The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Tottenham 0-0 Arsenal

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while somehow expecting a different result. It is now safe to mark playing Emmanuel Eboue as certifiably insane.

Let’s get to the positives first – this was a committed defensive performance, and playing over 50 minutes with 10 men against an adept offensive unit is no mean feat. Alex Song was arguably our man of the match…not for his passing or shanking the chance from the corner, but with his stellar play as a midfield stopper. Time and time again, Song strongly intervened to break up a Sperz attack. His contributions may have been more effective on the counter if he weren’t paired with the horrid Denilson in the middle of the park.

The downside is that Arsenal created nothing against a relegation-threatened side with a leaky defense and a largely toothless midfield. I say “largely” because as good as Song was, Wilson Palacios was even better. Palacios’ harrying tactics and strong tackling kept us pinned in our half for long stretches. Overall, he was the Man of the Match. That said, with 11 men and  Cesc in the center partnering Song, that would have been largely counteracted.

Many Gooners will wish awful things on referee Mike Dean today, and they’d be half-right. Before the red card, Eboue was our best player…and he had a perfectly good goal disallowed. Carlo Cudicini made a decent initial save, but was all at sea on the rebound. Verdan Corluka tripped over Emmanuel Adebayor, while Eboue got to the center and slotted home the rebound. Dean idiotically called a foul on Ade, which likely cost us two points. Also, Dean’s awful positioning did a better job of breaking up several Arsenal attacks than the Tottenham players did.

However, you can’t fault Dean for showing Eboue the red card. There’s only so much verbal abuse a ref should take, and Dean saying “three times!” after the first yellow (for a foul that Eboue himself didn’t even commit) makes it the stupidest and most selfish yellow of the season. Sadly, that was to be followed by the stupidest and most selfish red of the season (even moreso than Robin Van Persie’s against Stoke). Luka Modric pushed over Eboue, and was rightly booked for it. Eboue decided to do a Cobra Kai “sweep the leg” act in retaliation. That could have been a straight red, so a second yellow shouldn’t have been too surprising.

Arsenal were creatively bankrupt before that, and they wouldn’t do much better with ten men. Luckily, Sperz only intermittently utilized the extra space. Even when they did, the Arsenal defense was up to the task – especially with Gael Clichy’s saving tackle from behind on Modric (that moment of quality aside, Clichy was remarkably poor once again).

In the interim, Ade suffered an apparent torn hamstring while chasing a ball, and was replaced by Nicky Bendtner. In fairness, Nicky did well tracking back and either winning the ball or receiving a pass and laying off to a teammate. However, he failed to then get into the box for the return, resulting in hopeless long balls that Van Persie valiantly tried and failed to win.

For the other mob, Roman Pavlyuchenko was spectacularly hopeless, having shanked several chances in his 60-odd minutes on the pitch. He was replaced by Darren Bent, who proceeded to contribute even less. Robbie Keane was a further non-factor, though mainly due to the lack of service from the Sperz midfield. Modric was their most dangerous attacker, but the wonderful play of Manuel Almunia kept him out on no less than three occasions.

Speaking of which, Almunia showed a serious V-sign to his detractors today. Not only did he rescue a point when he got down low to block Modric’s breakaway effort at the death, but he was alert off his line and decisive on corners and crosses. If Song wasn’t our MotM, then Almunia has the strongest shout.

Cudicini had little to do in the opposition net. Other than the previously-mentioned save, his only action was to make a hash out of collecting a loose ball twice. With 11 men, we may have made more of his cavalier handling.

The red card may have been a blessing the more that I think about it, though. Tottenham were all over the Gunners in the early going, and the sending-off may have galvanized Arsenal’s defense. Given Song’s hashed shot and a turn-and-shoot from RvP that damn near found the top corner, our boys may have won it on another day. 11-on-11 though, I wonder if Sperz would have maintained their momentum and gone on to win it. Thankfully, we’ll never know.

Brendan can attest that since the halfway mark of the season, I’ve said that Aston Villa aren’t the side we should worry about catching. With Liverpool so reliant on Fernando Torres and Chelsea unable to score in a brothel, I don’t think it’s completely insane to see a final table that goes:

Manchester United
Aston Villa
Chelsea or Everton
Everton or Chelsea

Gooners, let’s face it: Villa are for real and look to have a Champions’ League spot barring a total collapse. It’s Pool, Chelski and the Toffees that we need to worry about now. The good news is that for at least one match (and hopefully three for violent conduct), we won’t have to worry about the continued insanity of Eboue on the right wing.


February 8, 2009 - Posted by | The Arsenal


  1. Sean,

    I agree with your assessment of the situation. The first yellow was stupid to pick up and the second yellow was just plain idiotic. I’d even venture to say that we played with nine men RvP was absent for most of the match with the exception of his volley attempt. About twenty minutes in I wondered if he was in the starting XI after all. It was early and I was half asleep but I was pretty sure I heard his name mentioned as a starter. Clichy has not had an awful season but he’s made more critical errors that have led to goals than he did last year, when he was brilliant.

    Fast forwarding to the summer, I think Denilson, Eboue and Song need to go. This was Denilson’s season to shine under the sun. AW gave him and Song a vote of confidence by not buying a replacement for Flamini. Eboue, need I say anything further. Lastly, it might be rough to indict Song with those two, but he is just too inconsistent. He had a good game today but there have been games where he’s been absent for extended periods of time and that is not a quality that a central midfielder needs. I have a love/hate deal with Bendtner. He’s been a good spark off the bench this season at critical times but if we can get rid of Bendtner plus cash to get a Matthew Upson, so be it. Sadly, I think Rosicky will be surplus and out of the squad only because he has been so injury ridden and we have too many left sided players on the squad.

    If now AW would only fill the big sinkhole in the middle of the midfield, we’d have a squad I’d put up against anyone week in and week out. Arshavin’s signing gives us more depth with him and Theo being able to switch positions at forward/wing.

    Comment by Andy | February 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. Oh and one more thing, with Cesc pulling the strings in the midfield, we win today, even with ten men.

    Comment by Andy | February 8, 2009 | Reply

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