Let’s start with the bad news.
Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Fulham was the fourth in a row for our boys, another missed opportunity for three points and another excruciatingly frustrating performance. Gone was the pace, movement and desire that was so evident in the game against Roma, replaced by a bizarre lack of urgency and inability to consistently pass a football. In short, it was a shocking effort by our team.
I don’t want to dwell on the Fulham game for too long because it was just so frustrating. Once again we had chances to score – Robin van Persie had multiple efforts and hit the post, Abou Diaby had a close-range header saved by Mark Schwarzer – and once again we didn’t taken them. Fulham had chances too, and really could have won, but once again managed to hold out at the back.
Arsene Wenger’s decision to maintain the 4-5-1 that worked so well against Roma was the right one; it’s just that the majority of our players didn’t show up. Diaby was lazy and sluggish, Samir Nasri was poor, Gael Clichy was jittery, Denilson was horrible in possession and van Persie wasted good chances. Although Manuel Almunia and William Gallas were strong at the back and Andrey Arshavin and Carlos Vela inventive in attack, Kolo Toure was shaky and Bacary Sagna was wasteful going forward. Four out of eleven good performances is not going to win games.
In truth, the biggest problem was not our technical performance but an inexcusable lack of effort by the players. This was a side that on paper – with Arshavin’s introduction in place of Bendtner – should have been better than the one that beat Roma. Our lack of pressure when not in possession was embarassing and our sluggishness when in possession was painful to watch. We should have been chomping at the bit to win this game and I just can’t understand why we weren’t.
Anyway, that’s the bad news – now onto the (very) good news.
Aston Villa’s luck seems to have run out. Indeed, the Villans absolutely let us off the hook last night, blowing a 2-0 lead at home to Stoke in spectacular style. Had Villa hung on they would be 8 points clear of Arsenal and given that Agbonlahor missed from three yards out at 2-0 they really should have. As it is they didn’t, and if we beat West Brom on Tuesday then the gap will be just three with Villa facing a very tricky away game at Manchester City. Quite unbelievable really.
Add their failure with Tottenham’s shocking penalty-taking performance against Manchester United and it’s somehow turned out to be a reasonably decent weekend. Football is and always will be a funny game.
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