Diamanti deals Hammer-blow to Arsenal’s title push

 

Arsène Wenger at West Ham

Phrases like ‘lack of steel’ and ‘soft under-belly’ are far too readily associated with Arsenal’s failings by fans and pundits alike. Calls for reinforcements in central defence and holding midfield are also easily suggested as solutions to why Arsenal haven’t won a trophy since 2005, and perhaps will not do so in the near future. And last night, at Upton Park, it was a perfect time for these predictably elementary solutions to re-surface via phone-ins and sports columns. Amidst the floodlit tempestuousness, Arsène Wenger yet again witnessed his youthful side wilt and then surrender a comfortable lead. Just as fixtures against Spurs and Villa last season showed us, and Alkmaar and United this, Arsenal find it very hard to hold onto comfortable leads.

The season gone, as Zat Knight thundered in that bolt from the blue to thwart The Gunners, and as Aaron Lennon was mobbed by his team-mates plus one brave pitch invader, the solution seemed simple to pinpoint- 1) Arsenal lack the necessary bite and ruthlessness to see out matches and 2) this will be solved once Arsène Wenger finds a Vieira-esque holding midfielder player and a Tony Adams/Steve Bould/Martin Keown-esque central defender. Well my unsatisfied friends, the professor has indeed solved these seemingly simple equations with the shrewd acquisition of Thomas Vermaelen, arguably the Premier League’s signing of the season, and the careful moulding of Alex Song into a fabulous young defensive midfield battering ram. Yet the problem still lies with the title still seeming only a distant memory and tantalizing dream.

So now the question of ‘why Arsenal can’t hold onto leads?’ will once again arise, as it most certainly should, and this time a different answer, although the harder option, is the more logical one. What was Arsenal’s downfall, their fatal flaw which saw another two points flutter away down Green Street and into the East London night that if savoured, would have left Arsenal a mere 3 points behind the leaders Chelsea with a game in hand? The answer must be complacency. Although Arsène Wenger categorically denied any implications of football’s number one deadly sin, and brushed away any suggestions of lethargy, the way in which an Arsenal team still lacking in leadership let a comfortable lead slip away must be put down to this.

After 70 minutes of this hotly contested fixture, Arsenal were coasting. Goals from Van Persie and William Gallas had created a seemingly comfortable cushion. Yet, as a result Arsenal were left with the very poisonous chalice of a 2-0 lead away from home. The question of how to see out a lead like this is a tough one to answer, and the decision of whether to defend like warriors or attack like naïve youths must be made- yet arsenal did neither. Arsenal were tempted into relaxing and playing at a slow and laborious pace and were deservedly punished. The work rate was diluted by a large dose of arrogance, and a couple of sloppy, if harsh fouls lead to two inevitable goals for The Irons. The first, a clumsy collision by Diaby on Hines allowed the excellent Diamanti to ping a swerving free-kick at Mannone’s goal. The keeper’s haphazard parry fell into the path of Carlton Cole who gratefully stooped to halve the deficit. Then, ten minutes later, seconds after Scott Parker had a penalty appeal turned down, Carlton Cole tumbled like a sack of spuds after Song had nicked his ankle. Although Cole undoubtedly went down too easily, especially for a man of his titanic build, it was most certainly a penalty, and Diamanti coolly swept the ball past Mannone.

Although Arsenal could have dramatically won the match had it not been for Robert Green’s point blank save from a Van Persie header after Scott Parker had been shown a second yellow, Arsenal were frustratingly held to a draw. Hopefully this will act as a wake up call for Arsène’s young squad, and in particular for Cesc Fabregas, a man who must prove his worth as captain by installing in his team the fight and belief to hold onto leads, and ultimately hold onto the glorious silver arms of the Premier League trophy. Much like Liverpool, Arsenal’s exposed flaws will be mere memories if they can muster back to back victories against the Reds and then the old enemy on Saturday, potentially the perfect belated birthday present for Monsieur Wenger. 

 

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One Response to “Diamanti deals Hammer-blow to Arsenal’s title push”

  1. Stanley Says:

    Proper good article geeza! I love the ending and it sounds dead professional, we’ll make a henry winter out of you. Keep up the good work star. x

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