1 Derby Won; 1 Derby Lost

The Arsenal beat Fulham 3-0; Valencia CF lost to Villareal 3-0.

Both of them are derby matches (although the Spanish one is admittedly more of critics’ choice rather than the other luckless Whites of London). The Arsenal rarely got up to 5th gear for most of the match and had the game in a chokehold. Poor Fulham simply do not have the quality to stay afloat after their sensational promotion to the upper echelons of the British Premier League about 6 seasons ago.

That Togo did not qualify for the African Cup of Nations (that’s how it’s spelled) meant that "hate him or love him" Adebayor would be in the thick of action for the Arsenal, consigning Nicklas Bendtner to the bench with his 2 splendid goals. Headed goals.

I’ve every reason to believe that since most teams in the Premiership has taken the hard way to contain the Arsenal from scoring against them, it’s up to the Arsenal to fashion some new way to score goals from set-pieces and deadball situations and that’s where I believe that Adebayor’s headers have added a vital dimension to the attack. I’ve also been pleased with the way the Togo international behaved himself so far and hope for more of these goals in the future. I still recall his goal against Man Ure in 2006/2007 at Old Trafford for Old Men and that would definitely cheer up any bad days.

I was also surprised at Tomas Rosicky’s excellent positioning to score. He lashed a shot which hit the post and rebounded out after half time but made up for it with a really sublime goal. Not the most comfortable body placing to score but he’s made the most of it and pulled the Arsenal to safety after the Fulham side rallied late on with 2 strikers up front, with David Healy partnering a mediocre but hardworking Clint Dempsey.

All in all, a useful 3 points away and still level on points with the Man Ure who won against a battling Reading side 2-0. The Ronaldo goal (2nd) was one where the Reading counterattack was foiled with only 1 defender tracking back in vain. Still, I’ve seen snippets of the match and was satisfied that the Man Ure weren’t as good as most are led to believe.


My main concern today is about "Los Ches".

It’s frustrating and tormenting to watch such a depreciative level of football.

I’m not talking about a performance of the day, of course. It’s better to look at how Koeman is faring even worse than what Quique Sanchez Flores was doing before the Dutchman came along. It’s just and probably fair to claim that Ronald Koeman has possibly done more harm than good whilst in charge so far of the La Liga team.

Why we can’t look singularly at yesterday’s loss to Villareal CF is because the "Yellow Submarines" are never easy opponents at their home turf of Estadio El Madrigal and that the problem is worse than skin deep. The dilemma at the club came to light after Sanchez Flores was sacked not before. Koeman had not inherited his problems but has added some baggage of his own.

So, Santiago Canizares has had his future in doubt alongside Miguel Angel Angulo. Already their shock departure from the first team has made me rather pissed at the Valencia CF board of directors for sanctioning such a move. I was momentarily relieved when the board actually mentioned that they were just ‘dropped’ not sacked but Koeman seemed to have other ideas. Koeman’s actions are just sending out the message that he intended to implode the club and deprive it of their players especially since Valencia’s stock have dropped sharply these times. Who would clean up this mess for them? The young Argentine Ever Banega, maybe?

In fairness, I can’t really blame Koeman for axing Canizares as the goalkeeper was certainly a spectator when he played and was culpable in all of the goals which Barcelona scored against them in a similar 3-0 win at the Mestalla. But I can’t see how David Albelda and Miguel Angulo have been subjected to such treatment. Whether Albelda was shedding crocodile tears to garner enough sympathy to be reinstated is another thing as he was a club legend and never glanced elsewhere other than to play for the white shirts. Heavy-handed or otherwise, it’d be a huge gamble for Koeman if his strategy were to backfire. In fact, while I opined that Albelda and his teammates weren’t at their best, whatever said in private to Koeman should just remain there – in private. Talk about hanging tainted laundry to dry before your impressionable neighbours.

I watched the Villareal game yesterday and it was almost like watching the "Soccer" game on the Nintendo Entertainment System played by 2 players – a really good player and one who just started out. Awful, lack of inspiration and love for the famous white jersey with the bat logo. Hell, don’t just blame the team – blame the freaking Dutch coach for a change! He was watching the team trying to unlock the stubborn yet efficient Villareal defence and was contented to do just about nothing constructive to change that.

I absolutely love the way Vicente and Joaquin strutting their stuff down the flanks, albeit being shadows of their former selves but (just in case the others weren’t able to notice it) no one in centre midfield was capable of supporting them! No connection, no teamwork whatsoever. When these 2 wingers raced down their respective flanks, there is no one to pass to! Where was Ruben Baraja or David Silva? Needless to say, both men were quickly substituted by more inexperienced players.

There is nothing really wrong with the team. The strikers are all there waiting for decent service but let down by poor centre midfielders.

The defence is also another major problem. If you think that Timo Hildebrand is a good German goalkeeper, you must have been watching the Bundesliga too much. This guy can only be good for the Serie A or the Eredivisie. He hardly looked confident in goal and was letting in goals from the most agonizing of situations – the Capdevila "soft goal" and the Nihat one. Pity about the Robert Pires one which was top drawer and is reminiscent of the ones he scored for the Arsenal. I thought that he should have come out to meet the Capdevila opportunistic goal instead of nestling so deep at the touchline.

But most of all, it appeared that the club has never really found a replacement for Fabian Ayala. Raul Albiol is not Valencia CF material. Carlos Marchena was decent but looked out of position most of the time. The defence looked very porous for large chunks of the game. Was the rightback (Marco Caneira) even in the game?

If I had my way – I’d envision Koeman getting the sack after February after another string of lacklustre results. This guy can just sit there and not do anything about his tactics (midfield not providing service). His team wasn’t getting much luck with that tactic carried forward from half time but all he could come out was to replace players with even younger ones whose fighting spirit is questionable! I say this with no exaggeration when the commentator felt that Carlos Marchena (who was captain) shouted something to his bench about changing things around. Koeman looked disinterested. He must have been thinking of cooking up another "discipline issue" to condemn Marchena for flouting his authority now. Heck, I’m starting to believe that Koeman is a double agent for his old club Barcelona, out to sabotage and destroy the proud Valencia team. Why I singled out Koeman’s youth players is that he claimed that Albelda’s sacking was primarily because "other younger players had more hunger and will to play in that position". Can we Valencianistas see them?

I may be getting quite unreasonable with my comments on Koeman – I truly felt that he had done a wonderful job for PSV and that his Champions League record for PSV is actually quite good. However, his starting record for Valencia is badly tarnished – he hasn’t been able to string together enough points to make the team look good. Before Sanchez was sacked, the team was still sitting rather pretty at 4th spot. Now, Koeman?

Still, as with the Arsenal 2 seasons ago, some teams would experience this transitional period – the one where the old guard be phased out until new capable ones take over their stead. If he can prove his decisions right (Valencia has already signed Hedwiges Maduro from Ajax) then be prepared for the new look team. After all, he has dealt with difficult personalities in his time: the Ajax youngsters and Patrick Kluivert whom Koeman claimed broke his neck to sign him. He did drop Kluivert from PSV’s roster completely in the 2007/2008 season and Kluivert’s misbehaviour is not the first of the kind.

Perhaps the other Valencia players were still sore at Albelda’s treatment and were resentful as it shows in their on-pitch performances but as the basci principle holds solid – no employee is bigger than the employer. Albelda, Cani and Angulo simply learnt it the hard way.

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