We got there in the end I suppose and took an important three points. However, the reason we can not win the Title was still there for all to see - Arsenal simply can't defend properly. We've let in 7 goals in a week - none of them the fault of our goalkeeper. A team that needs to score three times per game just to be certain of a point is in no position to think it can win the Premier League. Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the goals we concede are regularly similar to each other, meaning that the defence does not learn from its collective errors. Worse still is that goals are often the fault of the same people making the same errors which begs the question as to why they continue to play every week. Yesterday was a prime example of both. The first goal saw the ball bouncing on the edge of the box so, instead of closing down the man on the ball, Tomas Rosicky and, my personal favourite, Gael Clichy chose to run away from him (while we're on the subject, what exactly have Gibbs and Djourou got to do to get a start on merit?) Squillaci, for the first time, notably berated Rosicky for his failure to act, but he obviously hadn't noticed Clichy who went towards the ball and then changed his mind and ran in the opposite direction. In fairness we should still have been saved by the linesman who failed to notice the 6'7" Carew standing in front of Fabianski, about five yards offside. The second goal was the usual set-piece concession with two men managing to find themselves unmarked in the six-yard area, right in front of the goalkeeper. As I say, we never learn.
On the attacking front Arsenal were outstanding. The trouble is that with our defending we need to be amazing going forward in every game. As with last week the game could, and should, have been put to bed before half-time. Arshavin improved again from last week and was the man of the match for me. The lazy flicks and lack of running have disappeared in the last two games, and he is making Arsenal tick again. Arsenal's dominance was all the more amazing when you consider that Rosicky was the direct replacement for Fabregas. I know he played a nice ball for Chamakh's goal, but he was completely anonymous for the rest of the game. In the latter part of the second-half I began to think I'd missed a substitution as he didn't appear on the TV screen at all.
Marouane Chamakh was outstanding once again, with Dunne and Collins at a complete loss in trying to deal with him. I felt Nasri had a quiet game again, but he popped up with a superb strike for the second goal, and missed an absolute sitter after a sublime pass from Arshavin had put him in on goal. We shouldn't have been hanging on the way we were, but it is a symptom of our lack of genuine ruthlessness in front of goal and our inability to contain at the back. Once again the players were not helped by the Manager and his bizarre substitutions. We had Theo Walcott on the bench, yet he chose to bring on Denilson and Gibbs for his two wide players - a completely negative move which could have backfired spectacularly as it has so often in the past (usually with Cygan being made the fall-guy). The fourth goal was also a complete dogs dinner with nobody wanting to take responsibility. Thankfully Jack stooped to conquer at the far post and put the win beyond doubt.
I watched the game in a pub yesterday and was reminded immediately of why I don't like watching Arsenal in places like that. The problem is that most pubs are populated by at least one tosser who will make a point of showing their dislike for Arsenal in some way. When you're in the pub 100 yards from a football ground, just before an FA Cup tie, you get more than one of them and that is bloody annoying - especially as most of these twats have never been near a Premier League ground in their lives.
The win took us top for a couple of hours but if it wasn't for the cock-ups of last weekend we would still be there now. I noticed that Fat Sam's band of thugs put in their usual meek and mild performance against his "friend" Ferguson's mob at Old Trafford. I'd love to see that walrus-faced arsehole get the boot...again.
According to the paper today Pat Rice is set to retire at the end of the season. Pat has been a great servant to Arsenal, and is a true legend of the Club. He has a fantastic record as a coach from the youth team through to the first eleven. However, I think a change might just be a good thing for the players, as I said on here last week. If he does retire then the Club must mark his service in an appropriate way, with proper tributes paid to someone who is Arsenal through and through. I remember at the Cup Final (and the replay) in 1993, the fans had gone a bit quiet at the end of ninety minutes. Pat, who George Graham always had around the first-team at Cup Finals (and at Anfield in 1989) marched towards us and started throwing his arms around and getting us to turn up the noise again. It will seem strange to see someone else sitting next to Wenger next season (if the Manager gets that far). It seems that Neil Banfield or Steve Bould are in line for promotion. I think most of the fans would far prefer Bouldie involved. Who knows, he might even get the players to learn how to defend. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if neither of them got the job, with Wenger bringing in someone from outside, but with an Arsenal pedigree - Pires, Bergkamp, Keown?
The FA Cup 3rd Round is drawn today. I went to watch my local team, Dover Athletic, yesterday in their tie with Aldershot. For the second round in a row Dover were the big giant-killers. Adam Birchall, a former Arsenal youth, got both their goals in a 2-0 win. There was a bumper crowd of over 4,000 there, and ESPN should be ashamed for not having them as one of the live matches. Martin Hayes is the Manager there so it would be great if we could get them at home in the next round. If Arsenal were drawn to play Dover away from home I think the police would not allow them to play it at Crabble, which would be a shame for the town and complete nonsense as far as I'm concerned - the terrace has a capacity so an all-ticket fixture (as it would be) would mean safety should not be an issue. Unfortunately, the idea of a "big" club is something the police don't want on their patch. Highlight of the day yesterday (apart from the win) was seeing one of the coppers not paying attention behind a stand get knocked off his feet by the matchball - everyone in the home end saw it happen and cheered in the appropriate fashion. Arsenal are number 1 in the draw, as they should always be, with Dover number 63.