Too Many Passengers As Baggies Cruise To Victory At Arsenal
Arsenal 2 – 3 West Bromwich Albion
0 – 1 Odimwingie (50)
0 – 2 Jara (52)
0 – 3 Thomas (73)
1 – 3 Nasri (75)
2 – 3 Nasri (90)
Odimwingie missed pen (37)
Having seen Chelsea lose at Manchester City, Arsenal would have entered this match confident of victory and cutting the gap to the Premier League leaders to a solitary point ahead of their visit to Stamford Bridge next weekend. As it was a lifeless performance maintained the four point deficit, individual errors contributing as much as the collective to a defeat that should never have happened.
Chief scapegoat this morning is Manuel Almunia but to pin this all on the goalkeeper is to allow others to escape criticism. There is no doubt that the Spaniard has given Wenger a headache, one he must have thought was not going to arise given the performances his first choice goalkeeper has put in this season. They have been forgotten as the abuse has fallen on Almunia’s head in a deluge. Culpable for the second, he was not the only miscreant for the third but a major contributor.
Post-match, Arsene was deflated and bemused, mixed in with the palpable anger, a potent cocktail for the players to handle. Rightly so, he told the world that his charges took from the game all that they deserved: “zero points”. As vibrant as the performance had been on Tuesday night, this was limp. Verve, fleet of foot, quick-minded; all words associated with the team on a regular basis. All words which will be missing from any analysis of this fixture.
Wenger took the final fifteen minutes as the ‘positive’ from yesterday; it shows the paucity of options that he has. It seemed watching his post-match press conference that he struggled to withhold criticising his goalkeeper in public, a familiar feeling following the chastisement that Fabianski received for Robbie Keane’s ultimately irrelevant equaliser in midweek.
Wojech Szczesny is being called for, Superman may arrive. Those who demand, and chastise Wenger for not signing, Mark Schwarzer would do well to heed his performances this season for Fulham; the required improvement he is not. Amid this clamour, Vito Mannone must feel like an interloper at the goalkeeping party.
Changes were wrung by the manager from Tuesday, tiredness must have dictated his thinking – This can be the only reason for Wilshere not starting, Denilson usurped by the returning Diaby – with an eye cast eastwards to Belgrade. He, like the players, had this one pencilled in as a home banker. It proved to be anything but that, crushingly so.
If anything, the lessons from the Stadium of Light had not been heeded. That performance was not as flat as this but the personnel lacked the spark. Yet the result could have been different. Barely a quarter of an hour passed, Samir Nasri kept the move alive and proved to be Arsenal’s only bright spark on a thunderously dark afternoon. Eboue’s telling cross found Arshavin at the far post, the woodwork twice denying the Russian.
A hint of the defensive lapses to follow came fifteen minutes later. Odimwingie moved effortlessly in from the wing and unleashed a strike that Almunia turned onto the post. The warning was not heeded for Eboue’s stray pass and Song’s attempted interception found Albion feet willing to capitalise on the mistake. Odimwingie was sent through as Almunia raced to meet the ball, taking the man instead, fortunate that cover had arrived so that a yellow rather than red card was shown.
The perfect opportunity for the visitors was spurned, Brunt’s low penalty was too close to Almunia who got a firm hand to the ball, gathering at the second attempt. Half time came and the feeling was that Wenger would deliver the required words of wisdom to bring about the necessary improvement. Or at the very least, a rocket to provide some life.
Whatever was said was forgotten instantly. Albion were livelier and got their deserved reward within five minutes of the restart. Having two right backs in the side did nothing to improve defensive co-ordination. Not for the first time, Thomas wriggled past Sagna. He sent a low pass into the path of the unmarked Odimwingie, who arrived following a perfectly timed run, to find space six yards out. Shambolic marking, punished.
Matters became depressingly worse within ninety seconds. Arshavin and Song dallied, trying to pass the ball out of defence, Albion quickly seized possession through Jara. Similar meanderings had cost Arsenal at Anfield on the opening day; a repeat performance received the same punishment.
Releasing the ball to Brunt, Jara continued his run. Fed by a backheeled pass, he ran into the area and shot straight at Almunia. A routine save became a nightmare as the Spaniard allowed the ball to glide off his hands into the net. Whilst there may have been power in the shot, it should not have been allowed to enter the net.
Mindful of the penalty incident in the first half and with his team two down, Almunia came to meet Brunt and failed to pressurise, standing upright when he had committed himself to a position which required a blocking dive. He did not make that challenge, Brunt squared for Jerome Thomas to wipe away memories of last season’s red card in the Carling Cup. Three down, seemingly there for Albion to inflict the worst ever home defeat at The Emirates.
As it was, a brief pulse was found in the limp body of this performance. Nasri pulled one back with fifteen minutes to go, reducing the deficit further at the start of injury time, a gung-ho attitude emerged but it was too little, too late. No heroics from the home side and a merited win for the visitors.
Much talk about the visit to Stamford Bridge next weekend. A more pressing issue is Tuesday night; victory is imperative, not for qualification but for confidence. Once that match is out of the way, attention can turn to Stamford Bridge.
Posted on September 26, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Soccer, West Bromwich Albion. Bookmark the permalink. 213 Comments.