Friday, December 31, 2010

When It's Time To Change

The Heart of the Arsenal Central Defense

photo by Daniel Paixão Fontesvia PhotoRee

I suffered through Wigan playing Arsenal the other night; it wasn't exactly the most exciting game to watch from a neutral's perspective, although I did enjoy the ending. [Ed. Note: can I count myself as a neutral if I was actively rooting against Arsenal?  In fact, is there really such a thing as a neutral?  I look at neutrals the same way I view "Undecideds" in politics. Either you care, or you don't; and if you don't care, why are you watching?]

The Wigan side was composed of four players and seven interchangeable avatars: Charles N'Zogbia, Tom Cleverly, Hugo Rodallega, Ben Watson (who stood out mainly for his bright red hair and penalty kick) and seven "Who's that?" guys.  Give them credit, though -- they played their hearts out and obtained a result against an Arsenal side that should have been flying sky high after their recent victory over arch-rival Chelsea.

Regarding the Arsenal side they tied, though, one must address the elephant in the room:

If Mick McCarthy, Ian Holloway and others face the FA's music for squad rotation, surely Arsene Wenger must be nervously staring a fine in the face after replacing eight of the men who began Monday night's game against Chelsea?  Le Professor must have suffered calendar confusion, and mistakenly assumed that Wednesday night's EPL match was an early round League Cup encounter, to make as many changes as he did. 

I can understand why he decided to tinker with his lineup; in fact, making several changes to the lineup in recognition of the fact that his team is playing four games in ten days is prudent. Making eight changes to the team that played Chelsea on Moday, however, was just plain stupid. Already missing Fabregas (sitting the game out due to cumulative yellow cards), Wenger voluntarily decided to do without Nasri -- his best player this year -- Walcott, and Van Persie, as well. 

And finally bringing Nasri and Walcott onto the pitch in the 82nd minute not only smelled of desperation, more worryingly it caused my fantasy team to field two men (one, a captain) who combined to play a whopping 16 minutes. And for that, Le Professor, I curse you.  

And salute you, with one of the Brady Bunch's greatest hits: When It's Time to Change, You've Got to Rearrange.

A couple more rants on the game before I sign off.  There was a great penalty taken in the game by the Red Headed Stepchild, Ben Watson. Rooney, Lampard and Drogba, take note: Showing some real cojones, Watson stepped to the line with the opportunity to take the lead against a team 16 points north in the league table and...blew the ball head-high and well past the outstretched arms of Lukasz Flappyhandksi, rattling the back of the netting and giving Wigan a brief lead. It's nice to see someone reading farlieonfootie and taking Coach Tom's advice to heart.

And lastly, it was not difficult to discern Wednesday night that Arsenal's defense is missing the physical presence that Thomas Vermaelen brings to it. Currently staffed by a underweight Italian and Frenchman, Arsenal's central defense doesn't seem near solid enough at the moment. Sure they're fast -- but I also saw Charles N'Zogbia make Laurent Koscielny his biotch on multiple occasions, flopping him around like a rag doll. Which upon closer viewing, he may actually be.

And the tying goal drove this point home even further, as a ten-man Wigan side came back to level terms with the almighty Gooners. Squillaci was pushed around like an 80 pound weakling by Caldwell -- it's unlikely that Vidic, Terry, or Kompany, to name just a few, would have had their @ss handed to them like that with the game on the line.

And speaking of 80 pound weaklings, could Jack Wishere have flopped anymore when Charles N'Zogbia knocked into him? I agree the card shown by referee Probert was deservedly red, but Wilshere's reaction was straight out of the Marouane Chamakh handbook. Flopping is becoming an irritable trait of Wenger's "tough" men this year, and Wilshere proved a young dog is more than capable of learning new tricks.

In the end, Arsenal got what they deserved. Another lackluster showing when they could have tied for the League lead, due to over-complicated tinkering and a general softness.

On January 1, this is farlieonfootie wishing our friends -- and enemies -- a very Happy New Year.  Let's hope it's a great one.

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