Saturday, 4 April 2009

Arsenal 2 - 0 City

  • There is no shame in losing at teams like Chelsea and Arsenal. To have conceded only three goals in the course of those two defeats is actually quite impressive. But to go down with so little fight or bite is disappointing. As at Stamford Bridge, we were listless, slow, and casual. On both occasions, we looked relieved that we had been let off with a narrow defeat and were content to sit on the deficit. I'm not expecting us to win these games, but it would be nice if we could show a bit more heart - like we did at Anfield.
  • Maybe that would have been different with Stephen Ireland on the pitch. That role he assumes, of driving the team on through the middle of the park, was not replicated by anyone today. We started off with Pablo Zabaleta, Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany in central midfield; within seventeen minutes it was Kompany, de Jong and Gelson Fernandes, nineteen minutes after that it was de Jong, Gelson and Elano. Hughes' game plan of a three man shield was shattered.
  • It was rumoured before the game, though, that Ireland would play out wide. Whether he would have played ahead of Robinho, we'll never know. While the natural presumption would be that Robinho would offer more quality but less effort than Ireland, the opposite was true today. Robinho worked much harder than usual - the problem was the poverty of his play in the final third. Whether that was because he was tired from his international exertions, I don't know. But for today, we could have done with Robinho being more unapologetically, well, more like Robinho. His trying to emulate Dirk Kuyt or Park ji-Sung is the worst of both worlds.
  • While Arsenal were much the better team, it was a shame that both goals we conceded were avoidable. The first was a shameful failure of marking from a set piece - no one picked up Adebayor and his finish was simple. For the second, Dunne allowed Adebayor to slip behind him, and although Fàbregas' pass was sublime, Adebayor should not have been as open as he was. While we reacted well to the first goal, the second killed us off. What was so upsetting about the second half was how casual and consensual it was. Two teams, content with the scoreline, focussed on a bigger European tie in midweek.
  • If we play anything like this in Hamburg we'll get smashed. Unlike Arsenal today, Hamburg will have an interest in running up a big score if they can. We'll have no Nigel de Jong, with doubts over Ireland, Bridge and Kompany. How about a return to Wright-Phillips in centre midfield?

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