Let's start with the most basic fault here; we played 4-5-1. I heavily criticised the use of such a system after the Manchester United match, and took some stick for it, and was won over by some counter arguments to a degree and accepted that on that occasion that was a suitable formation to use. In this game however, I can see no logic to it at all! The team doesn't look comfortable with it, players are getting their interchanges wrong and it just doesn't work! Henry as a sole striker is laughable, he is not a central striker in any way, shape or form, and playing him there leaves us with no options up front as he heads out to the left leaving no one in the box. Today we also tried to use him as a target man in spells! I don't think I even need to pass in depth comments on what a ludicrous decision that was! It's all wrong, we play 4-4-2 and our players like that. They are comfortable with it and know exactly what they are doing when playing with it. The only reasoning I could think of for playing 4-5-1 was to match Everton like for like, but teams have been using that formation against us for years, so why the sudden change? At a time when we need to pick up points consistently, playing like that for the whole 90 minutes just won't do.
There are some key "Golden rules" of defending, one of which is that you should never let the ball bounce! Funny, our defence never seemed to get to grip with that concept, as we allowed the physical presence of Beattie to scare us. The distribution from the back was generally poor, and individual mistakes led to a collective lack of confidence, with the exception of Gilbert, who looked like our best defender today. Great for him, but worrying for the rest of us!
When you have a young (ish) midfield you need your experienced players to give them a solid foundation. This simply did not happen today, and Gilberto was a major culprit completing very few passes (to put it nicely) and losing the ball no fewer than six times in the first half alone, all in dangerous areas. While Jose stayed on the left wing, the other trio of Pires, Fabregas and Ljungberg were constantly being moved between positions which didn't allow us to find a rhythm. Why Fabregas played at right wing while both Freddie and Bobby were both on the pitch is beyond me, just leave them as they should be. Another light weight midfield performance on the road, bring on the Bolton I say!
Did We Attack?
Henry certainly didn't! As I touched upon before, Henry sat back and dropped deep if he wasn't playing out on the left, which you cannot do when playing as a lone striker. Why did we choose to play him in a position where he could have no impact on the game? Having missed two early chances we never looked like threatening their goal, and in all honesty they looked like getting a second, and we should be counting ourselves lucky that we didn't concede more.
What the hell was that all about? With 20 minutes to go the board goes up and shows Gilbert is to be replaced by Hleb. "Finally" says the away end, "now we will go with two up top, and maybe three at the back." What followed was purely bizarre. With the entire backline standing with arms in the air looking confused and to the bench for answers, in was made clear that Freddie Ljungberg (yes the one and only FL8) would play at right back and we would still stay playing 4-5-1!!! Mass bemusement set in throughout the away section as not one person could explain this decision. It seemed that we had given up any hope of a point!
While the referee did not have a good / impartial game today we must admit that we conceded too many fouls. This gave Everton the chance to slow the game down, and break up and sort of play we could get going. All the tension eventually boiled over and Fabregas saw red, so not only did we not get any points, we have also lost a player for 3 games. Enter Diaby?
Lack of Commitment?
Most certainly. After 65 minutes they had all given up, and the spirit drained from them. There was no fight, no energy and no commitment about the team that once prided itself on those very things. It wouldn't have stood in the days of Adams or Keown that's for sure. Lacking a leader on the pitch? This is why there are rightly question marks over the choice of Henry as captain.
Did we turn up expecting to pick up where we left off against Boro last week? It is more than a possibility as we started sluggishly having put in very little effort and allowed Everton to gain the ascendancy and they duly made it pay when they scored on 12 minutes.
To top all of this off, only two players bothered applauding the away support when the final whistle went; Freddie and Sol but even they only did it as a token gesture from the half way line. It just isn't on to turn in a performance like that then not acknowledge those who travelled a long way and gave them what was good support considering the football on offer.
It was a disgraceful performance that should never be repeated. Oh wait; didn't I say that after Bolton this season? I guess we just won't learn just yet. One thing is for sure though, if we play like that next weekend at the Reebok we can wave goodbye to the FA Cup. Bolton must have been rubbing their hands with glee watching that!
The Carling Cup will provide a welcome distraction to our league woes on Tuesday. There will be a REDsection in the North Lower, and the young guns will need all the support they can get to turn it around, so get behind the lads, for as much as we moan online, and share our opinions whatever they may be here, when you get into your seat it should just become a case of you and The Arsenal v the opposition.
Jens Lehmann (6) His distribution got us into trouble at times.
Lauren (5) Beaten easily and conceded possession far too often.
Philippe Senderos (5) He turned into trouble and made problems for himself. Some weeks he looks first team ready, others he looks like this.
Sol Campbell (5) He was not the rock that we needed in defence.
Kerrea Gilbert (7) He was our best defender by a country mile. His last ditch tackles spared the blushes of his more experienced counter parts on numerous occasions and he caused Everton problems going forward early on.
Jose Reyes (6) His runs came to nothing more often that not, but this was largely due to the either a lack of support or being fouled!
Freddie Ljungberg (5) He didn't get into the game at all, and then had to play right back!! I'm sure that made his day!
Gilberto (2) By far the worst performance he has ever given in an Arsenal shirt. He couldn't pick out a team mate for love nor money, and consistently gave Everton dangerous opportunities through his inability to retain the ball. This combined with his lacklustre attitude made for a dire display.
Cesc Fabregas (5) A foolish tackle late on will now see him sit out for three matches.
Robert Pires (6) Very much like Reyes; he got into some dent areas but found he was crowded out while waiting for support to arrive.
Thierry Henry (5) His head wasn't in the game today. Never a threat, but he was never going to be at his best while he was up front alone.
Alexander Hleb (3) No impact and gave away the ball and free kicks.
Abou Diaby (6) Not exactly the perfect match to make your debut in, but he did have one or two surging runs. Obviously this cameo appearance is nothing to go on, but he may get a few starts thanks to Cesc losing his cool and getting sent off.