25 September 2005

West Ham 0-0 Arsenal

I have little to say about the draw.

What can I tell you? Despite a few good attacks, Arsenal didn't look particularly dangerous. West Ham had a few chances too, but they were clearly happy to take a point from the match. And why not? Their goal for the season is to solidify their spot in the prem, and they're doing a fine job of it. If they can take a point from a match against Arsenal, they'll do so gladly.

Still, the match was billed as the antidote for the scoring drought in the Prem. Ironically, it was the only 0-0 game of the weekend, so it completely defeated the pundits' storyline. I'm glad for that if nothing else. There is certainly a defensive mindset at the moment in the league, but I think the "problem" is more hype than reality. Certainly Arsenal were going for goals, and West Ham weren't sitting back until the last half hour or so. Arsenal probably suffered from a short week (having played on Monday) as well as a look ahead to Champion's League play on Tuesday.

As I was watching the game, I came to believe that Arsenal's scoring problems come from a lack of stability more than anything. Arsenal have played 8 matches this season, and I think they haven't used the same starting 11 in any of those matches. (OK, the Thun and Everton matches were almost the same, save for Alumnia vs. Lehmann.) Midfielders in particular have been moved into various positions, and seen their roles change repeatedly. Some of that has been inevitable — fitting Hleb into the lineup, for example — and much has been due to injury. But in the end I think the team suffers. The good news, if I'm right, is that these things will stabilze over time, as the players grow more confident in their roles.

Anyway, we can hope. Player ratings:

Lehmann: 6. Did all right in the end, but had a few worrisome moments along the way.
Cole: 7. Defended well and got involved in the attack, though perhaps a touch less than usual.
Toure: 6. Not a bad game, and had one trademark Toure run.
Campbell: 7. Won an amazing number of balls in the air.
Lauren: 7. A fine job.
Hleb: 6. Lots of fine work, to little result. Hasn't seemed to gel yet in the side, though he's certainly working at it. Lineup instability probably doesn't help.
Gilberto: 6. His usual quietly involved self. Seemed to slow with injuries, hopefully not a recurrence of the back problem.
Fabregas: 6. A bit off his usual game. Seemed out of sync.
Ljungberg: 7. Looked quite threatening but couldn't make it tell.
van Persie: 5. Had some chances, but seemed to miscommunicate most of the afternoon.
Reyes: 7. Everything but a goal. He seems to be doing everything right, save scoring.

Flamini: 6 (71' for Gilberto). As always, had the effort, but couldn't seem to get involved enough.
Owusu-Abeyie: 8 (73' for Reyes). Active and creative, Quincy brought a renewed threat to the Gunners.
Clichy: 5 (82' for van Persie). An odd substitution. Didn't have enough time to really shine.

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