Monday, 18 April 2011

Same old, same old

Only the Arsenal could give us such unconfined joy, before sending us into depression in a matter of minutes.

Only the Arsenal could take the lead with a 98th minute penalty, before conceding another in the 101st, throwing away a title challenge in the process.

The game will be analysed over and over again, with many pointing to different reasons for our draw. Some say bad luck, some say lack of effort, some say poor tactics. Others point to the referee. Some would just argue that our players aren't good enough.

Perhaps, though, it's a combination of those reasons. It was bad luck that Koscielny hit the bar with his perfectly timed leap and header. Bad luck that the referee was conned by Lucas. There seemed to be a lack of effort in the final third, but things just weren't clicking for us. The tactics just weren't working - they rarely do against teams that defend deep and in numbers. The referee should have blown up before Liverpool even got the free kick in the first place. The players weren't good enough on the day, as we didn't create enough chances.

We were pretty close to full strength, so no excuses there really. Song may have been missing, but Diaby put in a pretty decent shift again. There was a massive lack of cutting edge in attack. There was one period of play where it was desperately obvious what it was we were missing. All it took was a one-touch pass from Cesc to Nasri, who immediately flicked it into van Persie, and on another day, the keeper doesn't manage to get a hand to it. That's what we need to be doing - one-touch football that bamboozles the opponent.

But instead, we play an unbelievably slow game. Players spend ages on the ball, there's no movement, and they don't even try to shoot when left with pretty much no other option. The mentality is wrong in attack. We wait, and wait and wait for the space to just magically appear. We can't do that, we need to create the space ourselves with our own speed of thought and movement. My mind drifts back to Samir Nasri's second goal against Manchester United a couple of years ago. It was a multi-pass move that got us in a decent position in the opposition's half. Suddenly Walcott sped across the Manchester United defence, confusing them, and Vidic had to go with him. This opened up the space for Fabregas to find Nasri, who scored. 

Where's that change of pace now? We saw it in van Persie's chance, but other than that, it was non-existent. We're too one paced. But the formation and tactics don't help. The one striker we play isn't an out and out striker. He's done brilliantly to score as many as he has done, but he's more of a Bergkamp player. We really need that Henry to play ahead of him. Can Walcott be that player? Hopefully. Time will tell.

But this team is a shadow of the side that crushed Chelsea 3-1. Cesc had a poor game. Theo couldn't get the better of an inexperienced full back. Robin couldn't get the chances and when he did he didn't take them. Nasri was lacklustre, just like the whole team. But why could we not close the game out? You can say what you want about the (ridiculous) amount of time added on at the end of the added time. But we should have been able to keep the ball away from our goal. But we couldn't.

Arshavin and Bendtner didn't change the game much, but put themselves about which was good to see. It was also good that Arshavin got a huge cheer when he came on, which would have helped him. What wouldn't have helped the team was the incessant groan every time a ball was misplaced. Then the players become afraid of trying the difficult passes - the passes that win you games - because they're worried that the crowd will get on their backs. Maybe that's the reason we're better away from home these days. Because the away fans don't constantly turn on the players.

There seems to be a "them and us" mentality at the Club these days. It seems like the fans and the staff (not just the players) are part of two separate factions. That shouldn't be our attitude at all. Everyone at the Club has one common goal, for Arsenal Football Club to be successful. We should be striving together to reach that goal, everyone pulling in the same direction and doing whatever we can to get that success. But no.

It seems like some people have forgotten this great Club's motto. Victoria Concordia Crescit - Victory Through Harmony. Some people need to read the definition of the word harmony, because they're definitely not showing it right now. There are some really fickle "supporters" who forget that being a football fan is all about the lows as well as the highs. It's the lows that make the highs so thrilling. Remember that amazing top of the world feeling of beating Barcelona, the world's best team? That wouldn't have come around without the low of losing 2-0 to Braga and 2-1 to Shakhtar. Going back a while longer, if hadn't drawn to Wimbledon in the penultimate game of the 1988/89 season, one of the greatest moments in the Club's history would not exist. It wouldn't have been "up for grabs now", as it would have already been clinched.

And it's not as if it's mathematically impossible for us to win the league. It seems silly to hope, given what's happened in the past, but what's the use in giving up? At this Club, we don't give up until the bitter end, until the fat lady is well and truly singing. It may seem hopeless, but as long as there's a chance, we should be getting behind our team and singing at the top of our lungs, to desperately help the team win. If we win our remaining games, and Chelsea beat Man United, regardless of what happens in United's other games (ours excluded, as I'm counting that in our games) we'll be level on points with them. If we can boost our goal difference, we have a good shout of bringing the title to the Emirates. It may be six points, but stranger things have happened.

Now all we can do is focus on a massive North London Derby on Wednesday evening. The players must know how important a game it is. Let's hope we get all three points.


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