It may seem strange to admit this, but I wasn’t nearly as crushed as you might expect a fervent Arsenal fan to feel. Perhaps that was down to the fact that we’ve seen it all too many times before, especially this season.
Why oh why do we commit such crucial lapses in concentration? In the big games as well! The statistics show that we have one of the meaner defences in the league, but we’ve conceded important goals when it matters the most.
This season alone, we’ve had Torres sneak in for the opener in our home game against Chelsea, RVP score early after a poor clearance at Old Trafford, Koscielny get sent off for a professional foul when we hosted Man City, the offside trap being easily sprung once for Mata’s goal at the Bridge, and twice more in this defeat to Spurs.
It is one thing to claw back a deficit against Reading, but making a comeback against top teams (and Tottenham) is another. We often give ourselves a mountain to climb early in these games, and that can’t be the best for the players’ confidence and whatever game plans the manager had set out.
The frustrating thing is that these goals are largely self-inflicted and seem entirely avoidable. I don’t have many complaints when we concede after a flowing team move by the opposition, or if an opponent spanks one into the top corner from 40 yards. But now it’s as if we open the doors wide, welcome opposing players with open arms, and say ‘come on, have a go!’ This really is unacceptable for a team fighting to qualify for the Champions League for the umpteenth year in a row.
Prior to the two goals conceded, I thought we had done a brilliant job in pressing the Spurs players. We harried them in possession, and forced many of their defenders to punt aimless balls upfield. We had kept Bale’s influence to a minimum, and we looked neat and tidy going forward, though we hadn’t yet created clear cut chances. All of which makes it more of a pity that all that good work was undone so quickly, and so ruthlessly.
When our BFG (Mertesacker) nodded home early in the second half, there was a hint of a revival. However, we needed at least one of our players to take charge of the game, and hopefully inspire the rest to raise their games accordingly. This didn’t materialise and everyone did an ‘ok’ job, but ‘ok’ just wasn’t good enough against a disciplined Spurs side.
Could we have done anything differently? It’s hard to see how else Wenger could have changed things around. He made positive changes by swapping Jenkinson and Arteta for more offensive players, but this was a day when nothing much clicked for us in the attacking third.
It’s easy to be defeatist and declare that the season is over, but it’s useful to take things in perspective. I’ve read many a Spurs fan commenting that they shouldn’t think the battle is over, especially with the different run-ins both clubs have.
We’re pretty much done with playing all the top sides (apart from one game against the Red Devils), and we’ve actually been pretty consistent against the lower sides in the league. Spurs have a decidedly tougher ending to the season, so with plenty of points up for grabs, I’m still confident of celebrating St. Totteringham’s Day come the end of the season.
For that to happen, we need to cut out those critical losses of concentration. Not just in the big games, but in EVERY game. Spurs may or may not slip up from now till May, but we have to keep up our end of the deal, so as to give ourselves the best fighting chance to get back into those Champions League spots.
Come on you Gunners!
Aaron has been an Arsenal fan since the mid 90's, and is currently a member of Arsenal Singapore, the official Arsenal supporters' club in Singapore. He is also a passionate Lions supporter, and he still dreams of seeing Singapore compete in the World Cup someday.