Apr 232012
 

Morning all.

Arsenal fans don’t take a lot of riling. Most football fans are a sensitive bunch, but it seems that our club has more than its fair share of the bipolar. One minute we are a signing or two away from seriously challenging for honours next season, the next we’re doomed to abject mediocrity. And often the difference is the width of the post. Literally (not in a Redknappian sense, but actually literally).

This post is going to require a preface, so here we go – one point from a pair of homes games isn’t a great return, and neither performance could be described as inspiring, or will live long in the memory. But I’m still left with the confused view of a man who seems to have seen a different couple of games from the most vociferous of supporters. The team were accused of things I don’t believe to be accurate, and the wrong players continue to be singled out for unnecessary and frankly pathetic abuse. Let’s start with Wigan.

Wigan

The general consensus from the Wigan game is that we were complacent. Lazy. Felt we just ‘needed to turn up to win’ (or whatever that ridiculous phrase is). It has become accepted fact that we breezed through the game without a care in the world, handing a victory to the opposition without putting up a fight.

That’s not what I saw.

I saw a poor performance. I saw players making the wrong decisions in the final third, players not quite connecting with their efforts on goal as they would like, players who occasionally mislaid crucial passes. And of course, I saw a shabby opening fifteen minutes that ultimately cost us the game.

However, I did see effort. I saw a team desperately looking to break down an impressive Wigan team who defending manfully and skilfully. I saw players making passes that were inches away from being perfect. I saw tracking back, and determination going forward. In essence, I saw what I wanted to see – a team who wanted to win and were willing to put in the hard yards to do so.

Sometimes, you don’t win football matches, and it isn’t always because you were complacent. I feel people are too quick in their efforts to find snap explanations for draws and defeats – it always has to be because we were lazy, or that at least three players were a disgrace to the shirt. You never hear anyone say ‘sometimes, shit happens‘. Look at United yesterday – 3-1 and 4-2 up against an Everton side who have struggled for goals, and they blew it, drawing 4-4 and letting City back into the title race. Were they complacent? Were they cocky? Or was it just one of those days?

Hats off to Wigan, by the way. They were brilliant on the night. We all stayed behind to applaud them off, which felt like a nice touch (well, when I say ‘all’, I mean those that remained – around me I reckon only about one in three seats were still occupied at the final whistle, which I hated). I hope they stay up, I really do.

Chelsea

And so to Saturday lunchtime, and a home game against a Chelsea side who made some changes and parked the bus ahead of their second leg with Barcelona on Tuesday night. Last time we watched Chelsea on a Saturday lunchtime, they played out a bore draw with Spurs, and this was no different. Calling it attritional would be paying it a compliment. Yet we still had the best chances – Van Persie would normally bury at least one of his, hitting the post from Walcott’s free kick and firing straight at Cech later on, while Koscielny was also unlucky to see his header crash back off the crossbar. In a week where the woodwork favoured Chelsea enormously, they could and should have lost to us and Barcelona, but escaped on both occasions. That isn’t to say that we were complacent, poor or lazy, or even that Chelsea defended that well, but sometimes you get matches were the narrow margins go against you.

Consider this. For about three years, Chelsea beat us routinely, both home and away. And what’s more – we got used to it. We went into games hoping for a result, but secretly preparing for the inevitable defeat. Now, they come away from the Emirates delighted with a fortunate point that doesn’t even help them that much, while we look on, disappointed. How times change.

Players

Not only did I feel that some of the reporting of the team performances this week was inaccurate, but I felt the assessment of some of the individual players was off kilter too. I think most of us would accept that Arsenal fans have particular targets when things aren’t going well, and while some of that is borne out of a succession of poor displays or poor attitude (read: Eboue), some of it is less warranted. The usual suspects bore the brunt again this week, none more so than Aaron Ramsey, who I will return to in a moment.

Do you know which players I thought were poor this week? Van Persie had two sub-par games, Song was below par too, Sagna was unusually shaky against Wigan, while Walcott did little in either game. Even the Ox was anonymous. Now, reading that list, I’m pretty sure I can gauge many of your reactions, and they will be angry. How dare I criticise those players, you may ask? Well, here’s the thing – you can say a player has had a poor week without abusing them, without saying they are crap or should be sold. There is a middle ground, which is this – each of the players I have listed, to different degrees, have had excellent moments this season, and I value every single one of them as a crucial part of this Arsenal team. But sometimes, players have poor games, and chances are, they are honest enough about it to admit when they do, and don’t seek to blame less culpable members of the team. So why do we?

Ramsey didn’t set the world alight in either game, but he did ok for me, particularly against Chelsea. We praise Rosicky for his endless running, yet conveniently ignore that Ramsey does the same thing. He is frequently compared to Denilson, which is among the worst links I’ve ever known. Denilson’s problems were two-fold – he didn’t try to create much, preferring the safe options, and he didn’t work hard enough to win the ball back when we lost it. Ramsey cannot be accused of either. He loses the ball precisely because he tries things, and he works his bollocks off trying to regain possession, particularly after his own mistakes. On Saturday, he copped abuse when he lost the ball to a man he never saw, and never got a shout about. Surely we should be criticising the lack of communication from his teammates?

I’m not saying Ramsey is on form. He isn’t. But when a player is off colour, all we ask is that he works hard to get himself back to previous heights, something that Arshavin, Denilson, Chamakh and others have failed to do. So why, when a player shows us the desire we’ve been crying out for, do we vilify him anyway?

When I hear the groans from the stands, when I hear the disgusting abuse some of these guys face from a minority of their own supporters, I find myself fearing what we could lose. We have some precocious talents at the club that have everything they need to have tremendous futures. I just hope they want to have that future with us. Sometimes, I wonder why they would.

  17 Responses to “A week of unwarranted angst”

  1. Oh this blog is never going to be successful, far too reasonable clear headed. I may be your only supporter unless you get some lowest common denominator, knee-jerk improvements in

    • You too Matt. The job of the first respondee is to either abuse the team, a particular player or the writer of the blog (or just post ‘First! – that always helps people realise that they are comfortable as they are coming to a place of morons).

      Please step up or blogging may die out. Though as Arseblog said ‘how to start an argument on the Internet? Post something.’

      You are a tool (there you go, that told you).

      • Ha – thanks both. CB is right, usually the first commenter is someone who hasn’t read the whole piece and comes in yelling, so thanks for a refreshing change…

        No arguments on being a tool….

        • Sorry, I meant Matt anyway (and on the ‘stepping up’ part) and would have added a smiley face if I didn’t think he was bright enough to realise that I didn’t think he was a tool.

          Unless you are saying he is with your last comment.

          Incidentally I saw a comparison of Denilson and Scott Parker stats recently and they are very similar. But Parker got into the PFA Team of the Year!

          Hence I agree with you that there happens to be a boo-boy, which currently happens to be Ramsey (and was Walcott, though he deserved it more than Ramsey against Chelsea). I also despair at the sighs when things go wrong rather than have the crowd encouraging the team all the game. I thought Ramsey had a very Arteta-like game on Saturday (97% pass completion), and he is 21.

          • Haha, no I figured the :) would be there….

            Scott Parker baffles me. Not as a player, but for the recognition he gets. Yes, he works hard, he works very hard in fact. But doing what exactly?

            The derby was a classic example. He tore around like a loon, and we just passed the ball around him. Then he got sent off. Well played, sir.

            • English, nice hair, good attitude, decent player, but not as good as Ramsey and a match for Denilson. His recognition hows how expectations have lowered around England players.

  2. I agree with you re Ramsey. He worked his socks off against Chelsea. He actually only misplaced two passes all game. He was caught in possession 4 times but that’s not helped by his team-mates not making the runs for him. Ramsey’s stats for the Chelsea game: http://news.arseblog.com/2012/04/arsenal-0-0-chelsea-by-the-numberzzzzz/

    Arsenal fans always need a skapegoat. Even during the Invincibles season, Gilberto was getting a slagging from many fans as he didn’t appear to do much during a game. It was only when he fractured his back that the fans noticed what gilberto brought to the team.

    Arsenal fans need to support the whole team even when they are not playing well as it will just undermine the player’s confidence. As for Ramsey, he just needs to keep plugging away and his form will return. Remember, he’s fortunate to still be playing football after getting “Shawcrossed”.

    • I have no worries re: Ramsey’s ability or tenacity. He will go on to be a top class player, I just hope it is with us.

      • Can’t say I totally agree with you on Ramsey…….
        Since THAT tackle he’s lost a yard of pace,I don’t think he was that much of a speed merchant to start with mind you,but now he looks laboured when he’s in full flight,like he’s trying to get away from someone that wants his dinner money in school……
        He does try tricks and smart moves when he should follow the old adage…a time and a place…not just outside your own 18 yard box with a back flick-disasterous..
        Finally-he tends to linger on the ball way too much and way too often.When you watch games pre Shawcross,he was more like Cesc-remember him?-little Catalonian kid…in the sense that he was aware where his next layoff was going to be before he’d even received the ball.Now he receives the ball on a lot of occassions and tries to decide at that time.When we play teams that press us,he gets caught in posession with his shorts down.
        Nevertheless,after all that,he is one of my favourite players as I saw enough of him before that Stoke match to know that he’ll get his mojo back because he’s class.
        One last point-the white kit.over confident fans and the total collapse in a massive game……Harry must think he’s the England manager already.

    • I think that the problem with Ramsey is not so much an evaluation of his skill as it is the expectation loaded onto his shoulders because of the state of the squad. For me, we really need a world class creative CAM, as we struggle against organised defences, and Ramsey this year isn’t adding much to the squad that isn’t already there. I think that he is working hard (especially int he second half of the chelsea match), and being a young lad I hope he improves in the next few years.

  3. I think part of the problem is the gunners don’t shoot .It’s pass and pass . It has happened many times before.When will it end?Arsenal/Arsene play a different brand compared to other teams with the emphasis on passing .We know whta happended . It is a ready made
    recipe for counter attacking teams.
    As for the Wigan game,it’s similar to games against Chelsea and MU in earlier seasons.Then we know what happened.

    • Yeah, we beat Chelsea 5-3. What gives?

    • Nonsence, Arsenal have taken more shots this season (410) than eg Manu (401) and are in the top 5 PL teams of ‘shooters’. Source: skysports.

      Another myth dispelled, next!

  4. Great post. Balanced and realistic. We have problems, yes, and players make mistakes, but then It’s what happens in football. The hardest thing for us as a fan base, is to separate the obvious mistakes made by the club/manager during the summer, and normal football.Only then can we appreciate the, albeit slow, steps forward. I honestly think people forget we’re third for Christ sakes…..

  5. This blog is a breath of fresh air. With all the hate and abuse being bandied around on the internet it really has made being a fan look shameful. How can one act as a hypocrite, adoring someone 1 week and abusing them the next. Walcott is a prime example of this. And the so called fans fail to take into account fact that wingers by profession are inconsistent. Be it Bale, Lennon, Di Maria or whoever.

    But we are a minority as the number of comments on this blog show. The count wouldve risen had you added ‘wenger out’ in place of the punctuations :)

    Really fine blog, keep it up.

  6. Pete, did you find/pay an 11 year-old (perhaps your favourite niece) to write comments 6 to 10? Two lines each on each post and unremittingly positive.

    I have nothing against them being positive, they just seem too similar, ‘you guys’.

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