EPL 2005, Day 6 (Arsenal 2 – Bolton 2) and French League, Day 6 (PSG 0 – Monaco 1)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
September 19th, 2004 • 11:38 am

I doubt that there are many Arsenal fans who, at the beginning of the season, wouldn’t have settled for 5 wins and 1 draw in 6 games. And yet, many are surely disappointed that the Gunners didn’t make it 6 on the trot — not so much because they didn’t manage to break another record, but really because they really shouldn’t have let Bolton score those two very soft goals. Without being particularly impressive, they had a decent, solid home performance — but the defence was found wanting on the two goals, and Wenger had every reason to be unhappy with the result.

Arsenal keeper Lehmann was clearly at fault on the first one. He jumped after the ball and was nowhere near it. And the second one was a bad scramble. Once again, Cygan didn’t really look like Premiership material in the heart of the defence next to Touré. He didn’t commit any major blunders this time, but he just isn’t all that convincing. I look forward to Sol Campbell coming back, but the Gunners really need better cover for their central defenders.

So the unbeaten record is broken again, and, in light of the calendar for the next few weeks, there is still a decent chance that Arsenal will reach the 50-game mark, although that particular game will be… at Old Trafford. Maybe that game will present the ultimate test of Arsenal’s real strength, which is questioned by Guardian columnist Rob Smyth in his “Don’t believe the hype” commentary.

You can see where Rob Smyth is coming from… Arsenal have yet to win the Champions’ League or even reach the last four, key players like Thierry Henry and Robert Pires haven’t really been all that convincing in big international competitions, and Arsène Wenger does seem to have a bit of a split personality when it comes to coaching decisions in tight games.

But at the same time, you cannot deny that what makes a team “great” is a mix of things. Just winning a major title doesn’t make a great team. No one would argue that FC Porto or the Greek national team are “great” teams. In such competitions, there’s an element of being there in the right place at the right time, and a fair amount of luck is involved. In addition, many of these competitions, in recent times, have been won by very defensive-minded teams and managers. It doesn’t make for very pleasant watching.

What’s great about Arsenal is that they are trying to become a “great” team by going on the offensive. They are trying to win elegantly. It will probably be considered a naive approach by some — but if everyone played defensive-minded football, watching the EPL or international competitions would be a very boring proposition. Arsenal, at this point, are probably the best representatives of offensive, creative play, of football with an aesthetic dimension. Maybe they’ll never manage to win major trophies with this type of football. It remains to be seen. They certainly seem to be improving almost every year.

The French League is nowhere near as interesting to follow as the EPL, but today’s clash between PSG and Monaco was probably a key moment in the season. PSG have had an awful start of the season, and Monaco, while suffering some setbacks, especially after losing so many quality players following their remarkable Champions’ League campaign last year, are still one of the handful of title contenders.

PSG were once again quite logically defeated by a superior team, and there is little in the way they play that makes you feel sorry for them. In recent years, they have been a chronically underperforming team, and the trend looks set to continue this year. They simply don’t have much real quality — and are definitely a team that deserves the “don’t believe the hype tag”! It’s actually surprising that their manager hasn’t been fired yet, just as it is somewhat surprising (but perhaps telling) that Real Madrid coach Camacho has already offered his resignation after two consecutive bad results for the “galacticos”.

Surely the fact that Real Madrid ended last season very poorly was a clear indication that the blame didn’t rest squarely on the manager’s shoulders. But in this day and age, I guess clubs simply cannot afford to openly question the quality and commitment of their multi-millionaire players…

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