a title which flatters him; he really looks that good. And behind them Wojciech Szczesny looks like a future world number one keeper in the making.

But, unusually, it's further forward where we seem to be having problems. In the three matches so far against Newcastle, Udinese and Liverpool we've lacked the creativity and incisive passing that Cesc used to provide and we need to find a replacement ASAP. For seventy minutes against Liverpool, up until the sending off of Emmanual Frimpong, we didn't look like conceding. If we had had a bit more creativity going forward we could have been two goals up by then and Frimpong might never have been put into the position where he had to make that tackle. In fact, if we still had Cesc, I suuggest that we might now be top of the league, with no goals conceded.

There are reports today that Samir Nasri may now stay at Arsenal, though I doubt it that this will be the happen. In any case, although he is a very good player, I don't think he provides the answer to the problem of the Cesc-shaped hole in our team - he just doesn't have the required vision. There were a couple of occasions yesterday going forward when he should have passed to a teammate but chose instead to go alone resulting in a missed opportunity.

We continue to be linked with a steady stream of  Fabregas replacements including Marseille's Ghanaian international Andre Ayew (who is reported to have an £11.5 million release clause in his contract), as well as a bizarre loan bid for Lucho Gonzalez and, incredibly, a move for Kaka (who has apparently been told by Real Madrid that he is surplus to requirements).

In the case of the latter, his reported £9 million a year wages would be a huge stumbling block but what a lift his signing would give the club when it's in such need of one - the money we would get from shirt sales would probably pay his wages!

But as Goonerholic puts it so well, at the moment if we didn't have bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all. Or as Jonathan Pearce put in on Match of the Day, it never rains but it pours.

After 70 minutes, Frimpong, who was perhaps slightly unlucky to be book early on for disputing a throw-in, went into a tackle with Lucas and, although he stayed on his feet, it was late and high and he had to go. Not long afterwards, with our defensive wall gone, the otherwise excellent Miquel with an offside Suarez in close attendance, made a hurried clearance which hit an unsuspecting Ramsey on the head and looped into the goal over the helpless Szczesny.

There were arguements from the pundits on Match of the Day that the second goal was also offside, but I disagree. Although he was offside in the first phase of play, he was onside when the ball was passed to him to score. How he can be considered to not be gaining an advantage by being in an offside position baffles me, but that's how the rule is currently interpeted, so there we are. Robin van Persie scored in similar circumstances last season, so we can't complaint.

In any event, I believe it's irrelevant. We were only in that position because we were down to ten men, 1-0 down and chasing the game (we only had three defenders back against Liverpool's five attackers), so if the first goal hadn't been allowed the second would never have happened.

Sometimes I wonder what curse has been placed on Arsenal that means they are continually on the receiving end of such continual bad luck. Lucky Arsenal? You're having a laugh!

The number of injuries we get is bad enough. For literally years we've been top or nearly top of the Premier League Injury Table) with Laurent Koscielny's injury yesterday adding to our woes.

And following on from the news last year that if all shots which hit the woodwork had gone in Arsenal would have won the league by an incredible 12 points, the Mail Online are today reporting that if all refereeing decisions last season had been correct, we would have finished second to Man Ure.

But instead of cursing their bad luck the players and manager should be thinking that we are about due a bit of luck and get on with it. We can't afford to mope around feeling sorry for ourselves. We need to roll up our sleeves and put our elbows to the grindstone (or whatever). When the going gets tough, the tough get going, as the saying goes.

My worries now are how Arsene Wenger can raise the spirits of the players to get a result against Udinese following such a demoralising home defeat and how we can hope to beat Man Ure with both our defensive midielders missing through suspension.

If Arsene Wenger can solve those two problems I believe the future looks bright for the Gunners. If not... well, I don't even want to think about that!

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