Yesterday saw the best and worst of the Arsenal that we have come to love and loathe in equal measure. In the first half we played some good football and tore Spuds apart and, in truth, should have been more than two goals up at half time. The team started brightly and were clearly up for the game. Before the game had even kicked off, Cesc had ignored Gallas in the tunnel and Nasri ignored him as the teams shook hands, so you knew that the game was going to get off to a flier. Nasri was up for putting one over on his former captain.
The Nasri goal came after a fantastic ball from Cesc from just inside our own half found Nasri and he did well to get to the ball before Gomez after his first touch let the ball run a bit further ahead of him than he would ideally have liked, he took it around Gomez and scored from an extremely tight angle. Cue this blogger going ballistic in celebration. You could see how much the goal meant to the player by the manner in which he celebrated. Nasri had earlier been clipped in the face by Gallas and whereas in years gone by he may have then disappeared out of the game, it only served to strengthen his resolve.
Spurs just weren’t able to compete and our players were finding themselves in space and with time on the ball. Our second goal came from a cross from the left from Arshavin and was met with a very nice finish from Chamakh. Yet again another goal for him and another assist for our mercurial Russian. We really should have been three up at the break but Cesc scuffed a glorious chance well wide when through on goal. That miss was to prove costly.
At the break, I have no idea what happened in our dressing room but the team seemed to come out half asleep. They just didn’t get going. The drive and urgency had gone. Perhaps they thought that the game was won. However, with a defence like ours, a game is never won when you are only two goals ahead. Spuds made a change in bringing on Defoe and it proved to be the key in the build-up to their first goal. Defoe won a header just inside our half, the ball flicked on to Van Der Faart who released Bale and he finished left-footed past Fabianski. Game on and we were looking so flat footed and lackluster that you just knew that Spuds were now in the ascendancy.
Their equaliser came from a free-kick that, to be honest, was quite harsh. Anyway, regardless of whether or not it was a soft free-kick, there was no excusing Cesc’s handball whilst standing in the wall. It’s hard to know whether Cesc was the one to raise his arm first or, if it was Chamakh that raised his arm and due to Cesc holding onto Chamakh’s arm, his arm went up, too. Regardless, Van Der Faart scored the resulting penalty and it was just a matter of time before Spuds got their third and get it they did. A free-kick was floated in and both Cesc and RvP (who was again well off the pace) failed to make any kind of telling challenge and Kaboul got enough on it to guide it past Fabianski. 3-2 and that was that. Infuriating. Incomprehensible considering how good we had been in the first half. To go from playing so well, to playing so poorly is hard to understand. The only way I can explain it is by assuming that the players thought that at 2-0, the game was won and they took their foot off the pedal. Defoe said as much himself after the game and I agree with him.
That’s THREE home defeats in the league so far this season and we aren’t even at the halfway point. Not good enough. The only silver lining is that Chavski later went on to lose to Birmingham and so we remain just two points off top, though we have now dropped to third after ManUre beat nine man Wigan to go joint top on 28pts. While Chavski losing is a silver lining, it just serves to strengthen the sense of frustration at a fantastic chance to go a point clear at the top being blown. Extremely disappointing.
You could argue that Spuds didn’t really create much, but the point is that they didn’t really have to because we have a defence that is more susceptible to leakage than an STD infected cock. Once the team stops hassling and pressing as a unit, our defence is laid bare and will, more often than not, concede a goal or three. Perhaps the manager should have retained Djourou instead of bringing Koscielny back into the team, but I think that our defence as a whole had a fairly poor game.
Bendtner must have sat looking at that game and wishing that he had kept his mouth shut. He certainly would have made more of a telling contribution than RvP did. RvP is still well off the pace,which is to be expected given how little football he has played since the World Cup.
So, where do we go from here? Some might say that it was a derby and anything can happen. But, for me, that just doesn’t wash. We have witnessed some poor performances at home this season and although we are still well in contention at the top of the table, it is clear that massive improvement is needed. Vermaelen is badly missed. The sooner we can get him back to full fitness the better. I think that there are lot of defensive changes to be made, we’re just not even close to being up to scratch in that department. Clichy is one player that I would look to offload, possibly Sagna too. Our full backs just don’t offer enough, especially Clichy. Although I like Koscielny, he just isn’t at Premier League level just yet. Squillaci has done okay so far, but he isn’t exactly the rock at the heart of our defence. Perhaps if he played alongside Vermaelen and developed a partnership we would be more solid.
It’s hard to write anything after the anger, frustration and disappointment felt after sitting through yesterday’s second half performance. When the team lacks motivation and drive, it’s hard to find the motivation to write about it, but maybe writing about it helps to exercise some demons and frustrations. This was written from a beer-hazed memory of watching the game live, I haven’t had a chance to check out MOTD or the ATVO highlights yet.
To try and finish on something kind of positive, on our day we can beat anyone. We just need to have more of those days.
That’s all for today from a very depressed North Bank blogger. I’m off to have a few beers to drown my sorrows.