Archive for January 29th, 2009

Van Persie’s late show continues to paper over the cracks

Add comment January 29th, 2009

RVP celebrates

Everton 1 – 1 Arsenal (Cahill 62, Van Persie 90)
here; Arsene’s reaction here

Of late, Arsenal have developed a habit of scoring late goals.  A friend pointed out last night that if our last five games had finished after eighty minutes, we’d have walked away with just six points – instead, after Robin Van Persie’s late equaliser, we have amassed eleven. 

As the headline suggests, the performance was pretty poor, and when that’s the case you are likely to be reliant on moments of individual brilliance.  If anyone can be relied upon to deliver those, it’s Van Persie: the Dutchman has scored or set-up every Arsenal goal in the month of January.  It was clear this was a season in which Robin needed to step up and start fulfilling his potential.  Thankfully, he has.

God knows where we’d be without him.  He is papering over the cracks of a side that are desperately lacking in creativity.  Indeed, if you were to continue the analogy you’d have to say that not only has he papered over the cracks – he’s wrapped himself round them like bandages.  We can only pray he himself doesn’t end up requiring similar treatment off the back of another injury.

The game itself was one of very few chances.  Perhaps it’s no surprise that it was congested – Everton’s dearth of strikers means they took to the midfield with six midfielders, which combined with four of own own and Van Persie dropping deep meant there wasn’t room to swing a cat in the middle of the pitch, let alone for Alex Song to waddle through his enormous turning circle.

Our first chance of any real note fell to Denilson, who skied it over the bar with his left foot.  Shortly after that, Everton were in front.  I doubt any sane bookmaker would’ve offered long odds on Tim Cahill scoring with a header against us, and lo and behold he did just that with a magnificent leap to beat a Baines cross.  Actually, for once bad defending wasn’t really to blame – it was just a truly excellent header.

But somehow, we managed to claw it back with our sixth injury time goal of the season.  It hadn’t looked remotely likely: despite the introduction of Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue, we were still struggling to offer anything at all, with Emmanuel Adebayor (admittedly deprived of service) particularly poor.

And then, just as the final whistle was about to prompt the mightiest of groans from Arsenal fans everywhere, Van Persie struck.  A long ball forward from Diaby, control on the chest, and a searing volley into the far corner.  Stunning.  Everton were the better side on the night, but it’s moments like that which separate the top four from the rest.

And make no mistake about it – the top four is what we’re aiming for.  Whilst Arsene might make the occasional noise about us being in the title race, these comments after last night’s game are far more telling:

“I maintain what I said yesterday; for me Everton is as much a threat for us as Aston Villa.”

To be honest, it’s good to see a bit of realism from the manager.  Maybe if our unbeaten run continues priorites can change, but for now it has to be about getting away from Everton and above Aston Villa to secure that priceless Champions League place.

If we’re going to do that, performances will have to be better than last night, and new signings would undoubtedly help in that respect.  Predictably, Arsene was asked about Andrei Arshavin’s proposed £15m transfer.  What’s equally unsurprising is quite how cryptic he contrived to be:

“There is nothing new, because today I have been focussed on the game, and I did not pick up any phone calls so nothing has happened. It was 90 per cent that I will be able to give you more in the next two days. Remember in this job the other 10 per cent can be more important than the other 90 because people can change their mind quickly.”

Apparently he was at pains to point out that he can’t be sure if it’s 90% on, or 90% off.  Helpful.  The comments were so confusing that Arsenal World have printed them with a slightly different meaning.  I guess the only thing we can take from it is that there should be some news either way in the next two days, though with only three working days in the transfer window remaining, even that is not particularly revelatory.

So: poor performance, decent result.  That seems to be the way it is at the moment.  It’s better than good performances and bad results, I suppose, but I as a club I suspect we’re a little more ambitious than to believe the two are mutually exclusive.

Busy day for me today.  Have a good one.

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