I watched yesterday’s match with a veteran Arsenal supporter. Not Samuel Mowbray but someone whose first Gunners match was in 1948 no less.
As we watched the turgid, awkward spectacle in front of us on a freezing afternoon in North London, he told me what was wrong in his opinion.
“This is what is known as ‘Pendulum Football’” he said. “The ball goes one way and then the other without changing pace. It’s monotonous and too easy to predict.”
He was right of course. Without Cesc Fabregas in midfield, we relied on long balls forward to Manu Adebayor or, even worse, the centre-backs being forced to come out with the ball and start attacks.
That we still created chances such as the one-on-one that gave Adebayor his best chance or the crosses that David James generously flapped at, says more about Portsmouth’s folly than our guile.
But all that changed when Arsène Wenger made his substitutions and hopefully that will have provided him with some optimism about his options for the rest of the season...
Abou Diaby had a real chance to show what he can do as a central midfielder and, though one game is never enough to make a complete assessment, he fluffed his lines.
As with the game against Aston Villa, he has the ability to be sublime or ridiculous and that’s not good enough.
At times, when the mood takes him, he exerts every sinew, shows the type of dribbling and trickery that takes half a team out of the game.
Sadly, too often, he drifts around hoping no one notices him, not providing any positive contribution to the game.
I’m not going to lambast Nic Bendtner or Manu Eboue – both seemed to try quite hard yesterday and that’s the best I can say.
The game changed when Eboue went off because, all of a sudden, Arsenal had a player not happy to play the pendulum game.
Carlos Vela, who excelled as a winger last season in Spain, should have been seen as an option in that position this season in much the same way thatTheo Walcott’s skills are being honed out wide.
Wenger sees him as a central striker, but why not use him when Theo, Tomas Rosicky and the hot and cold Samir Nasri are unavailable or ineffective?
Every time he got the ball, Vela ran at Portsmouth, winning corners and trying to provide some incision that had been so sadly lacking.
He’s already played a substantial amount of football in the Primera Liga and I really don’t think it will be long before he could provide a viable option, especially with Eduardo close to return and likely to thrive on his style of creativity.
I hope Wenger sees that he has another creative option now and gives the Mexican an opportunity to show he can the answer to our wideman problems in the months ahead.