For a guy who’s making a big deal about playing time Julio Baptista sure isn’t making most of it when he finally does get it. Same goes for Jeremie Aliadiere who managed to screw up almost every potentially fruitful possession with his diseased first touch. But it wasn’t just that that cost the Gunners the 1-0 defeat at Bramall Lane, it was also the sheer unwillingness to offer a shot towards goal even when Phil Jagielka came on as goalie after Paddy Kenny limped off.
Let’s get back to Baptista. A brick wall has a better first touch than Baptista and it showed at least three times in this game as he let it get away too far before attempting a pathetic reach to regain control. Obviously, it never worked. On the one chance which begged for a direct hit he decided to try to control it first and by the time that happened, it was far too late and the defense had recovered. After Jagielka took over goal, “The Beast” had two clear chances to test Jagielka but decided to dance around the defense and eventually pass it to a Sheffield United defender.
Aliadiere has no confidence in his ability and perhaps it’s rightfully justified. His left-footed shot which was saved by Paddy Kenny was the highlight of his night. Even on that he let himself get too far to the left before finally firing. It seemed anytime Arsenal had a chance to build something, the critical mistake in the play came from Aliadiere. Be it a weak finish or not completing a run or not passing correctly, Aliadiere did it all.
Arsenal’s always criticized for trying to score a perfect goal and those critics got more ammunition when Robin van Persie had a clear shot from 15 yards out but unwisely decided to pass it off for a 13 yard chance. Gilberto Silva had Arsenal’s best chance early on but disappointed with a weak header which bounced over the goal. Rosicky and Flamini’s first touch abandoned them and on almost ever pass, the ball got a foot too far. Even the addition of Fabregas didn’t help since the ball was rarely on the ground and exchanging headers on a slippery field isn’t Arsenal’s strong suit. Arsenal’s midfield was overpowered again and the theory that any physical team can keep up with Arsenal gained more subscribers.
As for the goal, the usually solid Kolo Toure let Christian Nade get around him on a long pass and Jens Lehmann contributed to the demise by coming outside the area which made Nade’s job much easier.
I honestly don’t see any reason why the Gunners should hang on to Baptista or Aliadiere beyond this season. Neither is a legitimate goal scoring threat and never will be. What they are good at is ruining chances by doing the fundamentally incorrect things at key moments in the game. If there was a game that Thierry Henry’s composure and skills were missed, it was today. There’s no point in mentioning how many points the Gunners are from the top of the table because any such talk is foolish.
Just for kicks, here’s the Christian Nade goal: