Arsenal 0 Fulham 0
Where to begin today? A disheartening performance from Arsenal yesterday led to yet another 0-0 draw, our fourth in succession, and left us vulnerable to Villa going eight points clear with a seemingly simple game at home to Stoke today. The final moments saw Fulham mockingly pass the ball around us in the way we are used to seeing our players close out a game.
What is worse is that Fulham, so hopeless on the road, didn’t even shut up shop. They went for goals, could have got them, and still we didn’t look all that threatening. Sure, we had chances, Van Persie spurning the best couple of them, but no more than our opponents, and for once the draw was fair rather than the result of opponents parking the bus and riding their luck.
The effort that we saw against Roma wasn’t there, a point even Wenger, normally so defensive of his players, noticed in his post-match interview:
“There is a lot of mental investment in the Champions League and we are not mature enough to prepare well and get the priorities right.”
One of the more damning indictments he has given of his players in recent times. Let’s hope it was coupled with a rocket in the dressing room, because whilst no-one is blaming Song, Denilson and Diaby for not being world beaters, no-one can accept a lack of effort. It isn’t like this is a one time thing, our performances in the league have been lacklustre for ages, and that is not acceptable.
All in all, it was a gloomy picture. With Villa 2-0 up with three minutes to play today, it was set to get worse, but then Stoke, who have the worst away record in the league (yes, even worse than Fulham’s), managed two goals from nowhere to steal a point.
And so we’re back to where we were before the weekend started. Both us and Villa were playing sides without an away win all season, and both of us failed to beat them. Arguably, it is Villa who will be more frustrated after throwing the win away so late, but it was still a chance for us to close the gap.
All season I’ve felt that it would all come good in the end. Perhaps that is just because I’m an optimist, but I look at the individuals in our team (even with injuries) and, central midfield apart, they are superb players, so I finding myself just waiting for them to show it. Yesterday the first doubts crept into my head – eight points is a huge margin, and I was pretty convinced Villa would secure that lead. Fortunately, they did not.
We have been thrown a lifeline today. We won’t get many more.