Some Serious Dusting Off Needed, But No Time to Overreact…

Football can often dictate the mood I carry with me for the rest of the day in my more normal life. AC Milan saw me buzzing for the whole weekend leading up to Wigan, and life’s cruel balance just had to see that come crashing down, didn’t it?

flaminiwiganTruth be told, I had quite an excellent day, in spite of a very frustrating stalemate between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal. With Manchester United and Chelsea fluffing their lines very badly in the FA Cup, this was a chance to pull four points clear at the top of the table.

Instead, we’ve only managed two points. The opening exchanges did not suggest this would be so, when, in the opening minute, Adebayor was sent sprinting clear after a lovely through-ball from Fabregas. Adebayor had only the keeper to beat, but shot straight at Kirkland, with the onrushing Bendtner unable to get to the rebound.

Watching the replays of the effort, Adeebayor was made to run at full tilt to keep at paces with the pass, and it was more than likely that any attempt to play past the keeper first would have either been overhit or predicted. The game-theories would have all played through the striker’s mind, so one cannot fault the decision to shoot first.

Wigan captain Mario Melchiot was having the kind of match that made him so great for Chelsea in the heyday, blocking a goal-bound shot from Adebayor when the striker found himself in the clear once more. Some lovely interplay between Hleb and Fabregas eventually saw Nicklas Bendtner free down the right channel, only for the ball to bobble over a lump in the pitch to mess up the striker’s attempted cross back towards the goal mouth.

If truth be told, this was the only real incident where the pitch affected the players, but throughout the game the pace of passing was slower than the pinging-between-the-players we are usually accustomed to, and this allowed Wigan to keep up with Arsenal throughout. Fabregas was able to send a header towards the far post, but Kirkland did well to palm it away for a corner.

The second half did not see much change to the match’s momentum. Clichy sent in an aerial pass (nullifying the awful excuse for a pitch) which was floated too far for Adebayor, but Scharner incorrectly decided to head it out of goal straight to Adebayor, whose first-time volley had a sense of panic to it, and was well saved by a stranded Kirkland. Given that the one-on-one at the start of the match did not give Adebayor that many choices, perhaps his scuffed volley can be considered the chance that went begging.

That mistake from the defender aside, Scharner showed what a player he is for Wigan, today. He and Melchiot proved too much as a unit for Arsenal on the day, and his adaptability in midfield is something to be admired in past weeks.

Robin van Persie and Kolo Toure made their returns from injury for Arsenal; the former had a glow of expectation around him that comes from spending too many months on the injury table. The big Dutchman tried his luck from distance in his first exchange, but boomed it over the crossbar.

A love exchange occured involving Toure, Hleb, Adebayor and finally Fabregas – a typically flowing Arsenal move of clever angles and one-touch movement, but Kirkland smothered Fabregas’ shot at goal from close range.

The dying minutes were all-Wigan, extinguishing any hope of a last minute goal, and all in all it was pretty frustrating stuff out there. Breaking up Flamini and Fabregas’ central partnership might have been necessary, but you cant help think that Gilberto on the right wing (he did play there once upon a time) instead of in central midfield may have been worth a try instead.

Instead, Gilberto had an average game where he put in a few dangerous and probing passes but then got swallowed up by the bog of a pitch on other times. Aliaksandr Hleb was the other player to not enjoy himself out there, putting so many passes straight at defenders instead of onto players looking for a run – his first ‘stinker’ of a game in a long while, certainly.

The other dissapointment was an isolated one with Gallas – the defence played quite well today, again, but in the closing minutes of injury time, with Wigan dominant, Gallas had advanced up the field hoping for a ball that did not come. When the play broke to the Arsenal-goal-bound Wigan, Gallas failed to return to the backline to help out his defence; Wigan having two attempts at goal in that time with Fabregas eventually forced to clip the ball over his own crossbar for a corner.

In the end: two points dropped. Wenger said of his team’s effort in a post-match conference:

It was a difficult game and we were focussed. We prepared ourselves mentally to face a difficult pitch and we still had the chances to win the game. Overall we did what we could and gave everything.

And in my opinion, that’s exactly right. Reviewing the chances this team had, there was not much more they could have done. Wigan deserved their draw after playing to Arsenal’s strengths and weaknesses, nothing much went our way on the day, and Arsenal were lucky to escape a handball appeal on Fabregas in the dying seconds.

Arsenal’s destiny reamins very much in the players own hands, however. Potentially Manchester United could go a point ahead should they win their next match against Bolton (away), but having still to travel to Chelsea and United, the league is not over yet.

It will be difficult. Winning the championship always is. But I want players like Flamini to acknowledge that kind of challenge, which he has done duly so:

…you cannot moan. You just have to score goals and we didn’t so now we have to work harder in training and be ready for Middlesbrough. It’s always difficult especially after big games like Milan, you need to be 200 per cent concentrated. But we had five days to recover.

We missed a little bit in the final part. But it’s like that sometimes. We have the quality and we are strong so we just have to keep going.

The tenacious midfielder’s graft will have to prove infectious in the coming months – I still believe that both trophies the club find itself chasing are doable.

It just requires us fans to keep the faith, end this ‘slump’ (involving no defeats, mind you) against Middlesbrough, and take it from there.

This team can still improve, and it still is going places. More tomorrow – so who’s feeling a little sick?

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18 Comments

Filed under Arsenal, Blogging, English Premier League, Match Reports

18 responses to “Some Serious Dusting Off Needed, But No Time to Overreact…

  1. Harris

    I am I was so sure we would be able to pick up the three points at the jjb

  2. Jansen

    I need a blow job.

  3. Cmor Ignagsu

    Do you think Wenger will ever bench Abebayor? He will cost us the title.

  4. Jansen

    Adebayor is a man in dire need of a blow job. He’s too stressed on the pitch and panics too much when he’s one on one.

    Adebayor will never be benched.

  5. Ramgun

    It was Hleb’s first stinker since our last league game against Villa and Adebayor was, for the 3rd successive league game, lazy and quite dreadful.Unfortunately Arsene’s selections and, in particular, his substitutions are on pecking order and not performance.

  6. jammathon

    And who is playing better than Adebayor to replace him, might I ask?

    Did anyone not notice how he terrorised AC Milan? No, thought not. It’s the team that’s going through a rut, not one player. One minute we’re praising him to high heaven, the next minute, Adebayor’s not good enough.

  7. charlie

    Here is the statistics from the last five games

    Chelsea———-11 points
    MU ————–10 points
    Arsenal ———-9 points.

    Are we really that bad as some of our so called fans suggest?????????

  8. KukayaGunner

    It is just a poor patch that has come in March, transferred from November as per previous seasons….and when this is over we will march on to glory in May…so I hope.
    vP11 is back, so goals will start flowing. It also depends on the other teams’performances now.
    Birmingham was a tragedy day for Eduardo, Villa were just brilliant and we were lucky with that draw, JJB is fit only for rugby…so there isn’t much of a crisis as it appears…nice one Charlie!

  9. Gooni

    yes charlie you got it right except we played 1 game more.

  10. Panther

    When the final whistle blew on Sunday, it ushered in St Totteringham’s Day 2008.

  11. The artist formerly known as eboue's hand

    I find it truly hilarious the way the Ade haters come out as soon as anything goes slightly wrong. The man is not God, but he is a bloody good striker. In a season where nothing much was expected of him or Arsenal we are still in a strong position to win the league and the CL, with Ade having a good chance of being top-scorer. If we do these things then no-one will be on here slagging him off. And even if our season falls to pieces we should still acknowledge how brilliantly our young team has done, and appreciate how Ade has nearly made us forget all about that guy who left in the summer.

  12. the artist formerly known as Eboue's Hand

    Jammathon, I hope you have noticed that the decline in our recent fortunes has coincided with your lack of blogging lately…I know who I’ll be seeking out to blame if we stuff this season up.

  13. orlandoobserved

    Where did you go Jammathon!? How am I ever to hope to win blog of the week if you aren’t even posting lol. And for the person who said to bench Ade, you must be fucking crazy. He’s been our best player this year!

  14. Irish Gooner

    When are you gonna write again?
    It’s the only Arsenal blog worth reading.
    You’re killing me! Write! God damn it! Write!

  15. TonyB

    This blog is like a dodgy DVD that aborts before the film ends.

    Par for the course in Blog-land.

  16. Jammathon…where ya been mate? Shame you quit right after you started the blog awards, and Eboue’s hand is right, our form has dipped since you quit mate.

    http://arsenole.com

  17. The artist formerly known as eboue's hand

    Jammathon, come back! We need to hear some sense talked about the way the season’s going. Perhaps another mighty away win in the champion’s league will inspire you to make a second comeback…