Scroll down to the bottom of this blog entry for a complete Star Sports highlight package including all goals, Arsenal’s million missed chances and Arsene Wenger’s PG interview.
You need to shoot in order to score. Somebody tell that to our strikers, playing pretty and passing shots up from 8 yards out will only end up with you looking like a fool. There are many reasons we lost but that is the one that sticks out the most, when you put together series of meaningful passes that beg for a shot in the end and it never comes, it makes it look like Arsenal are either a) scared to shoot b) scared to miss. Either the case, the result is that we don’t end up scoring.
Let’s get to Arsene Wenger leaving Henry on the bench for later. The first half consisted entirely of Arsenal going forward thanks to Freddie Ljunberg and two of our backs, Toure and Clichy. The best of our chances were generated when we attacked from the wings rather than relying on Fabregas to break down the defense down the middle. The finishing in the first half was poor, Adebayor had a golden chance early on but he tried to control the ball from 3 yards out instead of one-timing it, the keeper recovered after Adebayor’s first touch let him down.
Adebayor had another chance when he had a free header but shot it wide, and later it was Adebayor who beat Alex down the left and crossed in for Fabregas’s shot to be blocked, Baptista had a chance but shot it over the bar. Here’s what tells me that a striker has no confidence: Fabregas is making a run and leaves it for Baptista, all you have to do is shoot and you’ll at least hit the target but what does Baptista do? He tries to pass it back and Fabregas along with everybody watching in attendance and television isn’t expecting that pass. A chance gone to waste. I just highlighted one but there were many.
So after Arsenal get very lucky and Alex who was having a great game in controlling Adeabyor, shot one in his own net. After that Arsenal blitzed PSV to no end and at this point everyone expected Arsenal to score again. We should’ve gone up 2-0 when Adeabyor was in a one-on-one breakaway with just the goalie to beat but he shot it straight at the goalie when anywhere else would’ve done. Choosing power over a little finesse cost us a 2-0 lead. Moments later, Fabregas has a free shot from just inside the area and he shoots it hight, Fabregas really is the last guy I expect to score, especially from that distance. As great as he is a passer, he needs to improve and take chances like these. Arsenal were very lucky to even things up and got even luckier when Denilson stopped Farfan in his tracks, easily could’ve been a penalty. Arsenal toned down their frenetic pace after Henry came in and the Frenchman threatened immediately with a low serving shot which the goalie had some trouble with. An Henry free kick was also saved by a diving goalie.
But Alex was about to redeem himself, after Hleb unnecessarily committed a foul right near the left corner, the freekick in was headed home by Alex. It appeared that Jens Lehmann wanted to catch the ball but was blocked off by a couple players, including one of his own. The header was a free one and glanced in. Arsenal, who were poor all season defending set pieces, came undone by something entirely expected because of lack of concentration. I was shocked and all those missed chances were now going to come back to haunt us. Now needing two goals in the final few minutes, the Gunners were done. Lack of finishing and lack of concentration on key set plays, something that’s been missing all year long, fittingly comes back to hurt us. Gunner fans will argue that we deserve to win this game based on possession and shots, but no, that’s not the case. We deserved to lose because we didn’t take care of our chances.
Why Arsene Wenger chose to rest Thierry Henry for the first half is puzzling. Either he’s fit to play or he’s not. Which one is it? The strategy of “let’s see if we really need him and only put him in if we do” doesn’t make any sense. Maybe if Henry played the first half, maybe he could’ve finished just one of those chances that went begging. It’s hard to even accept this but Wenger did not put field the strongest possible side in the first half and that my very well have cost us the game. We can point to individual plays like Adebayor’s missed chances and Fabregas’ strike over the bar but from a managerial perspective, it’s inexcusable for Wenger to not put pressure on PSV from the outset by bringing in Henry.
Freddie Ljunberg was impressive today, he was coming forward down the left side and was at the short end of the stick when it came to the officiating, he was getting called for fouls for no reason at all. Even though Arsenal let them off the hook, give PSV credit, they had a plan and stuck to it. PSV inserted pace into the lineup in the form of Jefferson Farfan and despite losing Kone to injury, made Arsenal work at the defensive end. When they needed a goal, they stepped up strong and took their only chance. Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy deserve credit for their forward runs in the first half and Clichy has shown that the he’s the best we’ve got at his position. Kolo fired the only real shot of the first half when he came forward from the right, almost beat the keeper. It’s sad when you end up relying on your backs to create your chances for you.
Every time Arsenal won a corner, I wish they hadn’t. Although the own-goal by Alex came from a corner, the Gunners have had almost no success creating anything from corners, it’s almost better to just play the ball in on the side and take it from there. Fabregas is the last person who should be taking them as he’s always too low on them and today was no different.
Here’s some facts that come to mind:
- We simply don’t shoot and all the criticism we get for playing “beautiful football” over “practical football” is often justified.
- Julio Baptista should not be brought back, he doesn’t know how to use his power and lacks finesse.
- Arsene Wenger made a mistake in not playing Henry in the first half, if the man is healthy, there’s no reason whey he can’t play the first half but play the second. Just don’t play him at all if he’s not ready. Kill off the anticipation.
- Emmanuel Adebayor is good but he should’ve put the Gunners up 2-0, his finish on the breakaway was extremely poor.
- The defensive substation of Diaby for Ljunberg didn’t work out.
- Injuries kept us from advancing the CL but even with the injuries, we had the squad to go past PSV, we just didn’t convert our chances.
What a disastrous season? No trophies from anywhere and all we have to look forward to is a fourth place finish in the league.
With Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea advancing, Arsenal become the only English side to depart at the first knockout stage. Arsenal join Lyon, Real Madrid and Inter Milan as the big clubs exiting early. It’s lights out in The Champions League.