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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
Arsenal are the architects of their own problems sometimes. Their failure to secure top spot in Group G can be attributed directly to their inability to beat a woeful Fenerbahce side at The Emirates earlier in the campaign. That traditional tale of misplaced opportunities and wasted dominance came to the same frustrating ending, as it always seems to. There will be some tense bottoms in the Arsenal boardroom when the draw is made for the next round.

Now they are doomed to meet Barcelona, Roma, Bayern Munich or Juventus, unless they are extraordinarily lucky and end up with Panathinaikos instead. That said, even the Greeks might fancy their chances against an Arsenal side who are either very good or very bad, but rarely inbetween.

If Arsenal's problems can be personified, then Nicklas Bendtner is the form they take. This isn't, of course, to blame everything on the gangly Dane, but merely to use him as metaphor for a confusing condition. Bendtner, like Arsenal, excelled at youth level, drips with potential and has shown glimpses of genuine quality. Unfortunately, and again like Arsenal, he struggles for consistency, fails to hit the target often enough and is looking more and more like he's out of his depth at this level. He's supposed to be good, but on further inspection there's a fear that perhaps he isn't good enough. And he wears pink boots, which is pushing the metaphor further than I'm willing to take it, but worthy of mention regardless.

There are others who have struggled to live up to their potential, including the hapless Emmanuel Eboue, thrust back into the limelight just days after he was booed out of it by his own fans. The travelling Arsenal support were generous with him and he rewarded them with his shirt, but sadly not with an improved performance. So impressive in his first season with the Gunners, Eboue's confidence is shot to pieces, he can barely make a pass and he looks unfit. Since his ugly day at The Emirates, commentators have wrestled with the rights and wrongs of his treatment, all of them missing the point by miles. Arsenal fans don't dislike Eboue because of his quality, or lack thereof, as a player. They dislike him because he's a cheat and he shames their club. The only aspect of his game that is back to its best is his ability to make every slight knock look like a mortal wound. I suspect Arsenal fans would prefer it if he just remembered how to pass.

It's dangerous to read too much into the away defeat of a much weakened side, and there is hope in the form of the impressive Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere, but not even the most ardent of Gunners would insist that is all well at The Emirates these days. Unfulfilled potential, shattered confidence and an ever-increasing back catalogue of failure. It's all mounting up and, with Liverpool approaching on the horizon, there's still a strong chance that it could get worse before it gets better.

LOSER - I could include numerous examples of Emmanuel Eboue's woefulness, but let's stick with his inability to hold the line with his fellow defenders. Hanging two yards behind the backline meant that Lisandro Lopez was onside to rifle home Porto's second goal.

INVISIBLE MAN - Daniel Alves must have thought that Christmas had come early when Raul Merieles floated in a corner and Abou Diaby decided not to contest it. Essentially unmarked in the area, the Portuguese defender rose and headed home. Easy!

SPEEDY - Jack Wilshere gave another tantalising hint of what's to come with a late cameo that saw him cause Porto a number of problems. A natural wideman, he also loves a tackle, making him a very rare gem indeed. Keep your eye on him.

PUNTERS RANT - Given that Arsenal had won this match at home by a comfortable margin, there may have been a temptation to back them away as well, but it would always have been unwise. Arsenal were under-strength and outgunned by Porto. No ranting here.

MAN OF THE MATCH - I'm going to buck the trend of my compatriots in the British media and avoid any mention of the word 'incredible'. Suffice to say, Porto's Hulk was very impressive. There, I did it! I bet they're going green with envy at my restraint....Dammit!

MATCH STATS

Crowd - 37,602
Yellow Cards - Lucho (Porto), Eboue (Arsenal)
Red Cards - None
Arsenal -
Maneul Almunia 6, Emmanuel Eboue 4, William Gallas 5, Mikael Silvestre 5, Johan Djourou 5, Aaron Ramsey 6 (Jack Wilshere 7, 58th), Abou Diaby 5 (Kieran Gibbs 7, 58th), Alex Song 6 (Mark Randall 6, 78th), Denilson 6, Carlos Vela 6, Nicklas Bendtner 5
Porto -
Helton 6, Bruno Alves 8, Rolando 7, Pedro Emanuel 7, Jorge Fucile 7, Fernando 7, Raul Meireles 7, Lucho Gonzalez 7 (Thomas Costa 6, 78th) Christian Rodriguez 7 (Mariano Gonzalez 6, 78th), Hulk 8 (Freddy Guarin 6, 88th), Lisandro Lopez 8
 
Joined
Aug 11, 2008
Messages
6,800
Location
Oregon
I agree that Arsenal are not a great side this year, yet they still sit in the top four of supposedly the best domestic league in the world. What does this tell us about the depth of the Premiership? We are told about the greatness of Martin O'Neill as a manager, and he has an excellent squad of players (and Marlon Harewood) at Villa Park, so how come he's a point behind the goal-shy Gunners?
 

Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
I agree that Arsenal are not a great side this year, yet they still sit in the top four of supposedly the best domestic league in the world. What does this tell us about the depth of the Premiership? We are told about the greatness of Martin O'Neill as a manager, and he has an excellent squad of players (and Marlon Harewood) at Villa Park, so how come he's a point behind the goal-shy Gunners?

Villa have let themselves down this season, buggering up easy games. They've picked up five points from the big four, losing only to Chelsea. Sadly, they've lost to Tooncastle, Stoke and Boro as well. Suggests that the players don't quite believe that they're top four just yet.
 
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