Arsenal 1 – 1 Middlesbrough
0 – 1 Aliadiere (25)
1 – 1 Toure (86)
Sent off: Mido
If you are of a nervous disposition, perhaps now is the time for you to start a regime of regular changes of underwear. Never do anything the easy way when you can make it hard for yourself might well be the mantra that pervades London Colney. A fourth consecutive draw in the build-up to ‘Super Sunday’ is not the best result to have achieved against a struggling team but always bear in mind that whilst one point is not as good as three, it is better than none at all.
Post match, Arsene said,
It’s a very disappointing result today for us because we dropped eight points in the last four games. When you’re in the race for the championship, especially when you have the opponents we have, that’s a big disappointment but we have to keep belief, spirit and focus for the next game.
‘Disappointment’ is not a word I would have used but his sentiment is correct. Having a run of four draws at a crucial point in the season is shall we say, poor timing especially if you consider that those eight points dropped would make ‘sealing the deal’ happen
Of course, we can point to an atrocious refereeing decision that disallowed a perfectly good goal by Emmanuel Adebayor. The Assistant quite rightly flagged for offside as he could not have seen through the bodies that the final touch can from George Boateng. The referee on the other hand was stood no more than five yards away with an uninterrupted view of the passage of play.
Wait a minute, here is Arsene with the reason it was disallowed,
The referee explained to me that the intention of our player was to play the ball to one of our players, who was offside, so the deflection of the ball doesn’t count anymore. I didn’t know that but, at least I learned something today
Well it is true but I would contend that Halsey was incorrect. The offside law states that,
Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position includes playing a ball that rebounds to the player off a post or crossbar or playing a ball that rebounds to the player off an opponent having been in an offside position
The key word is rebound; it is intended to prevent a player deliberately kicking the ball against an opponent to set up a ‘pass’ to a colleague who is in an offside position. Boateng won the ball cleanly and had powerfully enough to divert it into Adebayor’s path. It was not a ‘rebound’. If Sepp Blatter wishes the officials to be seen to have the footballing equivalent of Papal Infallibility, he needs to help them in much the same way as the Pope’s Boss assists him. The wording of the rules are such that they can be, and indeed are, interpreted in many different ways and that is unacceptable. The law used to be relatively simple but now it is convoluted beyond belief and indeed so subjective that one wonders if it is any use any more.
There would be little argument from Middlesbrough that they escaped with a point. Were it not for a mixture of some wayward finishing, bad luck and good goalkeeping, they would have been buried.
It would of course not be an afternoon of pure frustration if there were not a stonewall penalty decision that went against Arsenal. Step forward the ever-accommodating Mark Halsey to provide more proof for those who believe officiating to be at its poorest standard since the 1970s. I might be wrong but I always understood that if a defender impeded an attacker in the area it was a foul, ergo a penalty. Obviously, I am wrong. David Wheater had his arm across Emmanuel Eboue’s shoulder and forced him to the ground. For all of the Ivorians failings and like us all, he has many, even he should receive due reward when fouled. It is totally baffling to watch some decisions being praised.
Eboue had one of his better afternoons, probing and industrious on the right in midfield and defence once Sagna had been withdrawn. Indeed, I do not think anyone played badly more no-one was inspirational and at this stage of the season, this is what you need when the results are going against you.
By this time dear reader, you are probably beginning to think, “Hmmm, the big fella’s a bit frustrated”. Well, yes I am. However, if you think my ire is completely directed at the officials, then it is nothing compared to that which is directed at the heart of Arsenal’s defence for the manner of Middlesbrough’s goal. Quite simply, it was an abysmal one to concede.
If his team-mates had been admiring Cesc’s long pass that Adebayor narrowly failed to convert into a goal minutes earlier, Mark Schwarzer took the lesson to heart. Rather than an aimless punt upfield from an undeserved free kick – if Adebayor fouled the ‘Boro player then Eboue had to be given a penalty – he passed the ball into Tuncay’s run.
Aliadiere might have been offside ‘technically’ but he was not ‘active’ in the ‘first phase’ of the rules; the Turk crossed into his path and he finished with some aplomb. The question however is begged as to why Toure and Gallas were so slow to react to the runs? It was a schoolboy error and reminiscent of many frustrating afternoons last season. Purely down to a lack of concentration. It is hard for Arsene to legislate for this sort of moment in a game; to me it is just disappointing that two of the most consistent campaigners this season were party to the incident.
Once the goal went in, the familiar pressure arrived. Chances came and whispered a fond farewell. Woodwork was struck (Eboue) or scraped (Fabregas). The young Spaniard was probably an inch shorter than needed to lift the ball into the net following Alex Hleb’s exquisite pass as the game wore on. In the end, the equaliser arrived from a Cesc corner, Kolo Toure heading in off of Schwarzer to salvage a point. The mental strength the players have to not allow defeat happen is commendable; it is the concentration before that which requires some attention.
Before the doom and despondency descends – too late in some cases, I know – it is too soon to declare the title remaining in Manchester. There is no points deficit to make up, merely goal difference and any advantage that United have can be wiped out with a victory at Old Trafford. The small matter of Chelsea arises before then yet with this squad; you know that the bigger the game, the more they rise to the occasion. That strength is also a weakness for titles are won on the small games. The match at Stamford Bridge might be more interesting than previously thought for if they win and United lose, a three way tie at the top on sixty-seven points emerges with all three having played the same number of games. As it is, it will be us and them trailing United by three points.
The concern I have is that the team are in a small rut and require some inspiration to remove themselves from it. Goals are proving hard to come by and it is a flipside to the early part of the season when everyone was scoring. Well, OK, not relying on Adebayor to do so because he was injured. With RvP getting more pitch minutes to shake off the rustiness, this issue will hopefully be addressed. It will take time for he and Adebayor to regain their understanding but next weekend would be the ideal time for them to gel.
Keep the Faith. ‘til Tomorrow.