|08 Jan||12:45 PM||FA||Leeds United (H)||1||1||Draw|
The second home game in succession, and the second home game where we were expected to come through with a win. Unfortunately, Leeds United had other ideas, banishing the memories of the superb Thierry Henry-led 5-0 thrashing the last time these two clubs met back on Good Friday 2004.
How we needed a Thierry Henry in his prime yesterday!
There were elements of misfortune, undoubtedly, having been in control of the match throughout, and with several clearances off lines and last-ditch tackles from the visitors. However, make no mistake about it, we got away with murder, Cesc's last-minute penalty saving us from a massive embarrassment against the Championship high-flyers.
Arsène Wenger maintains his utmost confidence in the "second string", and he has no reason not to. After all, most have been trained the Arsenal way, with the likes of the Cescs and the van Persies, and most are full internationals. However, this is the second time in just over a week where a team formed with a spine of Squillaci, Eboué, Rosicky, Denilson, Arshavin and Bendtner have failed to win against lesser opposition, the first being in that bitter disappointment at Wigan.
A clear problem of attitude, ineptitude and a sheer lack of application festered in that side, displaying a sluggish, almost casual demeanour to the match, where we only woke up following Robert Snodgrass's penalty for a foul by the ineffectual Denilson, largely thanks to the introductions of the Captain and Theo Walcott. The little Brazilian did nearly redeem himself with a winner in stoppage time, only to be kept out expertly by the impressive Kasper Schmeichel in the Leeds goal, but it is that flimsy looking midfield that seems to be the problem for such matches, one Wenger must take into every consideration ahead of the Carling Cup semi first leg at Portman Road in the week.
Several have called for the inclusion of another, fully fit, devastatingly clinical striker. And following on from yesterday, they have more than a point. Marouane Chamakh: big- check. Strong- check. Hold-up play- check. Determination- check. But following an impressive start, the Moroccan is becoming a mere representation of the team's obsessive compulsive disorder with regards to passing and really must install a killer instinct into his system before he loses some big points in the coming months. Once again, the take and turn was out for all to see, when he should be the first one motoring down on goal looking for the killer shot.
Nicklas Bendtner had an equally frustrating time, although he can be forgiven for one or two misses having got into the promising positions to make them in the first place.
With a couple of sitters missed by the two strikers, you felt it would not be our day. A feeling further augmented following Phil Dowd reversing a decision to award an 89th minute penalty for a foul on Walcott, justifying that the big Dane had been flagged offside, despite having been flagged AFTER the foul on Walcott. Astonishing. Although I did find it even more astonishing that the media-loving Theo had taken it upon himself to announce to the world that he had dived for that one. And, in the anguish of the drama and the agony of a possible home cup defeat, I cannot comment as I did not see it (where did we hear that before?)
Eventually, we did get the equaliser that our play over the last few minutes had just about deserved. Again a foul on Theo. Again a penalty. No change of mind from the ref this time. Cesc cool as you like for a last-gasp wallop of a spot kick.
And there was even time to win it, but it was a rally too little, too late.
It is becoming evident, that many such players, such "fringe" players, are not pulling their weight sufficiently enough, having been passengers in the team with other players like Cesc around them. Be it attitude or a lack of quality, these are mistakes that must not be repeated in the latter stages of the season if we are to maintain our interest in ending our trophy hoodoo.
The manager has been quick to praise Leeds for their endeavour and application, and it is richly deserved. However, it is high time the boss paid close attention to our often-lackadaisical home efforts, and specifically to the second side's decision-making and plain contribution on the pitch, preaching a greater sense of urgency and fluidity right from the off, as it is becoming rather tedious.
With a cup semi final days away and with the masses starved for success, I suggest Wenger gets to work straightaway.
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