Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Title Race That Never Started is Over

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool

Silly little team!
Undignified old manager!

It's sad. For all the hype, the Premiership is in a poor state. Manchester United are not as bad as they've sometimes been made out to be this season, but they are very flawed. Yet their march towards the title has never been in serious doubt. Arsenal are a let down to themselves, their manager, their fans, and the neutrals who want to see a relatively weak United team properly challenged.

Overall, the game showed some of the worst facets of this spineless Arsenal team. Ciorcumstances called for a performance of some tempo and commitment but instead Arsenal played at the now familiar pre-season pace. Liverpool, despite a patched up defence that lost both Aurelio and Carragher to injury during the game, mostly repelled Arsenal's overly narrow, overly intricate attacks with ease. There were few chances and the game drifted towards the third consecutive goalless result at the Emirates. Arsenal simply looked too nervous to play with any real style and the crowd responded in frustrated, subdued fashion.

Then, seven minutes into the eight added, Arsenal won a penalty, Fabregas felled by Spearing. Van Persie coolly slotted the ball away, and tension finally released, the stadium erupted.

But this is Arsenal, and you know it's never over. Kuyt shot from kick off, Szczesny scurried back to save, cleared the ball. The eight minutes were up but the game went on as the ball had not been "in play" while Arsenal celebrated what they assumed was the winner. A long ball came forward, Arsenal were all over the place, Kuyt nearly got in on the left of the area. Clearances were sliced, tackles were feeble, until a clumsy one on the edge of the box gave Liverpool a free kick. Only Arsenal could contrive this preposterous situation having got ahead so late.

When Suarez could only find the wall, the home fans cheered again, but those cheers dissolved into disbelief as the moronic Eboue chased the looping deflection, and needlessly pushed over Lucas, who was facing away from goal. After a dramatic pause, Andre Marriner pointed to the spot. Arsenal had ballsed it up yet again.

Kuyt kept his cool to bury the penalty in the corner, and the last whistle finally blew, three minutes after Arsenal supposed it was due. In fairness, though, there was never an opportunity for the referee to blow up. For two minutes on end, the ball was in and around the Arsenal penalty area, as the team found a new way to manifest their debilitating nervousness. They have had many comical implosions over the last few years, but this must rank with the most darkly hilarious.

The comedy continued as Kenny Dalglish quite rightly, and quite audibly, told Arsene Wenger to "piss off" as the Frenchman responded in typically sour fashion to his latest misfortune.

"Misfortune". Not the right word. If someone keeps literally shooting himself in the foot, he is not unfortunate. He's an idiot.

Arsenal are that idiot. Eboue best embodies the brainlessness, but it has been present in his absence on many occasions. For much of the game, it seemed Arsenal's only problem was that they had lost their attacking verve at the worst possible time. But when they had solved that problem with the goal, they served a hilarious reminder of their other flaws. They are the last team in the world you would trust to defend for two minutes- just two minutes! A while ago, I suggested that this team were destined for failure, and the only question was how they would arrive at that point. They keep finding new, ridiculous ways.

You have to say, that's pretty sad, and so is the manager's continued insistence on blaming anyone but himself or his team. If that attitude is not dropped, more "misfortune" awaits.

No comments: