Well, if I’m going to take a positive out of anything this season it’s the fact that if there is a Premiership classic to be had, you can be damn sure we’ll be involved in it. If we’re not losing after going two goals up at home, we’re sharing the spoils after being 4 up at half time.
Last night was another one for the Sky Sports Gold archive. From a neutral or a Spurs/Arsenal perspective, the game was an absolute belter. I’m gutted that we threw away a 2 goal lead again, but what can you do? We knew the team had a soft underbelly a long time ago and we’ve known all season that a 2 goal cushion is never enough for this crop of youngsters.
The part that irritated me is that we know there is a problem, yet it appears nothing is has been done to remedy it. Since Wenger took on the job of running the team on a budget, he’s constantly shown himself to be inept tactically. Last night was more of the same. Harry Redknapp recognised he’d made a tactical error at half time and made the relevant changes. Arsene Wenger knew he was two up, knew the league was on the line, yet he continued with the same formation and we were pegged back in the second half.
Playing against Spurs is not a banker like it used to be. We can’t expect to go to the Lane and turn them over every year. Our chance at Premiership glory was not lost there, it was lost at Newcastle when we surrendered a 4 goal lead. Since then, we’ve won 3 and drawn 5. We’ve also dropped out of 2 cups. Wenger can hold onto the achievement of not losing since United on the 13th of December, but that’s no good if you’re failing to beat Sunderland, West Brom and Blackburn. It’s no good if you’re conceding after the 98th minute at home.
Last nights game got off to a screamer. Diaby and Song played a neat one two, Cesc was found in space, he threaded Theo through the centre and the young Englishman didn’t need a second invite, he slotted perfectly past Gomes for the first.
Spurs equalised shortly after, VdV was picked out by Corluka, Diaby was tracking his run but didn’t make and attempt at a challenge, the Dutchman fired inside Chezzer’s near post and the game was level.
Robin went close up the other end but Gomes was equal to his near post shot and tipped the ball round the post.
Our second came when Nasri and Diaby exchanged passes in the middle of the park, Nasri looked up and fired a long-range low effort past Gomes. A super goal and an example of what happens when you take a gamble with a shot.
Our crossing from the right was particularly woeful, Sagna was not on top form in that department. There was a great over all flow to our game, a confidence I haven’t seen for months and a variety that was truly refreshing.
Theo was slipped in through the middle again, his shot was dragged just wide. The more I watch Theo this season, the more I’m convinced he’s been watching Marc Overmars videos. He’s direct, incredibly fast and he’s added finishing to his repertoire this season.
Our third came from a very nice move again, Sagna’s first cross missed all the red shirts, Gallas tried to chest the ball out of play, it didn’t work, Theo nipped in and chipped to the back post, Robin cushioned a header over Gomes, the Brazilian clawed it back out into the danger zone… Robin roofed it into the net!
Chezzer had already had one run in with Bale earlier in the game where he unfortunately elbow dropped him after beating him to a cross. Bale had the chance to get his own back, he raced Chezzer to a 50/50, the Pole won and took him out in the process. As he walked back, he winked to his team mates. Classic Chezzer. He really has potential legend written all over his future.
3-1 up and you’d have thought we had the game tied up. The ball went back down our end, Cesc failed to clear his lines further than Huddlestone. The Spurs porker looked up and banged the ball back at our goal and once again, Arsenal were beaten by another screamer.
We’re pretty good at conceding those.
The second half started, Sagna had his lip busted open by the jagged elbow of Peter Crouch.
Jack Wilshere came on, my girlfriend looked up and said, ‘ahhh, Jeremy Kyle.’ Fair shout.
Spurs really upped things, VdV was all over the place. He truly is an incredible player when his mind is on the game. He forced a number of smart saves from our young keeper.
Robin was deemed offside after he put the ball into the Spurs net. I wasn’t so sure.
We were only one up, the panic button had been well and truly smashed and the Lillywhites were controlling the possession and the tempo of the game.
Theo had a good chance to bury the tie but instead of going for goal, he cut back only to find there was no one in the box for him. Arsenal’s default panic style of play is to be as indirect as possible and over complicate things. Too many stray passes and missed opportunities to pepper the Spurs goal were happening.
Lennon was played in down the wing, Chezzer thought he could beat the pacey winger for the ball, we all knew what he was going to do, Lennon nicked the ball and flew over our keeper. Penalty.
VdV stepped up, sent the keeper the wrong way and equalised.
Our young keeper didn’t cave in though, he stepped up, took responsibility and popped up with some fantastic saves to keep us in the game.
The game played out, the Sky Sports Gold certificate was printed out and posted to Gazidis and we flunked out of another season.
Mathematically we’re not out of the league but psychologically we are. We’re shot to pieces in the confidence department, we’re incapable of holding onto a lead and sadly, there isn’t the knowledge or the experience in the squad to turn this around. Last night, our first team was on show and we still choked.
The oldest player on the pitch was probably Robin Van Persie and he has about 107 Premiership games to his name. Cesc was the most experienced but again, he doesn’t have the know how for leadership. You don’t look to him to calm the players, you don’t look to him to uphold standards. He is a brilliant player, his energy should be spent concentrating on playing and that’s it. He wasn’t born to lead, he’s admitted he doesn’t like burden so we should buy someone in who can.
I feel sorry for this team. At the core of it, we have some fantastic players capable of winning it all. We just don’t supplement that talent with know how. We’re scared of winning at the moment and only and injection of quality will remedy that.
Chezzer was fantastic last night, his error was one of youth and inexperience. I highly doubt he’ll make a mistake like that any time soon, but that’s the cost of allowing youngsters to work their apprenticeships in your first team. This year, we’ve lost 12 points that I can think of due to goalkeeping errors.
Liverpool (A) Almunia concedes near post shot 2 point
Newcastle (H) Fabianski misses ball into box for Carroll to score 3 points
WBA (H) Almunia concedes goal after putting his knee in wrong place 3 points
WBA (A) Almunia rushes out to shove over Squillaci 2 points
Spurs (A) Chezzer concedes penalty 2 points
Total points lost: 12
Lose those errors and we’re 2 points clear of United at a minimum.
Now I’m sure people will tell me that there were other factors, of course there were, but for me, at the highest level, there’s a thin line between success and failure. If we’d had a decent experienced keeper in from the start, would we have dropped 12 goalkeeping related points? I think it’s always forgotten that conceding through a keeping error has a knock on effect to the confidence of the defence. It can also kill the attacking impetus of the team for the rest of the game. There is an on cost to erratic keeping and I think we’ve suffered because of that this year.
Psychologically, this team needs a boost. We’ve spent 6 years being told the team will come good. We’ve heard that signing players isn’t the answer, well, guess what, it’s pretty much the only thing we haven’t tried. Speak to any sports psychologist and they’ll tell you that freshening up a mentally tired squad with new players is a boost to everyone. Look at Liverpool and their resurgence since they’ve rid themselves of Torres and bought in Carroll and Suarez.
I’m not here to hammer the team today, I knew something like last night could happen, choke is part of game at the moment, so I’m not surprised. What I will say is that if Arsene Wenger can’t face up to the problems he has in his squad in the summer, he really should ask himself whether this is the right club for him going forward. Banging on about mental strength that has consistently proven not to be there is getting beyond a joke now.
I’m sick and tired of being part of the classic games. I long for a side that has proper mental strength, a coach or an assistant who know how to instruct a team to play out a game and perhaps some proper ‘been there, done that’ types in our side.
The average age of our squad didn’t win us the league again. All it proved is that growing your own team is flawed without leadership. All it proved is like with anything in life, you need a balance. A degree from the Arsenal Academy gives you the basic tools to make a career, but it’ll never teach you the art of being a winner. This is something you can only learn from people who have earned their degree out in the trenches.
Just a quick note to Alex Song. The NLD is pretty major to most Arsenal fans. Meeting up with your Spurs mate on the half way and having a laugh, joke and hug with them really isn’t appropriate. Save it for the dressing room if you have to do it there and then. You remember I told you that the atmosphere in the dressing room was the same win, lose or draw… case and point right there.
P.S. Thanks to the 12 people who listened into me on 5 Live last night! Also, this made for interesting reading from the Deputy Editor at Sport.co.uk (Gooner btw)…
UPDATE: Arsenal have been in touch and informed me that the journalist in question did not have the reported interview sanctioned by Arsenal. The publication did not send the document back for Arsenal to sign off at all.
Follow us on twitter @LeGrove
Follow us on Facebook
Subscribe to our daily e-mail