Friday, May 18, 2007

A Fitting Finish For Both Arsenal And Graham Poll

So last Sunday Arsenal completed their season by traveling to Portsmouth and drawing 0-0.

Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal

A fitting finish for Arsenal, with several good scoring chances wasted, almost all of them by Julio Baptista, who somehow managed to be even worse than usual. No less than three free headers inside of 8 yards missed, as well as a penalty that was so poorly taken that it was easily saved. That's 3 missed penalties this season for The Beast, who apart from 1 night at Anfield has been horrid and will be returning to Spain in the summer. Of course, he'll score 30 goals next season for whatever club he joins.

After he missed his 3 headers and penalty, Arsenal looked as likely to score a goal in the second half playing 4-5-1 with Baptista up front as they would if they played 4-5-1 with my mom up front. As the match went on you just knew that Portsmouth would secure and grab that last UEFA Cup place that they needed 3 points to secure.

And of course they did, after a rebound after a missed shot. What they failed to take into account, however, is that Graham Poll was not only officiating this match, but it was his final match, and he would take any opportunity that presented itself to go out in a blaze of glory. His is a long and storied history, which includes a performance so poor in and Arsenal-Newcastle match in 2001 that Arsenal officially requested to the FA that he never referee matches at Highbury again, and of course his famous awarding of 3 yellow cards to one player in the World Cup last summer, something that by the rules of football is not possible.

So Poll gave the goal, and over the next 60 seconds the TV showed like 4 replays of the goal which took at least 60 seconds. When live TV came back on we got to see Poll then deciding to nullify the goal after consulting with the linesman. I agree with the Portsmouth fans and TV commentators that the goal was not offsides, but at a minimum this is a decision that he should have made in the first 10-15 seconds after the goal- he is miked up to his linesman after all. By waiting a full minute and then doing it he showed his shittiness one final time, and in doing so he basically robbed Portsmouth of UEFA Cup football next year. To be fair, Poll and his crew fucked up 2 Arsenal offsides calls that each ended up with the ball in the back of the Portsmouth net, and the one on Baptista where Hoyte scored was especially awful.

So good job Graham Poll, way to go out in style.

So Arsenal finish 4th on 68 points, the same number that Liverpool finished with, but Liverpool's goal differential was 2 better than Arsenal's.

Very disappointing finish, but it was 1 point more than they gathered last season, so this season's performance, although hugely disappointing on it's face, isn't to shabby when you consider that this team lost Robert Pires, Denis Bergkamp, Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, and Lauren among others, and that the top 2 strikers, Van Persie and Henry, missed more matches than they played in.

Still, more needs to be done this summer to strengthen the squad. Specifically Arsenal lack pace on the wings, something that they have always had, be it Overmars, Ljungberg, Pires, even Anelka and Henry up front. They lack a player that can run at and run around defenders with furious pace for the first time under Wenger really. Ljungberg has lost a step or three and cannot run around people anymore; Henry can still do it but not as fiercely as he once could, and not on the wing. Theo Walcott has that pace but is still so young and it will be a few seasons before he matured into such a consistent threat. But the players we have out wide now do not fit that mold. Hopefully Arsene will sort something out in the summer.

So that's it. Arsenal free until August, and Graham Poll free forever. Hurrah.


moin said...

Here's my question, Graham Poll sucks, unequivocally, then how come he is ALWAYS the English ref sent to prestiges international tourneys like the World Cup or the Champions' League? Don't you have to earn those trips by good performances? For the life of me, I can't figure this out.

Oh, I don't get it with Baptista, he was a stud at Sevilla, neigh unstoppable. I figured his failure at RM was due to bad management and tactics. Maybe he's more suited to a midfield role than a striker role?

And I wouldn't worry too much over Arsenal, that pipeline of young talent is about to pay off big time in the next 2 seasons, I can feel it.

Kanu said...

Yes, that is the crazy thing about GP- that he always got sent up to UEFA & FIFA. I have to think that it was always more about seniority and politics than merit. Plus, if you just look at all of the insanely stupid shit that the English FA does, then this just fits perfectly.

Yeah, Baptista was so unbelievably bad that you would really have to watch all the matches to believe it. His first touch is terrible, he missed a million chances, and the fast pace that Wenger likes Arsenal play seems a touch too quick for him- he always seemed half a step behind. And his wondernight at anfield was a free kick, a missed penalty, and some tapins created largely by the work of his strike partner on the night, Aliadiere.

So he's your problem now, but I am certain that he will come good in Spain and score a million goals.

Of course, we get back Reyes, a player who is great when it is warm and is absolutely horrid when it is cold, and has stated many times that he hates London and it's cold weather. So I am hoping that he kicks ass during the La Liga run in thereby driving up his value, and hopefully Arsenal can sell him off to someone at a good price.

I hope you are right. The defense needs to be better, and speed and pace and goals on the wings would be much more Wengeresque than the team looked this year.

moin said...

Well, Baptista is going to get shipped out, he's not going to displace either Robinho nor Higuain. He might stay if he gets moved back to support attack if (WHEN, hopefully) Raul gets shipped out.

Reyes, for lack of a better word, stunk this season. Albeit not as bad as Baptista and if Arsenal lowers its asking price down to about the 8-10million euro figure, I think a deal can be struck to move Reyes to RM permanently. But he was so inconsistent and his football IQ so bad that Capello had to eat his words and put Beckham back in as first choice Right Winger.