Middlesbrough 1 (Aliadiere 29) Arsenal 1 (Adebayor 17)
There was more frustration yesterday as a Premiership weekend that could have seen us close the gap on all three of our rivals was spoilt by some more schoolboy defending, the sort of which we’re becoming increasingly used to seeing.
And this time, it was after we’d taken the lead, Adebayor being left free to head in from a corner after Diaby pulled the defender away. At that point, the match was looking comfortable – we were spraying the ball around with ease, Van Persie and Diaby had already had efforts, and it seemed that the Cesc renaissance would continue.
But that all got shot down, and by a circumstance that, watching on TV, was obviously going to happen. Clichy was near the corner flag, about to clear his lines, but there were two Boro players closing him down at speed. It was plain to see that his clearance would be blocked, but with the nearest couple of players being ours that shouldn’t have been a problem. But Van Persie ran upfield, Song turned his back, and Tuncay flew past him, anticipating what was going to happen. When Clichy’s clearance was charged down, Tuncay fired in a cross for Aliadiere (who else?) to head home.
In my view, it wasn’t Clichy’s fault, despite some claims that it was. For me, the fault lies squarely with those who got casual, assuming the ball was safe when it plainly wasn’t. Song was again the main culprit.
And from that moment, we did not deserve to win. Boro blocked most of our efforts, and Van Persie scuffed our best chance wide, while Almunia made one excellent save from Downing. A draw was a fair result.
And in most circumstances, it wouldn’t have been a bad point. Chelsea and Liverpool had easier games, at home to West Ham and Hull respectively, and both drew, while United drew at Spurs. Were we up with those three, yesterday would have been fine. The reason it is so frustrating is that we’ve already had those numerous games where we’ve dropped points we perhaps shouldn’t have, and could ill afford another one. The was a gilt edged chance to get back in the race.
It was all so…average. And that in itself is the problem. Arsenal remind me of Liverpool from a couple of seasons ago, while Liverpool remind me of Arsenal from last season. One team is going forward, one back. January is now more vital than at any point in Wenger’s tenure.