Sunday, 3 April 2011

There's still a League title to fight for. Blackburn match report.

Arsenal 0 Blackburn 0

This was, in short, a dreadful day. Without wanting to come across all Myles Palmer, I started eating lunch and West Ham were 2-0 up; by the time I finished it was 4-2 to United.

Watching the highlights of that match in the pub before our match, I was once again shocked by Lee Mason's refereeing. Remember, this is the man who let Louis Saha's goal stand for Everton despite it being three yards offside: yesterday, he bottled sending off Vidic, and then awarded United a penalty which was never in a million years a penalty.

Meanwhile, we had to deal with Dowd. 'Nuff said.

And the more I think about it, the more the state of refereeing becomes a massive issue - English football is a multi-billion pound industry, and yet referees are paid pretty much bugger all. The obvious question is then why wouldn't they take a bung? Its the only way they're going to make any proper money out of their refereeing. It wouldn't even take very much money - perhaps ten grand, equivalent to the weekly wage of even the worst Premiership footballers - and in return, you've suddenly got the ref on your side.

I say this, because things really are beyond a joke. People are saying the League is over because we're seven points behind, but a look at the poor refereeing decisions just from the last few weeks shows how referees have changed things - at the very worst, if the correct decisions had been made against Newcastle and Sunderland we'd be four points behind, and frankly, it could have been even better than that: so much of football is about momentum, and those results definitely have had an impact on our season.

That's without even mentioning that I think we would be playing in the Champions League this week but for the most inexplicable refereeing decision I've seen all season.

Alas, enough about referees.

The performance yesterday was poor.

Frankly, nobody was particularly inspirational. In the ongoing game of Cluedo about why we can't win at the moment, I think its worth pointing out that even without Denilson, we were slow and insipid going forward - so much for him being the root of all our problems.

It's strange to say this, but the first fifteen minutes was our brightest spell - we just happened to have the wrong players on the end of chances. Theo was clearly rusty and had a poor game, and I remain unconvinced that Robin is fully fit - whenever he picks up even the most minor of injuries, it takes a long time for him to be fully tuned up.

Nasri was concussed and should have gone off but didn't, and we lost a lot of our impetus. When Dowd started playing five minutes stoppage time at the end of the first half, I was actually quite annoyed - I needed the toilet and the game had petered out.

But I didn't expect us to come out for the second half and continue with the weak football.

We did need a change - but what wasn't required was the removal of Arshavin, our best player up to that point. I'm unconvinced Cesc was quite fit enough to play, but regardless, him and Arshavin always link up well.

It was a very odd change, because Shava is the sort of player who can provide some of the magic which we needed yesterday.

When Theo was finally hauled off it was a blessing, but we didn't play into Chamakh nearly enough, a by-product of the bizarre decision to leave Robin up front.

Bendtner, as always, offered something, but I'm not convinced that our tactics for the last twenty minutes of putting it wide and crossing it into the box plays to our strengths.

It was, in all, a thoroughly unpleasant afternoon. Blackburn got a draw without offering any threat. I had a long argument with the guy sat next to me about Almunia, and I heard in the pub after the game that people had actually been fighting in the stands.

And yet despite all of this, it's very hard to blame the manager: at various points yesterday, we had Nasri, Wilshere, Arshavin, Walcott, Fabregas, Van Persie, Chamakh and Bendtner out there - if between them, they can't manufacture one goal, its hard to blame Wenger.

It's very, very easy to point fingers but the fact is, five weeks ago, we were doing brilliantly. These players clearly are talented, but they're just struggling for a bit of form. You can't coach that into them. Rooney was out of form for months, but he slowly rediscovered his touch - not because Fergie is a better manager than Wenger, but because he was given time.

Ignoring the key point in all of this - that there's still a League title to fight for - this is not a repeat of 2008 or 2010. Then, we were undone by a combination of injuries, defensive ineptitude, and in 2008 and inability to recover from the trauma of St Andrews.

This squad isn't too thin - every attacking player at the club was available for selection yesterday - and West Brom aside, we've actually defended pretty well.

I, for one, honestly think we've just suffered from bad luck, poor refereeing, and players hitting poor patches of form at exactly the wrong time in the season.

But there's still a League title to fight for: in reality, yesterday didn't change very much. The issue for me, is not the increased points gap - its whether we can actually play well and win a few games.

It was always unrealistic to expect us to win nine games in a row, but the larger point still stands - if we beat United and Spurs, I still think we'll be champions. That's a massive 'if' and the moment it looks very unlikely, but we need to keep on fighting.

Last season we gave up, and if we didn't, we might have won the League. Lets learn the lessons of last season and keep on fighting.

Keep the faith.


Anonymous said...

I dont want to critisise but saying the points gap isnt an issue in a title race is retarded.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. And reading "bad luck, poor refereeing, and players hitting poor patches of form at exactly the wrong time in the season" is something our fans are coming out with year after year. Maybe it was a fair excuse once or twice, but it's been like this for the past 5 or 6 years and so clearly there's something wrong with us.

The difference between us and United is that United don't let bad luck get the better of them - of course they get the benefit of the doubt far too often from referees, but they have also had terrible injury problems, bad refereeing etc...but more often than not they don't make a huge issue out of it because they carry on grinding out results. They are what champions are made of, we are not.

Adam said...

Fair point about the points gap - I meant to say that the increase wasn't an issue, and I've edited the post to reflect that.

I think that in the past though, we have lacked mental strength etc. - whereas this year we have just had some bad luck, and this has built into bad momentum. Results always cluster together in football.

Big Dave said...

interesting that you and arseblog both heard rumours of fighting at the game amongst arsenal fans. it is entirely conceivable, of course, that you were in the same pub, but given the nature and content of this blog, i doubt it. plagiarism is a crime.

idiocy isn't, but you still deserve to be punished.
arsenal will win nothing. again. it's not cos of referees or "bad luck". it's cos they just aren't good enough at the moment. being a great team is about more than beautiful football and great's about mentality. arsenal's is embarrassing.

this team has no leaders. no bottle. and lamentably, no chance of winning the league (even if they beat both utd and spurs - which is approximately as likely as denilson doing something productive on a football pitch).

in the same circumstances yesterday it is easy to imagine a terry/vidic/rooney/drogba/lampard/giggs cajoling their team-mates, pushing them on to score a decisive goal. arsenal have no such players, and until they do, regardless of the quality of the current squad, this barren spell will continue.

a well-known pundit once remarked that you won't win anything with kids'. he was wrong. what he should've said is 'you won't win anything with kids...who have no bottle'.

Adam said...

Are you honestly accusing me of plagiarising a rumour? As it happens, I hadn't even read Arseblog today until you mentioned that he said it as well, but seeing as its been mentioned by quite a few people on Twitter, that's completely ridiculous.

If there's any crime here, its you libelling me.

Adam said...

And, as it happens, we were both in The Tollington.

Big Dave said...

i am genuinely suggesting that you yourself didn't hear the rumour in a pub, but instead read it elsewhere (be it arseblog or some other media outlet) and attempted to portray yourself as 'one of the lads' by asserting that you heard said rumour in the pub. your defensive response to my initial post is telling.

Adam said...

This genuinely is the most preposterous line of argument I've seen anyone take in these comments, in almost three years of blogging.

After telling you which pub I drank in, your response is to tell me that I wasn't actually in the pub.

I don't know why I even bother.