With Arsenal two goals up and apparently cruising on Sunday, I saw on my laptop that Man city had thrown away a similar lead to draw at home to Fulham. A feeling of smugness washed over me. With United, Spurs, and Villa also dropping points, it seemed for a few moments that: A. Arsenal would not have to fret over a 4th placed finish this season, and B. Arsenal were genuine title challengers. But I should have known what was coming.
Last season could officially be declared a farce after our team of morons blew a 4-2 lead at home to Spurs in the space of a couple of stoppage time minutes. And so it is now. It seems that in the area of character, of mentality- the areas that define trophy-winning sides- little tangible progress has been made.
What's most galling is that West Ham are at the moment a painfully poor side. They never threatened to really open up our defence, which to be fair has become a lot less shambolic with the addition of Vermaelen. He must troop off at the end of games wondering how he's not racking up more clean sheets. Likewise Gallas. They're both playing pretty well, but it's a team game. There are problems at Arsenal bigger than any individual. Adebayor caused problems, was turfed out, we've seen some benefit. That was a simple problem to solve. But there are bigger battles these guys need to fight with themselves, and about half the team seem to be losing those.
That said, we might have got away with a listless, borderline lazy display but for a couple of the now-familiar individual errors that have peppered this season. First, with about fifteen minutes remaining, West Ham won a free-kick, for absolutely nothing as far as I can tell, on the edge of the area. Diamante curled in a fine effort but Mannone reached it and the rest should be textbook for any keeper. But he's young, he's green, he got it wrong. Palmed the ball into the air for carlton cole to nod it in.
The rest was painful in its predictability. The home fans were now up for it, and their team finally showing some initiative. could Arsenal hold their nerve and establish their superior class? could they fuck. There's that chant you hear at away grounds- "always cheating, same old Arsenal"... if those fans had any wit they'd change it to something more accurate like "always crumbling.."
Song is a much-improved player, no doubt, but one thing that a holding midfielder must possess above all else is intelligence and this seems to desert him at times. When cole received the ball in our area with his back to goal, there was no immediate danger, and certainly no need to kick the back of his legs. Outside the box, he does it a lot, and that's irritating, but inside it's criminal. Now, it was still a harsh decision, cole went down very easily, but Song shouldn't have given the ref the chance to appease the baying home fans who'd just had a passable appeal turned down.
We still should have won it. Van Persie forced a great save from Green in injury time, but it never should have come to that. Fair play to West Ham for taking advantage of Arsenal idiocy, but they are rubbish, and we all know there's teams who would have ran up a cricket score given the advantage we had at half-time. Wanna know who? I'll give you a clue, they'll be the ones fighting for trophies in April and May when our season will be, most probably, long over.
* I should add quick reference to the midweek champions league game against AZ Alkmaar, which held the promise of future capitulation in the shape of the last gasp equaliser conceded. After the warning shots of Birmingham and Holland, Upton Park seemed to conclusively prove that this Arsenal team are incapable of learning lessons.