For those who went away to the moon for the weekend, Arsenal have dropped to fourth on the table after losing 2-1 at home to Hull City on Saturday afternoon. That’s right, Hull City. And yes, at home. Ugh.
Before I give my thoughts on Arsenal, it should be said that Hull deserve some serious credit for their performance. There have been very few teams – particularly newly-promoted ones – who come to Emirates Stadium and put in such a strong effort. Sure, there were times when they had ten men behind the ball but for the most part they tried to play attacking football and if they keep up this sort of effort then they could go far this season.
From an Arsenal perspective there were some worrying signs, not only in the result, but in the performance as a whole. Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor both had off days up front, missing the handful of chances that they were presented with. The Dutchman in particular frustrated me, sometimes I wish he’d just place the ball in the corner and resist the temptation to belt the cover off it.
Emmanuel Eboue and Theo Walcott were both guilty of doing an Alex Hleb in the first half, the former passing when he had a great opportunity to shoot and the latter attempting to control Bacary Sagna’s cross when he should have volleyed home. Although Walcott did well in the second period to force home the opening goal, it did not prove to be enough as first Geovanni smashed home an equaliser and then Daniel Cousin punished some slack William Gallas marking to head home from a corner.
The first Hull goal was unstoppable in every sense of the word. You can’t really defend against that sort of thing and Manuel Almunia can not be faulted for stopping Geovanni’s cannonball. But the second, quite simply, was shambolic.
If you watch replays of the goal you can see Gallas not even looking at Cousin when the corner kick is taken, an unforgiveable piece of defending for someone so experienced. I make no secret of the fact that I’ve defended Gallas so far this season but this was inexcusable. He was clearly too worried about what everyone else was doing and not focused on his own task of sticking with Cousin.
When I was a young pup, my mum had a habit of saying to me: “Get the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in someone else’s”. In other words, sort out your issues before you worry about anyone else’s. Maybe she should have a word to Gallas, because this is not the first time he has been caught out personally while trying to organise his side on an Arsenal corner.
With regards to conceding another set-piece goal, Arsene Wenger had this to say after the match:
“It is a weakness in our team but that’s as well linked with the level of concentration. You can work for hours on the training ground but if you don’t attack the ball on the day of the game it will cost you. I believe that’s more down to how much you want the ball.”
What is interesting about this comment by the manager is that he is effectively distancing himself from blame and putting it on his players. He’s saying that he’s put in the effort behind the scenes, but at the end of the day it is down to the players to do the right things when it comes to crunch.
Although it seems to be a decent point, I do have one problem with what Wenger is saying. If he is going to make the statement that it is down to the players showing the right mentality then he has a bigger role to play in this then perhaps he realises. He has got to make sure that the players that will show the right mentality are on the park at the time. In other words, if he’s blaming Gallas for not attacking the ball then he has got to take responsibility for having the Frenchman out there in the first place.
I don’t want to criticise Gallas too much because I still feel that he deserves to be in the starting team. But I do think that Wenger needs to have a word to the captain about the way he organises and remind him that it is more important he get his own house in order before he starts to worry about the players around him.
Once Hull did take the lead I thought the response from our side was rather good. First van Persie fired wide with Arsenal’s best chance of the second half, then Gallas hit the bar before substitute Carlos Vela kneed agonisingly wide. Then Cesc Fabregas hit a superb long-range effort which was tipped over before Kolo Toure sliced wide from the resulting corner. You can see all the highlights on video here.
On another day the boys would have taken one of those chances and likely gone on to win the game. But it wasn’t another day and Arsenal left with no points after losing just their second match ever at Emirates Stadium, dropping three places down the Premiership table in the process.
It has to be said that big four sides losing games in the Premier League is still something of a novelty. The media play it up like it is the biggest disaster in the world when, in reality, it is not. A draw is worth just one more point than a defeat so at the end of the day this loss to Hull is not worth that much less than Liverpool’s draw with Stoke City last weekend, for example.
The worry is that Arsenal have now dropped six points in their opening six games of the season, having yet to play any of the more difficult sides in the league. However, this loss to Hull will prove to be only a minor blip if the boys turn up and get results against the Manchester Uniteds, Chelseas and Aston Villas of the Premiership. It’s a big if, and the pressure is undoubtedly starting to mount.
But if you can put aside the novelty of losing to Hull and realise that two losses is equivalent to three draws then we are not in the worst position in the world. Manchester United lost five games on their way to the title last season while Chelsea and Arsenal only lost three. United won because they made sure they focused on turning draws into wins, not defeats into draws, and if Arsenal can continue winning matches then they will stay in the hunt for the Premiership this season.
Next up is Porto in the Champions League and I’m confident the boys will bounce back.
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