November 27, 2011
I should have known yesterday was going to be a bad day. The omens were worrying right from breakfast. I suppose it was my own fault in a way. If the local café doesn’t know how to spell Eggs Benedict it’s unlikely to be the best Eggs Benedict you’ve ever tasted. But I really fancied some Eggs Benedict so when I saw Eggs Bonadic on the menu I just couldn’t help myself.
Admittedly alarm bells were ringing when the guy behind the counter had no idea what an Eggs Benedict was. He had no idea what an Eggs Bonadic was either but in fairness neither did I. Still, I showed him the description on the menu and he seemed to think it might be possible so I ordered and went back to sit with my girlfriend. We sat there for a quite a while as an endless procession of concerned looking staff members consulted each other behind the counter. Presumably at some stage someone was sent off to Google ‘Eggs Bonadic’ for instructions on how to make it only to discover that no such dish existed. Eventually the guy came over to apologise, not because the Eggs Bonadic was off the menu or to confess that they had no idea what Eggs Bonadic was but that the Eggs Bonadic would be a while because they had to ‘cook the salmon’. This was an extraordinary development. They were going to push on with the Eggs Bonadic order based only on the brief description offered on a menu that was clearly written by somebody they didn’t know who himself had very little idea of what an Eggs Benedict might be. We sat there for a while longer discussing what might be about to appear as one of the other waiters ducked out of the café with a wallet in his hand, returning five minutes later with a Tesco bag and a worried look on his face.
To cut a long story relatively short, it turns out that Eggs Bonadic isn’t smoked salmon on a toasted muffin with a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce, but a sort of really dry omelette with lumps of fried salmon fillet served with dry toast.
I don’t want to judge the café too harshly. Maybe all the staff had had a busy week and they were all just a bit fatigued and not quite on their game. Or maybe the normal chef had been rested by the café’s manager and the reserve chef simply wasn’t quite up to the job. Either way it was a bad start to a bad day.
We struggled against Fulham yesterday. It was a combination of factors I think. Partly, as Arsene Wenger claimed in his post match comments, we seemed to struggle a bit with fatigue. That game against Dortmund was a mammoth effort and it looked like it took its toll. Partly it was that Fulham defended well. They came for a draw. They got what they wanted. Partly I felt we didn’t cope especially well with resting two of our strongest players. Koscielny, who has been doing brilliantly at right back was replaced by Johan Djourou. He didn’t have a terrible game but there were key moments when he was found wanting positionally. Once in the first half where he was dragged into the centre leaving acres of space on the left hand side for Clint Dempsey to fortunately fire straight at Szczesny at the near post, and once in the second half when, Arteta having given the ball away needlessly in midfield he was in no man’s land as Riise met a hopeful ball into the box and Vermaelen somehow managed to bundle the ball past his own keeper.
The other key player rested was Gervinho. I’ve written a fair bit this week about what we’ll do when he’s off to the African Nations in January. Yesterday we got an idea. And it was a bit of a worry. His replacement Arshavin was simply not very good. He was a periphery figure at best, unable to get himself into the game and lacking in confidence when he did find himself on the ball. It was a timely reminder that for all the progress we’ve made since August, this squad still doesn’t have a great amount of quality beyond the first XI.
It took Gervinho’s introduction at 1-0 down to remind us what we’d been missing. He instantly added pace and presence to that left hand side, doing what he does best. Running at defenders, putting them on the back foot, stretching defences, running in behind and providing space for the other midfielders. Our performance came to life. Just a shame it took us going a goal behind to spark it.
For the first seventy five minutes here we looked tired, ploddy and lacking in inspiration. For the last fifteen, with Diaby, Chamakh and Gervinho introduced, we looked hungry, lively and dangerous. Why can we only play like that when we’re chasing a game? If we’d had started like that we could probably have had the game won by half-time. We see this all the time these days and it’s endlessly frustrating.
Still, it was another opportunity for Thomas Vermaelen to stake his claim as the new Tony Adams. Was it 1988 when he scored in both nets for a 1-1 draw with Manchester United? I can’t find it on Google. Anyway, a great cross from probably our most dangerous player on the day Theo Walcott found Vermaelen’s late run into the penalty area. It was a tricky header but he nodded down and found the net. One all and redemption for the plucky Belgian.
There was still eight minutes to search for a winner but chances went begging and in the end we’ll have to settle for the point. It’s extremely disappointing but Le Boss was looking for positives:
“The positive again is that we have shown exceptional spirit, desire and refusal to lose the game. Many players were on the fringe today and we had not completely digested the Champions League game on Wednesday night. We needed to dig deep.
The circumstances went against us on top of that because when Fulham scored I didn’t see them crossing the halfway line too much in the second half. It was very unfortunate to be 1-0 down but we refused to lose the game can came back to 1-1. It’s disappointing because we dropped two points but at least it keeps our unbeaten run going.”
We may well have been a bit fatigued but we need to be winning the home games against Fulham if we’re going to battle into the top four. Wenger isn’t looking for excuses:
“It is a punctual problem because we gave a lot on Wednesday night. It is the shortest time you can get Wednesday night to Saturday afternoon. But it is not an excuse. It is an explanation. We want to be in the Champions League so we cannot cry when we are tired. Our challenge is to win these kinds of games even when we are tired.”
We need to pick ourselves back up now but that won’t be easy with a Carling Cup match against the bottomless resources of Manchester City. All sorts of questions about how we should approach that one, even more so after yesterday’s result but those are questions for another day.
I’m off for some breakfast. Maybe just some porridge. I’ll make it myself.
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