To a certain extent, you can make allowances for players not being sharp in pre-season, but just five days ahead of a Champions League qualifier, and a young side likely to play against Sevilla tomorrow, tonight’s game against Ajax was the last chance for many of the first team to complete their preparations.
With that in mind, there were some disappointing aspects. While the football in the early stages was delightful at times, the finishing was again fairly poor, although strikers can need time to find their shooting boots. I’m sure many will be quick to criticise Adebayor for his early misses, but his determination was there and he scored twice in the second half. Yes, both were tap ins, but you have to be there to score them, and positioning is one of his greatest strengths. He gets so many chances precisely because he is in the right place. That won’t stop his detractors, and undoubtedly he has brought some criticism on himself this summer, but let’s not be quick to destroy our leading forward.
There may be comparisons to Huntelaar, who showed his predatory instincts with a fantastic finish for the second goal, and I know there are those who think he is exactly the sort of striker we need. But we already have a deadly assassin in front of goal, the trouble is he’ll miss the first few months thanks to one Martin Taylor.
We will score goals, we always do. The trouble is not at that end of the pitch, it is that we are unable to win 1-0, ever. Our defending tonight shows exactly why. First an innocuous chip into the box caused havoc, and a poor defensive header was superbly taken advantage of by Suarez, and then the defence went to sleep at a free kick, Eboue especially culpable for allowing his man to run off him and head the ball back to Huntelaar. The finish was perfect, but the goal was far too easy.
Our main concern is in the heart of that defence, and the protection offered from the centre of midfield. In Clichy and Sagna we have two fine full backs, but the Gallas-Toure partnership looks as shaky as ever, and with no Flamini or Gilberto, there is no one to provide that defensive shield ahead of them.
It is a problem for Wenger to address, and I won’t be churlish enough to naysay his decision making until we see what happens. After all, Flamini himself stepped forward last season, and someone, perhaps Diaby, may do the same this season. Denilson also has a chance, and it may be no coincidence that he has been seen snapping into tackles with an enthusiasm we haven’t seen before.
There has been a lot of focus on our front line this summer, but I feel that is the strongest area of the team. The trouble is we won’t win many matches scoring once.