By 1970’s Gooner
You sort of suspected it that when Adebayor missed that chance in the first 45 seconds that this would develop into a nail biter.
Especially when the state of the pitch dictated that taking your first chance when it comes and winning ugly would be the only way to get the three priceless points.
Yet to blame the pitch would only account for a third of the reasons for Arsenal’s third successive league draw.
Really one cannot help but agree with Arsene Wenger’s characterization of the pitch as not fit for professional football. It did hamper the flow of the game by making it more difficult for the players to control the ball and keep the game running.
This obviously made the game slightly slower which suited Wigan rather than Arsenal who rely on quick and precise passing so as not to allow opponents to settle or get bodies behind the ball.
But I would disagree that this is the major reason for Arsenal’s abject display. It did add to it but it didn’t cause it.
The second reason which had more of a bearing on the outcome of the game was the state of the players’ fatigue levels. The monumental effort produced at the San Siro obviously took a lot out of the players who then had to travel again, this time to the dreaded North.
It must be said that the team has been stuttering with loss of form anyway, looking tired in the two previous games where points were dropped against Birmingham and Aston Villa. So this performance at the JJB was really a continuation of the inadequate performances as of late.
The third reason however is equally important. Breaking the Fabregas Flamini partnership was not the best of decisions that Arsene could have made. This had the double negative effect as such decisions often have in football.
First Arsenal’s midfield effectiveness was almost rendered non existent as Flamini couldn’t get the rhythm and passing that by now can produce with his eyes shut when Fabregas is there next to him to receive the ball.
It was not a surprise that Arsenal’s most effective and dangerous moments originated when the little maestro ventured in field to receive the ball and dictate play as only he knows how.
But in addition to missing Fabregas in the central areas of the pitch Gilberto’s impact was not up to standard. He is now a shadow of the player he used to be and more often than not chose to pass the ball backwards or sideways thus slowing the game up even more than the pitch was.
In my preview of the game I put forward the three options that were available for team selection due to the absence of enough wide midfielders.
I thought then that breaking up the Cesc and Flamini partnership was not the way to go but I did suspect that Wenger would play Cesc wide by bringing Gilberto into midfield.
He had after all got success the last time he had to make a similar decision, for the victorious game against Blackburn in the middle of February.
However this was a home game, the team was not coming off the back of an energy sapping performance away in the Champion’s League and more importantly a very early goal as early as the 4th minute was scored (by Senderos) which settled the players and caused the opponents heads to drop.
There was none of that at the JJB.
Yet there is hope after all for the run in for the title. Firstly Robin Van Persie’s return to action is a welcome relief which can prove crucial.
This is not only because he is a formidable forward and goal scorer but he would offer the much needed support that Adebayor needs in the most important areas of the pitch.
Adebayor and Bendtner don’t seem to play well together and it may not only have something to do with their personal differences. I rather suspect that it’s their style of play that doesn’t fit with each other.
They are both the tall and target type of centre forwards and these kind of partnerships are not usually that effective as the players often make the same runs and always need a shorter more agile sidekick next to them to feed off each other.
The return of RVP would add balance to the Arsenal shape and when the need arises for Wenger in future games to find another wide midfielder I hope that he will keep the dynamic duo together.
And I don’t think that we will face the same kind of pitch again!
Wenger’s three options available for team selection at the JJB
Sepp is right, Mourinho is looking for a job and Wenger is a baby snatcher?