I don’t usually write my match reports until Monday but with a feeling of panic starting to creep in amongst readers, I feel the need to step in today to steer the Arsenal FC Blog ship in the right direction before we end up killing each other.
Yesterday’s result hurt badly. From looking like we were getting nothing more than a point and a 0-0 draw we all of a sudden had three points in the bag near the end, which very quickly became one again after Kevin Phillips ridiculous goal.
Conceding late equalisers will always be one of the worst feelings in football and this was made worse by the calamitous nature of Birmingham’s goal and the fact that both Chelsea and United recorded impressive wins. We’re not out of this title race by any means but this was an uncomfortable weekend where we were the side whose title ambitions took the biggest hit.
On the surface a 1-1 draw with Birmingham at St Andrew’s is not a bad result. As I said before the game none of the current top six have managed to beat them at home and they were always going to be a tough team to beat. But when you concede in this manner, in the last minute of the game, it’s hard to look at 1-1 and see a satisfactory result.
The goalkeeper deserves criticism for his part in the goal: with a title on the line he has to do better. Phillips’ shot was a fluke but in the last minute of a game the goalkeeper should be ready for that sort of thing and there was no excuses for letting the ball past him.
However, criticism should also be aimed at the linesman for failing to flag Birmingham’s goal offside as well as Samir Nasri for wasting a guilt-edge opportunity with the game at 1-0.
I know we shouldn’t blame the referee but how he considered Manucho, who clearly influenced Bacary Sagna’s attempt to clear the ball, not to be interfering with play just boggles the mind.
As for Nasri, his decision-making late on was just as frustrating as Almunia’s flap. While Nasri deserves a lot of credit for scoring a really terrific opening goal he undid that work by oddly choosing to square the ball to Arshavin when he should have put his right foot through it and found the back of the net. I can accept a player missing a chance but you can’t tell me he wouldn’t have had a shot if the game was still at 0-0 and I find that extremely frustrating.
There will be many people that will criticise our overall performance and suggest that we didn’t create enough chances but I think it’s worth remembering that St Andrew’s is a hard place to play. Under the circumstances I thought we handled the conditions quite well and had it not been for Birmingham’s freak goal we would be lauding another fine victory under difficult conditions.
This is the first game we have failed to win in our last seven and a sense of perspective needs to be maintained. While we are now four points off the top a win against Wolves and a favourable result from United v Chelsea will see that gap cut to two. There’s still plenty to feel optimistic about.
The biggest concern now will be how the team responds to this result with Barcelona just around the corner. The players will be hurting after this game, the goalkeeper’s confidence will have taken another hit and with Cesc Fabregas a doubt there is are reasons to feel genuinely concerned about our ability to produce a favourable result at home in the Champions League.
On the positive side this team have shown many times this season that they can be resilient under pressure and this is another opportunity to show that. A good week could turn things back around very quickly, just as Chelsea did by smashing Portsmouth and Aston Villa after drawing with Blackburn and losing to Inter Milan. We have to hope that our boys can produce something similar.
So all in all a frustrating result, if not a killer one. There is still eighteen points on offer and our favourable fixture list means we are still in with a good shout.
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