- Drogba (84)
- McCarthy (87)
- Alex (83)
Yes, that's right. They are the scorers and times of the goals that have in the last 11 days halted any chance of silverware in all three Cup competitions (Carling, FA and Champions League).
Notice a pattern? We are all too often outplaying the opposition for huge swathes of the match, without actually putting the ball in the net, then getting hit on the break with ~5 minutes to go and not having enough time to respond. Yet again, last night against PSV Eindhoven we ran rings round them with some wonderful passing, intricate interplay and fantastic vision - but no end product. Adebayor, Baptista and Fabregas were all guilty of failing to convert good chances and it came back to haunt us as their (admittedly excellent) big Brazilian central defender, Alex popped up to head the winner from a needlessly conceded free-kick near the corner flag.
Yes, we have had injuries (Robin van Persie has been particularly missed) and yes, we have had a lot of fixture congestion (the Man City match has been moved four times!) but that's why you need a squad of experienced players who can pace themselves throughout a season of 40-60 matches. Our youngsters have taken over for the Carling Cup and were fantastic, but in general we rely too heavily on Thierry Henry and when he is missing or not on form, as he has been somewhat this season, it really shows.
So what to do?
Despite the emergence of Hoyte and Djourou I still think we need an experienced defender who can play anywhere across the back four. Gallas is awesome in partnership with Touré but his 6 week absence due to an ankle injury showed how brittle we can be at the back. Clichy is a world class left-back going forward (reminding me of a young Roberto Carlos) but needs cover when he goes on those rampaging runs into the opposition penalty area. I have never had any faith in Senderos who seems to hit the panic button when any big centre-forward comes near him (cf: Drogba). Eboué is becoming a liability with his rash challenges and play-acting and if he can't get a grip he is going to spend more of the season suspended than he is on the pitch (weirdly, Kolo looked great at right-back last night but I'd rather have him in the middle...)
In midfield, we have an embarrassment of riches. Cesc is just magical, Denilson is a mini-Cesc and Gilberto sturdily mops up behind (and now takes the penalties to boot). Diaby has recovered from his awful broken leg and is like Vieira in so many ways, it's uncanny. The choices come on the flanks where for me Rosicky is a certain starter on the left when fit (bye bye Freddie?) but Hleb gives the ball away too much for my liking and has been known to forget to tackle back (and get an ear-bashing from Crazy Jens for his trouble). But do you start with Theo-o-o-o? He may be quick but he is slight and gets knocked off the ball too easily (yes, I know he's only 12). For a while yet, he's going to be used as an 'impact' player off the bench. Time for him to actually make an impact.
And so to the front. Thierry is a genius, when he turns up. As an Arsenal fan, it sticks in the throat to criticise him, given all he has done for the club, but this year must have been his worst to date. Injuries aside, he's missing a bit of that sharpness, that devilry, that sheer enjoyment of the best elements of goalscoring-for-fun which he brought to the team. He's been injured - ankle, back and now groin - but I want the old Thierry back. RvP started brilliantly but has also succumbed to a foot injury (see any themes developing here?) and Adebayor, whilst he has had his best season so far and given a lot of good defenders a torrid time with his quick feet and good movement, has also missed some stinkers. Baptista ("Beeeeeeast") has blown hot and cold - brilliant against Liverpool, rubbish against Blackburn, effective against Reading, anonymous against PSV. Will we keep him? Well we don't want Reyes back so Mr Dein and Mr Wenger are going to have to get round the table with Real Madrid and thrash out a deal. They might just recall him; they've had a poor season and with an ageing squad he might just get a second chance in Spain.
Summer signings? I hear we have targeted the promising 20-year-old Ajax winger, Ryan Babel, but we have 'promising' coming out of our ears. Samuel Eto'o has been mentioned in the papers but Chelsea and Liverpool are also keen (and Chelsea have deeper pockets if it came to a bidding war). Franck Ribery also crops up regularly especially after a good World Cup in 2006 but that trail might have gone cold lately (I'd still welcome him) . Still, once we've got through this first (trophyless) season at The Emirates, I fully believe in Arsene's ability to dip into the summer market and come up with a gem. He's done it before. Keep the faith.
The future's bright, the future's red and white.
And on that note, this should cheer up a somewhat depressing Thursday morning :)