I am forced to make my blogosphere debut after the Fulham loss. After being embarrassed by the new official thorn on our side, Bolton, I was expecting an all-out offensive juggernaut type performance with the scoreline reflecting our recent dominance over Fulham. Nothing like that happened. Instead what we saw Wenger rest some regulars (Fabregas most notably) in sight of the Spurs clash over the weekend and the Champions League Henry-less showdown against FC Porto in Portugal. Despite this, you still expect a wounded Arsenal team to show more spirit than what they did. Even Henry was playing hopeful rather than assertive and if it weren’t for a Robin van Persie freak kick, the scoreline would have been even more unflattering.
Henry was deemed to be offside in the second half after he had seemingly equalized on a curling effort only to be held back by the line judge. Reminded me of the CSKA Moscow phantom handball. Even so, it should never come to that for any Arsenal squad. Give Fulham credit, they continued the physical play that Bolton had started with success. Fabregas and Rosicky looked frustrated when sliding tackles came their way and lost possession too easily in midfield. Even Gilberto was passing backwards rather than forward half the time.
The bright spot of this game for me was Theo Walcott who continues to create chaos on the wings for defenders although the finishing cross rarely did justice to the build-up. If nothing, he’s shown enough to warrant Adebayor’s minutes. His shot grazed the post which was the closest the Gunners came to scoring since the Henry offside. Henry’s game can be characterized by a single play. Late in the second half, he faked a run which he should have made only to see RVP’s pass end up as a goal kick. The defenders were napping and had he run, perhaps it would have amounted to something. Maybe begin jipped of the World Player of the Year award takes its toll. But this was not a game his supporters can point to in his defense.
Not too sure Wenger can say after a loss like this except something like, “We’ve hit rock bottom and need to sweep the rest of the season if we have any chance of winning this thing although I highly doubt even if that will do it. But at least our goal should be to make the Champions League for next year to save face. No better way to start our ‘second season’ by whipping Tottenham”.
I really have to question whether we actually have the arsenal (pardon the pun) needed to contest for the league title. Senderos looks shaky since his come back and Clichy can’t be expected to fill Ashley Cole’s shoes. William Gallas is more hurt than injured and Ljunberg is starting to show his age. When Henry isn’t hurt, he seems to be suspended or coming off the bench. Adebayor couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if his life depended on it and the midfield can’t seem to string three passes together against a physical opponent. I’m not a pessimist but these are problems that need addressing and have no clear solution in sight.
So after three horrible performances (Newcastle, Bolton and Fulham), it’s perhaps time to face the truth: The Gunners EPL chances are as close to dead without being dead. I’ll be happy with a CL spot and a few wins over the leaders. Let’s focus on the Champions League.