So it was another game, another batch of spilled points and in some ways another regressive step towards third place. Our gallop has slowed to a veritable trot in recent weeks, and is perhaps beginning to look a little reminiscent of recent seasons where he just about hobble over the line. Whilst this may not be surprising to see, the team which looks to be challenging most fervently for the Champions League positions is a tawdry selection of Geordies, who up until now I hadn’t minded seeing win, but am now concerned that their form could damage our derriere. This is most surprising.
Our games against Chelsea tend to lend themselves well towards the “goals scored” section of the Premier League table, it being rare that one team doesn’t put two or three past the other. Yet Chelsea basically used this fixture as a dress rehearsal for their second leg tie, sticking everyone behind the ball and generally giving nothing but a few half hearted attempts to commit any players forward. Aside from a couple of lapses in concentration, the defence were admirably solid and never looked like conceding. I think our defensive players as a unit were by far the best, outshining the midfielders and the forwards.
However I think serious questions need to be asked when considering just how many big players Chelsea neglected to select for the game, either resting them entirely or dropping them to the bench. This was a Chelsea team without Ivanovic, without Luiz, without Cole, without Lampard, without Mata and without Drogba. Now if someone had happened to mention these omitted players to me, and I had sufficient time to make my way to a betting shop, I would have struggled not to bet on an Arsenal win. They had lost, or chose to rest, three of their ideal back four, their two midfielders who had contributed to twenty five league goals each, and a man who has left our defenders crying in a corner of the dressing room over the last four years in Drogba. This ought to have been, and I say it without reticence, our biggest home win over Chelsea at Ashburton Grove, but unfortunately we refused their silver platter loaded with three medium-rare points and a selection of goose fat enriched + goal difference, garnished with a horribly injured Ashley Cole (where’s Frimpong when you need him?).
Now it isn’t as if we didn’t do enough to win the game, but unfortunately people don’t often look back during the summer and say “yes we dropped to 4 place and were overtaken by the scum, but we really didn’t deserve to draw against Chelsea”. The art of winning games is something we seemed to stumble across after Christmas and it was beautiful art, Banksey-esque. It was all over town and it was in the face of the authorities who claimed we didn’t have to personnel capable of putting together a run of wins and making it into the top four. But over the past few weeks this art is beginning to look like we’ve got our dog drunk, dunked his face in some paint and encouraged to run into our living room wall. th
Something which I found frustratingly annoying was the response to Walcott’s hamstring injury when he pulled up for the first time. At this stage of the season, when considering for a zeptosecond the number of injuries we already have, Theo’s injury history, how average he was in the game and how the game warranted a change of playing staff on the right flank, why on earth he was left on the pitch boggles my mind. Especially for a player like Theo whose entire game is based upon quick acceleration and running hard; to leave him on the pitch with a tweaked hamstring seems fatuous at best and hazardous at worst. Arsene should have made the change the first time Theo hobbled off the pitch and not risked any more serious problems.
So there’s nine points to attain from an away trip to Stoke, a visit from Norwich and a visit to West Bromwich Albion, and if these are fully attained then we will finish third, yet we’re making things difficult for ourselves. Aside from Tottenham I think we have the easiest run of games, but since when has that stopped us from veering off course? If we can do the business at Stoke I’m sure we’ll be propelled towards New York, but a loss would be like an iceberg to the hull HMS Tit-Arsenal (cringing).
To end on some good news, Van Persie was rightfully named PFA Player of the Year took home a lovely looking trophy. So that’s PFA Player and Groundsman of the year so far, and people say we don’t win anything? Chicken oriental…
(halls_djh on twitter, why not?)