I kind of wish I wrote this match report at the final whistle, or closer to then, because I would have been all angry and scathing. Couldn’t summon the courage, though. But now I’ve calmed down, meaning I’m going to be all reasonable. Massive shame!
Anyways, huge game this was. Let’s set the scene. On Wednesday, we’d effectively blown our title challenge after Sp*rs decided to finally end their winless streak against us in the League, leaving us 6 points off the lead. Then Man United won at Citeh, making second place difficult. Thought it was all done and dusted, then Sp*rs decided to become World-beaters (or whatever it is you need to be to beat Chelsea), throwing us a lifeline. If we took it, we’d be just 3 points off the lead. Would we take it?
Team news for the game:
Sagna – Campbell – Silvestre – Clichy
Eastmond – Diaby
Walcott – Nasri – Rosicky
Almunia was dropped (code-name: wrist injury) for the unquestionably and aptly re-named Flap-ianski, Theo for Eboue, Eastmond for the injured Denilson and Silvestre for the also injured Vermaelen. The question was whether Arsene would start Robin, but he felt a bench-role would be better, especially as he had a bit of ‘muscle reaction’. On the bench too, was ‘new kid on the block’, Conor Henderson- reserve player, ofcourse.
Wigan are no push-overs, espeecially with wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, but one would have thought that our starting XI would be able to do the business.
Wigan started quite decently, but after the first 5-10, we sort of took over. Theo was seeing loads of the ball, but we couldn’t find the net. There wasn’t much to report about the first half really. Few half-chances for Wigan, but they were struggling to hit the target. Clichy then took a free-kick, but his effort was weak and went into Kirkland’s arms comfortably. We actually ought to have had a penalty, Theo’s cross hitting a Wigan player’s hand, but no one, except Theo, made much of a fuss. Bendtner had a sharp chance from the immediate corner, but Kirkland made an equally smart save, low to his right.
The goal finally came through Theo, and it was a great goal. Bendtner with a gorgeous pass sent him on his way, and he did brilliantly to hold off the defender and slot it past Kirkland. One-nil, 5 minutes to go. Lovely. Theo could have had a second one shortly, but his effort at a curler went just wide!
Half-time then. Well-deserved lead, but still a lot of work left to be done.
Couldn’t bear to watch the whole of the second half again, ATVO highlights being more than enough! Either way, the last 10 minutes seem etched in my memory! Hopefully not for long…
Anyways, we started the second half in the best possible way, if you discount the penalty we almost conceded. Didn’t think it was a penalty for all it’s worth. The tug by Nasri on Watson was minimal, more than anything. Very reminiscent of that by Vermaelen which led to him being harshly sent off. The referee rightly ignored the shouts and 90 seconds (apparently) later, we were 2-nil up! Kirkland saved from Diaby, then we forced a corner on the right. Nasri took it and found Silvestre’s head, directing it into the bottom-left corner!
Points sown up! Erm, I’m pretty sure football’s 90 minutes plus extra-time, not 50 minutes!
N’Zogbia could have made it 2-1 shortly after, but he passed it straight to Fabianski, after being one-on-one! Being 2-0 down seemed to liberate Wigan and they began to pile the pressure and sure enough, 10 minutes from time they equalised through Ben Watson. Good goal. Poor defending. Arsene was about to substitute Theo and Rosicky for Eboue and Merida before the goal, but he made them after the goal. Didn’t matter though, as it was all Wigan.
8 minutes later and they got their (deserved) equaliser through Titus Bramble. You know you’re in trouble when Titus Bramble scores against you and is named Man-of-the-Match! You’re in even more trouble when the goal is a gift! Nasri had earlier cleared off the line from a corner, but another corner later, Flap-ianski ‘catches’ the ball then inexpicably drops it onto Bramble’s head, right in front of goal! He gladly accepted the gift. Like WHAT?! And you thought Almunia was bad, right? A right joke!
Two minutes to go and sure enough, Wigan won it in injury-time! Great great goal by N’Zogbia, but LOOK at the defending! I know defenders are meant to be in a line, but I’m pretty sure they mean horizontally, not vertically! Anyways, N’Zogbia picked the ball on the right near the penalty box, cut inside with no one closing him down, before hitting a beauty in-off the post!
Arsene brought Robin on after that I think, but really, it was game over already! Was expecting our customary goal in the last 10 minutes, but we’d morphed into Wigan, them into us! AMAZING! Full-time, game over, title challenge over, season over.
Unbelievable, but the harsh reality is that Wigan wanted the 3 points more than us. Shocking! Yes, they’re fighting for their survival, but we had an excellent chance to actually push on in the League! After being 2-0 up, we hit the cruise-control button and we just couldn’t get out of it. Kind of like what happened to Barca at the Emirates a few weeks ago, at West Ham earlier in the season, difference being that we, along with West Ham, didn’t find equalisers and Wigan did this time. The number of times we’ve relaxed at the wrongest stage this season, one would think we’d have learnt by now. Very shocking. One could argue injuries or whatever, but there’s NO excuse for blowing a 2-goal lead for the second time this season, even going one better and letting them score the winner. Ridiculous, unforgivable, sickening, disgraceful, humiliating and other such similar thoughts!
Our defence started okay-ish- Sol excellent, Silvestre doing well (shocker), but it all went to pieces at an alarming rate. It’s got to have left Arsene scratching his head! Not only the defence, the whole team went to pieces!
Oh Diaby, you do realise you’re actually on a football pitch? You’re meant to pass the ball to your mates in Red! The past few games have simply passed him by and he’s merely been a passenger. Disappointing, as he was hitting good form but he seems to have hit a brick wall, instead! Sort it please, yeah?
Apart from Diaby, Rosicky’s been slated a bit, but I kind of have sympathy for him. He’s been industrious, so it’s not effort his lacking, just performance. He’s one hell of a player, but he hasn’t been of late. I noticed he was everywhere today, making loads of tackles, but he’d back it up by losing the ball. Hard-work undone.
Theo did really well, shame he came off when he did as he may have had a positive say towards the end. Eastmond was impressive and it’s a real shame we ended up losing as it won’t help his confidence much. Nasri and Bendtner did OK, but we needed more than ‘OK’ from them. Huge room for improvement next game. No one really stood-out, apart from Sol at the start and Eastmond (all things considered) and they’ve all got to take long hard looks at themselves and acknowlegde that the performance was unacceptable.
Credit to Wigan, though. How ironic, that the player who started it all- Ben Watson- is an avid Arsenal fan, his parents even having season tickets at the Emirates. Hang your head in shame, mate! Just messing. But yeah, his goal started it all, and huge credit to Wigan to turning us over like that. A sentence one would have expected never to write! They wanted it more and they got it. They didn’t even have to resort to underhand tactics! Well-played.
Arsene was understandably furious and rumour had it that he ordered the coach to drop the players at the train station, so they could get the train with the fans. Don’t know if it’s true, but I wish it was! They deserved to get some stick from the fans in person! As long as it wasn’t over-the-top, ofcourse.
“I believe that we were not focussed and were not disciplined and we got caught. We were a bit unlucky as well but overall, in football you have to keep focussed for 90 minutes or you risk or a bit much, especially against a team who has nothing to lose and fights not to go down. They will not give up and in the end we were punished.”
“No, I never thought the game was over. I saw that we were having difficulties keeping the ball and creating opportunities. When you do not create chances in football you are in trouble. After we went 2-0 up our game lacked cohesion and discipline and I always felt that we could be punished.”
When asked who he thought would win the League:
“I don’t mind and I don’t care.”
I think we all feel that way, Arsene!
Title gone, but now we’ve got to try and hold on to 3rd. What a massive change of fortune, right? Arsene acknowledged this too, saying:
“Spurs can catch us, Manchester City can catch us. We have to win at least one game.”
We’ve lost 3 games in a row, all away games. Next up is City. Glad it’s at home, as we might as well not turn up! I’m going to the game and in all honesty, I’m not looking forward to it- for now at least. I do hope the lads perform exceptionally well and restore some pride back into the club. I still love you Arsenal, irrespective of an appalling display.
But yeah, onwards and upwards…