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Déjà Vu, All Over Again
As always, highlights are below and are also archived on the right sidebar. Don’t forget to click on “see all videos” at the bottom of the widget for the rest of the highlights from this season and preseason.
Last week, following our last-minute capitulation to AZ Alkmaar, I wrote a post entitled, “Déjà Vu,” which talked about how the result was reminiscent of all those draws, many nil-nil, from last season. I could essentially just copy and paste that entire article only a few days later to describe the highly disappointing draw at West Ham Sunday afternoon. However, I am not quite that lazy (though close). Being days later, I only wanted to talk about the disappointment of the draw and what, if anything, it may tell us about the side, especially when coupled with the draw in Holland five days previous.
The most disappointing aspect of the draw is the fact that we lost the chance to gain three points on United and Tottenham, and two on Money City. Yet, despite the draw, we still found ourselves higher up the table sitting in third place, level on points, ahead on goal differential and a game in hand over fourth-place Spurs. We are also three points behind second-place United but also with a game in hand. That game in hand is home to Bolton and tentatively scheduled for December 2, unless we should advance past Liverpool in the Carling Cup tonight. In that case, we would play the Carling Cup Quarterfinal and the Bolton match would be rescheduled, likely for some time long after the new year.
Dodgy decisions abounded at West Ham, not the least Song’s foul on Cole. But also a foul, and penalty, was not given on van Persie’s header in the box where the defender was practically piggy-backing him as he went for the header. There was also a handball not given in the first half. The foul which led to the free-kick and the first goal was just as questionable. However, had we gotten the third goal, the match would have been killed off and even these mistakes would not have changed the result.
For most teams that defend well, “killing the game off” means getting that second goal, or two-goal lead. However, with a defense that has only five clean sheets in its first fifteen matches in all competitions, killing the game off means getting the third goal. We have done it for much of the season, and so this week seems to be something of a anomaly. Whether it will stay that way or Arsenal will lapse back into their 2008-09 form remains to be seen.
However, I don’t think it will. I genuinely think the side has turned the corner in regards to finishing teams off and that this week will prove to be a momentary blip rather than a portent of things to come. Had West Ham’s goals come through more legitimate means, I might not be so quick to make that statement, but, as it stands, it took a few very generous decisions for them to get back in the match. Of course, the decisions in no way excuse fundamental errors from Mannone not parrying the ball away from goal, and Song not carelessly kicking out at a striker with his back to goal, however innocuously, in the box with a late one-goal lead.
So, it’s Liverool tonight in the Carling Cup at the Emirates. Arsene has named his side:
Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski, Philippe Senderos, Kyle Bartley, Mikael Silvestre, Kieran Gibbs, Kerrea Gilbert, Fran Merida, Francis Coquelin, Craig Eastmond, Emmanuel Frimpong, Aaron Ramsey, Mark Randall, Samir Nasri, Eduardo, Gilles Sunu, Nicklas Bendtner, Sanchez Watt
The absence of Vela is the biggest puzzle especially considering that he was interviewed about the match two days ago on ArsenalTV Online. Samir Nasri is expected to get his first competitive action since breaking his leg back in July, and we are also likely to witness the return of Lukasz Fabianksi, not a moment too soon, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to seeing Coquelin and Merida as well as Emmanuel Frimpong. I expect a mixed side from Liverpool as well.
After this midweek diversion, it is back to the Premier League and Spurs at the Emirates on Saturday. There will be plenty time to build up to that match starting tomorrow, but I just wanted to let all my fellow-American readers know that Saturday morning will be the first time Arsenal have ever been broadcast in the United States in High-Definition on ESPN2HD.