Balance

Before writing about what can improve our team for Sunday, let me briefly mention the three conceded goals against United.

On the first goal, you could identify the five players on the pitch who let Wenger down. Rosicky raises his arms up as if to say “I didn’t commit a foul” and allows Evra to dribble into a dangerous area of the pitch. Then, Clichy makes a poorly clearance. The ball comes wide to Nani. Clichy is on him, Nasri appears to support Clichy, but positions himself in a dead zone and Nani bisects the double team with a piece of skill. Nani runs into the box and skins Denilson with one drop of the shoulder. Almunia with his poor positioning backtracks slightly and then tips the ball into his own net. All five Arsenal players mentioned are to blame for this goal. All five Arsenal players mentioned owe Wenger more. All five Arsenal players mentioned ruined our Sunday, Monday, and now Tuesday as well.

The second goal came from an Arsenal corner. When Nani was streaking down the right, I thought to myself, “there are plenty of players in position to defend.” That was correct until Denilson failed to notice Wayne Rooney, the most in form striker, running in a direct straight line towards the goal. Some have highlighted this as a fantastic goal. It was a gift. Denilson watched the ball and considering he was never going to get to the ball, he needed to scope out where the danger was. Denilson has regressed this year.

Clichy is taking a fair bit of stick for the third goal. Alan Hansen called it the “worst defending he’d seen in 30 years.” Most people wanted Clichy to attempt to tackle Park Ji-Sung and stop the attack. Had he done that, Park would have crossed low and one of two United players would have had a tap in. Instead, Clichy played to take away that option. He counted on Manuel Almunia to bail him out, or at the very least make Park convert a difficult chance on goal. Almunia came out but failed to make himself big enough. As a goalkeeper, you never want to be beaten on the near post. If a player scores on the far post, fine, you take your hat off to him. Park is a right footed player, so he would have had to square his body and curl it into the far side. What happened instead? Park used his right foot to score on Almunia’s near post. Clichy is the easy target on this goal, but it was Almunia to blame. I have zero confidence in Almunia. The team has zero confidence in Almunia.

So, that’s that. United played well and efficiently, but I’m going to say that all three goals were easily avoidable had the players who had “mental” lapses showed an ounce of intelligence on the pitch.

But enough of that.

On Sunday, we’ll have a key player back (at least I hope he’ll be fit). Abou Diaby returns. He is a pivotal player in our team. In our current 4-3-3 formation, Abou Diaby is the player that completes the midfield axis with Cesc and Song. His physicality, his skill on the ball, and his directness are all positives. He’s also a more forceful player than Denilson. Denilson was hyped as a combination of Rosicky and Gilberto. When he first played for Arsenal, he was a Cesc-lite. He played well in that role, but when Wenger told him to start playing as a defensive shield, he lost most of his passing range. So, as it stands, Denilson is redundant.

The same way that Nasri and Rosicky are redundant when they’re forced to play as wingers. Bendtner provides a different option, one that forces opponents to pay attention to him. Looking at football strictly on X’s and O’s, you want players who want to take away defenders or opposing players from the game. If you have a great player and he needs to be double teamed, that’s valuable because you gain a number’s advantage. Same thing if you have a wide player with pace, because that action drags a defender away from a comfort zone and stretches the shape of an opposition team. With Rosicky on the wing, our play is often too narrow and there is no impact. Teams have to play Bendtner differently because he’s a target man. But The Great Dane likes to pride himself on the fact that he plays better with the ball on the ground. If he can show that that’s in fact true, we have the ideal player to complement Arshavin in attack.

I had a feeling that Chelsea would draw against Hull, and that happened. That means that if we win at Stamford Bridge, we’d be 3 points behind Chelsea and 4 (or 2 or 1) behind United.

Nothing is over. Unless certain players don’t wake the fuck up, we still have a chance to win the Premier League. Diaby and Bendtner can be major influences. Imagine what Gooners would have said about that only twelve months ago.

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