Well, currently I’m flatter than a warm bottle of half drunk coke. Being on the receiving end of a late goal is very painful. Watching Arsenal squander that many chances even more so. Watching Almunia cement his place in the worst Arsenal number 1 category was also pretty gutting, but not surprising.
You see, that’s the thing… poor players can only be hide their weaknesses for so long… then when you least expect it, with chip, a flap and a tap… you’re out of the Premiership. That Kevin Phillips goal didn’t deserve to be the goal that put us out of the race but it was.
I said months ago to much criticism I feared something along today’s lines. I wondered whether something major would have to occur to see him dropped and it turned out something very major happened… killing 8 months of hard work and millions of fans dreams. Still… Arsene knows. If only someone had warned him his keeper was a liability.
The game started off at a high tempo, Diaby going close early on.
Howard Webb was doing a great job of hashing up a good game of football. I have a theory… he is in place because he looks like Colina. It’s the only excuse I can think of because he’s not there on refereeing merits.
Birmingham played with a disciplined line of 8 players in front of their 18 yard box. They geared themselves up for the quick counter attack should they get the chance.
Sol Campbell allowed Jerome to get goals side of him and was very lucky he didn’t play for the penalty, instead, opting to have a crack. Luckily for Sol, tame enough for Almunia to gather easily.
Arsenal looked out of ideas. Birmingham were defending resolutely and with discipline.
Half time came, Arsenal had disappointed especially considering wha was at stake. The second half was going to need a step change in attitude and fight. 2 shots wasn’t acceptable.
Birmingham hit a cross into the box, it was looped to the back post which it hit, then Dann missed from a yard out! Shocking!
Almunia seemed particularly slow off his line today which was causing confusion at the back.
Nasri and Arshavin were called to the rescue. Not a bad pair of players to bring off the bench!
Bendtner failed to anticipate a miscued header from Birmingham allowing the ball to whizz past his face. Very poor if I’m honest, a striker should always assume a f*ck up is in the offing.
Some good work by Arshavin and Nasri nearly put Arsenal one up. You felt there was a bit more spice about the team at this point.
Watching Clichy cross so far past the back post Sagna picked it up was ridiculous, watching Sagna do the same with his return cross summed up the pair from a crossing point of view. It’s amazing how bad their crossing is. It’s like they don’t practice.
Our opening looked like it had arrived when Diaby out muscled Bowyer, turned and fired the ball past Hart. Howard Webb blew for the foul. He really does love to ruin a game, doesn’t he? A terrible decision!
At this point my stream went down.
We needed a goal, things were looking good…
What did I need to hear? The muffled nerdy roar from Le Tis screaming Sammy boys name! We were back in the hunt again and keeping pace with the rampant Chelsea.
What was the last thing I wanted to see when my stream returned? Almunia rampaging off his line past his penalty spot to tamely punch a high ball. A sign of things to come.
Rosicky forced a good save from Hart, Bendtner did well to work his way back into the box, he laid off Arshavin who screwed his simple shot wide.
Nasri did well to get on the end of a Cesc pass, all he needed to do was shoot early, instead he opted for the cut back to no one!
Down the other end we paid, Phillips got on the end of a high ball into the box, Almunia tipped it over his head, Phillips finished.
Shocking, devastating… predictable.
You put a ticking time bomb between the sticks, don’t be surprised when it blows up in your face. Gutting…
Mathematically, we’re not out of it. We could still get back in. The odds are slim though. We’ve been let back in too many times this year to keep expecting favours.
We knew that today was going to be a tough game. No one in the top 6 has won their this season. So it is quite amazing that we didn’t field our strongest 11. Arshavin and Nasri should have started in my opinion. Saving them for the champions league is a waste, we could go out with a hammering next week, then we’d have no trophies to go for. However, it wasn’t like we stuck two unknowns in there place.
£60k a week, saviour of English football, Theo Walcott should be able to create some chances and he didn’t . It hurts to say, but I am amazed Eboue wasn’t started ahead of him today. He’s a much better player and in better form.
Thomas Rosicky is pretty much a first teamer when fit and he should have done better.
Shocking finishing is also to blame. It all got a little lax when we went 1-0 up. Arshavin’s finishing was atrocious, as was the finishing of a number of others. You need to be clinical at this level, like United and Chelsea we were in their respective games.
Howard Webb also did his level best to maintain his poor reputation among football fans. He disallowed a perfectly good goal which was unforgivable.
Still, lets not start the blame game. Lets not talk about injuries, the media conspiracy or the refs. The cold hard facts are that we weren’t good enough today and we were punished.
It’s as simple as that.
I wanted to mention the triumphant attitude of a lot of blogs recently, you’d have thought the league was sewn up reading through the amount of ‘I told you so’ posts. Key lesson here? Don’t bust out the party poppers until the trophy is in the cabinet, otherwise you end up making yourself look like a tit.
It’s key to have a little bit a realism in your assessments whether they are positive or negative. We’ve made the league a hell of a lot harder, it’s Chelsea and Man United’s to lose now, not ours to win. That doesn’t mean we’re out of it, it doesn’t mean our season is a failure, it just means we’ve got to focus till the end and win all our games.
In your heart of hearts though, how many truly believed this squad was deserving of a Premiership trophy this year let alone capable of driving out 14 straight wins? For all the progress we’ve made, I think it’s key to understand that plenty of other teams have taken massive strides. If we drop points to City and Spurs, we could take third by about 5 points. That’s frightening. Still and achievement compared to seasons past, but a very real reminder that we need to address our weaknesses this summer because the traditional top 4 dominance looks like it’s coming to an end as we know it.
I hope we beat Barcelona next week, but even if we do, it still wouldn’t be worth sacrificing the league. I think Wenger dropped a clanger today and I’m worried because the cost dropping out the title race is two fold:
1) It puts more pressure on the team against Barca.
2) If we lose heavily, we’re out of everything.
For me, during the action end of the season, you should be fielding your best team in every game because the cost of 2 dropped points can be devastating. Poor decision making with team selection has cost us numerous times over the last few years. Chelsea in the semi final, United in the FA Cup. I just hope yesterday hasn’t cost us two trophies…
Still, we’ll have to dust ourselves down and get behind the team for next week. It could be one of the greatest moments for the club post Highbury.
Keep em’ crossed Vic Akers finds the teams shooting boots.
Almunia: Late coming off his line, weak with his distribution and flappier than a seagull whose just spied a chip on the pavement. He’s been a liability since our tour of Hungary and today, Arsene’s faith was repaid by a blunder that pretty much killed out title dreams. I don’t care how nice to be around, he needs to be removed from the squad. He’s cost us goals all season. Bar a few penalty saves, his keeping has been unacceptable. 1
Clichy: Defended well, but against weaker opposition his job is to deliver decent crosses into the box. The amount of times he missed the box was pathetic. The only thing that upstages his crossing is his poor technique for delivering them. What happened to wrapping your foot around the ball? He balloons them in like he’s shelling an enemy with mortar rockets. 6
Sagna: I find his crossing marginally better than Clichy’s, but weak all the same. Having fast full backs who can’t cross is like having a crap goalkeeper. Pointless. 6.5
Campbell: He played really well today and supported the inexperienced Song powerfully. A great player. 8
Song: Super game at the back. Because of his experience playing in the midfield, he looks like a centre back in the mould of Rio Ferdinand. If he improves at the back, he could be a major asset for us. 8
Denilson: I think fans hit the auto-slag button when it come to the Brazilian. Ok, he wasn’t the best yesterday, but he was far from the worst. He didn’t make too many errors from where I was sitting and he covered the midfield well. All he’s there to do is protect the back 4 and play simple passes. Not to inspire the rest of our true creatives. 7
Cesc: Took a very long time to get into the game. He was roughed up from the start and nearly went off injured. In the second half he was much better, laying on many chances. Shame it didn’t work out today. 6
Diaby: Becoming one of my favourite players to watch. Powerful, crisp in the pass combined with the ability to bring the best out of others. He was very good today and had a perfectly good goal disallowed. 8
Bendtner: Didn’t get the service he needed but at the same time, didn’t utilise it when he got it. He needs to show more instinct in front of goal and occasionally snap at a shot instead of passing it back out of the penalty box. Poor game when we needed more. 4
Theo: Sorry, I can only report on what I see. He wasn’t in the game today bar a few mazy runs that amounted to nothing. He’s had plenty of games now and we’ve read plenty of chat. Where’s the product Theo? We needed it yesterday and we didn’t get it. Eboue should have played instead, he’s a far more accomplished player. 4
Rosicky: He had a few shots and worked some nice interplay. The trouble is, he’s very similar to a lot of other players we have. When they’re all trying the same things it seems to nullify their powers. 6
Arshavin: Came on an immediately sparked the team into action. The Russian isn’t really an impact player and it showed with his terrible finishing. Should have been on from the start in my opinion. However, his fitness is terrible so I can understand why he wasn’t if Wenger had Barca in mind. 6
Nasri: Came on, created, scored a goal and squandered a chance. Should have been on from the start as well. 7