EPL, Day 15 (Liverpool 2 – Arsenal 1)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
November 29th, 2004 • 6:10 am

I guess this defeat now makes it official: Arsenal is in a bit of a crisis. In the space of one month, they have dropped five points behind Chelsea in the Premiership. They seem to have lost their confidence and fluidity, or the ability to maintain a lead and grind out results when needed. And they still haven’t qualified for the next round of the Champions’ League.

They were really bad in the first half against Liverpool. But last year they occasionally had bad halves and were still able to recover and get results. It’s just not happening right now. It’s true that the Liverpool was due to a freak goal by Mellor in overtime (which recalls the Rooney goal for Everton two years ago), but the more serious concern is that Liverpool was able to stifle the Gunners’ creativity by blocking the wings. Pires and Ljunberg were largely ineffective, and Reyes was completely useless.

The Arsenal goal was still a beautiful move, but flashes of brilliance are not enough. Not matter what it takes, the Gunners need victories, and they need them urgently. This Chelsea side is looking more and more like a steamroller, and only the best Arsenal side will be able to keep up with them. Right now, they are far from their best. And they cannot really count on their London rivals dropping points, because it won’t happen very often between now and the end of the season. The Chelsea team has too much depth (bought with tens of millions of pounds, of course) to be expected to experience fatigue the way that other teams might do.

It’s ironic that Henry is in serious contention for the FIFA World Player of the Year award just as this is happening. I am not saying that he doesn’t deserve it, but if he gets it, it won’t be based on his current form. Like the rest of the team, he’s in a slump, and needs to recover soon.

Things are not going to get easier any time soon. The Gunners have dropped a significant number of points against lowly teams such as Crystal Palace and West Brom. Now they have to win these points back against more substantial opposition, starting with Birmingham on Saturday. Then it will be Chelsea at Highbury, and it’s a game that could very well decide the title. The Gunners will need to be at full strength, and they won’t be, because Vieira will be suspended. He collected his fifth yellow card yesterday. Ironically, if he had collected a second booking and been sent off (which might have happened if the referee had caught his blatant dive in the second half), he would have be suspended for the League Cup tie would have been able to play against Chelsea. I guess he has a few things to learn in the cynicism department from Mr. Beckham.

Still, all is not lost. Chelsea are “only” five points ahead, and Arsenal can still achieve something in the Champions’ League this year. But it will take significant improvement over what the Gunners have been showing in the past few weeks.

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