October 3, 2011
I started this blog nearly a month ago in the hope of providing a ‘light hearted look’ at events in and around Arsenal Football Club. There hasn’t been much to laugh at.
Yesterday we handed victory to a Tottenham side that didn’t look like half the team they’ve been made out to be. Yes, you could argue that’s because we’re not half as bad as we’ve been made out to be. Both of these things are true. But there’s no getting around the fact that if you routinely give away sloppy goals you will lose football matches.
Despite the ridiculously biased opinions of Glenn Hoddle on Sky, Van de Vaart’s opener was a handball. A deliberate handball mind you, which as Arsene Wenger pointed out in his presser, should have been a second yellow and a sending off. But it wasn’t given and you have to accept that decisions like that will go against you now and again. Especially with the like of Mike Dean in charge. The worrying thing for us was the space and time that Van de Vaart was given by our creaking defence to commit that blatant handball.
For their second the defending was even worse. Ramsey, who gave the ball away a number of times in the midfield, repeated the trick, and then worse stood stock still in the middle of the park pointing as Sandro burst through. The ball fell to Kyle Walker whose well hit shot swerved at the last and flummoxed the otherwise excellent Szczesny.
For long periods we had the better of the play. Gervinho missed a sitter at 0-0 after Van Persie cut the ball back from the byline. Had we scored then it could have been a different story. But we didn’t. And that’s the point. You can talk all you like about skill and technique and there’s no doubt our players have that in spades. But what makes a player great is down to more than just skill. It’s about having the cool head under pressure. It’s about stamping your mark on a game when it’s getting away from you. It’s about taking your chances when they come. Yesterday Van de Vaart did that, as you knew that he would. Gervinho didn’t.
There’s an argument that their second goal was a little bit fortunate but it’s not the first time we’ve been undone by a wonder strike from distance. How come we never score goals like that? The answer is our shooting from range is absolutely appalling. We had a few chances to get shots away yesterday as we always seem to, notably to Theo Walcott. But as ever the shots were scuffed and trickled harmlessly through to Brad Friedel. Arsenal fans often bemoan the fact that opposition keepers always have the game of their lives against us. But if you watch the highlights back, none of the saves they make are ever that spectacular, there’s just a lot of them. We make keepers look good because no-one in the team knows how to shoot.
As if losing a NLD wasn’t bad enough we also lost another defender. Bacary Sagna broke his fibula in that challenge with Assou-Ekotto and will miss three months at the very least. That is an absolute hammer blow. Our first choice right back is now Carl Jenkinson, a player with promise, granted, but also a player that has failed to convince so far and was playing non-league football last season. I hope he comes in and does a great job of course, but the fact that we’re in this position I’m afraid to say is due to a long period of mismanagement at this club. But then I can’t get into that now. I’ve got two weeks of international break coming up which I need to fill.
After the game an extremely depressed looking Arsene Wenger talked again about how we played ‘with the handbrake on’. It’s another Wengerism that I’m getting a bit tired of hearing. We need to get that handbrake looked at. What if it’s not the handbrake at all? What if it’s the gearbox? We could be doing untold damage to that engine.
This morning’s papers are dominated by Redknapp’s complaints about the Arsenal fans’ chants:
What was chanted at Emmanuel was disgusting. There was some pretty disgusting chanting at me as well but that’s life. How do you chant something like that at someone? You can’t be right mentally. You need help.
Poor Harry. He doesn’t like the chants. He’s a sensitive old soul. And also something of a hypocrite, conveniently ignoring the infamous chants his own beloved Spurs fans directed at Adebayor. Before he became a Spurs player of course. But that was all just a bit of fun. Don’t take it so seriously. All I could hear from the TV coverage was Spurs fans laughing and shouting abuse at a clearly stricken Bacary Sagna and that ever so clever ditty about Arsene Wenger. But then he’s been putting up with that shit for fifteen years and it’s worth noting that not once has he lowered himself to the level of hurling abuse back as Redknapp did to the press yesterday.
Finally, to top off an already brilliant weekend, Clive Allen tried, in Wenger’s words, to ‘make himself the story’ by chasing the boss around the touchline to try to shake his hand after the game. He later described Wenger as ‘two bob’. As Arsene pointed out:
Nothing happened. I shook the hands of the Spurs manager Harry Redknapp and his assistant. How many people do I have to shake hands with?
Who’s ‘two bob’ in this scenario? The defeated manager who shakes the hand of his opposite number and his assistant, or the member of the opposition backroom staff who chases that defeated manager around to try and rub in the defeat then goes crying to the press about it? Complete and utter lack of class.
In any doubt? Ask yourself a question. If Arsenal win that game how desperate is Allen then to shake Wenger’s hand? ‘Aargh, please shake my hand! I want to fulfill the time-honoured tradition of good sportsmanship. I’m a gentleman, dammit!!’ For that matter, if Arsenal had won would Wenger have chased Allen around the touchline shoving his hand in his face? Of course not. He’d have been rightly derided for unnecessary provocation of a mentally subnormal nomark.
Allen’s got previous of course, last season shoulder barging Arsene Wenger on the touchline. I don’t remember Wenger whining to the press about it. Two bob indeed.
All of which is just a distraction from the real story today. But maybe that’s a good thing.
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