Archive for October 18th, 2010

Tempering Jack’s Temper

173 comments October 18th, 2010

Arsenal 2 – 1 Birmingham (Zigic 33, Nasri 41 (pen), Chamakh 47)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Let me start by making clear that I didn’t see the ninety minutes against Birmingham.  I’ve only seen the Match of the Day Highlights posted above.  I’m assured there were controversial incidents which the BBC, as has become customary, overlooked: an Eboue lunge and a Zigic elbow, among others.

However, they did make room for the two main conversation points: a penalty awarded in our favour, and Jack Wilshere’s red card.

Let me deal first with the dismissal of Wilshere. Indisputably, a red card was the correct punishment for a wild challenge. I think all Arsenal fans have a responsibility to condemn poor challenges made by our own players if we’re going to be so quick to criticise the Shawcross’ and Henrys of this world.

Here’s another look at the challenge in question:

Wilshere’s miscontrol took the ball away from him, and frustration, recklessness, and desperation led him to lunge in. His studs were raised, and although they didn’t make contact with Zigic’s shin, punishment has to handed out according to risk rather than result. It’s a red card.

As Goodplaya pointed out on Saturday evening, this had been coming for a while.  I refer you to Gunnerblog’s Ready Or Not feature on Jack Wilshere, published before the season even kicked off.  Bolton fan Boris warned us this might happen:

“One bad point is his tackling – they obviously don’t practice getting the ball off opponents legally at your training ground. With Arsenal players it’s usually either a horror tackle or a complete miss, and Wilshere’s no exception.”

His dismissal should teach Jack a lesson he needs to learn.  He’s not dirty, but he’s naive and careless in the challenge.  Paul Scholes never made the necessary adjustment to his game, and he’s the fifth most booked player in Premier League history.  If Jack wants to avoid the same fate, he needs to curb his temper whilst retaining his enthusiasm.  His post-match comments suggest he knows as much.

He’ll miss our next three domestic games, and the rest will do him good.  The probable return of Cesc Fabregas will also cushion the blow of losing the player who did most to undo a stubborn Birmingham side.

After falling behind to a headed goal from Nikola Zigic – we struggle to cope with 5ft strikers, let alone ones approaching 7ft – Wilshere and Chamakh were the men at the heart of the recovery.  Their one-two saw the ball break to Chamakh, who nicked it away from Scott Dann and tumbled over his challenge to win a penalty for the fifth time in just eleven games.  It’s a remarkable record, explained in part by the fact that the Moroccan has a tendency to go to ground a little easy.  On this occasion he was tumbling to the floor before the contact with Dann’s outstretched boot.  It was gamesmanship, and an unnecessary exaggeration of a foul that would probably have been given regardless.

Samir Nasri stepped up to take the penalty, suggesting he has superceded Andrey Arshavin in the spot-kick pecking order.  He showed why with a sumptuous finish in to the bottom corner.

The goal took Nasri level with Arshavin on five goals this season.  They were soon joined on that tally by Chamakh, who latched on to Wilshere’s through-ball inside the Birmingham penalty area.  Stephen Carr’s aborted challenge looked like a glitch on a computer game – the ball was there to be won and his tackle never came, allowing Chamakh to saunter past, spin around the goalie and sidefoot home.

Wilshere’s red card and our lack of sharpness in the final third made it a tense finish, but we got the three points we needed.  With Chelsea and United both slumping to draws, it was vital we took advantage with a home victory.

United continued their erratic form by letting a two goal lead slip at home to West Brom.  I know the Baggies beat us only a fortnight ago, but for me United’s result was further proof that this is one of Alex Ferguson’s softest-centred sides.  We might not win the title, but we ought to finish above them this season.  There aren’t really any excuses.

It’s Shakhtar at home on Tuesday: a tie which promises the return of Eduardo, possible starts for Cesc, Bendtner and Theo, and your last chance to see wee Jack in action before the month is out.

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