West Ham 2 – 2 Arsenal
What on earth happened there? To be honest, I am still in shock in our 2008/2009 style of defending a lead in the last two games and that’s 2 points dropped in the Champions League (which works out at £350,000 of prize money) and 2 points dropped in the league against a club 2nd bottom in the league whom even Liverpool have beaten. It was a disaster of a result and despite going 2-0 up, we didn’t really deserve it at that point – don’t get me wrong – I was very happy to be 2-0 up at half time, but West Ham looked like they were more up for it than us… reminiscent of Fulham last year… okay maybe that’s a bit harsh.
Two players who I don’t think played well enough were Diaby and Eboue – they both did well overall, getting into good positions, but their final ball and general decision making was very poor and it’s no wonder that both were substituted for Bendtner and Eduardo eventually – the only question being why so late on in the game.
I’m a big fan of playing 3 attacking players in the front 3 and I really think it’s important to our system to do this. We have enough defensive players when we play 4-3-3, with the middle three being a defensive shield – so when we play with two in Arshavin, Van Persie and have Eboue on the right, we don’t do justice to our system and this has been true in all the games where we have drop points.
Against Man United, we played Eboue, Song, Denilson and Diaby – against Man City, we played Song, Denilson, Diaby and Cesc, and against West Ham, we played Eboue, Song, Diaby and Cesc. Please please play a third offensive player in the forward roles instead of playing a defensive player – we’re much better going forward and attacking than we are at defending. With all three of these games, having an extra attacking player would really have put West Ham on the back foot.
The line up yesterday was:
Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Clichy
Song – Diaby
Eboue – Cesc – Arshavin
The good news was that we had a fit again Nasri, Eduardo and Bendtner on the bench along side Silvestre, Gibbs, Ramsey and a fit again keeper in Almunia. I’d expect Almunia to start on Wednesday as it’s quite unfair that he’s on the bench. Mannone’s last couple of games have seen him make 21 year old mistakes and I’ll touch on that later.
We did go ahead when a great cross by Sagna was palmed into Van Persie’s path who finished first time on the volley – that’s the sixth goal from the Dutchman this season and he’s starting to play better now. We were 2-0 up by half time when a great corner from Van Persie was nodded in by Gallas – and our centre backs have 9 between them – that’s impressive.
The second half was atrocious by us – I don’t think I’ve seen a worse 45 minutes by us this season – albeit West Ham really came out in the second forty five. The goal that made it 2-1 was terrible from a goal keeping point of view. Mannone really should have caught the ball, knocked it out for a corner or punched it away. He did none of them and basically pushed the ball in front of Carlton Cole.
The penalty which ended up making the result 2-2, was a terrible decision. We were admiring how strong Carlton Cole had been throughout the game, hold us off and keeping possession – and it was very interesting to see how he tumbled in the box so easily, considering his play outside of the box. Not great from Alex Song, who was very good generally through out the game and even worse from Cole and even worse from the referee, who really did make some shocking decisions.
On the game Arsene said:
“We complicated the game a little bit. We had five or six chances in the second half where we missed the final ball. That’s where we have to learn. “It is very frustrating. West Ham did fight until the final second of the game and I never had the feeling that the game was won, even if we were completely in control because I saw the attitude of West Ham, they were not giving up. You know that if you make a mistake you will be under pressure and the crowd got behind the referee’s decision and then it’s always difficult away from home.”
On the refereeing decisions, he continued:
“I believe that if you start to consider the decision the referee makes in 80 minutes is influenced by the 60th minute, the 61st, 62nd, then you don’t need a rulebook. Just make your own rulebook; the next decision is influenced by the decision the minute before. We have to keep the positives today. We played well and we are a strong team, and we want to learn of course to finish these games off. That is basically the most important lesson of the day.”
And Arsene really did feel like it was points dropped yesterday:
“It is a major missed opportunity of course. In our job you have no luxury to miss opportunities. It is our job to get points when you deserve them and sometimes to get points when you don’t deserve them. Today we didn’t get the points when we deserved them and that means we have not made the maximum of what we should have done. We have a great chance [in the Premier League] this year but you cannot repeat this kind of performance and not come out with the three points. It is not complacency. We just have to continue to play in a rigorous way, respect the game we love and the pass. That is what we forgot sometimes and we have paid for it. We play at top quality and at the moment we do not get rewarded for what we produce. In the Champions League it can happen that you are 1-0 up and are caught on a free-kick in the last minute. Today it has not to happen. At 2-0 we lost the way we want to play the game. And when a team comeback to 2-1 and you are away from home you are always under threat to go to 2-2.””
Arsene says we need to learn from this – but we really should have learned from this last season. With Chelsea and United playing next weekend, surely we really really really have to beat Sp*rs at home next Saturday to ensure we’re still up there.
I am confident we can do it this season, but the real question is – are the team?