EPL: Day 6, Part 2

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
September 21st, 2003 • 9:24 pm

Arsenal deserved the draw at Old Trafford (0-0), but some players might have to answer a few questions about their own attitude after the final whistle, especially Lauren, who had no business shoving van Nistelrooy in the back like he did, no matter what he thought about the incident with Vieira. Words are one thing, but physical retaliation is a much more serious offense. You simply cannot let your temper get the better of you the way that he did.

You can’t really blame van Nistelrooy from jumping away from Vieira when the Frenchman lashed out at him while lying on the ground, after van Nistelrooy’s challenge. Yes, the challenge was clumsy, as is often the case with van Nistelrooy — but the referee had given the free kick, and Vieira really should have known better, especially after HAVING been booked a couple of minutes earlier.

If Sol Campbell gets investigated by the FA following his tame retaliation against Djemba-Djemba in the Community Shield game, then surely Vieira will get investigated, and probably punished, for this stupid gesture, even if he didn’t even touch van Nistelrooy. It’s the intent that counts. (And clearly in Sol Campbell’s case there was no way that his gesture could have hurt Djemba-Djemba, which makes the FA’s position rather shaky.)

Other than that, it was a game of very few chances (other than accidental, such as Giggs’ free kick on the post in the first half), and Arsenal were definitely much more disciplined (except for the last five minutes) than they were in mid-week against Milan.

On the other hand, the penalty given against Keown in the dying seconds was highly suspicious — and there was some justice in van Nistelrooy hitting the cross bar while Lehmann had jumped the wrong way and was well beaten.

Still, it’s disappointing that so much of the game depended on refereeing decisions yet again — although you can’t really fault Steve Bennett for giving a second yellow card to Vieira. (The first card, on the other hand, was not as obvious.)

The bottom line is that neither team was particularly impressive, which confirms the impression left by earlier games. But at least Arsenal were tighter and demonstrated a certain amount of resilience, which they were unable to do on Wednesday. Ashley Cole did manage to keep Christiano Ronaldo under control to a large extent, and almost score on a nice opportunity in the first half, which would really have been quite something if it had gone in.

Strategically, it was a good idea not to include Pires in the starting lineup, and to use a player such as Ray Parlour instead. Wenger was probably about to introduce Pires when tempers started boiling over and Vieira was sent off — but then the focus shifted on trying to protect the point rather than trying to win the game. Pires just doesn’t have the grit that someone like Parlour has in such occasions.

You can be sure that a lot of ink will flow in the next few days about last 15 minutes of this game.

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