The latest musings of Spanish Fry
15 shots on target. Two shots into the woodwork. 30 shots in all. Zero goals. That was the sorry result for Arsenal on a night when they slipped to their third successive English Premier League defeat and first at the Emirates Stadium.
The Times Online include the following game summary:
0-30min: Cesc Fàbregas ghosts through but shoots weakly at Robert Green, the West Ham goalkeeper; Green saves from Emmanuel Adebayor; Adebayor shoots over from Fredrik Ljungberg’s pass; Green saves from Ljungberg; Tomas Rosicky shoots wide from a cross by Alexander Hleb; Rosicky curls another effort off target.
31-60min: Green makes a smart save from Rosicky; Fàbregas’s lob is caught by Green; Fàbregas shoots over; Gaël Clichy shoots over; Ljungberg drives at Green; Lucas Neill clears an Adebayor header; Green saves superbly from Gilberto Silva; Green palms away an Adebayor header from a Rosicky free kick; Fàbregas strikes the bar with a 20-yard shot.
61-92min: Gilberto dives to nod wide; Jérémie Aliadiãre shoots into the side-netting; Aliadiare blasts wide; Kolo Touré shoots over; Gilberto heads wide; Green saves from Fàbregas’s header; Gilberto toe-pokes against a post; Green saves from Aliadiare.
The manner of Arsenal’s defeat was nothing new, but this was a performance and result that has taken their tendency to dominate matches without receiving reward to new levels. Only their effort at home against CSKA Moscow was comparable to this game and even then Arsene Wenger’s side left with a point after a 0-0 draw.
Much has been said about Arsenal’s tendency to attempt to pass the ball into the net but even this description could not be applied to the game against West Ham given the amount of times Arsenal managed to hit the target. As mentioned earlier, 15 shots forced West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green into saves and another two – by Fabregas and Gilberto – rattled the crossbar and post respectively.
The truth is that it is difficult to know who is responsible for this defeat. Wenger? Arsenal’s attackers? Robert Green? Arsenal’s defenders? When focusing on Arsenal’s inability to score that surely comes down to the former three. But the responsibility of conceding the decisive goal lies squarely with the latter.
I spoke earlier this week about the need for Arsenal’s defence to hold firm in the closing stages of the Premier League season but the truth is, the side out on the park became impatient. When you are a defender in a team that is attacking at will but failing to put the ball in the net there is a need to remain patient. The likes of Gallas and Eboue failed to do this.
The move which lead to West Ham’s goal started with Gallas and Eboue both pushing into the opposing penalty area before Arsenal were caught out on the break. This is the sort of attacking that was a trademark of Wenger’s side from a couple of years back – when they were injury free, full of confidence and went unbeaten for 49 Premiership games in a row. But even he should know that at this stage of the season, with the current side, playing with the same approach as the ‘Invincibles’ is just ignorant and foolish.
The reality is that, with Arsenal still two points ahead of Bolton with a game in hand, drawing with sides is not the end of the world. Arsenal must remain patient and accept that they are not going to win their last seven games. As I have said before, defence, not attack, is the key for Arsenal to ensure a safe passage into Champions League qualification.
Read previous columns from Spanish Fry here.