Monday, 28 February 2011
Let down by our own inadequacies again
Jack Wilshere was sat on the pitch in tears at the end of the match yesterday. Throughout the game, and after it, Wilshere was just about the only Arsenal player to show the sort of passion we should expect from our boys. There was an arrogance to Arsenal yesterday, yet again. The players seemed to largely adopt the idea that turning up was going to be enough, that Birmingham's players had got their day out and that would be enough for them. The way Arsenal ambled on to the pitch, in dribs and drabs, for the second-half (which is something that has irked me more and more in the past couple of years) was indicative of their attitude. Sadly, it was an attitude that seemed to pervade the support as well. I have never known such a quiet bunch at a Final. There was a point in the first-half where there was near silence at the Arsenal end, in stark contrast to the wall of noise from the opposition fans (more of whom below).
The game itself saw too many Arsenal players way below their best. Alex Song played his worst game of the season, while Djourou and Koscielny returned to looking like perfect strangers at the back. Then, of course, there is the fact that Arsenal weren't given the best chance to win that they could have been - by their Manager. What the hell was that team selection all about? I don't know anybody that felt Rosicky was a credible starting option. With Abou Diaby back to fitness I had Rosicky down as the 19th man - the one available player that would miss out on a place in the squad. I just can't understand why Wenger persists with Rosicky in any area of the pitch, but particularly not in place of Cesc Fabregas. To my mind we have a number of players who could possibly play in that position - Nasri, Arshavin, Wilshere, Diaby and Rosicky (in that order). Samir Nasri was shoved out on the right wing and didn't see enough of the ball. On the occasions that he got himself more central (and got Rosicky out of the way) he caused problems for Birmingham - three times he forced Foster to make a save. I don't doubt that the mind is willing for Tomas Rosicky, but his body gave out a long time ago. He simply shouldn't have been on the pitch in the first place.
Then we come to Arsenal's substitutions. Apparently Robin Van Persie was suffering with the knock he picked up in the act of scoring his quite wonderful goal. With the opposition centre-half playing on one leg I would rather have seen RVP soldier on, than be taken off with twenty minutes to go in the hope that he might be fit for Barcelona. Yesterday was the priority, forget about Barcelona until you actually have to play them. Similarly the removal of Arshavin was baffling. Yes, he wasn't tracking back properly, but he was also our only real creative influence, regularly beating his man and getting in behind.
I don't want to dwell too much on the winning goal. In my opinion it was Koscielny's fault. I've watched it back on Sky and you can clearly hear Szczesny shout for the ball. Koscielny should have got out of the way. Having not gotten out of the way he should have belted the ball in to row Z. Unfortunately he did neither and it ended up with us losing a Final. When it happened I said to my brother it was a "Gus Caesar moment" and was corrected by the bloke in front who said "it was worse than that." He was, of course, absolutely right. Mistakes will happen. The thing is that the top players make fewer of them, and they certainly don't make them in the last minute of a Final. One thing that should be said is that, if Manuel Almunia had been involved, I know he would be getting dogs abuse for it, regardless of where the fault lay.
The Birmingham fans, as mentioned above, really got behind their side. But what a horrid group of people they are. Scum doesn't quite cover it. They deserved their celebrations after the game as their side had won, fair and square (let's be honest, we'd have been behind and down to ten men in the first couple of minutes, had the officials not been so poor). But the way they swaggered around, abusing people, and being generally unpleasant sums up the kind of people they are - and that was before the match. This was reflected in the lack of class from their players at the winning goal. Television shows Koscielny being tapped on the back of the head in mock congratulation as he sits in the goalmouth (TV seems to show Beausejour doing it, though I've seen a photograph making it look like Ferguson - which would come as no surprise). I remember John Aldridge ruffling the hair of Brian Laws after his own-goal put Liverpool in the FA Cup Final in 1989. Aldridge got his comeuppance a few weeks later when Michael Thomas won Arsenal the League at Anfield (and who can forget his refusal to shake David O'Leary's hand after the game - that cost him his place with Republic of Ireland, it so disgusted Jack Charlton). Hopefully whichever of the two it was, and the obsequious scumbags that follow Birmingham City, will get theirs in May this year by being relegated from the Premier League. What goes around comes around, and I hope it comes around for Birmingham.
A quick word about the Sky commentator, Alan Parry. On Sky Sports News they played his commentary when showing the opening goal. I am assuming that they managed to get him down from the roof of Wembley in order to continue calling the game after that. I've never heard quite such celebration from a supposedly neutral commentator.
It would be wrong at this time to declare the season as over - the facts of our position in the other three competitions make such statements seem a little ridiculous. However, I would not be surprised if our season was effectively over in a fortnight from now. If that happens I will deliver my own verdict on what the problems are, and who should be held responsible. In the meantime I live in hope.