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Between the final whistle and now half a litre of jack daniels has been duly sunk and some distance from the match has been established. Walking away from the ground yesterday a sense of immense disappointment was suffusive. I attribute this to two factors. Firstly, I was very disappointed with the way Arsenal played. Fatigue is understandable, but the first half showing was as dire as I have seen in a home game under Wenger's tenure. We were lacklusture, on and off the ball. Secondly, having equalised with ample time to spare, I fully expected us to go and get the win.

With our prodigal possession and dreary pace, we surrendered the initiative to Pompey in the first period. Initially the visitors were content to get numbers behind the ball and stifle the Gunners. But given our complete lack of interest, Pompey grew in confidence and began to come forward. Still Arsenal refused to respond and the arrival of a goal on half time was so inevitable, I think everybody in the stadium knew it was going to happen- except the players. If you concede two free headers in your penalty area right on half time you get what you deserve. The first half was a bit like watching a mouse cower in the presence of a sleeping cat, but then begin to cautiously approach before smacking the beffudled feline one on the nose.

It was truly groundhog day. Yet again Arsenal had a poor first half and conceded the first goal. A mistake we are repeating with embarassing regularity, one has to question the mentality of the players. Are the same glaring errors being repeated because of a lack of intelligence? Or is it owing to a lack of motivation to put things right? Further iniquity was to follow. Another lapse in concentration from Eboue who relinquished possession at right back and the ball fell to Matthew Taylor, nobody bothered to close down the most topical left foot in the Premiership and the result was sickeningly predictable.

Going two goals down was to have an insidious effect on us. The players began to close the ball down and chase. Players who turned out insipid first half displays like Fabregas, Clichy, Walcott and Gilberto began to play a bit. Why the team waited until it was fighting a two goal defecit to play this way I cannot discern. But the real catalyst, the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons was the introduction of Adebayor. Primus and Campbell had enjoyed a pipe and slippers afternoon to that point, but immediately Manu sought to get involved. He wanted the ball, chased lost causes which was to have a causal effect on the whole team. Arsenal employed a more direct approach, the much vaunted 'Plan B.' van Persie had looked apathetic, a little too comfortable to that point, but Ade made an enormous difference by giving the Pompey back line something to think about.

It was not surprising therefore that he led the fight back, as Walcott found space on the right, provided a pinpoint cross and Adebayor bundled in one of those scrappy six yard box goals that are so precious on such occasions. The whole stadium lifted and within minutes the equaliser arrived. Walcott pulled the ball back and Gilberto scuffed his initial effort, but showed the desire to regain his composure and fire into the corner. The sight of Djourou and Toure gleefully skipping across the pitch like five year old boys in the playground has to be one of the most amusing sights of the season. With half an hour and more remaining, there was plenty of time and momentum to grab a winner. van Persie feinted brilliantly past three defenders and mugged David James by opening out his body, tricking the in form keeper into thinking he was going to bend it, but blasted narrowly wide of the opposite corner. Adebayor continued to make a pest of himself, cutting in from the left and with his finger poised on the trigger, Glen Johnson made a superb last ditch challenge. Indeed, the performance of Johnson reminded all present that Chelsea have not destroyed his prospects just yet.

Ultimately it was not to be, but I have to give credit to the team for the avarice of their fight back. But that zeal was compromised by our insipid first half. Credit must also go to Pompey, Gary O'Neil and Matty Taylor are in the form of their lives, whilst Sean Davis marshalled Fabregas superbly. Primus and Campbell are forming a formidable partnership, and under the stewardship of a marvellous manager, it is not surprising to see them doing so well. Campbell and Kanu enjoyed deserved receptions, but having arrived with minutes until kick off, I was not aware of any reception for Tony Adams.

I became aware early in the second half that Wenger had not re emerged to the bench and frankly, I feared some kind of personal emergency. It was not until afterwards I became aware that he had been sent off for rattling an acid tongue towards the official. Wenger has to watch himself having just received a fine for his behaviour and his ire would have been better directed towards his players. Steve Bennett had a decent game and I cannot see what caused Wenger to berate him. Yesterday was also the worst I think I have ever seen Alex Hleb play, but games like this happen. A few stray passes and awkward touches cause you to think harder about what you are doing and you lose the inveterate qualities of your game. Overall, this was very much two points dropped and its time mistakes were not recycled with such infuriating impunity. LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday December 17 2006
Time: 2:31PM


17/12/2006 14:59:00
More histrionics from the manager!! he's becoming an amusing little side show, you season ticket holders must be loving it!!
17/12/2006 14:59:00
LD we have to accept that this season is again going to be a learning curve for the players, all these experiences are only going to serve them better for the future. like you said the team won nothing between 99-01, and we used to finish 15-20 points behind the leaders, which might happen again, but those experiences and disappointments created the Invincibles of 02-04, so i expect to have few such results again till the end of the season, but the team will still finish in the top four, and next season, we'll be ready for a real assault on the league championship..
17/12/2006 16:30:00
but having said that, this team is tailor made for the cup competitions and one off games, so i won't be suprised if we have a great run in the champions league again and go on to even win it this time, because this team has the potential and hunger to go all the way in europe..
17/12/2006 16:32:00
and Eboue really needs a kick on his backside, till lauren comes back, wenger should drop him on the bench for a few games and give hoyte a run, just to give eboue the reality check and get him out of his comfort zone..
17/12/2006 16:33:00
^^ indeed true, he seems to cockey now and dribbles into his own box and casually gives away the ball, i think he needs to realise he can lose his place. We needs to come out intense like we used to, man united do it every game, come out with hunger to go 1 up, even though we have good chance to do tis like yesterday but robin wasted the chances he had, he needs to become more clinical.
17/12/2006 17:03:00
I agree with your points luckys, the only criticism I have maintaned with Wenger is that sometimes psychoanalyses too much. This is why an annoying trait of his teams is that we are very slow to learn our lessons. Last season we kept making the same mistakes over and over again away from home, now we're making the same ones at home. Young teams and players will make mistakes, but I have to question why they repeat themselves. Wenger will analyse this at the end of the season and solve it for next year, but the players need to be a little more intelligent.
Little Dutch
17/12/2006 18:06:00
When I say psychoanalyses, I mean he thinks about things without affecting them.
Little Dutch
17/12/2006 18:07:00
but LD we've shifted to a new stadium after 93 years, there is a different pressure for players to adapt to a new stadium, like Henry said, at highbury, he just knew where the goal is, and it takes time to adapt. most of these players have been at highbury for 3-4 years and they have seen the team score an early goal in the game on many occasions. but they dun have many such experiences at the Grove to give them that confidence that they had at Highury, so the more games they play, the more they feel at home and get used to the new stadium, but one good plus this season has been the senior players are taking more responsibility, and with gallas, henry and lauren coming back, things will only get better in the new year..
17/12/2006 18:20:00
Again I agree with that point, but it doesn't explain away how we keep conceding from set pieces because of poor concentration, it doesn't explain why we waited 55 minutes before we started playing. I accept mistakes will be made and you are obviously aware that I have been making these cautionary notes this year, but it's unacceptable to see us doing the same thing time and again. On a positive note, the comeback proved there is a lot of potential in this side, we're just getting the little things wrong. This is very fixable, but it should be fixed now, not in the summer when Wenger analyses the season.
Little Dutch
17/12/2006 18:27:00
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