If our season could be encapsulated in one match, it would be this one. Breathtaking attacking football sees us score three good goals, go close a few other times and provide us with a platform to go on and win the game. And then breathtakingly bad defending sees us throw away a winning position and drop more ground in the title race.
The bad defending wasn’t just by the defenders though. Diaby didn’t track van de Vaart properly for the first goal, Fabregas’ clearance was weak and straight to Huddlestone for number two, while Szczesny spoilt an otherwise excellent performance with a rash decision to charge out and bring down Lennon. In fact I thought the back four played quite well, although they suffered from the same malaise as the rest of the team – panic-itus.
The opening 75 seconds of the second half demonstrated it perfectly. Song and Djourou lunged into unnecessary challenges and got themselves booked, so desperate and rash was their defending as they shat themselves at the thought of throwing away another two goal lead. Panic-itus also caused us to retreat too far into our own box in the game’s pivotal moment just before halftime. When Fabregas stuck out a leg and poked the ball clear from our six yard box, we were too deep in our desperation to protect the goal allowing Huddlestone time to smash past an unsighted Szczesny.
However, I don’t want to spend the whole post moaning because there was much to commend on our part. We attacked with speed, verve and accuracy, our passing was fluent and crisp and we worked some great openings, especially for Theo who took his goal with aplomb and was unlucky not to add another. Fabregas was immense, Theo and Nasri rediscovered their pre-Christmas form while Song and Diaby imposed themselves on the midfield, allowing us to boss the first half. That we were only one goal ahead at the break was an injustice but as usual, we only had ourselves to blame.
"Do not worry about zee dropped points Cesc, we are unbeaten in 15 games you know."
I was pleased to see a determination and spirit to our performance and it was the best we played since the Barcelona victory. It all disappeared in an instant though when Spurs equalised on 70 minutes out of nothing. A sharp ball inside the napping Sagna, a rash decision from Szczesny and it was 3-3. From then on there was only one winner as our heads went down and Spurs could smell the fear, going for the kill. That they didn’t get it is thanks to two top saves from Szczesny, although Wenger didn’t help matters with two terrible substitutions on 80 minutes. He removed the excellent Walcott and Nasri, presumably because he thought they were jaded, and replaced them with Arshavin (who after one run looked more tired than either Theo or Samir) and stuck Bendtner out on the wing where he was about as effective as the proverbial chocolate teapot. We could’ve used Theo’s pace on the break as an outlet for all the pressure of the last 10 minutes as Sunday’s game started to catch up with us, but the ball kept coming back and ultimately we were lucky to have hung on for a point.
Wenger showed his usual grace at the final whistle by barely shaking hands with a bemused Harry Redknapp and darting off down the tunnel, presumably to chastise the tea lady for serving us lukewarm beverages at halftime which was the sole reason we didn’t win. He later said:
“The criticism is unfair, we are on a 15-game unbeaten run and no one else has done that.”
Very true Arsene, but no-one else has thrown away a four goal lead at Newcastle, a two goal lead to Spurs (twice), conceded an equaliser to 10 man Wigan or opened the scoring in the 108th minute and still not won. What a hollow point you make monsieur.
He then had the unbelievable cheek to actually defend the lack of mental strength which has caused these calamaties:
“Our mental strength is outstanding. We’ve faced criticism but this team deserves more.”
How he kept a straight face when he said that is beyond me. I’m actually starting to feel insulted by how stupid he thinks us fans really are.
Anyway, Chelsea’s victory puts them in second place now and the lifeline Newcastle presented us on Tuesday has unsurprisingly not been taken. I quite fancy Everton to take a point off Man Utd on Saturday, but we would probably then bottle it and draw with Bolton. Although a point at Bolton would be deserving of many plaudits of course, as Wenger will remind us that our magnificent unbeaten run now stands at 16 games. Beat that Man Utd! Oh hang on, they did, 29 matches from the start of the season. We aren’t even gonna win that accolade this season…
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