EPL 2006: Day 8 (Arsenal 1 – Birmingham 0)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
October 4th, 2005 • 10:28 am

This goal by van Persie has a pretty significant symbolic value. Once again, Arsenal was guilty of trying to score the perfect goal instead of just burying at least one of their many chances throughout the game. And once again the rather unbelievable prospect of a 0-0 draw at home against 10-men Birmingham was a very distinct possibility. Then on came van Persie and he just tried a shot from distance. It got a nasty little deflection and the Birmingham keeper was beaten.

It was not a pretty goal. But it’s the kind of goal that Chelsea has been scoring by the truckload in the past 13 months, and it’s the kind of goal that the Gunners are going to have to score more often if they really want to challenge the EPL leaders.

It was a bit dishonest of Wenger to say after the game that this kind of goal was the only way that the Birmingham keeper could be beaten in this game. This is simply not acceptable. It’s true that the Birmingham keeper had an oustanding game, but this cannot be an excuse. No matter how good the opposition’s goalkeeper is, a team of Arsenal’s quality simply has to score goals—many more goals than they are scoring at the moment. How many times have I felt like urging the Arsenal players to just shoot lately? Far too many times. This excessively elaborate football is becoming a real problem. We need the players to just take their chances!

I realize that Wenger is trying to achieve a delicate balance between elegance and efficiency—but right now, with Chelsea so far ahead, we cannot afford to drop any more points. It is now, more than ever, about getting the three points in each and every game, no matter what it takes, no matter how ugly our football has to be.

That being said, Mourinho’s claims that Chelsea deserve more “respect” after their 4-1 victory at Anfield is a bit rich. This new victory doesn’t change anything to the basic facts, which are that Chelsea are not winning all these games by playing the prettiest and most entertaining football. Which of these four goals was actually anything to write home about? I have no doubt that Chelsea fans are thoroughly enjoying their team’s run at the moment, but there’s nothing particularly beautiful and enjoyable about the brand of football that Chelsea are playing, and that probably explains why many people still find them boring to watch. Does anyone actually think that there is any comparison between a player like Didier Drogba and someone like Thierry Henry? Drogba might have bragged about having had three assists and having played his “best game” in Chelsea colours—but that doesn’t make him a great player.

A truly legendary team is a team that manages to combine efficiency and attractive football. Chelsea is not such a team. They certainly have the efficiency, and they’ll probably win lots of things, but that won’t make them a great team, and that won’t attract them many new supporters outside the circle of devoted Chelsea fans. (The fact that this level of efficiency is achieved in no small part thanks to the considerable depth of the squad that an unlimited supply of funds can provide obviously doesn’t help either.)

Whether Arsenal can achieve this dream combination in the next few years is, of course, at the moment, highly debatable. But this is the quest that makes football enjoyable as a sport.

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