Apr 192009

Arsenal 1 (Walcott 18) Chelsea 2 (Malouda 33, Drogba 84)
(FA Cup Semi Final, Wembley)

The past few days have been filled with stories of our team news, but all boiled down to two questions. One, would Gibbs be fit, and therefore allow Song to play the defensive midfield role he has made his own in recent weeks? And two, who would Arshavin come in for, Nasri or Walcott?

In the end, the answers were irrelevant because the questions themselves were wide of the mark. Song was relegated to the bench, not making an appearance in the entire match while Denilson and Diaby emphasised how critical he has become by playing far below his level, while even more perplexingly, Arshavin only appeared for the final fifteen minutes.

I’m willing to concede that Wenger knows more about the state of his players than I do. Maybe Song was carrying a knock, maybe Arshavin was unwell, I don’t know. But when I saw the team news an hour before the game, I mentioned on Twitter that it looked as if Wenger was going for a defensive approach, preventing Chelsea from playing before utilising our attacking talents.

Big mistake. Our defence may have looked comfortable on Wednesday night, but Chelsea are a different prospect, and aside from Toure we had our reserves out there trying to stop them scoring. All along we’ve known that Chelsea were going to score at some point, so the best approach was surely to attack and try to peg them back – in this case attack was absolutely the best form of defence.

Sure, Denilson was rested, and Diaby, while coming back from an injury, only played a short while in midweek, but leaving out Arshavin was criminal. The guy has shown himself capable of single handedly cutting through the best defences already, and with Chelsea so well organised at the back he was a trump card waiting to be played. Instead, Diaby was selected simply based on his height, which again focused our team on nullifying the opposition rather than playing to our strengths. Because the Russian is one of our greatest strengths, and a rested one at that.

I don’t want to be too critical, that would be churlish after such a wonderful run, and a series of occasions where Wenger has proved us wrong (not least in Song’s progress), but the level of frustration is high tonight simply because this was a glorious opportunity missed.

Even more so after Walcott had given us an early lead. It was actually Chelsea who threatened first, Gibbs clearing off the line after Drogba had won the ball in the air against Fabianski, outside the area, after the Pole had rushed out wildly. My comment at that moment? Fabianski looks nervous. Fingers crossed if doesn’t make any more mad decisions”. Ouch.

But back to the opening goal – Ade held the ball up, before slipping a neat pass to Gibbs, charging up the left flank. His cross found Walcott, who volleyed without much conviction, but a deflection of the unmentionable one’s hand took it away from Cech, and we were ahead. At that point, we could have gone on – we had plenty of possession in that spell but never offered much going forward, a problem few of us would have predicted before the match.

Slowly, we let Chelsea back into it, a couple of shaky moments in our defence giving them hope – Fabianski completely missed a Malouda shot that squirmed wide, before Chelsea found their equaliser. When it came, it was as sloppy as our opener had been. Malouda chested down a long ball, and with Eboue not tight enough, he easily shifted the ball and beat Fabianski at his near post.

On Setanta, they were roundly critical of the keeper, and he may feel he should’ve done better, but I couldn’t help but feel they went for him more because he’d been so erratic up to that point. Realistically, Malouda should never have been allowed to get his shot away – it was an all round poor goal to concede.

And it nearly got worse moments later. Denilson played a casual ball to Diaby inside our area, but that would’ve been fine had the Frenchman cleared with his first or second touches. But he dallied, Anelka nicked it, and curled a shot against the post. It was us that that welcomed the half time whistle when it came.

In the second half, Chelsea turned on the power. The only chances we managed were from two Walcott crosses, the pair evading diving efforts from Van Persie and Diaby respectively. At the other end, Chelsea were getting closer, Lampard firing wide and Drogba causing general havoc.

But the main problem was our midfield. Someone needs to tell Denilson and Diaby that on some occasions, smashing the ball into row Z is a viable option – the former must have been caught on the ball four times, while Diaby persistently ran into trouble. It gave Chelsea confidence, and with six minutes to go, they finally made us pay – Lampard’s long ball finding Drogba, who outmuscled Silvestre, rounded the onrushing Fabianski, and knocked us out.

Initially, I defended Fabianski for coming out – he had to narrow the angle, but in retrospect, his charge out of goal was almost Manninger-like in its wildness. By coming so far out of his area, he made Drogba’s job easy. That isn’t to say he was the only culprit though – Silvestre was weak in the challenge and shouldn’t have let his man get away so easily.

Mistakes were certainly made for all three goals, and our makeshift backline was exposed as exactly that – makeshift, but errors were not restricted to the eleven players out there. Wenger has to take some criticism for his decisions on the day – first for sending the team out with a negative mindset that was always the wrong way to approach the game, and then for some odd substitutions. The reason for taking Van Persie off has since become clear – he had a groin problem that may keep him out of the Liverpool game, but once one striker had gone, why take Adebayor off? Sure, he was having a quiet game, but that was the case in both legs against Villareal, and on both occasions he popped up with crucial goals.

Moments after Ade was taken off, Drogba scored the winner, and we were left with Bendtner up front on his own trying to rescue the game. Nasri came on with five minutes to go, joining Cesc, Walcott and Arshavin as attacking options, but it was too little too late. Wenger has since talked about the need to rotate his squad, but with Villa drawing again, surely this match was the one to really go for, even if we suffer for it on Tuesday?

As I said earlier, I don’t want to be too critical or negative, because Chelsea were always going to be a tough prospect, but I guess the frustration is borne out of the fact that we could have really gone for them, but instead we played a protective game, exactly the sort of game we aren’t great at, and got punished. After they gifted us an early goal, we had a golden chance of reaching the final, and it feels like we’ve thrown it away by not having the enterprise to go for it.

Tomorrow is another day, and we still have the Champions League to fight for. Perhaps by then we may even have some of our defence back. But today was a chance to reach the FA Cup final again, and we’ve blown it. That we lost doesn’t hurt as much as the fact we went out so meekly.

  14 Responses to “Bad decisions on and off the field prove costly”

  1. You are absolutely right.
    If he wants to rotate why not wait for the 2 league games coming up.

    Liverfool and Middlesboro at home.

    For boro at home I would have played Denilson….but for this game and part of the Liverpool game I would have played the inform Song. Denilson has not been that good lately..sONG HAS BEEN PLAYING EXCELLENTLY..but he gets dropped.

    I know we need to rotate now..because we have tight schedule but why leave out two of your best performers(Song & Arsh) in a knockout game..absolutley no sense.

    I say take a gamble(rotate) in the league because we have decent lead on Villa.

    As some other bloggers have said on other sites sometimes Wenger overthinks nowadays and changes a wininng formula…

    Song and Arshavin have been instrumental in our most recent games..why not play them andthen rest Song by playing him in only part of the Liverpool game..and giving him a full rest for Middlesboro at home.

    Arshavin did not need rest..he dropped him because he wanted more size….well he should have trusted Diaby beside Cesc then..and not bother with Denilson who was anonymous.

    because of playing both Den and Diaby..RVP got put on the left wing and was totally ineffectve it was like playing with ten 10 men.

    Also Ade was totally isolated and could not do much.

  2. Than don’t be too critical! We all want to win always but we don’t! We played a courageous match and we lost….I am proud of these young men…And, we should have won with the men on the pitch today…but we did not….Is it the end of the world? I feel at GK we made two critical mistakes but but c’mon then….Next year will be brilliant…Arsenal fans get over it! Stop blaming and appreciate this young talent…It will only get better…Wenger should have done this…Eboue should have done that….Fabianski should have saved that? Cry me a river…These boys were brilliant and I was proud to lose today..not happy but proud with whatever men were placed on the pitch…We played and we almost won…Cheers Arsenal…Cheers!

  3. So reminiscent of the Carling Cup final where Walcott scored first only to have a winning goal by Drogba. I’m absolutely gutted. The four players who disappointed most were (in order): Diaby, Silvestre, Fabianski and Denilson. Agreed that the line up was surprising but we did start well and pegged Chelsea back. Ultimately, inexperience has cost us but we’ll learn and go forward.

  4. Adebayor compared to Drogma , a man versus a boy, Adebayor looks like a spectator as the game plays around him , his lack of power and aggression for a big guy , take the money for him , break the bank and lets bring in IBRAHAMOVIC.

  5. I suppose everybody is upset as I am. But I suspect the tactical reason for leaving out Song, Nasri & Arshavin is because Cheasea is an old team and Wenger would like to wear them out before sending in more Nasri & Arshavin for them to be effective. Song was held back because imagine if there is another injury to our back 4 or Song gets injured in midfield, who should we send in.

  6. Hartwick89, hear hear!! That’s the spirit! I am heartbroken over the results as well, but have to hand it over to Chelsea (Is this me? Am I really doing this? Complimenting the Chavs?) who outplayed us in the second half. The other big three may get the silverware this season, but our golden future with this young team is the far richer prospect. Fire away, Gunners!!!

    HEC: I don’t think we want Ibra, I follow Juve in Serie A and in his time there, he was a hissy fit master. Petulance incarnate.

    Leave Wenger Alone: I completely agree.

  7. Adebayor is great ONLY IF he wants to play. He looked lazy and stoned throughout and always wear that guilty grin whenever he made a mistake. He cannot hold on or shield the ball and he lacked conviction to win. He was just going through the motion. He is a player who is topclass only if he want to play otherwise he will finished his work before time is up. I always felt that Adebayor is not a DEPENDABLE player on important occasions. Van Persie was fouled a lot but unfortunately the referee adopted the see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil attitude. Just not your luck, Arsenal.

  8. Chelsea fielded their best 1st team in every position. Without Alumunia, Gallas, Djourou, Sagna and Clichy, how the hell do you beat one of the top rated teams in Europe?
    Having said that, the original analasys is spot on, and having been their, very kindly to all especially Ade. He just did not show up for this game. He was awful – he walked his way around the whole match and showed no heart at all. Remebr when Henry used to have a quiet game? Just for the hell of it he would rush back at full tilt to make a tackle or chase a ball? Remember how we would all cheer like mad at the sheer guts and committment he showed doing that and how uplifting it was to all his fellow squad and us? Ade never even thought of trying that kind of thing – he just looked lazy and defeated from the off. A complete let down. Alex had hin in hos pocket the whoel game and Ade did not have any answer at all. It was a shameful display from him. Bendtner cam on for two minutes and worked his ass off and creetd a chance. Ade created nothin in 80 minutes.

  9. I still believe that the Gunners aint ready for any sf/f atm. If they shd reach anyone of them they will come to grief.The first one has come true.
    Why aint the gunners ready?For staters even with Alumunia in goal,it will be not enough. The defence overall aint good enf compared to MU,Chelsea,Barca.
    The one against MU depends on whether the injured players can come back.If some of them make it maybe the gunners will be able to win.
    Finally the defeat by Chelsea shows the flaws in AW”s soccer philosophy.
    It’s clear to all and sundry the problem areas. If these are not addressed in summer,expect the same

  10. Wenger lost the game, no one else. A CL tied Arshavin on the bench ? For what ?? … Where was Song and Nasri – they should have started, making changes to preserve players can do later in the game – if in the bag. It was so apparent Diaby is losing 3 out of 4 balls, how can leave such out of form player on the pitch, ridiculous. For Hddink and fergie such player on that day wouldn’t have lasted even 15 minutes.
    Wenger, when do you get your line-up right ???

  11. You lot are unbelievable. Arsenal with a makeshift back 5 just lost by a single goal to a team that cost over 500million to assemble. Chelsea were within a kick of winning the league and the Champions League last season. The team Arsen put out ran rings past Chelsea for the first 20 mins yesterday. Diaby was everywhere. I think everyone would agree that we would not have conceded either of those goals had we had our first choice back 5 playing. How does having injuries to 5 first choice defensive players become a mistake by Wenger. look at Man Utd when they have 2 defenders missing, look at how good Chelsea are when they have Terry out. As for not playing Arshavin, which manager do you think would know better than anyone how to nullify Arshavin? Do you think that Hiddink might have a bit of an insight into his weak points having been his manager for so long? Stop bloody moaning and support a team and a manager you should be proud of.

  12. I only caught the last half hour but its the worst we’ve played for ages, before their second goal we looked like a Blackburn like team with next to no attacking ambition.
    The only logic behind leaving out Arshavin is the fact that of anyone, Guus Hiddink is best placed to deal with him and maybe Arsene was worried his threat would be cancelled by Hiddink’s knowledge of him. Not enuf in my opinion as AA has been our best player of late but in Arsene we trust.


  14. Denilson and Diaby wouldnt get into SPURS let alone start most of ARSENALS games. TOURE nad Gallas have had abuse frm fans for poor displays but all season they’ve had NO PROTECTION frm arsenals’ WEAK MIDFIELD. No doubt that in the PREMIERSHIP you need a player who’ll DOMINATED the midfield like VIERA to allow creative players space to do WHAT ARSENAL DO BEST! Couldnt believe the line-up vs chelski,here was a chance to win a cup after such a longtime and we put our weakest players to face ESSIEN,LAMPS,BALLACK. Wenger risks ruining all the good work he’s done for arsenal because arsenal dont have a decent defensive midfielder. All the top 7 clubs have them,Scott-parker would even do a better job 4 arsenal than both song and denilson together. For a team thinking they’re one of europes best the midfield is laughable NOT THE WEMBLEY PITCH. Come on arsene time to wake-up because the fans have suffered enough,some of these youngsters are not good enough for the prem in a league like spain arsenal would dominated as you hardly see any battling tackles.

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