Matheus Brace Means This Week Is Not Rosé For Arsenal
Champions League, Group H
SC Braga 2 – 0 Arsenal
1 – 0 Matheus (83)
2 – 0 Matheus (90)
Two late goals mean that Arsenal’s abysmal record in Portugal continues but more importantly, qualification for the Round of 16 is still open to question. The defeat means that a win against Partizan at The Emirates in a fortnight’s time is required to be sure of coming at least second in the group. Should that be coupled with a Braga win in Dontesk, Arsenal will have bragging rights for top place. But that is a big IF.
An Arsenal side bereft of attacking fluidity made hard work of breaking down Braga in the first eighty minutes but two refereeing indecisions within five minutes as the match reached its’ climax, changed the outcome from stalemate to a home victory.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Carlos Vela was scythed down in the area but booked for diving as opposed to a penalty being awarded by a referee who was barely ten yards away and with a clear view of the incident. Inexplicably, he received no better information from the fifth official behind the Braga goal.
Graham Poll this morning believes that Vela was possibly a contributing factor to the decision, his dive may have been considered theatrical by the Hungarian referee. That close to the final whistle, a goal would probably have been decisive. Presuming that the kick was converted and that is by no means a certainty this season.
Theatrics is not a word normally associated with Emmanuel Eboue yet having been booked in the first half for such antics, this can be the only reason why Matheus was allowed to remain on the pitch with ten minutes remaining for ending the Ivorian’s contribution. Having made three substitutions, Arsenal were left with ten men until the final whistle and failed to hold on.
The two decisions influenced the outcome more directly than the failure to breakthrough in the preceding seventy five minutes. Post match, Wenger railed against everything and everyone, believing that on any other night Arsenal would have won. It is hard to believe that is true, the manager admitting as much observing that his much-changed side did not create any clear openings.
Wenger’s changes to the team did not include resting his captain beforehand, despite persistent rumours that he would. The manager wished he had afterwards with a fresh hamstring injury arising, speculation that he will be out for several weeks was rife but the club will scan the injury today. Whilst losing any world class player is detrimental to any team, in this instance I wonder if it will be the decisive factor in sparking the players into life.
Fabregas improves the team’s passing but in some respects inhibits others; they look for him frequently and it appears at times that he casts the same shadow over the side that Henry did before him. Nasri and Wilshere are capable of playmaking as are Rosicky and to a lesser degree, Arshavin. The loss may not be as bad as it initially seems, the ‘deputies’ are themselves outstanding players.
Last night’s match was largely forgettable. Arsenal created precious few real opportunities, too frequently stifled by opposition numbers. Walcott brought a timely interception from Felipe early on and then dragged a shot wide when a goal seemed likely. Bendtner diverted a header into the side netting but Fabianski was largely untroubled in the first half.
The second half was in a similar vein. Bendtner was isolated too easily by the defence and when space was found, his touch belied his belief that he should be an automatic first choice. Nasri and Chamakh were brought on to add zest with Fabregas leaving through injury and Bendtner necessity.
When Arsenal were reduced to ten men, closing out the point in their hands should have been the paramount objective. They failed. Twice in the final seven minutes, Matheus breached the defence. Both were avoidable.
Johan Djourou summed up the situation perfectly in his critical assessment of the ninety minutes,
It’s crazy. We had the game under control and two counter-attacks and silly, silly mistakes – we can be disappointed because we should have won the game easily, it’s very hard to take.
A point would have qualified us so it’s a shame to concede goals like that, I just cannot understand. We have to look again, that shouldn’t happen. It was a lack of concentration, the team needs to concentrate and do better than that.
The team needs to know that now we have to wake up, it was a big wake-up call. We have a big game against Partizan and we have to win that to qualify for the knock-out stage.
The season is apparently in freefall yet we find ourselves in November with two points to make up at the top of the table, the quarter finals of the Carling Cup ahead and qualification in the Champions League very much in Arsenal hands. Four defeats in six matches mean November has been in stark contrast to October. That does not however state emphatically that there is nothing left to play for, that nothing can be won. It is ludicrous to believe that to be the case yet the players have in the last 130 minutes offered little evidence to supportany claim that they are on the path to glory.
Form is transient. The team that was back on track is now hurtling with the gay abandon of a runaway train towards oblivion, so we are told. In the past a siege mentality has been highly beneficial to Wenger and his predecessors. Invoking that by including the manical element of Arsenal support might just be the biggest kick up the arsenal that the players need.
Posted on November 24, 2010, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, SC Braga, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 330 Comments.