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Some Thoughts on our Draw with Bolton… I mean, Villa
Since we find ourselves engaged in a 3-way title race at the end of February, from here on out, every draw will have us considering one of football’s most philosophical questions: Was it two points lost, or a point gained?
I know. I did it after the Everton match. While many disagreed with me, though not most according to our poll, I believed we had gained a point on that day. The same goes for yesterday. Chelsea lost at Villa Park while City and Spurs drew there. A draw at Villa Park is not going to lose anyone the title. In the club-by-club table, we actually picked up a point on Chelsea.
But, yesterday’s point may have come at the cost of points down the road as the entire Arsenal global community waits with bated breath for news on Thomas Vermaelen’s injury. We have also lost Eduardo for Sunday’s crucial fixture home to United. Sad to say, but that might not be a bad thing. Bendtner’s return could not have come sooner. He gave us an extra dimension that we have looked towards the front of our attack for some time. He was able to win headers and hold the ball up, something we have been sorely lacking.
There’s usually not much to say about a nil-nil draw, but it was a hard-fought point. Let’s be honest. We were shit for much of the first half and at 35 minutes I was thinking, “Let’s just get into the break even.” We looked better in the second half and hit two posts on the night. On another night, we might have won 2-nil.
As for Martin O’Neill’s reaction to Arsene’s comments, I don’t see how he can argue. with the Boss’s assessment and his being insulted is hysterical. How sensitive is O’Neill? Villa were, without a doubt, hoofing the ball up throughout the match. If I didn’t have a life and some admiration for what O’Neill’s done in the Midlands, I would go back and watch the match again counting how many times they hoofed the ball up trying to take advantage of Sol and Gallas. Yes, they played some football too-mostly Young and Milner.
Most importantly, they closed us down in the midfield and created space by getting the ball wide in attack, when they weren’t lumping it forward. The return of Alex Song is greatly awaited as Denilson left a little to be desired. Rosicky continues to take steps towards getting back to his best form and his return has been really impressive considering the length of time he was out and that many of us thought that even if he did come back, he wouldn’t be the same player.
We learned that Clichy is nowhere near his best yet. He really struggled to contain Young for much of the match though he did win a few important battles. One can only imagine how bad Traore would have been embarrassed by Young last night had he been in the left-back spot.
Sol Campbell also deserves a mention. When the trainer went out to check on Vermaelen, you could see little gash in his shin. I didn’t think he’d be coming off. And I have to admit that considering how shaky we had looked defensively in the first half-hour, I was more than concerned when Sol came on. It looked a perfect opportunity for Agbonlahor to use his speed against the slower veteran. But Sol looked as solid as you could hope from what is essentially our #4 center-back overall (if you consider Djourou ahead of him when fit). He won headers, and though he was beaten for pace once or twice, he used his experience and his ability to read the game to compensate, like a veteran should.
I think I also learned, or came to accept, that Eduardo doesn’t look likely to ever again even approach his pre-injury level. He used to make up for a little lack of pace with his top-class finishing, but when that is there, he looks a very ordinary player. It pains me to say that because for over a month I’ve been saying it he just needed a run of games, but it’s starting to look as though that’s not the case and I think Arsenal would benefit more by giving some of those minutes to Vela, who has tons of potential and needs to play.
Anyway, I originally thought that we needed 7 points from these 4 matches to remain in fairly close contention, especially now considering Chelsea beat Birmingham quite easily. I think we must beat United and at least get a draw at the Bridge to remain in a firm position. How often are you involved in a three-team race for the League and play the other two teams consecutively. This is a rare opportunity for us. We can make a statement even bigger than the 10-match unbeaten run that put us on top last week. On to Sunday…
ARSENE WENGER POST-MATCH INTERVIEW