Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday March 24 2008
That wasn't a lot of fun, in fact I've just spent my afternoon watching Millwall draw 0-0 with Luton in the snow in the most dire game of football ever seen just to convince myself it could be an awful lot worse. The footballing equivalent of visiting a graveyard when you've got piles. In fact, I had intended to go for a drink in Parson's Green post match, but instead found myselfjumping the first train to New Cross to get hammered with someone who had no inclination to talk about the game. With the Chelsea boys in understandable gloating mode, I had to get away. When New Cross begins to look anything like an attractive destination, you know it's bad! (Though I did get the chance to meet Marcel Desailly on the tube, despite his Chelsea leanings, a character I admire and a true great of the game). He summed it all up quite succinctly, 'Arsenal looked pretty good until they went 1-0 ahead.' Too right.
Now I must confess I haven't seen any highlights, so I don't know if Drogba was offside for the equaliser, frankly, it doesn't matter much because Chelsea just overpowered us as we tried to stick at 1-0 when twisting would have been a better strategy I feel. The match was pretty much a war of attrition until Banger's opener. If there was one man who deserved to score the winner in a game like this it was him. At 1-0 Chelsea began to look shaky and there was space a plenty on the break for young Theo had we utilised him properly. Instead, with the nerves and exhaustion palpable, we tried to protect the lead and Drogba had too much for Gallas and Toure. Gallas exercised some rare misjudgement in the build up to the equaliser, once Sagna was forced off with injury, we lacked authority at the back. As soon as Chelsea levelled the scores it was a matter of time before they scored again. Right now our key personnel are just off colour, whether the exhaustion is physical or mental Iam not entirely sure. Adebayor, Hleb and Fabregas have played relentlessly without the opportunity for rest or rotation. The decision not to invest in a wide player in January looks to have hurt us.Hindsight can be a marvellous thing, but its patently clear that Diaby and Rosicky are incapable of a run of uninterrupted games. Plus, Diaby isn't even a winger.
Yesterday, van Persie was shifted to the left to make way for Hleb in the centre. But I'm not entirely sure Hleb is playing well enough to have justified that choice. I managed to catch the Liverpool v United match in the Sporting Page pre game and things appear to be falling for United at the moment, but I think such fortune is sometimes created by having a positive and vibrant energy about you which we lack at the moment. Right now we have to forget about the pressures of the title race, or the Champions League and everything else around it. Our only focus here is to win against Bolton. That's it, forget everything and everyone else. Think no further than Bolton Wanderers, let's win that game and think of nothing else. I feel the team has been thinking too much, this makes the passing less crisp, the defending less emphatic, we've been playing a chess game whereby dropped points have been swatted away with, 'well, we're alright if wewin at Old Trafford.' That kind of mentality produces an emotional baggage we've been carrying since James McFadden's penalty crashed in. It's time to cease this ponderous perspective and adopt some tunnel vision. Bolton Wanderers away isthe onlymatch that matters now.
Chelsea's equaliser probably did come about from John Terry's act of classlessness. But asking JT to exercise any kind of decorumis like asking a bear to shit in a toilet, it's not going to happen and that's why Terry finds respect difficult to come by in the game. Similarly Ten Cate or whatever his name is throwing the ball away in injury time was an act you come to expect from a ten year old in the park. But if ever there was an act that chrystalised the character of an entire club it was that. Prematch when the team's were read out, the PA announcer read out the name William Gallas to a small chorus of boos. 'I'll try that again, number 10 William Gallas.' Boos rang out a little louder. 'That's better.' Again, small gestures, which in no way shape the fate of a football match or its result but that betray any sense of class or decency in a football club. But the utter twat manning the PA got it back in spades at half time when forced to sheepishly announce that all of Chelsea's next three home fixtures are on general sale. The travelling Gooners spent the entire break serenading the Chav faithful with, 'you buy one, you get one free,' and 'your ground's too big for you.'
All bitterness aside, I have no real complaints about the result. It was a microcosm of our season, it all looked so promising for so long, but as soon as we looked to take command we didn't handle the pressure. The title looks a long way off, but this is a new team in its first race, it'll be involved for a few years yet and will only learn from this experience. There's an old saying that good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement. Hopefully a quality wide player toaugment Rosicky's prolonged injury spells will be on the agenda. That's for another time though, Bolton away has to be our one and only focus, as the Metallica song says so aptly, nothing else matters.LD.
Date:Monday March 24 2008
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