Monday, November 22, 2010

Will Arsenal Beat Braga? Who Cares?

In football, every game matters, but some games are bigger than others.

Something hit home again on Saturday. This Arsenal team can build no momentum. They cannot learn lessons or show anything new. People got carried away by two good but fortunate away wins, but against Spurs Arsenal reverted to type. Every time a game reaches a level of symbolic importance, they blow it. The symbolic importance of bottling the chance to go top can surely not be ignored.

In the cold light of day, it won't really matter a damn if Arsenal beat Braga. They tend to beat rubbish teams. Given a run of games against rubbish teams, they can even put together a run of form. In 08/09, Arsenal embarked on a long, unbeaten run against mid-table Premiership sides. How did that end? 1-2 v Chelsea. 0-1 v United. 1-3 v United. 1-4 v Chelsea. The "confidence" that unbeaten run supposedly bred didn't really count for much in the end, did it?

Equally, Arsenal tend to breeze through the Champions League group phase, turning over substandard continental sides. Often, this is when Arsenal are at their most impressive, as teams stand off and invite a hammering. But when the top sides come calling in the knock-out rounds, Arsenal turn from bullies to whipping boys. In the last two seasons, there has been no suggestion that Arsenal can win important games or games that truly matter.

Big picture-wise, Saturday's game should have been routine- especially at 2-0 up. For a big team to beat a team that they have habitually beaten for ten years, in order to top the league in November, should not really be a big deal. The fact they even managed to bottle that is very worrying indeed. It suggests that rather than lessons being learned, things are getting worse.

Will Arsenal beat Braga? Doesn't matter much- wait for the next big game.

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