Although God knows how. A poor performance, especially considering the ‘hype’ of the match, how the squad was pulling together although you would not expect anything less than positive noises to have emerged from London Colney following on from the events of last Saturday. Any watching Milanese spies will have seen nothing that frightened them ahead of Tuesday’s clash. It used to be the matches post Champions League ties that held the greatest fear, now it seems that those ahead are the ones to watch.
At the end of it though, we have to remember that we are still top of the table. OK, so a five point gap has once again been squandered but this is the way that the season is going for both United and Arsenal; get ahead, screw it up. Arsene commented before the game that he would rather have more points on the board but if it all comes down to the last match of the season, I am not sure that I would agree with him.
The result was about strength of character, continuing to the very last minute. The equaliser was almost identical to that which Gilberto scored last season, a cross slung from in the left, Adebayor nodded down and this time it was Bendtner who lurked on the edge of the six yard area to stab home.
It was a deserved point but no more was merited from the performance. It was disjointed at best. No-one stood out although Almunia made some good saves from Harewood and Young to keep us in the game. Villa defended in packs and broke with speed; there was a lack of imagination to break down their obdurate rearguard action.
The own goal was an unfortunate affair. It is still unclear as to what Senderos was trying to do as he neither attempted to clear nor moved his foot out of the way to avoid contact. In keeping with the week, it was simply strange. He recovered from that indicative that his confidence is stronger than previous seasons. Perhaps changes to personnel are needed to freshen matters up; Kolo Toure may return to the squad for Milan whilst Robin van Persie will be on the bench. It gives more options to Arsene in what I would expect to be 4-4-1-1 formation.
Whether Theo Walcott plays deeper remains to be seen. I thought he did reasonably well yesterday and was denied by a good early save by Carson which had it gone in, may well have changed the outcome. That is a case however of ‘ifs, buts and maybes’. Others in that category were a dreadful miss by Fabregas following a great piece of play between Sagna, Walcott and Adebayor whilst Senderos skied a chance just before Villa scored. Carson was in fine form, denying Walcott and Hleb with good saves in the second half.
Results wise, it puts the team into a bit of a rut. Questions are rightly being asked about whether or not they have the mental capacity to get out of it. Certainly that fortitude shone through to grab the equaliser but translating dominance into goals requires some attention. Arsene put it down afterwards to a ‘hangover’ from last week. Perhaps it was in the first half but whatever the case is, they need to shake the cobwebs from their heads quickly. I wonder if it was the best place to be playing at home yesterday. Perhaps the ideal would have been to have been away from home.
However, a point keeps us top with the added incentive of Wigan next weekend whilst United and Chelsea are on FA Cup duties. A win at the JJB would boost confidence but that is getting ahead of myself. There is a small matter of the San Siro to overcome first.