Apr 172011
 

Arsenal 1 (Van Persie pen 98) Liverpool 1 (Kuyt pen 102)
(Premiership)

We conceded an equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time against Sunderland. We lost at home twice to promoted sides. We turned a 2-0 lead at home to our local rivals into a 3-2 defeat. We allowed ten-man Wigan to come back and snatch a draw. We became the first team in Premiership history to blow a four goal lead. And now we’ve probably become the first team in Premiership history to take the lead as the game approaches the 100th minute and still fail to win it. Extraordinary. You cannot accuse this Arsenal team of not being entertaining, but too often it has been our rivals rolling around with laughter as we find yet more ways to not win a football match.

Without doubt. injury time was contentious. That there were eight minutes was expected after Carragher’s horrible injury – when you see medics taking that much care over someone’s head you drop all club rivalries for a moment and simply hope they are being precautionary – but despite the boost of the extra minutes it seemed we were heading towards our third consecutive home scoreless draw. But then, finally, the tippy-tappy football that had proved so infuriating for the previous 96 minutes reaped reward, Cesc being tripped by the otherwise excellent Jay Spearing after some nifty footwork. Van Persie coolly slotted home, and the match was won. Or so we thought.

Liverpool seemed to sense they had only seconds to equalise, and shot straight from the kick off in desperation. But the game continued, and when Song conceded a dangerous free kick after our defence panicked en masse, we feared the worst. Could we concede with the last kick of the game? Surely not. But the kick was blocked, and a collective sigh of relief was audible. Yet play continued, and eventually Lucas went down under Eboue’s challenge and Marriner awarded another spot kick. Eleven minutes into stoppage time.

For me, it was a penalty. It was certainly soft, and Lucas was definitely looking for it, but Eboue should have been experienced enough to realise the situation and the inevitability of his opponents’ desperation – he simply got too close and gave him an opportunity that could have been avoided. Naive, sadly.

At the final whistle, tempers were frayed between the two managers, but that is expected after any dramatic finish. Frankly, I don’t think either did themselves any favours, and both came off looking a bit childish. Afterwards, Wenger diluted the strong argument (the timing of the penalty award) by also sticking to the weaker one (that it wasn’t a foul):

“We conceded the penalty after 11 minutes and the injury time was eight minutes. It was no penalty and I don’t see where the three minutes came from. There was no intervention from Eboue. It was Lucas who stood in his way and stopped his run to the ball. Eboue went for the ball and not for the player.”

I have to admit it annoys me when Wenger does this. By claiming it was not a foul he allows the pundits to focus on that, instead of the timing, for which he has a valid point. What I have less of a problem with is his refusal to criticise players publicly – honestly I couldn’t care less that he seeks to protect them in interviews. It is far more important that he says what needs to be said behind closed doors, and I have no doubt that is the case. Most managers worth their salt do exactly the same thing, and while some would admit to a lack of discipline in the final moments, what difference does it really make? The players know they screwed up, they know that prior to the free kick there was unnecessary mass panic, and they know that once again their inability to see out a game has cost them. Saying so changes nothing.

But the game wasn’t won and lost only in those mental few minutes – the truth is that up until that point, we had not created much, certainly not when you consider how much possession we had. A Koscielny header against the bar and a late effort from Van Persie well saved by Reina were the best of the efforts, but too often our refusal to shoot was frustrating in the extreme. When you consider that Liverpool had two teenage full backs and suffered three injuries during the game, and you have to admit we should have tested them more.

That said, we were playing Liverpool, not Stockport. Under Dalglish they are playing for each other, and were extremely well organised. We probed and probed, looking for an opening, and in the first half the support from the stands reflected our impressive control of the game. In the second, patience simmered and fizzled out pretty quickly. With twenty minutes of normal time left (so thirty minutes of game time), the atmosphere turned, and nervousness swept around the stadium in a flash. At the very moment when United fans roar their team on for a final push at Old Trafford, ours were making the players doubt their every attempted move. Support is a two-way thing, and today I felt it wasn’t as it should have been. It can make such a difference.

Our challenge is nearly over. Six points behind with six games left, we absolutely have to win all six, and hope that United drop 3-4 points somewhere else. If they negotiate Tuesday’s trip to Newcastle, that becomes even less likely than it is now. Irrespective, we face Spurs on Wednesday night, and whether we are in the title race or not, it is a massive game. They beat us at the Grove. They’ve had the media love all season. We owe them.

If this season is anything to go by, it will be highly entertaining for the neutral, and excruciating for us. Keep the fat lady at bay.

  20 Responses to “Running out of ways to cock up – the art of not winning matches”

  1. WENGER OUT!

    Just back from the game via our local pub in the Holloway Road, time to go Wenger and take the sh!t players like Bendtner, Eboue, Denilson, Diaby, Song, Arshavin, Clichy with you!!!

    • Arshavin’s shit? That’s why he finished sixth in the World Player of the Year awards a few years ago?

      I know he hasn’t been brilliant this season, but he worked his socks off today, tackling as I’ve never seen him tackle before.

      Who would you bring in? I ask this every time I get Wenger Out responses (which is most times), and I’m yet to get an answer.

  2. Great article. Pity you wrote it before the spurs game. The yid army will show you some proper footie.

    • What, like you did to Real Madrid? Seriously though, Wednesday night is pivotal for both sides. Should be a good game.

      I would, however, like to point you towards this video:

  3. someone should write a book about all of our cock-ups over the wenger years. these cock-ups are what characterise arsenal now, more than the style of football we play. it’s sad.

    • Agree 100%.

      • We do have an uncanny ability to come up with inventive ways of not winning. It has sadly overshadowed what has otherwise been a season far exceeding most expectations (remember that most had us as finishing fifth this year).

        • Now that we are out of all four, some bloggers are happy in saying that we did better than what most expected us to be this season. Well we the fans wanted to win trophies and thats all what the Manager and the players should be thinking of.

          • Every fan wants to win trophies. Does that mean every manager/player who doesn’t should be sacked?

            There’s the 5-year-old view of the world: “I win or else someone must pay!”

            and there’s the adult view of the world: “did we meet or exceed reasonable expectations?”.

            We know where Hamad stands.

  4. Wenger is a disgrace, why the f-k is mouthing off with Dalglish???

    F-k him and his precious little idiot Eboue.

    • Probably because he was a) frustrated at the eleven minutes and b) saw Lucas tumble theatrically. It was a penalty though.

      Dalglish was giving at least as good as he got. Didn’t think either came out with much credit.

  5. Of course the fans were nervous how many more heartaches can our own team infflicted upon us.
    We are masters of our own downfall no one takes responsiblity.
    don’t blame the fans blame the TEAM HOW much do you expect the FANS to put up with

    • It is two-way, of course. A vibrant side makes the crowd believe, and the crowd belief boosts the players in return.

      When when chips are down, and the players need support, they don’t get it. Now compare the atmosphere to a United game at Old Trafford. Even if they are on a poor run, they get driven forward by the fans.

      The only time recently I can remember that happening was at the Grove against Barca. It was spine tingling. Sadly, it was also a one off.

      • its very true…the first half the crowd were noisy and things looked great, the team played really well, but then it was silence in the 2nd half again when the noise was need. for me its a penalty, bit dubious over the amount of extra time though…dam dam dam…oh well time to inflict pain onto the spuds champions league match seriously away from home the pressure is off we’ll trounce them 3-0! and spurs will be back where they belong

  6. Wenger nidz 2realise fab z nt a goal scorer n mv hm bk 2 cm n bench wilshire,arshavin z a top player n wud shine if u paird hm up wit a striker so our ideal formation wud b 4-4-1-1 wit 1st choice 11 bng clichy,kosh,djorou,sagna nasri,fab,song,theo rvp chamakh!

    • anyone read this? Is it english? I’m lost… Glad to see those of you who are honest enough with yourselves to know that you must play until the final whistle blows. Time and again it’s played out this year in this way. Late goal killers… Hats off to the teenagers in this match! On both sides… and congrats to Wilshire on his best young player award.

  7. Very perceptive assessment. This current crop of players & the staff around them are increasingly a disgrace to the shirt.

  8. Cannot understand why people actually think its a penalty. A penalty is a reward for when somebody has a good shooting/goal chance in the 16 area but gets fouled, how on earth does lucas have a shooting chance when not even having the ball, and second of the ball was going towards the corner flag, so in no way a goal chance. Thinking logical sure can be difficult these days, if one jumps off the bridge you’ll follow him too?

    • Brilliant. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess with knowledge of the rules like that then you haven’t got a refereeing qualification?

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