For the second Sunday in a row, Arsenal were pegged back from 2-0 up to draw. We strode into the lead with two sublime goals in the first ten minutes, but never recovered from conceding a sloppy penalty.
After the break Bowen made it 2-2 when he seized on a hopeful looping ball. It could have been worse as Antonio’s header clipped the bar from close range. It might also have been a lot better, had Saka managed to convert a penalty at 2-1.
Football is mystifying. You wonder how a team can make things look so easy, and then make the same stuff look nigh-on impossible minutes later. An explanation on Sunday could be that for the first time this season, the pressure of the title battle might have got to this young team.
I don’t even know if this makes any sense but our football in the opening reminded me of the diagrams of Brownian Motion in school physics textbooks. There was a joyous spontaneity to our play, with players appearing in curious positions and darting off in random directions.
Jesus collected it from our CBs, Xhaka tested their offside line, and Tierney looked like a less penetrative but no less assured version of Zinchenko at mid-back.
When the team moves in harmony like it did at the start, players can take the simplest option for the most devastating result. It’s something we should have kept in mind later in the game. Anyway, we took the lead when White overlapped for Odegaard and his low-cross was met at the far post by Jesus.
Two minutes later Xhaka recycled the ball to Martinelli, whose deep cross was turned in by Odegaard. We were now full of ourselves and West Ham looked dead in the water.
When does relaxation become complacency? Clearly we have to feel relaxed to play our best football, but here we also sacrificed the crucial intensity and devotion to the basics for a kind of languid showboatyness.
About ten minutes after our second goal we had time for another slick move that could have killed it, fizzling out when a flick by Saka to Jesus was cut out. At the time I would never have guessed that it would be our last glimpse of champagne football for the afternoon.
We had been completely on top, and It was easy. So easy in fact that we needed a spooked grizzled veteran from an action movie to warn us that it was a “little too easy”, because the fragility of our dominance was about to be laid bare.
Rice caught our No. 5 dawdling in deep midfield. The ball took a pretty fortunate bounce off Rice’s chest and arm, and then Paqueta evaded Gabriel in the box, earning a penalty out of nowhere that was tucked home by Benrahma.
What followed was 15 minutes of aerial pressure, from corners, long throws and cheaply surrendered free-kicks. Just like last weekend, our team seemed to abandon its identity in the face of pressure.
But unlike last weekend, we were up against a team whose weapon of choice was something heavy and blunt. You can see what’s coming a mile off with West Ham, in contrast to the dizzying multidimensional assault laid on by Liverpool.
When opponents like West Ham are in the mood it feels like your team is in a headlock. There’s a constant, low-level sense of danger in those set pieces when you’re playing against percentage football. You know you should be safe if everyone does their job.
But you’re also aware that constantly having to clear your lines, stay cohesive and win second balls will wear a team down and eventually lead to mistakes.
And we did slip, but not before having the chance to make it 3-1.
The ball caught Antonio on one of his beefy arms. Saka hovered in the background during all the post-decision wrangling, and stepped up to waft his spot kick wide.
The crowd was still celebrating Saka’s miss when West Ham looped an aimless ball into the area after we had cleared another long throw. Bowen reacted before anyone, and dug out an untidy finish that perhaps made Ramsdale’s job more difficult by zipping off the turf. Our GK got a hand to it, but not enough.
After their equalizer West Ham lost their urgency, and seemed content, if not to play for a draw then at least wait for their moment. We injected some order into midfield by bringing on Jorginho and Trossard, but had long lost our ability to find holes in that backline.
The final 20 minutes was a torpor, interrupted by a hairy moment when Holding was caught wrong-side and Antonio’s close-range header deflected over off the bar.
In any other context, this outcome could be held up by the manager as an example of how quickly an apparently simple game can turn, especially away from home. The message is to keep at it and go for the jugular.
The climatic few weeks in a title fight may not feel like the time for such basic lessons. But if we can rediscover the humility that got us to 74 points after 31 games, and combine it with the killer instinct to put contests to bed, then let’s see how far we can go.
I think you captured the gist well Birdkamp. There were a good few of them that wilted visibly.
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Depressing, wasn’t it? You’ve summed it up very well and your line on losing our identity is as true of the last couple of games as it was at the back end of last season when we let an undeserving Spurs back into top 4.
What is so disappointing this time around is we were ANNIHILATING both Liverpool and West Ham, at least initially. One more goal in both games would have finished them off, in my opinion.
Last season I think exhaustion overcame us at the end, a symptom of a paper-thin squad. This season it would appear the terror of giving ground to City might have become terminal, the thought of failure, of all that hard work gone to waste just too much to ignore when they should have been focussing on regrouping and sticking to game plans etc.
Whisper it, because it won’t be popular, but the re-introduction of Jesus at this late stage of the season, may have played a part in some way, despite his positive impact in the early stages of both games; once things had gone wrong we seemed unable to rally, with attack becoming toothless and midfield wayward. Too many were unable to switch to any kind of plan B which was always seemingly in an option in previous games when conceding etc.
Whether this is something that can be addressed is moot. Losing the league, having been leading all season, WILL feel like a disaster in our hearts even though a second place finish will be anything but, as surely as our heads will eventually remind us.
I guess all this makes our next game a must-win.
I think in truth, with a financially bloated yet STILL unpunished opponent, ALL our games have been must-win, really.
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Thanks PG, AA and Mills. I’m happy to contribute, even for matches like yesterday!
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I think we’re all grateful Bird, for me at least, it brought back life and a freshness to the forum. Thanks for doing it!
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Yeah great again BK.
I thought our side would be chomping at the bit for this game and so the wet lettuce approach after our second goal was surprising.
Mikel spoke afterwards about the need to keep going and go looking for a third and fourth goal but it didn’t look like the team had been told that.
MO spoke after the game about the team knowing the hammers style of attack but on the pitch it was a case of don’t panic Mr Manwaring conceding lots of needles throws and corners when there was time to bring the ball down or play our way out of situations.
Our early joy was created by getting the ball wide and creating crosses which caused WH all sorts of problems, in fact I don’t think I have ever seen Martinelli cross the ball so many times.
The longer the game went on the more we went backwards and our biggest creative source was big Bob and the whole team seem to want to pass to him.
Again the subs were late and the style change that Eddie would of give us was ridiculously late in coming.
It is true the 89 wobble see us lose to Derby and Wimbledon at a time when Liverpool we the city of the day so we are just going to have to win at city probably in the last minute.
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Thank you once again for a measured report the morning after the night before.
I think most are agree that the league was always City’s to lose, no matter what the hype was around Arsenal.
Saliba has been a great loss and until the last two games, surrendering a two goal lead wasn’t on my Arsenal radar anymore.
I hope for the teams sake that it doesn’t end with a whimper and that at the end Oc the season we are able to appreciate the great strides made this season.
The next game needs a confident win for points on the board and team morale.
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Thank you BK.
The odds were always against us overcoming a state funded, financial system cheating behemoth . I don’t know of anyone who predicted this team would finish as high as second this season, by that measure,this team, at the very worst, will have massively overachieved.
A few were a little off the boil yesterday, get the impression the MF are a bit too used to Zinchenkos patterns of play, Tierney is a different type of player, and as everyone says, Saliba is a big loss. And Saka looked knackered.
Don’t have the stats, but get the impression City rarely get injuries to key players, this season at least, don’t think Haaland or KDB have had a lot of time out this year.
Won’t win the league, never really expected we would, but this team can still end the season on a very impressive points total, and will have the lure of CL to tempt any new players over the summer .
Doing better than a few I could mention
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And talking of state-funded rivals, there’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that if roles were reversed and it was under-funded City chasing a lavishly and limitlessly bankrolled Arsenal, we would never be hearing the last of it.
Not for a moment.
On MOTD. On Sky/BT.
In the press and across social media.
We’d be the game’s wreckers and City would be the worthy, plucky underdogs fighting for a just outcome.
Just saying (as they say).
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Spot on AA!
And if if City had led the league all the way, but missed out at the end (for whichever reason), they wouldn’t be branded ‘bottle jobs’ ( as we already seem to be) but heroes, up against endless Goliaths. The Peoples football team.
The media biggest naff though, that its City and not ManUre!
“Same old Arsenal always cheating”. Yep, cheated our Arsenals off in game fifty (etc).
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Big Oli still keeps scoring, how wrong all the ARSENAL boo boys were.
New post is up
Dear oh dear.
Firstly, it’s the ref’s fault.
Then Man $ity’s funding.
Has no one here considered the possibility that we are simply not good enough?
Or that we have been punching well above our normal weight with the assistance of some of the other normally good teams going missing?
Think about the pathetic way that we were removed from each of the cups, hardly what one would expect from a top club in top form.
Liverpool, Chel$ki and Manure are also teams who spend large amounts on players and even our local friends have done so as well and yet they have all been dire this season.
Perhaps our elevated position is nothing other than by default of the others.
The last two games have highlighted the fact that the players seem to be capable of playing for 30 minutes in a game and then retreat for the rest.
This is a coaching failing, not so much that of the players, especially with this manager who demands that the players do exactly what he tells them for the full 90 minutes.
Yet we now see the manager criticising the players which is a sign that the manager is losing control.
I know that my views are not popular, but I do not think I have said anything that is not true.
“Perhaps our elevated position is nothing other than by default of the others.”
And you have a go at people citing refs and state funding?
Thanks for your comment, Mandy Dodd. I can always expect a negative comment from you.
So you think Liverpool, Chel$ki, Manure and the scum have been playing consistently well this season?
The bias or non-bias of referees is a subjective matter and I think you will find that fans of every club think that the refs are biased against them.
At least 2 if not 3 of the clubs I mentioned above have spent vast fortunes over the years on players. Has that helped them this season?
Please look with both eyes open and not with one if not 2 completely shut.
There have undoubtedly been things that have gone in our favour this season, the great fixtures at the start (which helped the team bond and find confidence with the good form) the amount of other teams going through terrible changes, sacking managers, new owners etc.
However if you acknowledge the advantages you also have to acknowledge the disadvantages otherwise it’s just called an agenda.
It has been well documented that PIGMOL is incompetent to the point of corruption and the work done by Tony Atwood with foreign refs has highlighted they also seem to be overly incompetent with our club. Indeed us an Brighton seem to have a standard apology letter sent every week.
We have indeed spent lots over the last few seasons however the cumulative effect cannot make up for clubs bankrolled for many years in every aspect of their clubs, (amazing amounts of backroom staff coaches with masseur tables etc on, private jets to get players back from internationals etc.
Our good fortune with fixtures at the start of the season means our run in is a nightmare.
As you know Jig I am also critical of Mikel and his coaching team (and Edu) but have to acknowledge the improvement in the team, squad and the coaching staff.
This weekend we will play our best available team against the saints on Friday night while city have the luxury of resting many first teamers on the Saturday in a semi final, a fucking semi final no less.
On Wednesday there key players will have had more of a break than ours.
That is going to be an advantage that has to be acknowledged and our squad is nowhere near that.
There is one advantage Mikel has at the moment that he will eventually lose and that’s the fickle ARSENAL crowd.
Certainly if Arsene would of that in the last few seasons his perfect top four record would have stayed in tact.
Thanks for your comments.
For my part, I really cannot see if there has been a marked improvement or not. The form of teams the likes of Liverpool, Chel$ki and Manure has meant that as we have beaten the teams we usually beat and then beat them as well, which we did not always do, on the contrary, it means that it is not clear if our elevated position is due to our better form, or to do with their poor form.
Certainly what we have seen in the last 2 games is not new. ie the inability to sustain the pressure for a full 90 minutes, with 20-30 minutes being the maximum.
We got away with it against the lower clubs, but cannot expect to get away with it against teams like Liverpool etc.
This is a coaching problem and shows a deficiency in Arteta’s coaching that few fans are brave enough to admit.
Now Arteta is moaning about Saliba not being available, possibly, for the rest of the season.
Yet this is a player that Arteta did not want.
Yes, we have spent a lot in recent years, but look at who we spent it on?
So many of Arteta’s picks have turned out to be duds.
If you pick up a player not doing that well at another team the aim will be to improve him and to turn him into something better.
Is Jesus any better now than he was under Guardiola? He was not a central striker then and he is not one now.
I hope that tonight’s game does not end up in disaster.