N’gog’s games-to-goals ratio has indeed dropped to 4 in 15. I know you will focus on the 4 goals but I will focus on the 15 games. N’gog has played 15 games this season already. That is already way too many for a player in development. Especially considering we haven’t gone very far in any of the Cups! I think his form is symptomatic of that. His early form was good but as the games have added up the goals have waned. At one point he had a ratio in the region of 0.5 but has been going down. Ideally you would pick the games he plays in but at the moment he plays pretty much every game.
This is ultimately a failing of the squad. I thought at the beginning of the season we had enough options in attack with Torres, Kuyt, Voronin, Babel and Ngog. The the way things have gone shows we do need another experienced and pacey striker. Many of you think that Kuyt is the answer when Torres is not fit. I would disagree in that , though he has the experience and can score, he does not have the pace or aerial power. We have been poor most of the season which means we haven’t been able to play good attacking football and break down teams. As a lone striker Kuyt would have to have pace in order to get chances in a team playing poorly. Consider the chance Ngog missed yesterday. If that pass was to Kuyt it would not have been a goal scoring opportunity simply because Gallas would have eaten him up for pace. In fact Gerrard would have had to find another options as that run would not have been on. Even in terms of hold up play. Ngog’s ability to receive the ball with his back to goal is even above that of Torres, especially aerial balls. None of our striking options offer that.
In addition to the above, playing Kuyt through the middle raises the question of who will play on the right. In the absence of Yossi the answer is no one! Even with Kuyt I feel the right side of our team has been mostly ineffective since Johnson got injured. Kuyt has scored but has not provided this season. With Carragher at right back this is made even worse because so much of the ball is lost on that side of the field. Moving Kuyt and replacing him with an inferior right mid will only make the situation even worse. There is not point “solving” one problem by creating another!
I’ll put up my hand and admit we probably should have tried to find a pace striker in the summer. Now the question is who was available? Would Tevez have been worth it? Would we really want the version of Keane who’s just departed to Scotland? I don’t recall who else moved in the summer who would have fitted the bill. Maybe you can tell me?
REINA : 6.5 – There was nothing to do all night. Not sure how he survived the cold.
CARRAGHER : 6 – Struggled with Arshavin and was back to his usual ways regarding keeping possession. Far too many high balls up front.
AGGER: 6 – It was an easy game for the centre-halves. Bendtner was not very sharp. Even still they did manage to lose him a couple of times.
SKRTEL: 6.5 – He was quick to spot dangerous situations and cut out some dangerous through balls. Not as aggressive as last season. Would like to see him snap in harder but more effectively.
INSUA: 7.5 – His side was productive as has become the usual this season. Got down the touch line and created width.
KUYT: 6 – Didn’t offer anything going forward. The right side is a problem as there is not much production coming from there in terms of crosses. Poor use of the ball was a real disappointment.
MASCHERANO: 6.5 – Against Arsenal thisis a difficult place to play. They don’t have fixed central players except Song (who doesn’t need marking). I think both him and Lucas got caught on the wrong side of the ball too much. Straight passes continuously bypassed them and made them turn and chase back. Didn’t get close enough to Fabregas.
LUCAS: 6.5 – As above, positionally they were a little high up. I have noticed he has enlarged the areas of the pitch he uses thereby becoming less defensive and more box-to-box which is encouraging. Still needs to up his pace of play a little.
MAXI: 6 – Was off the pace which is to be expected. His movement in field is encouraging in that he gets right up into attack. I think as a team we need to adapt and play for that a bit more.
GERRARD: 7.5 – Has gotten his feet working again. The poor movement up front and the poor quality of passing in general made it difficult to build of some of his good play. Great through ball for N’gog but not the same quality pass into the box for Kuyt earlier in the game.
NGOG: 5.5 – Was really second best. I think the opposition was too good for him. The pace of the Arsenal defence made it difficult for him to get into good setup positions in which to receive the ball and hold it up. With that part of his game nullified he struggled to find a way to be effective. This should be a learning experience for the young man.
Had the chance of the game but Gallas did well to get across. I know many are already baying for his blood. But it’s worth remembering that he isn’t Torres!
DEGEN: 5.5 – I think he read the game poorly when he came on. The situation required he pick very carefully the moments to push forward. Was too eager to get forward at the cost of the team. I think the idea was good execution was poor.
BABEL: 5.5 – Continues to disappoint. With his attributes he should really do a lot better. The shot on goal was good but he doesn’t seem to play WITH the rest of the team. All his best moments are in individual play.
MANAGER: 6.5 – I really can’t think of a different line-up we could have played. The personnel have been picking themselves of late based on form. The change to pull Stevie into mid was a good one but also revealed why we like to keep him further up. Except for Yossi and Aquaman no one else in our team can do the hole player role effectively. When men return from injury there will be more options.
TEAM: 6 – The team was less than the sum of their parts yesterday. As individuals most rated about 6.5 but as a team it was a 6. The reason being that our passing was so poor, especially in the first half. Passing is what knits the team together. It’s what makes the players adopt a good shape in attack. We didn’t move well and we didn’t pass well. It was a pity coz we could have gotten something from this fixture.
The poor passing and lack of pace made it difficult to follow the same tactics used by Man U and Chelsea. The one time we did Gallas got back to make the tackle.
I think results of late have masked the fact that we actually haven’t hit good form. We have yet to get it all right on the field and really cut into a team. But I don’t think we are far off that provided we can keep the confidence up. All it takes is one inspired half of football to change everything – remember the first half vs Real Madrid last season?