I think that PFA report has gotten to the Gunners because they really tried playing the "English" version of the game against Boro and failed miserably. But full marks to Eboue, Toure, Diarra, and company for trying. It just isn't their game.
These are dangerous times for the Gunners as the mid season swoon just resulted in their first loss. We are still on top of the table but barely clinging on.
Its been a tough week for Arsenal with two trips up north against teams with embattled managers. Arsenal does not traditionally travel well against Northern teams. What Martin O'Neill's team showed in the second half last week was not lost on Sam Allardyce and Gareth Southgate. Without Fabregas, Hleb, and Flamini, the Gunners rely on a makeshift midfield not very comfortable playing the one touch soccer that is their emblem. Its becoming easy for a hustling Newcastle and Boro team to gain and keep possession of the ball against the Gunners who looked like they had watched a Mark Hughes training video the previous nights and were mistaking Adebayor for Roque Santa Cruz.
Walcott, Diarra, Denilson, Gilberto have all been used but these players have never looked comfortable handling the ball. Diarra was nowhere to be found which meant that a series of hopeful long balls were sent towards the Boro goal. Adebayor was on ball retrieval duty all through the match.
Adebayor has performed magnificently for Arsenal but without RVP in the lineup he really looks like he is bench pressing 200 lbs above his limit. He is not an instinctive striker and his main strength is playing with his back to the goal, creating chances for others to score. Luckily for Arsenal, with Fabregas, Flamini, and Hleb, nipping at Adebayor's heels, goals have been easy to come by. Without them, the Boro match was a reminder of how frustrating a player Adebayor can be because his first touch was not always the best one. Eduardo has not justified his being Arsenal's most expensive signing this season. WIth RVP and Hleb out, a few goals from him would have helped ease the pressure.
The next few weeks are going to be clogged with matches as Arsenal play Steaua Bucharest midweek to try and wrest the top spot from Sevilla in Group H of the CL. But all eyes will be on the match against Chelsea next weekend when they come visiting the Emirates. If all goes well Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini, and RVP will be back from injury along with Diaby. Chelsea will be minus Didier Drogba out with knee surgery.
The fixtures are getting tougher with upcoming matches against Pompey and Everton and a Carling Cup match against Blackburn. Its critical that we get back our starting lineup because the run to the top just got a lot tighter.
Cesc Fabregas presence makes all the difference in the world. And that is an understatement.