Sunday, 30 October 2011

Case For The Defence.

Well, I may be an eternal Arsenal optimist but even I would not have predicted that.   My prediction was 2-1 to the boys from North London, but obviously I forgot about both teams complete inability to defend.

Although it must have been a great game for those who are not fans of either side, for those involved it was an emotional rollercoaster.  I for one had to take a siesta after 94 minutes of screaming, shouting and jumping around the living room like a mad woman.  We've got new neighbour moving in downstairs and they must have thought someone was trying to murder me!

But back to the game. As brilliant as the attcking was, the defending was abysmal.  Neither team will win anything if they carry on playing like that and we all know how happy that will make Mr Abromovich.

Regarding Chelsea, it's good to see them with the shackles off and Andre Villas Boas has clearly given his forward players free rein.  Juan Mata looks like he has a good eye for a pass and a goal and we all enjoy watching Daniel Sturridge, as he starts to fulfill his potential.  But all this will be irrelevant if they carry on defending as if they don't know each other.  Ashley Cole had clearly decided to target the Arsenal full-backs as he bombed down the wing, which is fair enough but when he later played Robin Van Persie onside, he didn't even bother to track back.  He just stood there and watched the player bore down on Petr Cesh's goal.  Surprising, given that he is normally far more alert than that.

There is no denying there was a time when John Terry was rated as the best defender in England, although some felt this was by default, due to Ledley King and his knee problems.  He was never the quickest of men and as he ages, what little speed he had is disappearing.  Even if he hadn't slipped on the pitch, it's highly doubtful he would've kept up with Van Persie as he scored his 2nd and Arsenal's fourth.  In a team where most of the star players are the wrong side of 25, they seriously struggled against the pace of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.

When Makelele was there, it gave Chelsea that extra line of defence, something they crave now.  Frank Lampard is an attacking midfielder and we have seen from England's experiments that he struggles to commit to that type of restrictive position.  And it's clear that Mata is not the sort of player to sit there and clean up the mess, plus it would be a complete waste of his talents.  

Raul Meireles is probably the most natural candidate for the defensive midfield position bu he hasn't played as much as executed since his deadline day transfer from Liverpool.  I'm not sure he's the best man for the job but it's clear the team is struggling with the organisation and execution of defending.  Cech is a great goalkeeper but the law of averages means he won't save more than half the attempts when he is stranded one-on-one with a world class striker.  A weak defence just makes his job ten times harder.  Just ask Wojiech.

But it's not all Terry's fault, Bosingwa left his team to hang out to dry on more than a couple of occasions.  Drifting infield and leaving his man in miles of open space behind him.  I heard a suggestion that the hyperactive David Luiz could play the Makelele role but I personally don't think he has the level of concentration required.  In fact, I have no idea what his best position would be.  Although it is clear after recent games, that he's not exactly anyone's idea of an outstanding right-back.

But don't get me wrong, Arsenal are no better.  The only positive was that they haven't got any worse since 'the game that shall not be named'.  That and the fact they conceded two less goals than the hosts

The youngster, Carl Jenkinson, started on the bench which was nice for him considering he's been fed to the Premier League sharks too many times already in his debut season.  But at least he has the excuse of youth and inexperience, I have no idea what Johan Djourou's excuse is.  Before you all start, I know he's not a right-back and I know he hasn't played there often.  I don't expect him to come in and be the best right-back in the world, but what I do expect is some common sense and a sign of some basic defensive abilities.  Cole turned him so many times in the first 30 minutes, he must have thought he was playing Twister!  If you know you are going to be playing in an unfamiliar position then surely you spend extra time practising in the week and more importantly, you keep things simple.

Andre Santos doesn't escape either, regardless of the fact he scored. As I remarked earlier; it was less a game of two halves, more a case of two Santos'.  His first-half performance was the worst I've seen since the days of Pascal Cygan and his big fat shiny head.  Bad positioning, bad tackling and lack of awareness just for starters.  I'm not saying he's a bad defender, but if he hadn't scored he may well have found himself left in West London with the recycling labeled unwanted wood.

But the biggest weakest link in the Arsenal defence has to be Per Mertersacker.  The shortest tall man I've ever seen.  He can't head the ball, he can't tackle and he runs slower than my Mum; and she's got a back full of metal!  His whole involvement in Chelsea's second goal epitomised why he is not exactly being taken to the hearts of the Arsenal faithful.  Yes, the fans were screaming for a defender who looked like a defender all summer.  But I think they would have preferred one who actually played like a defender!  The fact that the teenage Wojiech Szczesney had to come out and move the experienced German into position prior to a Chelsea free-kick, pretty much says it all.

Let's be honest, neither Sir Alex nor Roberto Mancini will be quaking in their boots after watching these two play a game of who can make the lowest number of mistakes.  Mr Wenger and Villas Boas are both blessed with great attacking talent, but they will both be aware that their strikers won't always be able to save the day. 

Trophy winning teams are built from the back to the front.  The success of each teams seasons will depend on which manager manages to fix his problems first.

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