Tuesday, 28 September 2010

One result does not a season make. West Brom match report.

Arsenal 2 West Brom 3

What's to say about a result where you're comfortably outplayed by a team which will probably flirt with relegation? Particularly, because as I heard somebody say outside the stadium, if we had scored in stoppage time to get a draw it would have been an absolute travesty. I'm unsure I've ever seen Arsenal outplayed to that extent, particularly at home.

But equally, I think criticising Almunia is very much the easy option. When I played under-10s, I remember Zak's mum didn't want him to play in goal because he always got the blame if we lost. And it seems to me that people have just been waiting to get on his back. Alright he had a couple of dodgy moments against Liverpool; but Wilshere was far, far worse. Guess who took all the criticism?

I don't think Almunia should be rendered blameless but some of the defending was pure slapstick. Clichy and Sagna barely made any tackles and the tracking back from Arshavin and Eboue was non-existent. There was a certain snobbery about it - Thomas is an Arsenal reject so he can't be much good; well I tell you one thing - he came charging through the midfield more than once.

The standard of the performance was woeful. I'm no great tipster but the first thing I said after Almunia saved the penalty was that he saved one against Villa and we still lost. It's embarrassing when you're team can't buck up their ideas and change it when facing a really average side. I may be wrong here, but the tannoy said 3 minutes until the kick-off of the second half and moments later the team was out on the pitch. I think Wenger sent them out early for the second half having given them a rollicking. It's worrying that it had no impact whatsoever.

And that for me is the crucial point. We know Almunia's isn't very good. Hey, we know Almunia isn't even quite good. So getting on his back for what was really one error is ridiculous. Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna are French internationals - what were they playing at? There were about 30 balls put into the box and Chamakh didn't win one - isn't he supposed to be brilliant in the air?

But frankly the truth is, it was a woeful team performance. Blaming Almunia seems particularly soft considering those who want him replaced by Wojciech are the same people who were screaming for us to sign Schwarzer on deadline day - either you want to promote the young talent or you don't but that really is the epitome of trying to have your cake and eat it.

In terms of unexpected results, this one has to rank right up there. It does create the worrying statistic that we've now failed to win after both of our midweek games this season. But it's also over-the-top in the extreme to suggest that if we lose at the Bridge on Sunday it's all over for the season.

First, if last season teaches us anything, it should teach us that seven points is not an insurmountable deficit. But above all, Arsenal should almost take heart from last weekend. Playing away at City is a difficult match. But the fact that nobody really took advantage of one our most surprising home defeats ever suggests that far less damage has been done than easily could have been.

It's definitely the best West Brom side I've seen. But it's also a West Brom side which got thumped 6-0 by Chelsea so it's not that good. And so I'm really in a quandary what to think. I certainly don't buy into the overwhelming negativity of Kevin Whitcher, editor of The Gooner. As discussed earlier in the year, it's difficult to buy a goalkeeper. But I think it's obvious to all and sundry that Gael Clichy is not the player he once was. I don't take issue with Almunia being in goal, so much as leaving him so exposed. The chickens didn't have to come home to roost with Almunia; but when you Song, Diaby, Clichy and Sagna are all dreadful it makes it a great deal more likely.

Ultimately, it's obviously disappointing but the best way to turn it around is in Belgrade tonight. And despite our general poor form away in Europe, I think we might just get a result.

Keep the faith,

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