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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Arsenal 2 - 1 Everton - a team together it seems

Celebrating the winner - a show of togetherness by the players

Where does one start after such a performance of disgraceful ineptitude? Not the Arsenal players, you understand, but the officials. Referee Lee Mason should hang his head in shame after such an outrageously disgraceful display. He shouldn't have even needed the linesman to tell him Saha was offside for Everton's goal, but that was just part of the worst refereeing display I have ever seen and, let's face it, there's been plenty of competition on that score over the years. It took me back to Graham Poll's behaviour in a game against Newcastle in the week before Christmas 2001 - Ray Parlour sent-off and Sol Campbell penalised for a foul in the box after making the tackle of the decade. Mason seemed to be a on a mission to go out of his way to stop Arsenal at every turn. Theo Walcott was continuously clattered throughout the evening but only got a decision awarded on the occasion when he came out the other side with the ball and was away down the wing! This culminated with Walcott being "done" off the ball by the maniacally dirty Fellaini (who is actually a superb footballer, incidentally).
David Moyes has claimed that Fabregas should have been sent off for abusing the officials in the tunnel at half-time. Arsene Wenger says that Fabregas didn't even speak to the referee. Who to believe? I think I'll go with Wenger. If you watch Moyes' interview he simply goes in to one about Fabregas, without any prompting whatsoever, but claims it's not something he wants to talk about. He doesn't want to talk about it so much that he returns to it on three occasions! His claim that the game changed in the second-half because of a Fabregas rant is so wrong it's incredible. If the referee had changed tack so much why weren't Arsenal given a penalty in the first minute of the second-half when Fellaini pushed Koscielny in the back (both hands) right in front of the officials? The ONLY decision Mason gave Arsenal in the second-half (or all night for that matter) was in the final minute of injury-time when Djourou was out-muscled by Fellaini only to be, wrongly, given a free-kick.
Readers of this site that have been here from the start will know I have a pathological hatred of referees but last night was a new low. I continue to question their motivation with decisions. With the expanded public that the site is now reaching one has to be even more careful with what is written, but I have to say that I believe it will not be long before questions get asked about corruption in English football. We know that Italian football is bent, we know that cricket and rugby are bent. So why should Europe's biggest and richest sporting spectacle be considered immune? I will go no further.

So what about Arsenal last night? I've just been reading some observations that we were awful in the first-half. I don't agree. Everton were more in the game in the first-half, but we had the better chances - Fabregas twice could/should have scored, Van Persie lifted one over and Theo forced a good save from Howard. In the face of playing against eleven players and three officials I thought Arsenal did okay in the first-half. Certainly the players attitude could not be questioned again. I am worried, though, about Alex Song following his injury - Wojciech Szczesny seems to be on a one-man mission to wreck our defensive players!
In the second-half Everton tried to pack their defence and hoped to hit Arsenal on the break. I thought our players were full of spirit and energy and didn't, at any time, run out of ideas. I said to my brother that this would be Arshavin's night if he came on and he duly did so for the anonymous Rosicky (hopefully that is an experiment that ran it's course in the hour he was on the pitch last night). Arshavin came on and immediately got in the game by setting up a chance for Van Persie. He clearly looked like he wanted to play and was working hard at both ends of the pitch - one tackle on the edge of Arsenal's box late-on was crucial. As for the first goal we saw Fabregas play another of those superb chip passes over the defence - though he was unusually quiet for most of the second-half, until the change in formation occurred - and Arshavin's technique for the goal was pure class. In slow-motion you see him watch the ball all the way on to his foot before a calm side-foot finish. Is he back? With Nasri out injured we certainly better hope so.
The second goal was that rare thing - an Arsenal goal from a corner, which made two in eight days! Arsenal's delivery at corners last night was better than it has been in years with Diaby, Djourou and Koscielny all missing presentable opportunities. When Koscielny (his best performance in the Premier League last night, as Djourou struggled for once) found himself unmarked at the far-post he made no mistake and sparked a wonderful celebration both in the stands and on the pitch. The reaction of the players to the goal was great to see. Emmanuel Eboue sprinted down the touchline to join in (actually getting there before anyone else!) and the rest of the team piled on top of Koscielny. It was the sort of reaction that usually greets a winning goal in a Cup Final. For me it showed the togetherness in this Arsenal squad. In the recent past there has been a fair suggestion that certain players were "outside" the group. That is definitely not the case right now it would appear. It wasn't just the celebration that showed their team-spirit either. Throughout the game the players weren't afraid to mix-it with Everton and showed themselves to be no soft-touches in the face of hostile provocation.

All in all, with the other results last night, three points were absolutely crucial. We are still in it as we head in to February, but the lack of strengthening in January will still cost us in the end in my opinion. We are short of at least one centre-back and Song's injury last night shows how vulnerable we are in the defensive area of midfield. Everything must come together for Arsenal to win the league and that means getting lucky on the injury/suspension front.

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday. Unfortunately, between going to work and going to the game, there simply wasn't time to preview the match or bemoan our lack of transfer activity (believe me, I could have said plenty). More tomorrow.

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