Sunday, February 11, 2007
Today's lunchtime fixture between Arsenal and Wigan pretty much epitomizes the Gunners' domestic campaign this year. Several frustrating elements always turn up whenever Arsene Wenger's side entertain a lesser (at least in terms of position in the table) side, most importantly, conceding that first goal. The days of going up early and toying with mid-level teams for the rest of the 90 are long gone, having disappeared with the chance of finishing in the top two last year. Arsenal have become, in my opinion, a team that only gets up for big games and needs the desperation of being down a goal (or even a man) to motivate them.
Although we saw some nice play from Wigan today, much more than expected from a team in their position, this match summed up exactly why Arsenal are not realistically in a championship race, or even a race for second place. The quality is there, obviously the heart is as well, it's just that consistency that big teams need throughout the season, and as much as Gooners around the world would like to disagree, Arsenal are a big club. Sure, they don't have the dollars, but with Wenger's tentacles spread out across Europe and Africa (and now, the soccer powerhouse that is the US), this gives the North London side an advantage over other sides, some that may have more to spend. It's hard to dismiss the fact that we could be looking at a potentially-dominant side in the years to come, but they've got to separate themselves more from the lesser quality clubs.
Losses to Sheffield United and West Ham, as well as draws with Aston Villa and Newcastle have done nothing to give Arsenal fans a sense of any growing consistency. Yes, the Gunners are playing much better than at the beginning of the season, but as any Gooner will tell you, the stress level associated with watching Wenger's squad is more than palpable. I may sound like a spoiled fan, but here are a couple grievances I would like to air after watching today's match:
1) As good as TH14 is, why does he insist on fluffing at least one clear-cut opportunity every single game? The captain's arrogance can be thrilling at times, especially after a superb goal or pass, but you have to finish those Thierry.
2) What the hell is Jens Lehmann doing collecting his 5th yellow card of the season? Sure, he wasn't going to start for Arsenal this coming week, but why make that decision for the gaffer? How big could this be if Almunia gets a knock and Mart Poom comes off the bench to let in a little dribbler to the far post?
3) Where was Cesc Fabregas this entire game? The usually dynamic visionary did very little today to impress. Is Wenger's workhorse beginning to feel the fatigue that accompanies playing nearly every Premiership minute?
4) Arsenal took 10 corners opposed to Wigan's 1. Ten corners, and not a close chance of scoring from a set play. Disgraceful.
A lot of complaining from a guy who's team just came back to win in a thrilling game, putting his team only a point from third place with a game in hand, but really, Arsenal, my poor, undulating heart.
Rosicky claims Gunners win [Sky Sports]