rosicky_1

This was one of the days where we barely created anything, and when we did the chances were spurned. And how costly it may prove to be.

There were no changes from the lineup that began against Totteringham as RvP stayed on the sidelines. Despite his match-winning appearance against the Spuds, Nicklas Bendtner had to make do with playing second fiddle to Ade. Never mind lining up alongside him, in hindsight the big Dane should have started instead of him, for today Emmanuel Adebayor was more Ade Akinbiyi than Didier Drogba. All of this meant that we started with what is now becoming the dreaded 4-5-1 formation. It’s patently obvious by now that Le Boss won’t start Bendtner/Eduardo/Theo alongside Ade away from home, but were Robin fit then he would have little choice but to play two up-front. So in short, come back quick Robin!!!!

Well what can I say about the first-half? Not a lot, to be honest. Chances for both sides were few and far between; the earliest opportunity fell to Emmanuel Eboue who played a one-two with Ade but lashed his shot high and wide. On first glance it looked like a horrible effort, but the replay showed it was much closer than it initially appeared, but not quite good enough. I then uttered the sentiments which I would say at least another five times during the game: "Cristiano Ronaldo would have scored that".

Pompey always carried a threat in the form of our old boy Kanu (he never held the ball up that well at Arsenal, did he?) and the pacy Benjani; this combination nearly had them through just before the 20th minute. It was the third of their "forward trio" who came closest in the first period: the Croatian Nikolas of Kranjcarshire shooting low from the edge of the box, his effort going just wide although Manuel Almunia had it covered. P.S. during the game I heard a chant of "England’s number one" …was this a funny quip directed at our keeper by the travelling support? Or was it the home fans feting their keeper? Any Gooners present feel free to let us know in the comments section.

About five minutes before the break we finally manufactured our first effort on target – and it was through avenue we should have utilised much, much more. Tomas Rosicky (the brightest of our three creative players) cut in from the left and unleashed a wicked swerving, dipping shot. For the life of me I thought it was in, but David James was at absolute full stretch to save it. Not only did he stop it going on but he also caught it, so hats off to him. Alarmingly before the half was over, Captain Willy Gallas went down injured on the halfway line. He is the last person we need crocked at the moment: with Kolo on his way to the African Nations very soon, we would be royally f*cked at the back sans Willy. Just imaging Big Phil Ponderous and Johan Undurable gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Thankfully the skipper made it back out for the second-half, and there was a noticeable shift in the tempo of the game. Almost immediately Benjani got the better of Gael and smacked one in from very a tight angle, reminiscent of Berbatov’s goal on the weekend. This time though Manuel was up to the task as he plucked it out of the air. Gael was given a testing time by Benjani, his second big duel in a few days following on from Lennon on the weekend, and he fared pretty well I thought.

And then for the majority of the half, that old chestnut came back to me: "Cristiano Ronaldo would have shot". There were countless times where we had someone running at the Pompey backline on the edge of their box but instead of letting rip, they opted to play another neat square ball or attempted an aesthetically pleasing one-two that invariably didn’t come off. When Wengerball ain’t clicking, it’s the most frustrating thing in the world. I think every single attack-minded player had a chance to shoot from 20 yards but refused: it was infuriating. And I know I might get some stick for unfavourably comparing our midfielders with the fake Ronaldo, but in the cold light of day I think it’s the truth. While our midfielders have scored a lot of goals this season, the vast majority of them have been when they have got into the box and got on the end of a move (see Cesc versus Man Utd and Liverpool for example). Apart from the Spaniard’s goal at the Lane, I can’t remember many times where they have run at a defence and had a pop. So in that sense, RvP is our Ronaldo, but when he is missing we cannot adequately replace that facet in his game. We were crying out for his devil and confidence to strike it from far on a day where we were unlikely to carve the Pompey defence open nor were we likely to score from a cross.

Pompey could have and should have snatched a goal midway through the half. For once Benjani sprung our offside trap and raced through one-on-one against the keeper. He knocked it past Almunia and raced past him, but it doing so knocked it too far and the covering Clichy mopped proceedings up. Le Boss waited and waited and waited before sending Nicklas Bendtner on, and this annoyed me because he gave us another dimension after his arrival. I think he came on with less than ten minutes of normal time left, which was way too late. Even in such a short period of time, the Big Dane made a decent fist of it. His passing was crisp and to feet, his control neat and tidy, and his power saw him get past a fair few challenges, i.e. his ten minute cameo was everything that Ade wasn’t. Ade needs to stick more to his natural game of power and speed, and not to engage in the one-two behaviour of Cesc/Hleb/Rosicky too much. The Dane came on at an offensive set-piece, just like against the Spuds, but this time Clichy had a direct shot on goal which wasn’t too far.

Then came two golden opportunities, one in the last minute of normal time and one in injury time. Finally someone decided to shoot from distance as Cesc hit an effort from 25-yards. In true Lampard-esque fashion it caused all sorts of problems as the ball eventually landed at Gallas’ feet six-yards out. So often our saviour recently, bur this time his swivel and shot blazed over the bar when it may have been easier to score. He took a nasty knock on his ankle in the follow-up too for his troubles. Then deep into injury time Bendtner – who else? – powered and wriggled his way past through and past some defenders and cut the ball back to Tomas Rosicky, who was thundering into the box. His first time effort narrowly curled wide of the goal, had he poked it then it may have gone straight into the corner but alas it wasn’t meant to be. The two efforts were the pure result of the two things we should have adopted earlier in the game: shooting from distance and having Bendtner on the pitch to cause problems.

So in the end a goalless draw, the first time we had failed to hit the net since Pompey away in the last game of last season (although Rosicky’s consolation at Boro shouldn’t really count). In isolation, a draw away to Pompey could be considered a good result as in previous seasons they have been formidable at home. But given the events earlier in the day (Chavski dropping points, Liverpool jamming one at the end, and of course the Mancs battering the Black Cats) a win was imperative here. We didn’t get it and now we sit second in the table for the first time without a game-in-hand since mid September. Following the win on the weekend so much was made about being top at Christmas etc etc. What bollocks. The important thing this time was to be top going into the African Nations and then try and stay there whilst our defensive lynchpin Kolo was away. Given the set of fixtures on the weekend (United at the Hammers, us away to Everton) it looks very unlikely that we’re gonna be top come the turn of the year. And the Mancs are notoriously better in the second-half of the season. I hate to be a doom-monger after a very respectable result and the fact that we are only one point behind them, but there is one thing we lack compared to them right now, and it’s NOT that Cristiano Ronaldo shoots more often than our midfielders. The simple fact is that they are authoritative at the moment, especially away from home, whilst we are not. They pummel teams in attack whereas we try to pass the opposition to death. When our passing game is off, we lose all our authority on the pitch and need to resort to the pummelling business a bit quicker.

Their extra authoritativeness also comes from the fact that they were in the title race last season. Never mind winning or losing the race, the simple fact that they were there means that they have the experience to drive them on. When it gets to squeaky bum time, they won’t panic. Unfortunately this is our young tyros’ first title race, and without the requisite experience that the Mancs have, I fear we may come up short, as much as it pains me to say it. Shooting from distance and having two strikers on the pitch may help too.

This was one of the days where we barely created anything, and when we did the chances were spurned. And how costly it may prove to be.

There were no changes from the lineup that began against Totteringham as RvP stayed on the sidelines. Despite his match-winning appearance against the Spuds, Nicklas Bendtner had to make do with playing second fiddle to Ade. Never mind lining up alongside him, in hindsight the big Dane should have started instead of him, for today Emmanuel Adebayor was more Ade Akinbiyi than Didier Drogba. All of this meant that we started with what is now becoming the dreaded 4-5-1 formation. It’s patently obvious by now that Le Boss won’t start Bendtner/Eduardo/Theo alongside Ade away from home, but were Robin fit then he would have little choice but to play two up-front. So in short, come back quick Robin!!!!

Well what can I say about the first-half? Not a lot, to be honest. Chances for both sides were few and far between; the earliest opportunity fell to Emmanuel Eboue who played a one-two with Ade but lashed his shot high and wide. On first glance it looked like a horrible effort, but the replay showed it was much closer than it initially appeared, but not quite good enough. I then uttered the sentiments which I would say at least another five times during the game: "Cristiano Ronaldo would have scored that".

Pompey always carried a threat in the form of our old boy Kanu (he never held the ball up that well at Arsenal, did he?) and the pacy Benjani; this combination nearly had them through just before the 20th minute. It was the third of their "forward trio" who came closest in the first period: the Croatian Nikolas of Kranjcarshire shooting low from the edge of the box, his effort going just wide although Manuel Almunia had it covered. P.S. during the game I heard a chant of "England’s number one" …was this a funny quip directed at our keeper by the travelling support? Or was it the home fans feting their keeper? Any Gooners present feel free to let us know in the comments section.

About five minutes before the break we finally manufactured our first effort on target – and it was through avenue we should have utilised much, much more. Tomas Rosicky (the brightest of our three creative players) cut in from the left and unleashed a wicked swerving, dipping shot. For the life of me I thought it was in, but David James was at absolute full stretch to save it. Not only did he stop it going on but he also caught it, so hats off to him. Alarmingly before the half was over, Captain Willy Gallas went down injured on the halfway line. He is the last person we need crocked at the moment: with Kolo on his way to the African Nations very soon, we would be royally f*cked at the back sans Willy. Just imaging Big Phil Ponderous and Johan Undurable gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Thankfully the skipper made it back out for the second-half, and there was a noticeable shift in the tempo of the game. Almost immediately Benjani got the better of Gael and smacked one in from very a tight angle, reminiscent of Berbatov’s goal on the weekend. This time though Manuel was up to the task as he plucked it out of the air. Gael was given a testing time by Benjani, his second big duel in a few days following on from Lennon on the weekend, and he fared pretty well I thought.

And then for the majority of the half, that old chestnut came back to me: "Cristiano Ronaldo would have shot". There were countless times where we had someone running at the Pompey backline on the edge of their box but instead of letting rip, they opted to play another neat square ball or attempted an aesthetically pleasing one-two that invariably didn’t come off. When Wengerball ain’t clicking, it’s the most frustrating thing in the world. I think every single attack-minded player had a chance to shoot from 20 yards but refused: it was infuriating. And I know I might get some stick for unfavourably comparing our midfielders with the fake Ronaldo, but in the cold light of day I think it’s the truth. While our midfielders have scored a lot of goals this season, the vast majority of them have been when they have got into the box and got on the end of a move (see Cesc versus Man Utd and Liverpool for example). Apart from the Spaniard’s goal at the Lane, I can’t remember many times where they have run at a defence and had a pop. So in that sense, RvP is our Ronaldo, but when he is missing we cannot adequately replace that facet in his game. We were crying out for his devil and confidence to strike it from far on a day where we were unlikely to carve the Pompey defence open nor were we likely to score from a cross.

Pompey could have and should have snatched a goal midway through the half. For once Benjani sprung our offside trap and raced through one-on-one against the keeper. He knocked it past Almunia and raced past him, but it doing so knocked it too far and the covering Clichy mopped proceedings up. Le Boss waited and waited and waited before sending Nicklas Bendtner on, and this annoyed me because he gave us another dimension after his arrival. I think he came on with less than ten minutes of normal time left, which was way too late. Even in such a short period of time, the Big Dane made a decent fist of it. His passing was crisp and to feet, his control neat and tidy, and his power saw him get past a fair few challenges, i.e. his ten minute cameo was everything that Ade wasn’t. Ade needs to stick more to his natural game of power and speed, and not to engage in the one-two behaviour of Cesc/Hleb/Rosicky too much. The Dane came on at an offensive set-piece, just like against the Spuds, but this time Clichy had a direct shot on goal which wasn’t too far.

Then came two golden opportunities, one in the last minute of normal time and one in injury time. Finally someone decided to shoot from distance as Cesc hit an effort from 25-yards. In true Lampard-esque fashion it caused all sorts of problems as the ball eventually landed at Gallas’ feet six-yards out. So often our saviour recently, bur this time his swivel and shot blazed over the bar when it may have been easier to score. He took a nasty knock on his ankle in the follow-up too for his troubles. Then deep into injury time Bendtner – who else? – powered and wriggled his way past through and past some defenders and cut the ball back to Tomas Rosicky, who was thundering into the box. His first time effort narrowly curled wide of the goal, had he poked it then it may have gone straight into the corner but alas it wasn’t meant to be. The two efforts were the pure result of the two things we should have adopted earlier in the game: shooting from distance and having Bendtner on the pitch to cause problems.

So in the end a goalless draw, the first time we had failed to hit the net since Pompey away in the last game of last season (although Rosicky’s consolation at Boro shouldn’t really count). In isolation, a draw away to Pompey could be considered a good result as in previous seasons they have been formidable at home. But given the events earlier in the day (Chavski dropping points, Liverpool jamming one at the end, and of course the Mancs battering the Black Cats) a win was imperative here. We didn’t get it and now we sit second in the table for the first time without a game-in-hand since mid September. Following the win on the weekend so much was made about being top at Christmas etc etc. What bollocks. The important thing this time was to be top going into the African Nations and then try and stay there whilst our defensive lynchpin Kolo was away. Given the set of fixtures on the weekend (United at the Hammers, us away to Everton) it looks very unlikely that we’re gonna be top come the turn of the year. And the Mancs are notoriously better in the second-half of the season. I hate to be a doom-monger after a very respectable result and the fact that we are only two points behind them, but there is one thing we lack compared to them right now, and it’s that Cristiano Ronaldo shoots more often than our midfielders. The simple fact is that they are authoritative at the moment, especially away from home, whilst we are not. They pummel teams in attack whereas we try to pass the opposition to death. When our passing game is off, we lose all our authority on the pitch and need to resort to the pummelling business a bit quicker.

Their extra authoritativeness also comes from the fact that they were in the title race last season. Never mind winning or losing the race, the simple fact that they were there means that they have the experience to drive them on. When it gets to squeaky bum time, they won’t panic. Unfortunately this is our young tyros’ first title race, and without the requisite experience that the Mancs have, I fear we may come up short, as much as it pains me to say it. Shooting from distance and having two strikers on the pitch may help too.