What a shame!
It seems to me that Arsenal have a knack for creating their own miseries. When one set of issues look like they’re resolved we come up with some other set of problems.
How can a near full strength Arsenal side produce such a dire first half is beyond me. Arsenal showed absolutely no urgency, no desire, and worst of all no intelligence in the play against a determined and well organized opponent.
Walcott’s main strength –pace; never used.
Fabregas’ main strength – passing and creativity; very poor movement up front and Cesc had to drop deep far too often.
To me those were the two main weapons we had and Newcastle were able to counter them just by getting the basics right. Surely if the Barcodes had to get something at the Emirates they’d have to work harder?
I can recall only three half chances in the first half. Cesc hit the bar with a free-kick. He also won a corner after a good run that was well-picked by Song. And Nasri forced an excellent save when he was set up by Fabregas.
In the first half Arsenal’s off the ball movement was astonishingly poor. All three midfielders moved forward in turns but Newcastle were able to crowd us out in the final third as their defence wasn’t being stretched by intelligent movement. In the air the visitors won almost everything and were quicker on to the loose ball. Even Arsenal’s pressing was half hearted and Newcastle were able to move the ball comfortably, at will.
To be fair, Arsenal did restrict the Toon’s attacking options. I don’t recall Fabianski having to make a decent save all through the game. But they got the goal from a set-piece, something that was always going to be a possibility given the way they were winning everything in the air.
I’m sure the Misery Brigade will be out in full force against the Keeper but I’m not sure he is that much to blame. Carroll lost his marker far too easily as Chamakh never attacked the ball. Not sure if he got a call but he seemed to have given up far too early. In that case, Fabianski was in a lose-lose situation as he couldn’t get to the ball while coming out and Carroll would have had a free header from six yards if the Keeper had stayed back. Bottom line is we can’t always blame the Keeper when everyone else is losing the aerial battles.
The first ten minutes of the second half were impressive. Arsenal came out with purpose, pressed high up the pitch and pushed Newcastle back. There were one or two half chances and Walcott hit the bar with his only meaningful contribution of the game.
This time, in accordance with popular demand, Arsene made the substitutions early. Before the hour was up Nasri, who might have picked up a knock, and Chamakh were replaced by Arshavin and Van Persie.
Surely now Arsenal will pin them back and force Krul into some heroics?
What happened next was the one of the most bizarre displays of chaotic, rudderless football one will ever see at the Emirates. It was as if Arsenal players had turned into school boys, albeit individually talented ones.
There were far too many balls over the top that were unerringly lost. Newcastle goal was never under siege. Arsenal just didn’t have the shape to sustain pressure. A few short passes would take play to one end. Then a long ball would give possession away as the visitors would win it in the air. Arsenal would be out of shape as the play was at the other end. Consequently no one would really challenge for the second ball. The Magpies could then bring it out and keep it for a while before the whole thing was repeated.
Arshavin showed some urgency, Van Persie had some good touches, Wenger even brought on Bendtner, but Le Boss wasn’t able to bring on the most needed ingredient – Composure.
In the end, to make matters worse, Koscielny was caught out by the pace and strength of the youngster Ranger and picked up a straight red for DOGO. He will miss the game against Wolves.
The only positive I can think of from this game is the return of Van Persie; now we have to hope he can play without injury till the end of the season.
Fabianski: Mistake for the goal. Did well otherwise as he collected almost everything put in the box. As I’ve often said, we must not expect the Keeper to deal with all the aerial balls in the box. Just see how many times Krul had to deal with the balls in his box.
Sagna: Was strong defensively but didn’t have the right understanding with Walcott. The right side was always too tight.
Squillaci: Did fairly well in dealing with their big and strong attackers. Can’t really blame him for anything in this game.
Koscielny: almost like Squillaci, made decent interceptions, his weakness and inexperience was exposed for the red card.
Clichy: Newcastle rarely created anything from the right as Clichy did well defensively. Could have done better in attack but the movement up front was quite poor.
On the whole I’d not blame the back five that much even if this wasn’t a perfect performance.
Song: Made many uncharacteristic mistakes, wasn’t as close to the defence as I’d have liked. Had some decent moments while going forward but he has to learn to adapt his game and should stay deeper especially when we’re struggling to create space.
Wilshere: I was impressed by his physical presence and intelligence. Did well to win the free-kick that Cesc hit on the bar. did well to create the opening for Walcott who also hit the woodwork. Can’t really blame a youngster for lack of composure!
Cesc: I thought he was the source of our edginess. Not sure if the ref got to his nerves or whether he was frustrated by the lack of movement up front but this was a very shoddy display by his standards. The fact that he was still involved with almost everything Arsenal created just highlights how good he is but I expect a lot more from the captain.
Broadly speaking, I thought the midfield was quite poor. They rarely won the second ball in attack and not often enough in defence. The passing was too slow and predictable. Rushed forward without a plan and didn’t support the back five well enough.
Walcott: Newcastle, especially Enrique, did a great job of bottling him in one corner. Never got a chance to run at the defenders. Should have been substituted early as this was not his day.
Chamakh: Very disappointing. Didn’t move well enough. Should have swapped with Theo when they were able to close Walcott down regularly. Got into a couple of excellent positions around the edge of the box but just didn’t have the striker’s instincts to finish. Should have tracked Carroll better on the set-piece.
Nasri: made a few good runs but wasn’t able to create the final ball. Should have moved around a little more and should also have swapped wings with Walcott occasionally. Newcastle were clearly stronger on their left than their right.
I thought the front three were extremely disappointing and made it easy for Newcastle. Once the visitors had more confidence they could defend, they also had more belief while going forward.
Subs: Arshavin showed why he adds so much to the team. Van Persie had a few good touches but didn’t get on the ball often enough or should I say wasn’t found often enough by the midfield. Bendtner didn’t do much and strayed off-side on a couple of occasions.
Can’t see how anyone can be given the MotM in such a game.
I stopped talking about the title a few weeks back and have since decided not to look too far forward than the next game. In keeping with that, all I care about right now is a big performance at Wolves. Arsene doesn’t have much time, and Arsenal have a tendency to pick up bad results in pairs or threes, but he will have to come up with the answers against a side that is playing really well despite their poor results.