Its difficult swallowing losses to Fulham and now Hull. Especially after that wonderful mid week dismantling of Sheffield Utd at the hands of the youngsters.
Admittedly the goals that sunk the Gunners were top notch. Almunia, even if he had morphed into a giant octopus with flailing tentacles, would have had a tough time keeping Geovanni and Daniel Cousin from the back of the net. Hull were energetic and unafraid. But the more basic question was that these players were allowed to get so open.
What we saw was a team that did not finish chances. They were a step slower and pass happy in the box despite innumerable chances. It is an old failing. But what was more disturbing is that the team as a whole did not appear to get it. These are matches they need to win with the present stretch being against easier teams before the season tightens up against tougher opposition. The onus falls on Gallas to clearly state that imperative. He has to lead as a player and captain. On both fronts he has found wanting. Not protecting the near post, allowing Cousin his opportunity which he gratefully took. Adebayor and RVP were anonymous through the match, only waking up in the last minutes of the match.
Wenger has promised changes in the squad against Porto.
I think some shock therapy is in order as also a policy of performance based selection. Gallas and Toure are a few inches short in size and in confidence. It is clear that the central pairing is not working. Arsenal looks very vulnerable in protecting against set pieces. Against Fulham, Gallas was once again the culprit conceding the ball to Hangeland for his game winner. Gallas can sit this one out with Djourou filling in his spot.
Up front we need someone quicker than Adebayor and RVP. Vela should get a start. Samir Nasri will be back and should replace Eboue. Aaron Ramsey should partner Cesc in place of Denilson having proven his distribution skills.
But this bemoaning the lack of height in central defense is too simplistic and convenient. If that were indeed the case, then Senderos would be on the first XI of every top team.
What we have in Arsenal is a reactive defense which lacks height. Yes, height can compensate for such lapses but every seasoned defender will tell you it is inattention and a lack of focus that cause these dangerous situations to occur in the first place. Also as a unit, pairing is of utmost importance. Between Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder, we had 13' of central defense for Germany which looked out of depth in the semifinals against Turkey and then the finals against Spain in Euro 2008. That is why John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho are the best in the business. They know what it takes to distribute the threat on set pieces and force the attack to go around them.
I remember matches last season when Arsenal would go a goal up and then concede the match because Toure and Gallas would commit bone headed fouls or leave a player open. In particular, the match against Chelsea sticks out when Gallas handled the ball and Toure failed to cover Drogba. Even Clichy was part of this folly. It was not a lack of inches that failed to keep Hangeland, Geovanni, and Cousin out. It was poor defensive instincts that let us down.
Yes, I am saying it like it actually is. We need a smarter defense. One that can snuff out threats before they hurt us. Gallas and Toure have fallen short collectively.
Update: Wenger seems to have cooled to the idea of punitive changes against the Porto match.