Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Collapse Continues: West Brom 2-2 Arsenal

Man United, as has been said umpteen times, are lacking in flair this season.

Arsenal, although their style of play is overrated, have a bit more of it.

But as far as trophies go, it does not matter one iota.

The reasons for that were neatly summed up today.

The Premiership is populated mostly by mediocre sides.

West Brom are mediocre. Bolton are decent, but far from great.

To win titles, you have to beat those teams regularly. You have to do it when not at your best.

Neither Arsenal or Man United were at their best today. But if your defence functions properly, limited sides will still struggle to score against you. They are less adept at making clear chances. United's defence generally ensures that they only need one goal. So it was today.

Arsenal's defence, in the absence of Djourou, is appalling. That is no exaggeration. They are an absolute disgrace. They don't make mediocre teams work for their chances. And so they drop the kind of points you can't afford to. So it was today.

West Brom are not very good but if you give away free headers from six yards and open goals from hopeful punts, even a mediocre team will punish you.

Arsenal were left needing three goals in half an hour and against a team organised by Roy Hodgson, that was always unlikely. Well done on salvaging a point from a very grim situation. But the team needs to work harder on avoiding these grim situations.

Arsenal seem to only show urgency in situations of absolute desperation.

Apparently, a must-win game does not become important enough until they are trailing 2-0.

There is NO CHANCE, I repeat, NO CHANCE, that Arsenal will win the title. They will be two points behind United if they win their game in hand, but as far as I'm concerned, it may as well be twenty.

You have to be good enough to win the title. People can keep banging on about how United are below par, but United being below par will not win Arsenal the title. At some point they have to claim ownership of these matches, impose themselves, get the necessary results. They are incapable of it.

With a clean bill of health, there would be hope. With Almunia (or, indeed, a long past-it Lehmann) in goals and Squillaci and Koscielny in tandem? Not a hope!

My remaining wish for the season is that United do not wrap up the title at the Emirates. Arsenal may well stay in touch, which is the most frustrating thing, in a way. They are, in mathematical terms, a cunthair away from winning the title, but at the same time, I cannot imagine this team doing it.

As for the overall prospect of another trophyless season? It's frustrating. United and Chelsea and City and Liverpool are all in relatively poor health. There was a moment to be seized; that moment has passed. In defence of Wenger, one can point to financial constraints, and look to a brighter future. I can't see, however, that bringing in a better goalkeeper than Manuel Almunia, and a better defender than Sebastien Squillaci, would have broken the bank. The two of them are, quite frankly, cack. Every time they take to the pitch it makes a mockery of Arsenal's lofty pretensions.

It is hard to remember a time when the Arsenal squad was so littered with maligned players. Those two, Fabianski, Denilson, Eboue, Bentner, Diaby, Arshavin. All have been the victims of some pretty heavy criticism.

With the injury list as it is, some of those players would have to completely transform themselves to make it a glorious end to the season.

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