Sunday, March 01, 2009
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde infiltrate Arsenal’s mind
By 1970’s Gooner
I half expected this sorry performance against Fulham, for the same pattern was repeated after the win in the Cup against Cardiff.
In that game we saw an Arsenal from the old where the opponent was put under pressure right from the off; where the attacking attitude of the team was reflected in everything they did. Most of all the tempo that was set was quite a fast and full of pace.
Then we saw that abject performance against Sunderland.
We returned again, as we have done repeatedly in the League games, to the slow paced, lethargic attitude that made me almost fall asleep. Gone were the intense pressing, the desire to hurt the opponent and get that win come what may.
Roma follows and the Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde transformation returned again.
The players were full of running, setting a high tempo and going straight for the throat again and again and again. We scored one goal but it could have been three or four.
So that’s why I half expected another boring performance against Fulham.
There is no question about it. The players raise their game only for the Cup competitions. They might not do it consciously but, as the psychologists say, it is the subconscious that is very hard to control.
It reminds me of the later Graham years where the team were not good enough to challenge for the league and concentrated mostly on the Cup competitions. Again on those occasions an amazing transformation took place.
In 1993 it resulted in Arsenal wining both the domestic Cups at the expense of Trevor Francis’s Sheffield Wednesday.
In the FA Cup final Ian Wright notched Arsenal ahead in the first half and Chris Waddle levelled for Wednesday with the aid of a deflection in the second.
Andy Linighan Arsenal’s big centre back became the hero of the hour, rising to meet Paul Merson's corner and powering a header past a helpless Woods in the Wednesday Net.
The Cup was on its way back to Highbury for the first time in 14 Years.
If we continue like this the FA Cup could be back to the Emirates (not Highbury).
We last won it in 2005 after that terrible performance against Manchester United where Arsenal played the most negative football I have ever seen from a Wenger team. It was an Arsenal win I despised.
One of the explanations for this on off performances these days is the significant absence of match winners in the Arsenal squad. It these players that can win you those games when you are not playing well. That can turn nil nil draws into one nils. All successful teams have them.
No other team not even Manchester United could cope if at least four of their first team players were out for most of their season.
Compare Fabregas, Rosicky, Eduardo and Walcott to Liverpool’s Torres, Gerrard, Kuyt and Alonso and it is obvious that Liverpool would struggle (they have struggled with Gerrard and Torres out).
Compare Arsenal’s absentees with Chelsea’s Lampard, Joe Cole, Drogba and Anelka and it is obvious they would struggle too (they have struggled with Cole and Drogba out).
Hell even Manchester United may struggle if Rooney, Berbatov, Ronaldo and Ferdinand went absent.
United may have some viable alternatives which is a testament to their strong overall squad but they still would have struggled if all of these players went missing at the same time.
And Arsenal’s squad is very thin indeed as we all know.
All it needed during these last four barren games was a fit Eduardo and Fabregas and the ball would have been nestling in the net turning these boring draws into straight wins.
We would then be probably challenging for the top places rather than slugging it out against mediocre teams like Aston Villa and Everton.
And I would also not be writing this post.