February 23rd, 2005 • 6:09 am
This was definitely one of the worst Arsenal performances in recent memory. The Gunners simply failed to create anything, and were really fortunate to get that away goal near the end. Still, it only barely keeps them alive in the tie. They now need to score at least twice at Highbury in 14 days and not concede a single goal — which, based on yesterday’s performance and on recent results in domestic competition, is not very likely.
Except for one save in the second half, Lehmann was unimpressive once again and was really useless on the first goal, where he might as well not have been there at all. The goal was Touré’s fault — but at least he redeemed himself by scoring the one goal for his team late in the second half.
Oliver Kahn didn’t have a great night either. He is probably partly to blame on the Arsenal goal — and would have conceded a penalty late in the game if Thierry Henry hadn’t been off-side. But really, who cares about Lehmann and Kahn. They are probably both undeserving of their national team position at this point. I don’t know enough about German football to have an idea of who would be the best keeper for that country, but it doesn’t look to me like it should be either Kahn or Lehmann.
As an Arsenal fan, I have to say that, unless Lehmann does something extraordinary to redeem himself between now and the end of the season — like stopping a penalty or actually having a string of great saves — he has to be replaced (and not by Almunia, obviously). Whether Wenger will have the guts and the honesty to do this remains to be seen.
Still, the rest of the team shares a good part of the blame in this particular performance. Nobody had a decent game, and most of Arsenal’s attacking force was hugely ineffective. There’s simply no way that this team can win the Champions’ League. Thierry Henry still appears unable to rise to the occasion, Reyes is still too inexperienced and too selfish, Vieira does not have the commanding and inspiring presence that a captain should have, Ljungberg does not do much, etc.
It is really very disappointing. I really do want stylish, elegant football to succeed at the international level, but it simply doesn’t look like it is ever going to happen. We need some kind of unique combination of panache and guts, and it seems that this Arsenal team simply don’t have enough of the latter. Will Wenger be able to add such a dimension to the team through player acquisitions in the summer?