Sunday, 6 May 2012

Complacent Arsenal handed set back - Alex Song is an utter disgrace

Morning Gooners.

I don't think I've come away from an Arsenal game as depressed as I did yesterday. I think the emotions of going ahead, then giving away two soft goals, going ahead yet again and then conceding in the final ten minutes took their toll on me - perhaps on all of us.

This Arsenal team are either very complacent or not as good as I think they are. I think we've been running on empty since the Manchester City game. Some of these players have looked exhausted and they've only been playing once a week and training four days a week since being knocked out of the Champions League.

We've had these complacency issues before - not just this season against the likes of QPR and Wigan - but in previous campaigns as well when the players cannot motivate themselves to play against teams they should be beating.

The team always seem to have a stinker in games which kick off at 12.45 - this may be just my perception as I have no data to back this up. But we never seem up for it.

Having gone a goal ahead - a delicious strike by birthday boy Yossi Benayoun inside two minutes of the start which picked out the top corner - we preceded to sit back and invite Norwich on to us.

And they took up the invitation, steaming forward with attack after attack it felt. It came as no surprise that they got an equaliser - thorn in our side Wesley Hoolahan shooting straight at Wojciech Szczesny. The keeper didn't take hold of the ball and it deflected into his near post. A very poor piece of goalkeeping by the Pole's very own high standards.

Arsenal were woeful in the first half, no where more so than in central midfield, where neither Alex Song or Aaron Ramsey had a good game. They just couldn't get a hold of the game. Song didn't make or attempt a single tackle in 90 minutes and for a player who was supposed to be playing deepest out of our deep lying two that is a shocking statistic. Ramsey at least made a tackle - one - in 65 minutes before being hauled off.

We were losing the battle in the air with Grant Holt more often and not. At Stoke we were winning the second balls off Peter Crouch's knock downs, that wasn't happening at the Grove yesterday, where Holt found a team mate which immediately put us on the back foot.

Laurent Koscielny was superb as per usual. The same could not be said for Thomas Vermaelen, who's runs forward leave us exposed when Song or Ramsey fail to cover for him.

The pressure was telling and it came as no surprise that Norwich took the lead. Holt shooting towards Szczesny's goal - Gibbs got a block in - but the ball deflected off the defender over the goalkeepers head and into the net.

To make matters worse, Bacary Sagna suffered a broken leg in the 33rd minute. It will mean he misses the final game of the season and Euro 2012. A desperately sad end to the season for the Frenchman who has been one of our standout players.

Norwich might have been further ahead had the referee awarded a penalty for shirt tugging by Koscielny in the box. But Anthony Taylor was useless all game, so didn't see it or give it against us. 3-1 to Norwich at half time wouldn't have been an unfair reflection on the game I'd seen during the first 45 minutes.

At half time the boos rung out. Something had to change in the second half.

Arsenal returned with a better performance. We were camped in the opposition half for the majority of the final 45 minutes. However we just couldn't find the breakthrough we needed. Our best effort in the opening exchanges came when Van Persie crossed from the right but no one was there to find a touch in the six yard box to put the ball in the net.

Norwich could have added to their lead, but last ditch challenges and Szczesny saves kept us in the game. With 30 minutes to go watching the game had become unbearable. Knowing without a win, Champions League football would no longer be in our own hands, I just couldn't see where a goal was coming from.

We were spurning chances all over the place. Van Persie shot at Ruddy, the rebound falling to Gervinho who instead of shooting passed to Ramsey who could not connect with the ball.

The Ivorian has not had a shot at goal since the game at Craven Cottage in January. That is a shocking statistic. For a player who came to us from Lille where he had goals and assists into double figures not to have attempted a shot for more than three months is amazing. Does he not have the bottle to have a go?

Ramsey was substituted to cheers from some in the stadium and when Alex Oxlade Chamberlain replaced him the cheers from the crowd could have taken the roof off - if the Grove had one. The Ox has been in mixed form of late, but the fresh impetus was certainly needed. Minutes later Benayoun would be replaced by Marouane Chamakh.

We found our equaliser on 72 minutes and who else would it be than Robin. The Moroccan's effort was blocked, the ball fell to Song who lifted it over the Norwich defence for van Persie to pounce for his first goal of the game.

With us being level, we were building on our forward momentum and were ahead for the second time in the game when Robin scored his 30th of the season. The through ball from Rosicky was deflected but fell kindly for the Dutchman. He slotted it home to equal Thierry Henry's record.

Being 3-2 ahead, you would have thought we would have learnt from our earlier mistakes. But instead we decided to sit back and let Norwich attack us. Pat Rice on the sidelines was screaming at our defence to push out, but the warning was not heeded.

We should have had a penalty when Robin was pushed at the far post but again, the referee didn't give it. That's a season without a spot kick at the Grove. Another remarkable record for a team so attacking as Arsenal.

Norwich came back on level terms with five minutes to go. Morison running clear of our defence on the right and firing in a shot unchallenged inside Szczesny's far post.

In the final minutes van Persie and Song had efforts saved by Ruddy and it ended 3-3. A point was no less than what Norwich deserved. It leaves us hoping and praying for Spurs and Newcastle to drop points today but with guaranteed Champions League football out of our hands.

Post match, the players took part in a lap of appreciation around the pitch. Quite frankly it was probably the last thing they wanted to do after shooting themselves in the foot like that. Many fans decided to leave but those who stayed deserved to be applauded by the players for their tremendous effort this season. We fans have finally turned the Grove into our home.

For the most part the players clapped the fans. There was one exception - Alex Song. He seemed to join the lap late, walked around the inside of the pitch and I don't believe he clapped or waved at the fans once. He was an utter disgrace in my mind.

Perhaps someone at the club should remind Song who pays his wage and who are people who travel hundreds of miles home and away to support him and the team. He might have been annoyed with the result or his performance. But really there was absolutely no excuse for what he did. It was very disrespectful and unbecoming of an Arsenal player.

On a day when we wanted to celebrate Arsene Wenger's 900th game in charge and send Pat Rice off on a high in what is likely to have been his final home game as assistant manager, Song's attitude really left a sour feeling with me and those around me.

The race for third is out of our hands. Perhaps we don't deserve Champions League football if we cannot beat what is essentially a Championship team in Norwich. But we must hope and pray for results to go our way today and for next Sunday to bring us a win we need.

Until tomorrow.

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