Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Goodbye Dignity, Hello Champions League Qualifying Round

Spurs 3-3 Arsenal

Chelsea are into second after the latest in a growing line of collapses.

3-1 up not long before half time, but there was never much point celebrating.

Spurs came back to win a point, and nobody was too surprised. It would have been more surprising to see Arsenal negotiate the rest of the game with a bit of authority.

THINGS STARTED WELL when Walcott burst through onto a vintage Fabregas pass. Corluka had no chance of catching Walcott and he slipped a tidy finish, Henry-style, into the bottom corner.

As against Liverpool, Arsenal showed that they could not hold it together even for a couple of minutes. After the whirlwind start, one might have hoped that Arsenal had turned a corner, but instead they immediately served notice that anarchy still reigned.

Corluka saw Van der Vaart make a clever run off the typically dopey Diaby, played a good pass infield, and the Dutchman was in behind the Arsenal defence. Diaby could not even bother throwing his lazy arse in front of the shot, which flew past Szczesny and in at his near post. 1-1.

Arsenal got their noses in front again. Tippy tappy tippy tappy BANG. A bout of short passing around the Spurs area ended with Nasri taking a potshot, which clipped off Dawson and scipped past an unsighted Gomes.

Close to the interval, a mistake by Gallas from a right wing cross saw the ball break to Walcott. He stood up a lovely cross for Van Persie, whose initial header was brilliantly clawed away by Gomes. The rebound dropped for Van Persie again, and he lashed it into the roof of the net.

Of course, for the team that can blow a 4-0 lead, 3-1 is a narrow advantage.

Minutes later, Szczesny rushed out to stop Bale, who was injured in the collision. This could perhaps have signalled that Arsenal's luck was turning, only for the fact that, moments later, Tom Huddlestone found the net with a left-footed piledriver from long range. Half time: 3-2.

Throughout the second half, there was never a sense that Spurs were thumping on the door, but they didn't need to. Arsenal's attacking was less convincing, and the first decent spell they had in the half ended with Spurs equalising.

Lennon was sent racing in behind Sagna, and Szczesny rushed out rashly, and clearly fouled the winger. Van der Vaart buried the penalty, and for the second time this season, and the third in three seasons, Arsenal had blown a two-goal lead against their local rivals.

Although Fabregas drove a decent effort straight at Gomes, if anyone deserved to win the game, it was Tottenham. Szczesny made a couple of decent stops and, for the most part, Arsenal were hanging on. When Wenger made changes, he was fairly cautious, keeping three central midfielders on the pitch. Despite that emphasis on possession, Arsenal's passing game went to pieces, and they spent a lot of the second half launching hopeful, ineffective long balls.

Chelsea won at home to Birmingham and they are now 2nd. The crumbliest, flakiest team in the world continues its slow, sad decline of 2011. Since the Carling Cup collapse, they have beaten two teams- Leyton Orient and Blackpool.

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