Thursday, 21 April 2011

A fantastic game but title race over? Report, reaction and ratings

Morning Gooners.

I can't say I really expected any different from this Arsenal team. They take you to three moments of huge joy before throwing you back down to earth with a bang. Was I expecting all three points last night? A little bit. Was I certain they could muck it up? Certainly.

Of course this has a familiar feeling doesn't it. Deja vu was exactly what I thought at the end when we'd managed to pluck a draw from the teeth of victory. Why can't we see out games like this? We were 3-1 up and ended up drawing 3-3. Only Arsenal.

I have to say it was a cracking game of football. We played some excellent one/two touch stuff in the first half that made us look like we were back to our best. This team was responding to Sunday's draw.

But yet as it was the local derby, there was cause to not raise expectations.

Wenger made two changes from the team which drew with Liverpool. Fit again Bacray Sagna replaced Emmanuel Eboue at right back and Alex Song came in for Jack Wilshere.

We got underway with some high intensity football and took the lead with a clever piece of play. Fabregas played a defence splitting ball through the middle which Walcott burst on to and tucked into the far post with a excellent right footed strike. 

Have we scored that early this season? It was a surprise to see us get out of the blocks so quickly so early.

Spurs were level two minutes later as Van Der Vaart took his chance with a shot which flew passed Szczesny after Djourou slipped.

In the 12th minute Nasri put the Gunners back in the lead with a shot out of nothing from outside the box which took Gomes by surprise. 

And Walcott turned provider as he skipped passed the Spurs defence after Gallas failed to deal with Sagna's cross and pulled a ball back which van Persie headed goal bound and had palmed off the line before the Dutchman got to the ball first and smashed it in. 3-1 Arsenal. 

Szczesny cleans out Gareth Bale twice after beating the Welshman to the ball in two different passages of play. Bale took the second incident badly and wasn't the same player.

But from that passage of play the next goal fell to the home team who pulled another one back with a strike from Huddlestone from outside the box which wrong footed Szczesny. 

Then into the second half we go and Harry Redknapp makes two changes at the break bringing on Lennon for Bale and Kaboul on for Corluka.

Five minutes in, Wenger is there making his own substitution with Wilshere joining the action for Diaby.

Personally I thought the Frenchman had an excellent game and I don't often say that about Diaby. I couldn't understand why Wenger took him off.

For me, the passage of play when van Persie was judged to have been offside after sticking the ball in the back of the net was crucial. I like everyone else not at the game can only go on the TV replays, but I thought the Dutchman looked onside.

His smart finish first time past Gomes from Fabregas' through ball should have counted. But it was called offside. We've seen Arsenal lose a four goal lead before but if that goal had counted you would have thought the wind would have been taken out of Spurs' sails.

It was 25 minutes in before Spurs equalised again. Szczesny took down Lennon and Van Der Vaart added a second from the spot.

The Pole made immense for his penalty error with a number of fine saves which kept the scores level and us in the game. Personally I thought he was outstanding in general.

From the position of 3-3, it seemed as though Spurs had the incentive. Arsene Wenger made a double substitution with ten minutes to go bringing on Arshavin and Bendtner for Nasri and Walcott. Neither had enough time to make any influence on the game.

Overall, a draw could be considered a fair result. We were never chasing the game like Spurs did but when the game went to 3-3 we hardly created a chance to add another goal. The home side were on the front foot.

It leaves us with five draws in the last six league games whilst we continue on this run of going without a defeat in 16 matches.

With Chelsea beating Birmingham 3-0, they take over second place on goal difference. There are six games to go. It's anyone's guess who will win the title. It's certainly Manchester United's to lose but they have a six point advantage over both us and Chelsea but have to play us both as well.

You have to think the race is over, but with my heart I cannot give up hope until it is mathematically beyond us.

The boss:

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
"It's disappointing because we had the lead and we were caught from being 3-1 ahead. The attitude was fantastic and we played the game we wanted to play. 
"I feel we dropped physically in the second half, you could see that the Liverpool game had a bearing. Of course it was an exciting game where both teams could have won. 
"It's frustrating that we conceded three goals because, especially in the first half, we controlled the game. I don't think 3-2 reflected the first half, they didn't create a lot in the first half."


Ratings:

Szczesny (8) was excellent throughout with a number of fine saves. Might he have done better for the penalty? Maybe, but I think his overall performance made up for it. Sagna (7) was his usual consistent self and marshalled the threat of Bale and then Lennon well. Djourou (6) didn't have one of his better performances but still we are yet to lose a league game with him starting this season. Koscielny (7) had a decent game with some important interceptions. Clichy (6) also did well but his lapses in concentration are a worry. Song (7) was solid without being stand out, whilst Diaby (8) does seem to be going through a purple patch of good form. Walcott (8) scored one and created one and was a general threat, whilst Fabregas (9) bossed the game. He really took charge and forced Arsenal on to the front foot from early on. Nasri (7) was getting back to his best with some sublime skill and van Persie (7) took his chances well.

Wilshere (6) didn't get involved enough for me, whilst Arshavin (6) and Bendtner (6) had little time to get into the game.



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