What a shame that the main talking point from this game was the blatant dive by Santi Cazorla that earned us a first half penalty. The little Spaniard has been brilliant at times this season, winning over fans of all teams with his technique, awareness and incisive passing. And he put in a good performance yesterday as well. But he stained his reputation by cheating (no, I don’t think that’s too strong a word) West Brom when he fell over after no contact and even had the cheek to hold his shin in pain as he waited for the whistle. As an Arsenal fan I felt ashamed. Tony Adams would’ve dragged him up and told him that wasn’t how we did things over here, but sadly those days are long gone.
Some will argue that this controversy unfairly overshadowed a good display from Wenger’s beleaguered men. I would agree somewhat as overall we were by far the better side and this was an improved performance on last week’s horror show. But up until that 26th minute incident we’d struggled to create much, despite having most of the ball as West Brom sat back and tried to soak up pressure before looking for lone striker Shane Long on the counter. The penalty lifted the tension and ensured there was no pressure from the crowd, which might not have been the case had we reached the break scoreless.
Santi gets told off after his embarrassing dive
The goal knocked the stuffing out of West Brom for a while as our confidence started to return and Wilshere (who was excellent throughout) nearly slid in for number two. There were still some sloppy passes, but thankfully the Baggies had nothing to hurt us and looked every inch a side coming off the back of two successive defeats. It was a good time to play them.
We continued to dominate in the second half and Oxlade-Chamberlain was unlucky to hit the bar, but it took another poor refereeing decision to give us that crucial second goal. The Ox clearly shoved Goran Popov after losing control and everybody stopped, waiting for Mike Jones’ whistle, but it didn’t come and the winger was upended in the area by Chris Brunt for a stonewall penalty. Arteta scored with a similar finish to his first spot kick.
Podolski came on and missed a golden chance to make the scoreline more emphatic, but it stayed 2-0 and many pundits are saying this has eased the pressure on Wenger. For the time being maybe, but he will have a few more uncomfortable matches to sit through before the season is out because we still aren’t as good as we should be.
Let’s face it, West Brom were poor yet we couldn’t break them down in open play and needed two shocking decisions from the ref to get us the three points. Yes we were better than in recent weeks, but looking at the bigger picture we are not good enough to finish in the top four and it won’t be long before the knives are out for him again.
However, there’s the welcome distraction of Bradford in the Capital One cup on Tuesday and I’m not even contemplating a defeat. This should be an easy passage into the semi finals, but if the players and Wenger think that too we could be on the end of a shock defeat. I’m allowed to take it for granted, but they aren’t — it’s their job to approach every match the same, no matter who the opposition are. We all know that we’ve been guilty of underestimating ‘weaker’ teams over the last few years so I hope we take it seriously, because this competition has suddenly become a glorious opportunity to lift some silverware.
Maybe lifting the Capital One cup would rejuvenate my enthusiasm in the midst of what is fast becoming a depressing season, because despite today’s result, there are still way too many problems on and off the pitch for me to enjoy being a Gooner as much as I used to.
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