One Point Gained or Two Points Dropped?

By on January 10, 2010

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With Chelsea’s eminently winnable match with Hull City canceled, along with six other Premier League matches on Saturday, our match against Everton, in the driving snow, effectively, became our infamous and long-awaited “game-in-hand.” Yesterday’s match was another reminder why teams with games-in-hand should never just count them as three points.

Of course, there are two points-of-view available to the distraught Arsenal supporter following yesterday’s type of match, and which one you choose probably defines your overall world-view of being an Arsenal supporter. For one, you can go up to the roof of your home or apartment building and stand on the ledge, poised to jump, screaming, “We dropped two points at home to the 12th-placed side!”

Or you can consider that on a day when Arsenal weren’t even at their half-best, were missing key players through injuries, and, despite all the pundits’ talk of Arsenal’s inability to play in bad weather, were playing a match in a damn blizzard that sent all but two of the rest of the league’s clubs running like little bitches. I, as regular readers might guess, have chosen the latter. (You can choose in the poll on the right sidebar.)

Arsenal were so committed in the final 20 minutes to going for the win, that somehow Steven Piennar slipped in behind the defense and chipped Almunia in a one-on-one with the keeper. But, while Everton were celebrating in the 81st minute as if they had won the game, Arsenal were steeling themselves for a final 10-minute blitzkrieg on Everton’s 11-man defense, finally breaking through after a deft pass from Diaby allowed Rosicky to use the outside of his boot to put a shot on goal that deflected in.

For me, it’s hard to judge a match played in the kind of adverse weather we had at the Emirates yesterday. But, I felt like Diaby had regressed and we were seeing a bit more of the “old Diaby,” holding onto the ball too long and losing it and making bad passing decisions in the middle of the pitch and in the final third. His performance was only redeemed by his assist on the leveler. Still, with no Fabregas or Song in the midfield, we can hardly afford for Diaby to revert back to his former, frustrating self.

Denilson also struggled with keeping the ball at times. Though it was a tough situation to be playing in that type of conditions without your two midfield leaders, and, credit to Everton, they near-perfectly executed what has become the standard gameplan against Arsenal, which is to try to smother them when they’re on the ball. Still, it was Denilson’s fight for a 50-50 and his propensity for shooting from outside of the box that drew Arsenal level after Osman’s opener.

Whether or not Piennar was onside when he took the pass for the second goal is still a doubt in my mind. But, Arsenal didn’t hang their heads and concede defeat. They fought back and created enough chances in the final 10+ minutes to earn a victory. Rosicky’s play, following an awkward few minutes needed to settle into the match and weather, was highly encouraging, especially after signing a new contract.

Denilson’s being carried off on a stretcher after a rib injury sent him down in a manner reminiscent of Wayne Rooney-in-the-box is a bit worrying, but we will likely have to wait until Monday or Tuesday before the Boss has more information on him.

All in all, it is disappointing to only get one point from the game-in-hand, but, to win titles, you have to be able to get some kind of result on days when you are struggling for form and, also, playing in less-than-ideal weather conditions. On Saturday, Arsenal did both and it brought them to within three points of the leaders and two points within United in second place but still holding their game-in-hand on the Manchester side, that just barely escaped with a somewhat undeserved point against the Premier League’s most-improved side, Birmingham City.

And, despite the disappointment, a three-point deficit in the second week of January means the league is very winnable yet for the Arsenal. With Bendtner, Fabregas, and Clichy due to return within the next two weeks, Arsenal will be getting back somewhat closer to their true starting XI.