All the critics of Arsenal internal and external use our 7 years without a trophy as a thorny stick to hit us with over and over again. Last night on a trip to the frozen North of England Arsene Wenger surprised us fans and I’m sure most pundits by picking a pretty strong team to face Bradford from League Two.
Two of the starting eleven could be considered “squad” players (Ramsey and Coquelin). The rest of the names on the team sheet were either experienced internationals, or players with many games of competitive club football under their belts. And I am afraid it is those players that once again let us down.
Plenty of us pre match yesterday were saying how important it was that the team took control of the game and silenced the crowd, of course they were going to be fired up for the first ten minutes but swot it away and start passing it around and their fans would soon go quiet, then you could concentrate on playing the nice stuff, do the right thing first.
But no, the team decided to let them get on top quickly and early, all they had to do was put the ball high in the air and deep in Arsenal’s half and they looked like they could score, so yet again meaningless passing around the Bradford half resulted in an attack for them when those in Purple and Black eventually passed into their keeper’s hands.
To compound matters the team decided on 16 minutes to make it even harder for themselves, specifically the skipper Thomas Vermaelen, allowing a long punt up field to be controlled by a Bradford player over by the corner flag, then allowing that player to nutmeg you, and then fouling him. Vermaelen’s ill judged attempts to tackle were to be a feature of the night and a growing rage towards him from me.
From that corner the experienced players in the team decided that it would be a good idea to allow Gibbs and Coquelin to defend the near post area, and for Mertesacker to defend the middle, for Vermaelen to stand behind him and to be covered by Sagna. All three of our most experienced defenders got sucked towards the ball, which was flicked on at the near post taking all three out of the game and despatched into the back of our net through the despairing hands of Szczesny.
One nil Bradford and yet again we were in for a long night and hoping for some kind of miracle to try and get the game back. These miracles are really only possible if everyone is working hard. And for the rest of the half not enough players were close to the required levels.
Coquelin provided the best effort on goal so far when he jinked past a defender and hit a bobbler with his left foot that came back off the post. Gervinho missed a sitter from two yards when it was easier to score following good work from Jack, Santi and Gibbs. How he managed not to put enough on that ball is beyond me, he wasn’t desperately lunging, he wasn’t being mucsled by a defender he was there, he could have put any body part on it, even his todger and it would have gone in, but he somehow managed to open his foot up so far that he just flicked it wide.
Other than those two chances the team created very little in the remainder of the half.
In the second half the team came out with a bit more tempo, but still failure to do the the basics right meant that Bradford were given the opportunities to put pressure on the Arsenal area from free kicks and possession in the final third.
Chamakh came on for Coquelin who I felt was unlucky to be subsititued but clearly Wenger needed to give some kind of focus to the attack. Soon after Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain came on to replace Ramsey (seeing double after taking a boot in the face) and Podolski who will be seeing double if Bould kicks him into next week like he deserves, as he walked off I didn’t think i saw a bead of seat on his body, I know it was cold up there but the rest of the players were showing the effects of playing a game of football.
Excuse me while I send a personal rant to Mr Podolski:
The song we sing is “He Scores When He Wants”, not plays where he wants not tries when he wants, it’s scores when he wants. You have not earned the right to criticise other players around you yet, you have not earned the right to tell the manager where you want to play, we already have Theo trying that one, and you apparently want it too. Right now I’d rather we cancelled your contract and sent you back to Koln on a free, because you are not worth the wages the club are paying you.
At one point yesterday you enetered the box and waited for a cross from Gervinho, you stood with your arm in the air, ok the first cross didn’t come, but the ball was still live we still had it, still you didn’t move, you just stood on your heels in the same place with the same stupid arm up in the air, when the ball finally did come across the goal from Gervinho you were still standing there and watching it roll harmlessly wide at which point you complained because it would have meant you doing what a centre forward does….MOVE IN THE BLOODY BOX!
Now I’m not an international Centre Forward who has scored countless goals, but I have watched football a long time, and never have I seen a supposed centre forward move so little in the 18 yard box waiting for a cross, the likes of Lineker, Shearer, even bloody Stephen Fletcher would have moved four or five times in the time you stood on that one spot.
I can accept a player being shit but working hard, I used to think Perry Groves was a legend for example, but accepting a talent who fails to work hard I will not and will never accept.
Rant at Mr Podolski over.
Rosicky injected some much needed pace to our play, between him and Jack who seemed to cover every blade of grass from defence to attack in the second half the team finally started to dominate possession, and actually began to look threatening in and around the Bradford area.
The shot count was rising but so was the off target count, and when it was on target Matt Duke in the Bradford goal was using his large frame to good effect.
With time running out Santi Cazorla produced a lovely cross to the far post, luckily it was just after a corner and we had some good headers of the ball in and around the box, Thomas Vermaelen rose at the back post to provide probably his only positive contribution on a dismal night for him personally.
The team pushed for the winner in normal time, but could not find it.
Extra time came and went with little action until the dying minutes when Duke was again called upon to make good saves from Santi and Jack.
So onto penalties, I was already worried as Duke posed an impressive physical presence inside the Bradford goal, he is actually the same height as Szczesny but a few more years of living he is stronger muscularly, it also helps that he doesn’t have to wear a pink goalkeepers top.
I was further worried when considering the psychological pressure on each group of players, Bradford – be a hero, Arsenal – be a villain. It was that simple, a Bradford player misses and they get a pat on the back and a commiseration, the Arsenal player that misses is vilified for the rest of the week/season/life (depending on how long you like to hold a grudge).
Bradford went first and it was calmly dispatched. Santi stepped up and hit a weak penalty into the hands of Duke who guessed correctly. Bradford made it 2-0, Chamakh steps up and cooly places the ball onto the post. Chips are down, I’m ready to hit the off switch. Szczesny guessed right for the third time in a row and saved to keep Arsenal alive, up stepped Jack who had simply no trouble putting the ball home. Bradford made it 3-1, up stepped Ox who made it look just as easy as Jack and rifled home to make it 3-2. Szczesny then guessed right for the 5th penalty in a row and saved a very tame effort by Bradford.
Up steps the Arsenal captain to take it to sudden death, he followed Chamakh’s lead and rolled it against the other post, cue pandemonium at Valley Parade as Bradford claim a famous victory.
No Professional team should see the opposition miss two penalties and not even take it to sudden death……abysmal.
A miserable night was complete, miserable for the fans, miserable for the manager, miserable for the club…..miserable for the players? I’m not so sure, they just go home to their mansion, loose women and fast cars. Why would they be miserable?
I’ve said it before I’ll say it again, I can support young players who work hard and put it all on the pitch, I can’t support players who do not play for the team for each other, or the fans.
I want players to show they know what it means to us fans and in my opinion too many on the pitch for Arsenal at the moment look like their doing a job, and it doesn’t even look like its a job they love.
Szczesny 8 Two penalty saves, could do nothing about the goal, swept well all night trying to urge the team forward and get ball back up field quickly.
Sagna 5 Poor performance from “Mr Consistent”, I am not sure I care whether he signs a new deal, as i am not sure what he is Mr Consistent at.
BFG 5 Outjumped by an industrial centre forward for the entire game, normal assured self when on the ball.
Vermaelen 0 Sorry you are not worthy of that armband right now, silly free kicks all night, and a failure to take care of your own job first.
Gibbs 7 Our best defender on the evening, and probably of the season so far, quiet going forward first half but always offering himself.
Ramsey 5 Nothing went his way tonight, needs a rest needs to work out the issues and decision making. Worked as hard as ever though.
Coquelin 6 Did his best in a misfiring midfield first half, still a lot to learn in the first team.
Wilshere 8 (MotM) Tried everything he could to push the team forward ran for 120 minutes, tackling, shooting, the boy has got it all, we need to get players with his attitude and desire around him soon.
Cazorla 6 Very quiet first half, much better second especially when Rosicky came on.
Podolski -5 Didn’t bother turning up
Gervinho 4 he tries hard bless him, and doesn’t stop running, end product absent all night.
Rosicky 7.5 quick passing, forward runs, forward passes, what we have been missing of late
Oxlade-Chamberlain 6.5 A display that showed he is returning to form, used his pace and strength well, committed defenders. Horrible team to come on and play for right now.
Chamakh 4 I miss Giroud already
Written by a very pissed off
Gooner in Exile
Someone will probably quote these stats in defence of the team:
37% Possession 63%
(so f’ing what)
5 Shots 28
3 On Target 12
(less than half?)
3 Corners 12
(remember when this used to mean we would score?)