That first half simply was not good enough. It underlined our need to add some real quality to the squad. First, it showed the desperation for someone to strengthen our attack; there were plenty of good chances, but it appears the only player able to consistently find the back of the net is that man, Robin Van Persie. As we've learnt from the ultimate one-man-team, Liverpool, this is a very dangerous position to be in. 43% of our goals this season have come from the big man, and it is frightening to think where we would be without him. This is not to say that the wide men (Gervinho, Walcott and now the Ox being the only consistent starters there) are not up to it, but it is fair to say that none of them are proven to be decent finishers.
The second position is a defender. I think that all 52,000 Arsenal fans that were present at the Emirates yesterday could see that something in the back four just wasn't quite right. We seem to be giving away needless goals from set pieces for fun, offering no defensive resilience whatsoever. Whether we should actually sign anyone, to me anyway, is debatable. Let's start by looking at our [starting] back four yesterday, which were: Vermaelen, Koscielny, Merte, Coquelin. Vermaelen has been one of our most consistently brilliant players over the last few years, he's the one person in the Arsenal defence that we've always been able to trust. Is he a left back? No, but for the moment, we can probably manage with him filling in for the two injured ones. Then we have the two centre backs, Kosc and Merte. Both, for me, have been very solid so far this season, despite a perhaps a few dodgy Djourou-esque moments from Merte, and they combine well together with Merte's height and Kosc's pace. And then Coquelin right back. This guy is inexperienced, and a central midfielder playing out of position at right back let's remember. All things considered, I thought he did a sterling job filling in for Sagna on Sunday, and clearly offered more attacking prowess than Djourou. So there we have it, a perfectly decent back four. So what's the problem?
Well, for me, it's simple, it is not the individual defenders that are the problem with the defending, it is the defending of the team as a unit. This is the mentality of the team and their defending as a whole. For example, the first goal conceded vs Villa was a simple short corner crossed in and headed in to the back of the net with ease. Yes, Hutton jumped high to get it, but none of the Arsenal players around him looked like they wanted the ball as much as he did. And this is not just the one case, we don't seem to be able to defend set pieces at all well, and I think this is a problem with the mentality of the team in their approach to defending, rather than their technical abilities. The other obvious problem is that we lack some real cover to the back four now. The obvious one is Song, but he is becoming increasingly more attacking, and less reliable in tracking back and defending. More on that later.
So there we go, no need to dwell on what could have been now; the transfer window is shut and barring getting rid of Andrei Arshavin to Russia (a move which I can't see many Arsenal fans being too upset about) any further transfers to and from Arsenal Football Club will have to wait until the summer, where, once again, we will wait in agony and desperation, hoping, praying that Arsene will do the sensible thing and bring some true quality in. This is what happened in January to a lesser extent, and whilst it wasn't a surprise to see that the only addition to the squad this transfer window was an injury prone 18 year old midfielder from Dortmund (sadly not Mario Goetze) it was a bitter disappointment given our current situation.
That brings me to the game on Wednesday, a 0-0 draw at the Reebok against an improving Bolton side. Now most seasons a draw at the Reebok might be considered a respectable result to take away. However I think this time round Arsenal fans have every right to feel aggrieved and let down by their sides showing on Wednesday night. Bolton have been in and around the relegation zone all season, and after losing the last three League games, and six out of the 11 away games this season, dropping points really wasn't an option.
Was I surprised that we did? No, not really, in fact I was slightly surprised to have even come away with a point. Games like this require a lot of grit and determination from every one of those players, and this is something that we have not seen often enough in the past few years. In reality, we probably did deserve to come away with at least a point, if not three, but the finishing once again was not good enough. Granted, we got a bit unlucky, RVP could have had a hat rick had it not been for the woodwork and some brilliant last ditch defending from David Wheater (who I thought had an outstanding game, by the way).
The main reason we lost though, for me, was the sheer wastefulness of one Theo Walcott. Now, I haven't been his greatest fan for a while, but even his biggest admirer will tell you that the two chances he missed he really, really should have put away. They are the kind of chances that if they were presented to RVP, you would barely even need to look to know the ball ends up in the back of the net. Now this is fine if the Bolton game was a one of for him. But, i'm afraid it wasn't, and as Walcott said before the Bolton game
"I know my displays haven't been good enough"
This is an understatement. And whilst it's all good and well him coming out and acknowledging his poor displays, it would be quite nice to see some evidence to show that he is not, in fact, completely useless. When he is played alongside Oxlade-Chamberlain, it is almost embarrassing to see how much more efficient and technically better Oxlade-Chamberlain is than Walcott. I may be being harsh on the boy, but the way I see it he can barely make the simple passes, let alone score (something which he has done just a handful of times this season). So, Arsene, drop him. There are a number of options open to replace him, including Yossi Benayoun, Tomas Rosicky or even, dare I say it, Mr Andrei Arshavin. And what's happened to this guy Park? It strikes me he is just there to fill up the numbers of the squad, and if Wenger is considering giving him some actual game time he is taking his time about it.
I shan't bore you any longer, let's just hope that our situation (crisis?) hasn't got so bad that we even worry ahead of tomorrow's early kick off against Blackburn. As Wenger said, every game from now on is a cup final, and after seeing what Blackburn did to United at Old Trafford they certainly should not be underestimated. The gap between us and Chelsea stays the same, but we surely cannot afford to keep missing chances to close the gap, there are after all only 15 cup finals to go...
Quick mention to two blogs worth looking at if you have a chance:
http://thebluelions.wordpress.com/ if you want, God forbid, a Chelsea blog.
http://caughtbysport.wordpress.com/ if you want a more all round Sports blog.
Till Sunday then...