Can West Brom Really Be as Terrible as They Looked
The answer of course is YES. Today ended our goal scoring and goal conceeding drought. There are many ways to win a match 3-1 but this must have been the easiest. We knew going into this match that West Brom are not a very good side but their display today was downright horrific. They would be relegated from the Championship with that kind of performance on a nightly basis. But they showed up on our schedule at just the right time and now the gap to fourth place is merely three points, if only for one night.
It’s not clear what to make of Arsenal’s performance in this game. Albion’s defense was shocking and there’s really no excuse for failing to take them behind the woodshed for a good old-fashioned beating. In fairness, their man of the match was Scott Carson, without whom they would have been in much worse shape. He has not been good this season, but he was on his game today. He certainly deprived Arshavin the opporunity to open his Arsenal goal scoring account. But in reality, the same old problems for Arsenal were clearly on display again today.
When Denilson and Song play together in central midfield the style of play is almost unwatchable. Song comes in for a lot of deserved criticism, but I simply cannot understand why Denilson gets off so lightly. His passing is the worst of any Arsenal player on the pitch. He always looks to pass laterally and on the rare occasions that he feels compelled to pass forward, he never finds the open man. His turnovers often put us under pressure and he usually resorts to fouling to stop the opposition build-up. Perhaps he’ll flourish as a holding midfielder, but he clearly lacks the creative spark. Of all the players that Wenger has shown faith in over this troubling season, Denilson is the one that bothers me the most. I guinely do not believe that Wenger will start Song again this season. (At least not in midfield.) But Denilson may start almost every remaining game and that prospect terrifies me.
Arshavin was class today. He created opportunities, showed the “quick brain” that Wenger keeps celebrating, put in a great free kick for our second goal, and should really have scored a goal or two himself with some nice efforts. His last goal effort showed off some really impressive footwork in a tight space. I’m really looking forward to his work with a full-strength squad.
Bendtner wasn’t spectacular tonight but he did get the all important goals. It’s amazing the way he is able to make the hard stuff look easy and the easy stuff look hard. He blasted over from a good position and hit the post with an open effort from inside the box, but his two goals were truly well taken. Hard player to figure.
Once Diaby came in the game we started to flow. The game opened up and we had arguably our best chances. Although all our goals came in the first half, the second half was our better period of play. I really bit my nails watching our lethargic, stale, predictable build-up during certain patches of the first half. The second half brought a welcome improvement even though it didn’t bring any goals. Really, the second half reminded me of our last four league encounters. I think most Arsenal fans would like to see more play like the second half but that wasn’t the play that brought us the goals. It just goes to show you that there is no substitute for clinical finishing and a little luck.
The goal we conceeded was down to terrible work from the wall. Eboue, unsurprisingly was to blame for his failure to hold his position. While I really want to have a go at Eboue, I find myself conflicted. The mental aspect of his game is an abomination. He dives, complains, lolligags, and never gives complete effort. The physical aspect of his game has merit. He’s got pace, guile and can pick out a pass in the final third. His finishing is shocking, but he does run at the defense and there’s simply no denying that he can really cause problems. Unfortunately the balance of these attributes is more negative than positive.
I was very disappointed with some of our defenders today. Djourou had been playing so well before his recent absence but he was far short of that form today. More worryingly, he gave away far too many needless fouls in dangerous positions. One of those fouls lead to Albion’s solitary goal. Hopefully Toure is not out for any of our upcoming matches and Gallas will soon return.
Clichy has really taken several steps back. He is so adored by Arsenal fans, but he hasn’t been very good this season. What’s very odd is that he seems to have lost a step or two. For a player who relies on his pace as much as Clichy, that’s a big problem. Even more worrying is his latest tendency not to close down attackers. He gives up so much room as if he’s nervous that they’ll go right by him, but he leaves space for dangerous crosses to come into the box. Even the attacking element of his game has suffered. Kieran Gibbs looks like a bright young player but Clichy is certainly our left back for a few seasons to come so let’s hope he turns it around. He’s in a dog fight with Patrice Evra for the France left back position so maybe that will encourage him to improve.
Today’s match was simply a matter of necessity. I could spend/waste a lot more time breaking down the player contributions and hypothesizing about whether the performance was actually more worrying than encouraging but it’s really unnecessary. We got the points. Too often this season we haven’t gotten the points when the opportunities were there. That’s the most important take away from this game. As more players return to health it’s unlikely that we’ll see this lineup again in the Premier League. (That’s a good thing.) Who knows if Bendtner has done enough to keep a starting spot in the weeks to come, but my guess is that he has not. With Eduardo, Adebayor, and Van Persie competing for one or two striking positions, it seems unlikely that Bendtner will have anything more than a supporting role down the stretch. He won’t like that, but I suspect that most Arsenal fans are going to be just fine with that scenario.
No more league games for eleven days. It feels like a nice break and will allow the wounded to return. With the opportunity for confidence building results in the FA Cup and Europe between now and then, I really believe we could be a much better side by the time we face Blackburn at the Emirates.
We’re rooting for Manchester City now. I really don’t like them much and I’m not a fan of Mark Hughes, but come kickoff, I’ll be wearing sky blue.
Come On You Blues!