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- [Photos] Arsenal duo step-up injury comebacks in training today
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How Can Anyone Count This Team Out?
What is there to say about the match? A goal with 13 seconds left on the clock by Nicklas Bendtner secured the maximum points. Anything less and even I, the eternal Arsenal optimist, would have conceded that our title challenge was over. But, like those supporters accused of being overly optimistic, this side never gives up and always believes they can come up with a result.
Yesterday was the 9th consecutive match in which Arsenal scored a goal in the last 10 minutes. It’s also the second time in 4 League matches that Bendtner grabbed the points with a late-winner. It’s also his 3rd stoppage time goal in 6 matches. It’s also our 6th stoppage-time goal in 9 matches. In 2007/08, we scored a similar amount of late goals throughout the course of the season. How do you account for these types of heroics?
For me, I would suggest two things: belief/character and fitness. We hear Arsene Wenger and even the players mention things like “spirit” and “character” and “mental strength” in interviews all the time and I think most people begin to consider it a cliche or a standard interview line. However, there can be no denying that there is something within this club that enables them to not only get late goals but get late goals that matter.
In addition to that, when we hold a majority of the possession, it weighs on the opposition as they spend much of the match chasing the ball. If you combine that with the team’s overall level of conditioning and a few impact substitutions, you put yourself in a more favorable position to get these types of late goals.
Almost five-minutes deep into stoppage time, and following a Walcott miss and an Almunia mis-kick, most supporters probably thought it was over. Apparently, thousands of supporters at the Emirates believed it was over and decided to beat the rush. But with this side it’s never over until the whistle blows. And with our record of scoring late goals in the last 6 weeks, you’d think they would have learned by now.
As Arsene said in the post-match press conference, the match only got harder following the harsh sending-off of Henry for his challenge on Rosicky. To be fair to Andre Marriner (words you can probably never expect to see again on this blog), in real-time, it looked a bad tackle. But no one can be surprised when a red-card comes out Marriner’s pocket as he leads all referees in showing red this season. Predictably, and quite effectively, Wolves shut up shop.
Arsenal was not at their best and with Nasri on the bench getting a breather before the trip to Barcelona, Tomas Rosicky played where he used to play for Hamburg for the first time that I can remember in a long while. He did well enough directing the attack. Arsenal again focused a large part of their attack down the right side only Theo did not look like repeating his performance of Wednesday evening.
He struggled a bit with his final balls and Wenger’s analysis of that after the match made alot of sense. He said that Theo’s burst of pace isn’t necessarily over 5 yards but over 30 yards. So he said, after those runs by the time he goes to put in the cross he has already put in a huge amount of work. Wenger also pointed out how hard it is to make a final ball when you are going at that kind of pace. I don’t know if these are excuses or not, but they seem reasonable on their face. All the hoopla surrounding Theo’s place in Capello’s squad is only putting more pressure on a youngster who has missed most of the season due to injury.
We move on to Barcelona for the return leg of the Quarterfinals on Tuesday evening and I am still hopeful. Obviously, with the tie standing at 2-2, we likely will have to win at Barcelona. After everything I’ve seen in the last two months from this team, I refuse to concede anything is beyond the realm of the possibility. We may not win the League or the tie with Barcelona, but this team has given its supporters every reason to at least believe that it is possible. Keep the faith!
NOTE: Arsenal Station has started testing out using AudioBoos in conjunction with blog. Below is my AudioBoo from immediately after the Wolves match. Now, I do not have a “radio voice,” so any feedback on them is welcome as I try to figure out whether they are useful enough and enhance the blog overall.