The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

On the bright side, it turned into a fine game by the end.

There’s probably going to be a lot more to say about this game in the next few days as we wait to find out if Wenger’s facing a touchline ban and for any other fallout, but my overwhelming impression just after is that there’s actually a lot to be encouraged about in this one. In terms of quality of play, there was absolutely no difference between the two sides, and when you face the defending champions on their own grounds without your second-best player, that’s a very good sign. A foot lower on Van Persie’s free kick and this probably goes down as a very famous victory; at the Emirates with Fabregas on and Diaby off, this is 3 points. That’s a far more even state of affairs than prevailed at the end of last season, and it’s a mark of the progress which appears to be taking place and how close this Arsenal team remains to greatness. That said, there are two obvious and major negatives to take away, and they should be noted:

– There’s a school of thought- see Myles Palmer- which sees Arsenal right now as a battleground between mature professionals and Arsene’s urchins. Expect to see a great deal of comment along those lines upcoming, because this game fit that narrative as closely as any could. A lead won through a really brilliant individual play from Andrey Arshavin; a lead gifted to the opposition through one of the most ridiculous own-goals you’ll see from Abou Diaby. The contrast is glaring enough so that even if you don’t buy the narrative wholly (which I don’t), there’s a temptation to concede that there’s the germ of truth in it. I like Diaby in general; I thought it was impressive the way he rebounded from the own goal to create a chance shortly thereafter, and he seems like a generally decent sort of guy. But he’s now in his 5th season with Arsenal (has it really been that long?) and he’s still a guy who looks brilliant twice a year and can’t be counted on the rest of the time. I wish him the best, but after this season if things don’t improve it’s probably best for everyone for him to be moved on to somewhere in the upper reaches of the French league.

– Emmanuel Eboue has had one of those weeks which encapsulates his entire Arsenal career. He’s played very well of late and been an important and useful part of the team, but when things were most desperate and someone needed to create something today at 2-1 down, he took one of the worst and shabbiest dives I’ve seen in quite a while, and was justly booked for it. Beyond the impact it did or did not have on the individual game, at a time when Arsenal are trying to defend on principle the insane witchhunting of Eduardo, for one of his teammates to execute such a blatant act of cheating in such a high-profile game was madness. It was selfish, and it demonstrates that at the end of the day Eboue has all the talent needed to play for Arsenal, and none of the class. He’s the only player I’m embarrassed to watch on the team.

Still, this game was nothing like the brutal beatings Arsenal suffered towards the end of last season. There’s much to take away that was positive, and the fact remains that with Arshavin in the side Arsenal can beat anyone, anywhere, at any time; one loss shouldn’t be too discouraging. The season is long, and I still believe that if if there’s some depth brought in before the closing of the window that the title can be won this year. Arsenal looked the better side for most of the game and nearly won away at Old Trafford; meanwhile United’s offense continues to sputter when they’re not being gifted things and Liverpool are losing games they shouldn’t and having to come from behind against Bolton. Chelsea look awesome for the moment but there’s very many games still to be played for them, time enough to become leg-weary and tune out the manager the way they did last year with largely the same group of players. This result is disappointing, but it’s disappointing only because the team and the fans know that Arsenal could just as easily have run away with this.

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August 29, 2009 - Posted by | The Arsenal | , , , , ,

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