EPL 2005: Day 27 (Arsenal 5 – Crystal Palace 1)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
February 15th, 2005 • 2:09 am

At some point during this game, one of the commentators wondered why some of the Gunners looked so “upset”, even after the game was already well and truly won.

I suspect that the answer is really quite simple: The Gunners were not angry at Crystal Palace (although this return fixture probably did bring back memories of one of the low points of this season, i.e. the 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace), they were angry at themselves.

Here again, for half an hour, they looked too frail. A team with better finishers than Palace would surely have punished them, even more than once. Lehmann had yet another blunder, even though it had no actual impact on the game. Cygan looked like he might be quite easily outpaced by Andy Johnson.

Fortunately for Arsenal, Crystal Palace had to take off one of their midfielders due to injury — Aki Riihilahti, the same player who had so cruelly punished them earlier in the season by scoring the second Palace goal that caused the Gunners to drop two important points.

Ten minutes after that substitution, Arsenal were already 3-0 up and it was game over.

Reyes had played an important part here, scoring one and being involved in the two other goals. It was electrifying stuff. Henry scored two magnificent goals himself, and handed Vieira his sixth of the season (!) on a silver platter early in the second half.

Arsenal could hardly have been more dominating. And yet the feeling lingered… On occasion, you saw both Thierry Henry and Reyes deep in their own half recovering a ball lost by one of their team mates — when they were already 3 or 4 goals up, i.e. when there was absolutely no need for such commitment. You could read some foul language on Henry’s lips after a decision had gone against him. Vieira needlessly conceded a penalty, then got angry at the referee and got a yellow card.

Where did this all come from? A simple look at the statistics tells the story: Arsenal have scored 63 goals in 27 games, more than anybody else. But they have also conceded 31 — which is more than they conceded all season last year, and 15 more than Manchester United, and 23 more (!) than Chelsea.

Players like Henry and Vieira can and should be upset. They should be angry at their own team mates, and especially at the defenders and the goal keeper. And they should be angry at themselves, for not having been able to show the commitment and dig really deep and inspire the team when it was required — when they were 2-3 down against Manchester United 13 days ago, for example. And they should also be a bit angry at their manager, who has stuck with Almunia and Lehmann and has failed to bring in new, world-class defenders, and who has not been able to come up with new tactics to deal with the now quasi-universal 4-5-1 formation that other teams put up against his.

It’s too late now — for this season at least. Winning 5-1 against relegation-bound opposition is pleasant enough, but it doesn’t mean much in the big scheme of things. Arsenal need some drastic changes — and we have yet to see signs that these changes are forthcoming.

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