The way I see it – Arsenal v Charlton Athletic

Last updated : 02 January 2007 By Jason Hogan
Now, it's a fact of life that what you are given in one hand is taken away by the other. The Christmas period was a bit like that for the Arsenal, wasn't it? Having thumped Blackburn I thought that we got a really cracking result against Watford.

Now, I know that there are quite a number of Gooners out there who were far from impressed with the display we put in at Vicarage Road but I wasn't one of them. In fact in some ways I thought it was a performance that was up there with any that we have put in this season.

Maybe that had something to do with the fact that most Arsenal fans would have turned up at Vicarage Road thinking that the Arsenal should have way too much for a side that were bottom of the league and would have dismissed this game as a formality for us. What those fans often seem to forget is that things in football are ever as cut and dried as they seem. It's the reason why I have always steered clear of ever making an outright prediction as a rule where Arsenal are concerned.

Besides, anyone who has watched Watford this season to any degree will know that nobody in the Premiership has had an easy game against this lot and I for one wasn't daft enough to think that we would have things any different.

In fact, Watford put in as good a display in the opening 45 minutes as I have seen anyone put in against us this season. And, with the exception of Fulham, I would say that the Hornets performed better against us than virtually all the teams who have actually managed to beat us so far this season and I really mean that.

Aside from Fulham, I have not seen another team play with more purpose, drive and yes, aggression, than Watford did and it could be argued that we were the ones that were fortunate to go into the break all square rather than the Hornets.

Bearing this in mind, I honestly thought that it was to the credit of our players that we came out in the second half, regrouped and went on to win the game.

Watford may have had a spell of pressure early in the second half but when it came down to it, we were the ones asking the serious questions of the Watford defence the longer the game went and by the time Robin van Persie bagged a well taken winner for us, I had the feeling that we had worn our gallant opponents down.

When assessing my overall thoughts on the Watford game, the other thing I took into account almost by way of applying a perspective were the games we played and lost against the likes of Everton, West Brom, Boro, Newcastle and even Chelsea away from home last season. None of those teams played half as well against us last year as Watford did this year.

And that was why the win at Watford took on a greater significance. Because I thought that we had killed two birds with one stone. I thought that first of all we had finally started to show that we were on our way to dispelling this tiresome myth that we were the sort of side that "didn't like it up ‘em". And secondly, were demonstrating this once again without our "one man team", namely Thierry Henry.

Yet, just as I had armed myself with a new sense of conviction and dared to believe that we were finally starting to round, slowly but surely, into a more streetwise outfit, we went to Bramall Lane on Saturday night and put in one of the worst performances I have seen from an Arsenal side in the last 20 years.

It was a match which reminiscent of a game we played at Goodison somewhere around the year 2000 I think. That day, we were playing an Everton side that were out of form and, at least on paper, there for the taking.

However, after we had given the ball away at least 20 times in the first 15 minutes alone I knew, there and then, that if Everton so much as raised their game a fraction they would beat us. In the end I was right as we lost 2-0 with our old boy Kevin Campbell getting one of the goals to boot.

Saturday's trip to Bramall Lane was almost a carbon copy of that for me in the sense that I knew after half an hour that we were going to get turned over. To be fair, the Arsenal lads started off well and we really should have been two up without question in the first 15 minutes.

But from that point onwards our game inexplicably went to pot. We began to get embarrassingly sloppy all over the pitch. Forced errors suddenly seemed to be compounded further by two unforced ones.

I'm not having any of this bullshit about Arsenal once again being out muscled. Though the Blades may have played with honest endeavour (though that didn't always necessarily extend itself to their captain Chris Morgan by the way) but I honestly believe that Watford generally played far better against us than United did.

The reason we lost on Saturday was simply because the so-called professionals that were out there supposedly playing for Arsenal were incapable of doing the most elementary things you would expect a bunch of highly paid professional footballers to be capable of.

How Wenger had the front to come out and claim that his side "gave everything" I don't know because as far as I could see there was one team doing that – and it wasn't Arsenal. Wenger was right about one thing though – on paper, we did have enough quality available on Saturday to win the game. The problem was that, in terms of character, all of players were very much like the shirts we wore on the night – yellow.

Now, it's time to look at Tuesday's home game at The Grove against Charlton.

It is true when people say that you reap what you sew in life. Charlton, having parted company with Alan Curbishley after 15 years, went and got rid of Iain Dowie after just 15 games.

I thought that it was nothing short of madness when he was sacked and then replaced by Les Reed and I still do to this very day. It appears to me as though the Charlton board have forgotten what got their club back into the Premiership and allowed them to establish themselves there in the first place – stability and continuity.

Mind you, it has to be said that the players at Charlton have to take a huge slice of the blame for the situation they find themselves in. It may be true that the Addicks squad isn't altogether the biggest or the best in terms of strength in depth but it's not as if they are short of players that know (or should know) their way around the Premiership scene either.

The likes of Hreidarsson, El Karkouri and Young are not only well established Premiership players but, particularly in the case of the first two, international regulars for their respective countries, Iceland and Morrocco. Charlton skipper Young has played a few competitive games for England as well of course.

In midfield, they can boast past and present Republic Of Ireland internationals in Reid and Matt Holland as well as Danish international Rommedahl on the wing. And, Charlton also boast three players who have all played for England under-21's in Ambrose, Darren Bent and Arsenal old boy Jerome Thomas.

When you fuse all those talents together with the experience of people like Hasselbaink, Kishishev, Marcus Bent and Bryan Hughes, I honestly find it difficult to see why Charlton have done so badly so far this term because on the face of things, it cannot be down exclusively to a lack of know-how.

I suppose it all comes to down the tired old adage that you can have all the skill and ability in the world but it means nothing if you don't have the right attitude to go with it and I honestly believe that there a few players down at The Valley that have simply not been pulling their weight and shelving their responsibilities.

Whilst the press and the media will be building this game up into some sort of rematch between Wenger and Pardew the Plum. But, after Saturday's fiasco at Bramall Lane, that is the least of Wenger's problems.

I know we will be missing a host of players yet again but that does not give any of the players who will step into the breach any rights whatsoever to pass the buck. It's time that some of the players remembered who they play for, where they play and what got them on to this stage in the first place.

Now, they have got to stand up, be counted and show they are worthy of it.