Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

I hate it when the prediction by the heart beats the one by the mind because that means Arsenal have put in a logic defying performance or committed suicide with some horrible individual errors. In this case it was a bit of both.

Before going further let me just acknowledge that Birmingham thoroughly deserved this win for the effort they put in, for their keeper making some big saves, and for taking their chances. Credit also to Mike Dean who, in this game, did as good a job of being fair as any ref I’ve seen in England. If anything, Birmingham have genuine complaints for not getting a penalty in the second minute but that was down to the assistant ref. Whether it would have given them a bigger advantage or roused Arsenal up earlier will never be known.

I thought the Gunners were extremely nervous at the start and this allowed Birmingham to gain the early initiative. Clichy seems to have developed a bad habit of dropping a yard behind the defensive line. That allowed Bowyer to sneak in behind the defence and should have won a penalty when Szczesny brought him down with a clumsy attempt. I don’t think it would have been a red card as the player was going away from goal and there was a defender coming back but in such cases it’s difficult to say what the ref would have given.

The midfield with the exception of Wilshere was extremely poor in the first half. They hardly won any knock-downs and that allowed Birmingham to get out of their half easily and made it easy for them to sustain some pressure in attacking areas. At the other end Arsenal were creating some half chances but nothing more. Rosicky and Arshavin just didn’t do enough.

The first goal came from a corner after Koscielny headed a ball out. That ball was so far inside the six yard box when the defender headed it that one wonders why the goalkeeper didn’t take charge of it. It should have been Szczesny’s ball but ended up as a corner for the Blues. The ball was swung wide and a Birmingham defender won it 15 yards from goal. His header was directed back towards the middle of the goal and Zigic was able to use his height to guide it in past a woefully flapping Szczesny.

Arsenal’s response was good. Van Persie went close with a header after a good cross from Sagna. Birmingham then had a good spell for five minutes in which they could have scored again. A decent save from Szczesny denied Zigic was was again through.

The equalizer came from some good work by Wilshere who brought the ball forward for a quick break. When it came back to the youngster he rattle the bar with a thunderbolt. Arshavin controlled the loose ball and beat off the pressure from two players to deliver a wonderful cross. The finish from Van Persie was exquisite.

Arsenal dominated the rest of the first half with Nasri drawing a big save from Foster but the teams went in level at the break.

In the second half there was a distinct difference in the way Arsenal played. The midfield stayed much closer to the defence and the shape of the team was a lot more compact. Birmingham did get some joy down their right but didn’t really force Szczesny into making any great saves.

Even then there were some moments of confusion at the back as Djourou looked clueless and Song showed no composure at key moments. Fahey rattled the bar when he should have buried his chance.

At the other end Arsenal were sniffing around without testing Foster until Bendtner came on for RvP. After that Foster made four good saves from Nasri, Bendtner, Rosicky, and Nasri. Birmingham were on the back foot and the Gunners had all the momentum.

When it all looked positive Arsenal shot themselves in the foot. Djourou lost another aerial battle with Zigic off a long ball as both central defenders had done all day. It shouldn’t have mattered as the ball was going harmlessly towards Szczesny.

Koscielny was covering behind Djourou and was about to clear the ball when Szczesny called for it. I thought it was a very late decision from the Keeper and that confused the defender who pulled out of his clearance at the last moment. The ball did get a deflection of Koscienly but Szczesny should have kept his eye on it. The Keeper lost his bearings at the crucial moment and the ball just rolled towards Martins who’d not have scored an easier goal in his life.

People like to blame some individuals and big up the others. But this game showed there are some fundamental flaws with the way Arsenal defend and it’s not an individual problem. Of course, the players on the pitch will be the ones who get it wrong but the root of the problem is in the way this team sets up to defend the aerial balls. It cannot be solved without a change in the coaching staff.

I put this defeat down to three factors – poor defensive organization and intelligence leading to individual errors (coaching issue), experienced players underperforming, and limitations of the tactical system being exposed by aforementioned individual errors and poor off the ball movement. The last one is a complex issue and I’ll discuss that separately.

Of course, it was a close game and all this would have been forgotten if one of Nasri’s shots had gone through or Szczesny had done better. But it should never have been a close game against Birmingham and therein lays the real problem. My mind knows Arsenal could have done much better but the heart is surviving only because it was prepared for the worst.

Individual Performances

Szczesny: Two horrible mistakes but just as I’ve defended Almunia and Fabianski when they’ve made such errors I will not put all the blame on the youngster.

Sagna: Very nervous start as he didn’t do well early on. Crossing was good. Much better in the second half but not enough.

Djourou: Very, very shaky all through the game. Struggled against the aerial ball. Did make some important clearances. Didn’t do enough with the ball in phases when Birmingham were sitting deep.

Koscielny: Couldn’t win the aerial battle with Zigic but that was expected. Better composure and distribution than Djourou. Should have cleared the ball despite the call by the Keeper late on.

Clichy: Struggled down the left as the midfield and Arshavin didn’t support him well enough. Was better in the second half as the team played a more compact game. Needs to make sure he doesn’t end up being deeper than all other defenders.

After some really convincing recent performances the back five was extremely poor in this game. I put it down to the nerves and the fact that the midfield just wasn’t reading the game defensively. Too many runs were not tracked and that put the defenders in awkward positions. Goalkeeper had a night to forget but one he probably will never do.

Song: Awful is the word that comes to mind for his first half performance. Was marginally better in the second half but nowhere near the level we’ve come to expect. Chased the ball like a madman but lacked intelligence in his positioning, movement, and passing.

Wilshere: One of the two players who can come out of this game without a negative. Handled the pressure well, used the ball intelligently, and contributed to attack and defence.

Rosicky: MIA for large periods of the game. Should have dropped deep a lot more and should have helped in moving the ball with simple passes and by being available to receive those passes. Exact opposite of Wilshere as Little Mozart was the least useful player on the pitch.

The midfield just didn’t do enough in the first half as they were often caught in a no man’s land. Song has had two consecutive poor games. I hope he can regain his form soon as he is a key player for the team. Arsene has to get more out of the likes of Rosicky whose poor display put extra burden on Wilshere and consequently on Clichy.

Nasri: Another one who can hold his head high. Worked hard, created chances, troubled the Keeper a lot. Can’t blame his for the performance of the result.

RvP: Good composure on the ball, good movement, excellent finish. Disappointing delivery on set plays and should have offered a bit more in attacking areas.

Arshavin: Excellent assist but pretty off colour otherwise.

I thought the attackers didn’t get enough chances the link between them and the defence wasn’t very good in the first half. The understanding between the three wasn’t that great either. The weakness of the tactical system meant that Arsenal could not utilize the spaces in behind even when Birmingham pushed forward.

Subs: Bendtner created one chance out of nothing but didn’t get on the ball in the box as often as I’d have liked. Chamakh too worked the channels a lot more and wasn’t in the box as often as I’d have liked. Once again it was the weakness of the system that couldn’t get more from either of the big strikers.

Wenger: Starting line-up wasn’t the best but it wasn’t too bad. The manager must have given the right instructions at half time as the team showed a better shape in the second half. I don’t know the reasons behind the substitutions but I’d have picked Eboue ahead of Chamakh as he can run at the defenders. The manager can’t do much when the players make such individual mistakes but his team doesn’t deal with these situations well enough and it’s not down to one player so Le Boss has to take the blame.

It’s back to square one now. How the players react will tell us a lot about this team and the chances for the future. I know how some fans will react but hopefully that won’t be so bad as to affect the atmosphere at the Emirates. There is a still a lot to play for.


73 Responses to Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Optimus prime says:

    Wembley Tottenham Hotspur’s second home.
    London’s second club and their army of dole claiming caravan dwelling supporters should never have been allowed there.
    Did they give the tickets away for free for the pikies?

    • wildflower says:

      Well at least such bitter losers supporting the scum remind me how great Arsenal are. Thanks for the timely reminder after that disaster. WTF was Koscielny doing!!!!

      • samir nasri says:

        for me, getting called off.

        what was bowyer doing smacking him on the head?

        we should have put the game to bed. and we probably would have had that fluke not happened.

  2. Phv says:

    I wanted us to win this soooooo much but I expected the worse. It is just so typical. What else can you do but laugh ? The players just love to disappoint.You certainly would be a fool if you were surprised in the end.I will keep supporting the team , though. I want to repeat again that without Fabregas we struggle big time( even against championship and league one sides).There is no creativity without him.If he goes to Barca … it is just unthinkable for us.Rosicky struggles a lot and it is clear he will leave in the summer. Bring Diaby and Rambo back because they do make a difference.

    • JP says:

      i agree with you. Once I saw Rosicky in the line up I didn’t have to much expectation. We grind to a halt when he is the pivotal player. Nasri should have been given this role. Without Cesc, TV, VP and Walcott we are there for the taking.

  3. David says:

    AW your time is up-which manager taught their team how to defend properly and to utilise set pieces, motivated them properly for a final, made sure they dressed properly for the occasion, made proper use of the transfer window, etc.?

    There was another who allows his players to turn up to Wembley dressed as a bunch of chavs (& in the case of Song a care in the community patient) or metrosexual poseurs in their snoods-doesn’t believe in buying quality defenders and spending time on defensive coaching especially set pieces is necessary. Never remedies the bleeding obvious-cannot discipline or motivate the players any longer-is answerable to no-one but his self-indulgent ego and blames everyone & everything but himself.

    And to think back in the late 80’s George Graham was nicknamed Gadaffi by the players-out with both I say!

    • santori says:

      Who are you who is one so wise in the ways of ‘metrosexuality’?:D

    • torontogooner says:

      Totally disagree with you here. Defense can only be taught so much. Playing against a team whose whole plan of attack is to lump the ball up their 8 foot giant in the middle is not easy. I’m not making excuses, in fact i’m pissed off like every other arsenal fan. But the picture is this, we are a better team this year at this point that we were last year. We were a better team last year than the year prior. I see improvement. We got a final this year, we haven’t done that since (check every arsenal related newspaper article). I don’t think it’s coaching anymore when a team can play the way we did against barca and turn up the following week and play like we did today. The blame goes collectively all around. A And i also thought arsenal fans and maybe even some players thought we deserved to win just because we got here, that attitude won’t cut and it was proven today. I hate to say it but united or chelsea would never have come out to cup final with the attitude we showed as a team today. Totally unacceptable.

      • Zgunner says:

        “i’m pissed off like every other arsenal fan.”

        I’m an Arsenal fan, and I’m not pissed off. The lads did there part and the game wasn’t meant to go their way. Martins knows how lucky he was tonight, for his celebration required more effort than the goal he scored.

        I believe in this team, and I believe in Wenger. This defeat will not make me blame my players, or the way we have followed, which as recent as YESTERDAY ALL FANS AGREED WENGER’S WAY WORKS.

        Let’s go get that League.. Champions League… FA Cup.

        The next game is Sunderland.

        Our team is great… and strong… and the players surely learnt something very meaningful tonight.

        A defeat like this is not a waste on a great team we behold.

        GO ARSENAL!!!!!!!!! HUH!!

      • Zgunner says:

        Leyton Orient is all I’m thinking about now.

        Wembley taught the players something tonight, that they never want to put themselves in that situation again. The only player with his head still rising was Sczezny and for that I salute him. He is a winner… and they all are winners and I feel the players are ready to combust on the pitch. God bless Arsenal. God bless Wenger… God bless the fans.

        The saddest thing for me tonight was to see the look on Wilshire’s face, or Nasri, Van Persie…

        The look on Denilson and Bendtner’s face.

        The determination in our goal-keeper’s eyes after that defeat speaks of a great spirit within the Arsenal team.

        This is the time our players need the most love we -the fans/supporters- can give.

        Move on Up Gunners. Congratulations Birmingham, we’re moving on.

        Go Gunners.

      • torontogooner says:

        at ZGunner, how can you not be pissed off. I’m not mad that we lost because at he end of the day sports is sports and any team can beat any other team on any given day. (i.e. arsenal + barca??). I’m mad at how the team came out, it’s almost like they had no desire. when we clarly have more talent than birmingham, it’s unacceptable to come out to with that kind of lackadaisical attitude, especially in a cup final. But i agree with you, we need to look forward to the next game and not let this define the rest of our season.

      • Zgunner says:

        @torontogooner: me not being pissed does not mean I didn’t feel that sting with the Martins goal, and the devastation of the defeat.

        I disagree that our players had no desire, but what they also had was much pressure to win. They did very well considering how DIFFICULT that match was. This is the nature of cups my friend since long ago. Who woud have thought Uruguay would beat Brazil at home in the world cup final?

        Birmingham had NOTHING to lose and EVERYTHING to gain. They played hard, and rough. They got their moment of luck.. but anyone with any objectivity would never claim Birmingham outplayed Arsenal.

        That and the fact that I TRULY BELIEVE in this team and manager, and that this is a blessing in disguise from God. It wasn’t time yet for Arsenal to shine a trophy… and it’s all for the best I believe when I recall the looks on our players’ faces after the match,

        Go Gunners.

  4. Tim says:

    A very fair summary, Desi. Totally agree that the reaction of the team now will tell us everything about their character and togetherness. There are still 3 trophies to play for, and if this team truly has a winning mentality the sting of defeat today will drive them on to bigger and better things.

    Expect a big reaction on Wednesday, even if it is just the second XI.

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2011/02/27/arsenals-trophy-drought-continues-after-gifting-birmingham-late-carling-cup-winner/

  5. jrr says:

    There was not enough drive and desire in the team.

    If we are one all with a team like Birmingham with 15 minutes to go it is asking fro trouble. For me Rosicky and Song were simply not good enough.

    In my view we should have played Diaby in midfield.

    This is a very big loss. The key question is how will team respond to it?

  6. samir nasri says:

    none of the fans posting understand what it’s like to play in a final. none of you. so why act like it?

    the look on chezzer’s face, wilshire’s face. it says it all. and you lot have the nerve to go on about your lack of success. just terrible supporters, there were things wrong with our game and the manager, of course. but more than 50% of the internet warriors are ready to call it quits. why the fuck do you watch arsenal then?

    szczesny is a great goalkeeper, but he’s made mistakes before this game. everyone when off on a tangent because it was “flappy” or almunia. but chezzer didn’t get any criticism.

    now that he makes one really big mistake, it’s all over. he’ll never be our number 1.

    with the exception of a few, and you know who you are. absolutely miserable support. miserable.

  7. samir nasri says:

    that was my response to the whining public, posted on another blog. i’ll actually talk about some things i don’t think you mentioned in your write-up, and at least i think are worthwhile

  8. critic says:

    desi, we can’t win without learning how to defend. That’s the bottom line.

    • critic says:

      and u rightly pointed out, fault lies in the system/coaching. There’s no imagination in set pieces, we almost always lose possession from a throw in, we put 11 men behind the ball hence no outlet to counter attack. Due one thing or the other we succumb to pressure.

      😥

  9. Dhruv says:

    I am not sure how you are blaming any system employed.
    First goal the keeper was caught in no mans land and all the tree had to was gently guide the ball into an empty net. Second goal, he clearly called for it, you can see Kos pulls out of the clearance and szczesny bottles a simple catch.

    I think it was telling at the end of the game that szczesny was consoling Wilshere. Why the hell was he not more distraught about losing Arsenal the cup especially given how bare the cupboard has been. I am not saying shatter your confidence, but right after you just cost Arsenal the cup, you should not be consoling other team mates. I would think he would have been the one who needed consoling. Kinda gives off the impression that he does not care much. I know people have different ways of handling things but szczesny just gave off the vibe that he did not care much that he lost Arsenal the final.

    It will be most interesting to see how this team reacts. I really think they can make a go of the league. With the recent injury build up I do not really fancy us beating Barca or man yoo at OT. This team can really focus on the league against a team that will be challenging on 3 fronts and has a harder domestic schedule as well. It would be a great start if Chelski could do one over them on Tuesday.

    • samir nasri says:

      you think he could have been talking to wilshere about how he was sorry he cost him one of his dreams?

      maybe he’s not the type to cry. but fuck me, his face was dead.

      just a crazy, crazy thing to say. how you got a thumbs up is beyond me.

      • Dhruv says:

        Do not get yourself all in knots son. Just an observation is all. Neither of us knows what was said, i just said he gave off a vibe. Slow your role son.

        Maybe someone gave me a thumbs up because they thought what I said about us having a good chance at the league was valid.

      • samir nasri says:

        yeah. my mistake my man

        it’s just terrible, so terrible that i forgot this is the only reasonable blog and there’s alot of unreasonable fans

        you kind of jumped to a conclusion and sometimes conclusions are all i feel i’m reading.

        but in fairness, i jumped to one as well. aftermatch reactions, i’m just pissed.

    • Dhruv says:

      It is all good. I was looking at some more videos online and he really does look gutted and Wenger is saying both of them are devastated.

      As supporters of the SAME team we need to argue less and realize that emotions right after a game are going to cause a lot of stupid comments but that is part of the beauty of being a supporter.

      Moving forward, I am really optimistic about the league. I do not think we will advance in the cups, but I am really feeling like this team could pip United who are awful away and have to come to the Emirates as well. That will be a huge 6 pointer and all will be forgiven if szczesny and kos can manage to keep a clean sheet for that game.

      • samir nasri says:

        true. but as in real life there are people i don’t like

        i wish the supporters at the emirates were always like a real football crowd, like the group at the barcelona-emirates game

        but for me, i just can’t identify with the supporters who don’t believe in what we have. i don’t think they ever loved to play football, of course, that’s always just my opinion.

    • Zgunner says:

      Szczny SHOWED character. He held strong for the sake of his teammates. Believe me he was devastated on the inside.. And blaming himself for the goal is useless even if it were concluded that it is his fault.

      His consolation of Jack was really sweet of him.. he is after-all older than Jack, and has better control on his emotions. It is foolish to brand our Keeper as careless. It was also Szcezny’s way of apologizing to Jack for an unfortunate catastrophe.

    • Concerned Gooner says:

      Nope Dhruv, as Koschielny pulled out of the clearance the ball nicked the underside of his boot and went further down than Wojscez expected. It bounced of his thigh/knee into the path of Martins. Pure bad luck, can’t say miscommunication because Wojscez did call out. So don’t you dare critisize Wosjcez. He is one of the reasons why our defence has improved over the past couple of months.

      No point in criticizing this performance, it was a maiden cup final for almost the entire team and they looked like winning it in the second half. This should be a big learning curve for the team. We can only hope that they learn from it and do not go into their shell. You know what with this team I really feel that they will learn from it and take it in their stride. That says a lot about how far this team has come.

    • critic says:

      may be he was saying sorry, u as*hole.

  10. Premier Pires says:

    Very disappointing result. Three factors contibuted to the loss in my opinion.
    1. The decision not to play Nasri in Fabregas’ position. Nasri either plays on the left or through the middle.
    2. Arsenal’s passing game is most effective when it is done at a very high tempo, with and WITHOUT the ball.
    3. Lack of genuine leadership.

    The most worrying aspect is that none of the above are new problems.
    3.

    • samir nasri says:

      nasri played fantastic on the right.

      it seems to me he has better games playing as a natural winger

      but you`re right he should have been in the fab position.

    • samir nasri says:

      but having said that, he`s a great left winger when we want another natural winger like walcott

    • Faisal says:

      i don’t prefer nasri in fab’s role .. as he is a dribbler who take the ball and dribbles with it and cesc is the opposite and let’s the ball do all the moving by a one touch quick pass ..
      that one touch pass is usually not the safe pass as it moves the play from our halt to the opponent half really quickly .. that requires alot of experience in that role and that’s some thing u can’t learn on the spot ..!!
      that’s y i’m with arsene on that 1 .. by playing nasri in cesc’s role u lose two .. cesc’s role and nasri’s role on the wing !!

  11. Marcus says:

    I can’t understand why people were pencilling in an Arsenal win…any team can win on the day, and Birmingham are no slouches. Hardly the second division cannon fodder the media were depicting….lol, but then again, it is a long time since the Media and the Truth announced their divorce on the grounds of irreconciliable differences.

    I thought Birmingham came to win….and Arsenal lacked commitment.

    In the end though who cares, it is only the tin Cup.

    Greater challenges await.

    I thought one or two players were notably poor. Song was a far cry from his normal self. Clichy as mentioned was lagging a lot.

    I am not disappointed though, I expected Bham to win.

    Well done to them, they played very well, the referee didn’t alter the course of the game, (well- not in their favour) and none of our players were intentionally crocked,so I am happy overall

    • Messi's dad says:

      I agree with you on some points:

      – I did not take us to win for granted. Being “favourites” on paper for a cup final, especially against a team like Birmingham, is a tag i’d rather Arsenal does without.

      – i also thought Birmingham were fully up for it, but rather than a lack of conviction, i would say we kindly looked a bit nervous at times (evident in the way we instead kept trying to head / hoof away, playing right into their game as they dominated in the air and seemed to win most of the second balls. we were also often pushed to pass back to the defence, who were then forced to hoof, whereupon possession would immediately be lost. no one seemed to take control at critical times to calmly outsmart and out-pass)

      – it’s only the Carling cup, and greater challenges await.

      I’m more concerned however (as Wenger has noted early this season) on the impact of being knocked out of cup competitions (esp so in the Final) on the trophies that really matter (EPL and Champions League).

      – Well done to Birmingham, but a big boo to the thugs who hit Sczesny on the head, totally unsporting behavior and uncalled for, and also the usual shenanigans from Lee Bowyer. A great showcase of the British value of sportsmanship to the whole world.

      Really hope Arsenal can draw the most impt lesson (being tagged “favourites” does not win you the match) from this and apply it for the Barca second leg. Some of the comments from the Barca camp post-first leg were highly out of order, and condescending to Arsenal (“…we did everything right except the score…” etc.) Barca are favourites to win (some would even say over-whelming favourites), but I hope we can make them pay for not realising that the difference between Barca and Arsenal is far narrower than the gap between us and Birmingham. Arsenal need to play that game with the attitude of Birmingham!

  12. samir nasri says:

    i can’t watch the game again, i just can’t, but there were numerous instances where bowyer was the same player he was in the last match.

    jack was furious. robin was treated extremely rough, and i’m not saying he shouldn’t be treated the same as other players, but i feel robin is actually treated differently because of his history of injuries. consequently hard and rash challenges come at him.

    the fox commentators, again, were absolutely disgraceful and constantly harped on about our faults as if we had many.

    the last thing i’ll talk about, but it took my breath away for the second time in less than a minute.

    the birmingham players were absolutely disrespectful in the way they smacked koscielny in the head. TWICE.

    now i don’t know about you guys, i haven’t seen that mentioned once. anywhere. twice, twice? not pats. smacks to the head.

    for lower level work horses that actually didn’t make one good footballing play save cross-and-hope, yeah, they deserved it.

    i’m thoroughly pissed right now. as for the manager, he didn’t do the best he could have done. but that’s not why we lost. rosicky, didn’t have a very good game, but that’s not why we lost.

    just a terrible lack of concentration from szczesny. i feel for him the most.

    • santori says:

      I would have smacked Kos on the head myself!

      Seriously, I am a bit worried for him.

      You can quite obviously see that Wocjeck has no confidence issues even after the mistake which was more weighted on him.

      But Kos seems to have taken it badly. It’s his rub of the green. He hasn’t been too lucky with little niggly errors and cards here and there.

      But he has been excellent and even in this match and I think Wenger will really need to have a cuppa (or wine) with the lad, get it out of his mind because we will need a massive contribution from him this coming Weds.

      • samir nasri says:

        i’m not worried for him. he’s a great player.

        a great. fucking. player. he actually beat zigic to a few headers.

        he was gutted after the final whistle, honestly. if you ever played in your life, you never got to that point?

        he will be fine as long as arsenal can play respectably from now until the end of the season.

        i won’t say birmingham didn’t deserve it, but we deserved it more.

        48 years is a long time though, why don’t the thick fans get that 5 isn’t the worst, couple that with the fact we still have a chance to forgo the 6.

    • arvind says:

      why did they hit his head? I saw that twice as well. Why didnt Koz get up and at least stand up for himself or for that matter, any other arsenal player? that was an example of just utter heart break to me and humiliation….

      • samir nasri says:

        i’m sure kos felt it was an accident.

        i mean really, who the fuck does that?

      • samir nasri says:

        maybe he didn’t even notice.

        i can’t imagine how that would’ve felt as i’ve never been a central defender, or goalie.

  13. T2T says:

    OK, so we didn’t win today. So what? I really hoped we would win, I always do. I also expected us to win but feared the arrogance and complacency. Everybody expected Birmingham to roll over.

    Yes, we missed 3 starters and got our main striker injured at half time. We are Arsenal and should be able to cope with that. B’ham should probably have had a penalty in the 2nd minute.

    CC is not a big cup for me and now we need to refocus. The players didn’t show up today. I’m a big fan of Rosicky but today… – he could have been left in the dressing room before the game and I wouldn’t have noticed. Nasri is not back to the form he was in before the injury.

    Get over it and do better. Support the team and get them to put in a proper performance in the remaining games.

  14. Aussie Jack says:

    Something told me to stay in bed and I did. As with all Arsenal matches these days you keep your money in your pocket. There was a time when , like Mohammed Ali ,you could nominate the score, you knew the result, not any more. If I were a season ticket holder I would wait to see what Wenger does in the summer before parting with my money. Should names like Denilson, Bendtner, Chamackh and Song still be there, plus two maybe three others, then I`ll watch it on TV.(and cry)

    • Messi says:

      Fully agree…

      The only players I have sympathy for through the whole squad are; Sagna, Cesc, Wilshere, Nasri, Van Persie the rest I really don’t care!

  15. Keith says:

    Excellent analysis and I concur with most of your observations on team play.

    Your comments on individuals reflect what I saw on the field. Strangely nervous play by far to many of our players with not enough leadership on the field coming from more than one player.

    You did not give enough credit to our team leader Van Persie. He played a very solid game and his goal was magnificent. He competed, which is something a number of other players chose not to do preferring impossible pass attempts rather than attacking the opponents.

    Unfortunately on his spectacular goal the defender went heavily thru RVPs kicking leg on the goal and it was obvious that he was hurt in the knee area. Should have been a penalty called on the contact but with the goal it was not called. RVP operated at 50% for the rest of the time he played until being withdrawn. Wenger left him in far longer than he should because he was our emotional leader and frankly our only goal scorer at present. Taking him out sooner would have left the team virtually leaderless so Wenger took a risk.

    I was not supportive of the starting lineup. I felt we needed Bentner to play on the right to give us some size and grit in the box against the Birmingham
    big boys. Teams like Birmingham, Stoke etc who have large, aggressive center backs always give out little forwards trouble. RVP needed help in the box and he did not get it.

    Rosicky starting in the middle instead of Nasri was a mistake. Rosicky does not play well against big physical teams and this game was no exception. He was MIA for large parts of the game as was SONG. Only young Jack stood out on occassion in our woeful midfield. Notice how many times we had the ball on the outside of their box with NOT A RED JERSEY other than RVP to receive a cross. Try virtually all the time… It was disconcerting to see the complete ABSENCE of our players supporting our forwards. Was this a result of Wenger tactics or does it reflect the lack of competitive players willing to pay the price for going to the net.

    How many times did Foster knock a ball down and spill a rebound back into the box area with NO RED Jersey to be seen anywhere in sight to fight for the rebound? Had the situation at the end of the game been reversed and it was Foster and their defender getting their signals crossed we had NO MARTINS in the box ready to pounce on the loose ball. So disappointing in such a big game..

    At the end of the day though it was the same old story, unable to convert clinically excellent opportunities into goals when we had the chances…

    Psychologically this loss is going to be a difficult one for Wenger and the team to overcome. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope that Van Persie is not out for an extended length of time and that our boys and “the boss” can get their act together for the coming challenges.

    Go Gunners…

  16. santori says:

    Gutted to say the least. Thoughts on the game :

    1)We don’t seem to have much luck with the League Cup. That said credit to Birmingham and be happy for them. We are 5 years into a ‘trophy drought’ but they are 47.

    ..end of the day, they seemed that tad more hungry than us.

    I’ve said it before that I think Wenger has gotten a little too sucked into the trophy drought business and put the Carling Cup on too much of a pedestal.

    It has certainly threatened to take the mental edge of the players with the loss.

    2) We are still in 3 competitions and we need to forget about this one now. If there’s anything to take home from today’s dissapointment, it’s that we’ve done a Birmingham against Barca and we can do it again.

    3)We defend badly (call it panic button) when our midfield slack off. I thought the midfield were not solid enough covering the back. That said, this was an error that could have been avoided.

    In fairness to Szcezny, the noise levels were quite deafening and Forster was having his own problems on the other end in the first half.

    4)The line up was decent but why on earth did Wenger sub RVP? Granted he took a knock for the goal but we needed him on the pitch to put another in. I have no problems with Bendtner coming on for either AA or Rosicky but RVP has got to stay on.

    It’s a cup final and we needed the captain to finish the job. Instead, Wenger chose to put on Chamakh and then failed to play to the Moroccan’s obvious strength.

    I’ presume that RVP was taken off as a precautionary measure but really, I would have risked him a little to secure the win.

    4)I’m not sure we can fault tactical formations. This seems to be the best system to maximise our abundance of technical operators.

    That said, I would prefer our main striker close to the Penalty box in as much as possible.

    5) Overall a massive dissapointment but we’ll have to pick ourselves up from it quickly. We don’t want to get knocked out of the CL as well and then draw in the PL and lose the title challenge all in quick succession. If that happens, we might see this team disintegrate and even lose 2nd spot.

    Wenger’s got to take out his little portable (hairdryer) now and refocus the lads. I cannot imagine how much more massive ‘mission impossible’ is come this Wednesday.

  17. santori says:

    I might add that as with all things Arsenal, we never quite do it the easy way so maybe there is hope yet just around the corner.;)

  18. Claver says:

    Diddums!

  19. Dhruv says:

    I agree though, it seems Arsene caved into external pressure and too much was made about winning the trophy. I mean the last final Arsenal were in, they played against much better opposition and yet he fielded mainly kids.

    It would have been great to get the trophy for confidence and end the “drought” and all that but like some said above, we are in for bigger prizes and I really like our chances in the league if we can get over this disappointment and the injuries do not pile up.

  20. winston says:

    within five minutes of the start it was evident that fear seemed to have frozen our players.The hesitancy in passing when we had the ball, lack of fluidity in our movement all seemed to indicate of things to come.If birmingham’s ploy was to use the long ball&Zigic then why allow so much time on the ball to play long ball.Why not close them down quickly and atleast put them off the pass.Did’t see a single arsenal player do this.pity we didn’t learn any thing from the barcalona team,the way theywould work their socks off to regain possesion.arshavin and Rosiscky were woeful.Lets face it.Bittely dissapointing but to be honest Birmingham played with a lot of conviction and seem to want it more.On our side I think only three players gave thier all.Nasri,wilshire and possibly RvP.If we cannot beat Birmingham in a final what chance have in the other compitions?

  21. Kubla Khan says:

    One feels that somehow the result isn’t surprising, considering the frailty that this side has displayed. For all the talk of the young goal keeper and his elevation to no 1 , it still shows the recalcitrant paucity with which Wenger wants to achieve things. The match has shown that Arsenal are still a good CB and good goalie short.
    The team selection was poor, Rosicky should not have started, he just runs and runs and does nothing, he is clearly his own shadow and the defense? Ah! Koscielny!! Less said about the defenders, the better.
    This match has harmed the team, imploded the season and end with Arsenal losing at Camp Nou, and perhaps finishing 3rd in the EPL. If Arsenal get past L Orient, United will pick them off, that every Arsenal supporter knows.
    What a sad end to this Wenger way. The question that we ask is: When will Wenger go? And what we hate to know is: When will Fab leave? I don’t want him to play with morons like 53 and Kos. He deserves better!

  22. MSL says:

    Agree with you about our set pieces. The utter lack of confidence to deal with a high ball shows that the players don’t know what to do. I have been banging on about this aspect somewhat. We must improve communication and improve the drills. I have wanted pat rice out for so many reasons, I think its high time we got a new defensive coach.

  23. Claver says:

    We lost because Denilson didn’t play.

    Wilshere and Rosicky were awful. The worst midfield perfomance by Arsenal in ages.

    Wenger is the one who played Rosicky and Wilshere together in midfield.

    Why?

    How many games have Wilshere and Rosicky played together?

    At least Diaby, Song and Denilson/Ramsey.

    Imagine if it was Ramsey instead of Wilshere. How many chances would we have created? (Forget nationality for a second, you muppet!)

  24. torontogooner says:

    I don’t know if anyone else has noticed but doesn’t it seem that the skill set of koscielny is better suited skilled players ala modric, messsi etc. He seems to only make a lot of mistakes when he goes up against brutes of the EPL like stoke, birmingham and the like while his best games are against skilled players thats why he’s better suited for the champions league. I think denilson is the same way. But on to my point, it would seem to reason that a vermalean + djourou first team partnership is the way to go when the verminator gets back.

  25. cavalry says:

    Whistling Past the Graveyard

    Having watched this game today the thought came to me that Wenger has been whistling past the graveyard for far too long now. Forgetting about the late mistake, calamitous as it was, if you were to wonder why Arsenal have had this trophy drought for the past six years then todays game should have taught you all you need to know. No leader, too many (Rosicky, Arshavin et al) wandering around giving 30%
    Look we were beaten by Birmingham. Birmingham!!!!
    But for all their limitations, they all gave 100% their team has balls, fighting spirit and a backbone. Yet next week again Wenger will be back on banging on about our team with “fantastic determination, focoos (focus!!) and great spirit.”

    Whistling past the graveyard.

  26. Claver says:

    Is there a bigger bottler than Rosicky? He just seems to choke in the big games nowadays.

  27. Gunner90 says:

    Terrible decision by Wenger to play Rosicky right from the start – he is now utterly useless after all the long term injuries he has suffered – remember his performance in the match up at Newcastle. Bendnter should have played on the wing – his physical presence would have caused Birmingham more problems – and Nastri shoud have played in Fab’s position. Birmingham realised our weakness on defending corners and set pieces and that is why they got their first goal so easily. Why has this terrible failing not been dealt with by Wenger and his coaching staff a long time ago?? I looked at the bench and saw players like Denilson and Eboue there and wondered why Arsenal have such inadequate squad members who can bring nothing to the table. Wenger has a stubborn streak both in his coaching methods and keeping second class players in his squad. I am beginning to feel that Arsenal will win nothing again until a change in the manager is made.

    • amband says:

      Wenger is on record as not liking set pieces. We need a tall player like Crouch, and a thrower like Delap

      AW is as stubborn as a mule. Removing RVP too early

      Even is we beat Barca again, which i doubt, does not excuse his thinking

  28. Gutted Gooner says:

    Dear Mr. Wenger,

    I watched the match today with hope and expectation like all Gunners worldwide longing for a trophy to crown all your good works for my beloved Arsenal over the years.

    I have however come to accept that maybe you are not destined to be a successful trophy winning manager after all,seems you are better at spotting and developing talents turning some of them into world class players.

    I consider your lost finals as a bit too much Dear Prof i.e 2000 UEFA Cup Final, 2001 FA Cup Final, 2006 Champions League Final, 2007 Carling Cup Final, 2011 Carling Cup Final. I however thank you for the 1998 FA Cup, 2002 FA Cup, 2003 FA Cup.

    I wish you get to the finals of the 2011 Champions League and FA Cup Finals, and you win both trophies because you deserve it,but you would need 2 show greater technical supremacy b’cos as much as I hate to say it, Red Nose and Jose are considered greater than you Sir cos they would not have lost most of the 5 finals that you have lost.

  29. amband says:

    you just don’t understand, do you. The show pony, always the majority of possession Arsenal will not win a title under Wenger with these European and African milksops

    Anyone else with the vast majority of possession can win. Thet can even get goals. Why do we keep missing goals?

    Nothing happening here

  30. amband says:

    you just don’t understand, do you. The show pony, always the majority of possession Arsenal will not win a title under Wenger with these European and African milksops

    Anyone else with the vast majority of possession can win. They can even get goals. Why do we keep missing goals?

    Nothing happening here

  31. Canadiangunner says:

    POLEAXED!!

    Cut them some slack, they are our future!
    Go Gunners!

  32. Afro Goonie Gooner says:

    If we had to loose one to learn a lesson for the season, surely it was this one. Now these guys know they can’t just turn up to a final expecting to win. They reliase they now have to bleed if they are to be champions. They understand the embarresment and humilation of losing now. Not sure they will let another slip. I think we are still good the league this year & cup.

  33. Ajinkya says:

    There are reasons to believe why our substitutions ended the match. We lost speed and creativity there.
    We may not have avoided our error but could have added another.
    The subs made it look like it was going to be another final going in to the penalties.

  34. arvind says:

    So ive read a lot of the blogs and I just have to say that of this performance, one player had the fire and fury in him to win and gut it out all the time. His name is Jack Wilshere. Seeing him in tears at the end of the game was proof of his desire and commitment… not that all player need to cry after a tough loss, but coupled with his performance on the field, getting into boywers face and the refs, etc. you can tell he wanted this win so badly. I wish out other players had this fire… he is slowly becoming my fave. Also, TR, who ive always liked needs to go. I hate to say it but it was like playing with 10 against 11 with him out there… most of the blogosphere concur that his performance was horrendous. I hope that he finds new pastures next season. Im not sure what happend to diaby but we could have really used him today….

    The other point is…. and im 38, is that when you are defending and you are in trouble… there is the saying… “when in doubt, kick it out” Koz got to the ball first and should have cleared it. Szez should not have called for it, esp with martins being so close by. my 2 cents thats it.

  35. Raghugovind says:

    I had planned to stop Smoking if Arsenal won but………

  36. critic says:

    We are just out of luck. Cl final, CC final in 2007, and this. A deflection another one and ball goes in martin’s path. :’-(

    That said we should have finished off brmingham way before. But as i said we have strong physical presence in box in the form of bendtner and chamakh but we don’t utilize it with enough cross in. No midfielder made the run to get into box. It was as if they were just passing and passing and passing.

  37. Arsenal4 says:

    I’m so sad…. I can’t get angry.

    What the fuck the players thinking? (aside Wilshere, Nasri & RVP)
    it’s the final. The fucking final.
    Where’s the grit? Where’s the composure? Where’s the creativity? Most of all where’s your heart?

    I am so dissapointed… I feel for Wenger… He trusts them, but only to be failed again.

    Cesc is now feel like $100 millions for us, arsenal just can’t play without him. So worrying.

    Well, we got till the end of the season to prove that we’re champions and have the heart of steel. I hope you play your heart out and fight till the end and if I am Wenger I’ll be prepared to keep an eye on deadwood player who just didn’t contribute good enough when matter….. And might as well give chance to the young player or find another experience player.

    Pissed is officially done.

  38. AP says:

    Not to sound opportunistic in the backdrop of a negative result, but i am not sure if its just what i feel internally or if this has any truth on the outside. The feeling i get is that from minutes 35-45 and 75/80-90, arsenal are just praying they don’t concede, rather they expect to concede. The whole ecosystem of interviews, substitutions, fans, teamplay, timing of wenger’s composure/shiftiness etc. seem to suggest that the team goes into each game thinking that the only way to win is to be 2 goals up by 75 mins.

    Is this just a feeling i have, or is there any fire to this smoke?

  39. Amolecule says:

    Excellent work Desi – Similar effort by our team on the pitch and it would have been so different!!
    A sad mistake – And it just has to be Birmingham – Last time we were so close to the title , and then Dean and Taylor Stuck us.. and we fell apart from there!! We couldnt do anything much about what happened that day … but we jus lost it !!
    this team will show its mettle if they stand up and speak up for themselves after the defeat!!
    BTW is it just me or any of u think that rosicky was piss poor in this game..? Maybe we could have started wid denilson and allowed wilshere to venture further forwrd??
    Anyways thats what I think – Desi can you pull out stats for the games with Rosicky and our results ..? Of course aftr injury!!

  40. JP says:

    rosicky shud have been 19 man let alone starting captain.

  41. Claver says:

    Rosicky thinks he’s a star and tries to play like a star but he isn’t. He doesn’t know his own limits. He was trying Hollywood passes deep in the heart of Wembley. Giving away possession.

    Wilshere, young as he is, didn’t have a brain of his own.

    Def. Denilson would have been better, much much better coz he wouldn’t have been passing the ball to the opposition.

    Wenger was playing with intangibles, McCleish (sp) dealt in tangibles and won.

    Players were not looking up. Keeping their eyes peeled. Sagna crossing in to noone. Arshavin running into walls.

    There was nothing happening in the final third because Wenger didn’t have a plan. How did Wenger plan to score in this game, where he knew defence would be tight?

    Why not have Nasri, RvP running into shooting positions on the 18yd?

    Instead we had Nasri pushed off away from dangerous positions. If we always play with Arshavin and Nasri starting off wide we make it easier for teams to keep them out there.

    Wenger pliz wake up. This is tactical GABBAGE.

    My experiences over the last few years tell me this is the best of tactics Wenger could come up with.

    I pray not.

  42. JP says:

    Tactically we are all over the place. Our personel is a problem also and is made worse when we have key injuries. Without Cesc this team lacks, leadership, confidence, ability to turn the key on tight defenses etc etc etc. We have no real wingers other than maybe Walcott. Bendtner playing on the wing, (credit to him he has tried but he is out of position), Arsharvin, Rosicky, Cesc, Chamack, Nasri, Ramsey, Jack, Diaby (need I go on?) all prefer to play in the middle. So the balance is so off at times that it’s like square pegs in round holes. So we end up with Bendnter as a substitute wing option (crazy), Rosicky playing the offensive midfield position without a goal and or assist in decades!!! The key injuries are starting again and this is the time of year we collapse. I am losing belief as I have seen this movie over and over again. So much so I can write the script blind folded. Tired and Frustrated.

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