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It’s a strange feeling. Not something we’ve felt since 1999. I guess we have to delay St Totteringham day for at least a couple more days. As we suffered our first defeat in the league to our fiercest rival, the first thing that struck me was that I can no longer defend the logic of playing Manuel Almunia if we are trying to win anything in any season.
Every top sides needs a top class keeper who can be the defining factor whether the teams wins a game or not. On this day, his opposite number Gomes showed how it is done. 4 times I thought the ball would hit the back of Spurs net, but each time the Brazilian custodian managed to somehow get his hand to the ball and deflect it away. All that happened within the space of 10 minutes.
I would think that catching a cross ball directly from a corner is bread and butter for a keeper. More so when he is unchallenged from the opposition. Electing to punch the ball away is only an option taken when under heavy scrutiny or massive bodies blocking the way. Punching the ball away will only serve to allow players to regroup and not clearing away the danger. Even when Danny Rose’s shot came in, it was at a catchable height for Almunia, whose reaction was far too slow and far too late. From then on, we already shot ourselves in the foot. To make things worse, Vermaelen had to go off for what looked eerily similar to what happened to Fabregas.
The fact that we had 66% of the ball possession meant little. Yes, it was a return to ways familiar to us compared to the 2 matches against Barcelona. But it only amplifies the vast difference between us and the Spanish champions. When Barca had so much possession, they used it to good and threatening effect. With Arsenal, it only meant that we have the ball in our control without as much as getting into Spurs’ penalty box, let alone having a shot at Gomes.
There were far too many disappointing performances in the outfield players to condemn any particular one. But if I had to really choose, then it have to be either Diaby or Bendtner getting that unwanted accolade. It was a return to the old self of Diaby that many has questioned whether he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Slowing down the game and looking out of idea when he has the ball. Keeping hold of the ball, he allowed Spurs players to close him down easily.
Even though Bendtner got the consolation goal, his other contributions to the match was not that memorable. Whether he is under instruction to drift out wide to receive the ball or he was trying to imitate Thierry Henry, is only a question he and Wenger could answer. Once he move to the flanks, we had to push the ball backwards or sideways as there is no one to receive it inside the box. Once Van Persie came in and the Dane kept to sticking with Spurs’ central defenders, the difference was immense. All of a sudden, Walcott and Rosicky had someone to aim for inside the box.
The major plus point is of course the return of Van Persie. Once he was on the field, suddenly our play looked more lively and more threatening. We’ve missed him is not a point to be taken lightly. 3 times he was denied by the spectacular Gomes. All of those came from nothing. His quality alone is good enough to create something from a very unlikely situation.
With the defeat, it probably signals the end of our pursuit of the league title. Though mathematically we’re still in with a shout, there is no certainly no way that Chelsea could drop more than 4 points in the remainder of their games. Next season perhaps. A season which has promised so much and to end here, at the worst of places is very, very , very disappointing.
There are no words to console Gooners all over the world. The result, the performance is well below what is to be expected of those who wears the red and white. Till tomorrow.