For various reasons it has been a few weeks since I have been to my local after work on a Friday. Thankfully that was rectified this week, and rather than complicate the food arrangements I got an old-school take away from the chippie afterwards. Now jumbo sausage, saveloy, fishcake, and chips may not be either your, or indeed my, idea of a feast. I would far sooner be sitting down to foie gras and a duo of lamb with all the trimmings, but having said that it is ages since I have had such basic fare, and it was surprisingly satisfying on the night.
Fast forward twenty-four hours to Lisbon, and I am presented with the footballing equivalent to that, if only for forty-five minutes. Shorn of big Guns for various reasons, a side that won’t look too different at Newcastle next Saturday survived a lively opening by Benfica to grab the lead. I should possibly apologise to Rosicky and Ramsey, in the positions normally held by Cesc and Wilshere, and Arshavin, now ahead of Nasri in the pecking order. I’ll leave it to you to work out which of them would be the jumbo sausage. They are close to gourmet quality in footballing terms.
Normally I would caution against judging on the basis of a friendly match, but as this game progressed it became apparent it was anything other than just a friendly for the home side. The commitment they displayed made this a true, and possibly unexpected test of where we stand right now.
Gervinho once again hinted at the devastation he could cause in the season to come, and came close to opening the scoring in fifteen minutes when put clear by a combination of Rosicky and Arshavin. The more he featured the more space that was created for van Persie, and the Dutchman came close on half an hour with a chip that was slightly off target. Two minutes later he was far more accurate, starting the move himself that ended with him planting a Gibbs cross into the back of the net.
Sadly from there it all went downhill. The scorer was caught by a terrible challenge from Garay, who was rightly booked, and the pair had another coming together as the half wound down. There appeared to be some ‘excitement’ as the players left the pitch at half-time, and I would not be surprised to learn later that we replaced more than we had originally intended at the break to relieve the tensions that had developed between the sides.
Whatever the reason, when we made wholesale changes to an already weakened team the deficiencies that cause so many supporters to clamour for fresh blood were exposed. The side that played the second half was ripped apart by a Benfica who came out with renewed purpose and vigour. The veteran Aimar and the lively Witsel came on to torment a side that doesn’t, and frankly shouldn’t, play together that often.
The half was only four minutes old when the clever Aimar turned the careless Vermaelen to stroke home the equaliser. It was nearly two when Jenkinson played Luisao onside, and the big centre half smashed his volley off the top of the bar. What proved to be the winner arrived when Squillaci played a game of ‘after you Claude’ with Nolito and allowed the Spaniard an opportunity to fire home unchallenged at the near post. I’m sorry but I have to say this. Squillaci is the player I thought would never exist. He makes Gus Caesar look like Franz Beckenbauer. He is not, and never has been an Arsenal quality player. Sorry, but that is how I feel.
Reversing a 2-1 deficit would not be easy with a full side. For some reason the hosts played with an intensity that was beyond those who ended the game in the blue diagonals. Of the nine Arsenal substitutes only Frimpong emerged with promise intact. He is as green as they come, and the experienced will use his impetuosity to earn free-kicks, but he will learn and I would not mind seeing him on the bench at St James’ Park.
Now whilst I feel some of those who played in the second-half are not up for even occasional first-team action, I am growing increasingly concerned that the man wearing the Chamakh shirt at the moment is not the same player who added so much to our game in the first half of last season until van Persie returned to full fitness. So shorn of confidence is the Moroccan that I really do think we should ask Bendtner to put his planned move on hold until the January window at least. That’s probably impractical right now, but I think we have other potential moves that should take priority over the sale of the big Dane.
So we go into a friendly international week (how stupid is that) which will probably prevent us from making any progress on securing the signings that we know we need, and that we have been promised. We are going into the season proper with a squad bordering on the threadbare. We may have some very tasty talent in our first string, Arsene, but what is left in reserve in the larder thereafter looks very poor fare indeed.
Please, one last time. Spend SOME ****ing money.
559 Responses to “Curate’s Egg? Excellent In Parts Isn’t Enough”