EPL 2006: Day 13 (Wigan 2 – Arsenal 3)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
November 20th, 2005 • 1:22 pm

At this stage, Robin van Persie brings something essential to this Arsenal team: the willingness to just give it a shot. The Gunners are often accused of overelaborating, and with good reason. If you had a comprehensive look at all the goals scored by Chelsea in the past year or so, you would see that a great number of them came from rather speculative shots which were helped by lucky deflections, goal-keeping mistakes, etc. These types of goals happen all the time, and the problem is that Arsenal are not scoring enough of them. The Gunners are always trying to score the perfect goal. Of course, when it works, it’s often sublime and breathtaking. But when it doesn’t and the team drops points, you need to question the approach.

Robin van Persie doesn’t bother with questions. He just takes his chance. He’s already proven that he’s a great finisher, but he’s also a guy who doesn’t hesitate to shoot from distance, even when there is every chance that the shot will be blocked or comfortably stopped by the keeper. Because he knows that people make mistakes—or that sometimes you get a lucky deflection.

Arsenal have needed more of this in recent months, and at this stage van Persie is the obvious provider. I am very glad that he is now in the starting line-up. Yesterday, he demonstrated once again that he fully deserves it. He should probably have had more than one goal, but at least he got one, and it was an important one, because it opened a lead that the Gunners maintained until the end.

Thierry Henry, on the other hand, doesn’t usually do speculative shots—except on free kicks, that is. His second goal yesterday was great, but the Wigan keeper should have had it. His first goal, on the other hand, was a perfect striker’s goal. A great pass from Fabregas, and a great run and a great finish by Henry. Undisputedly excellent stuff.

While Wigan obviously have a high level of confidence after their excellent run and their unbelievably high position in the table, they clearly showed that it is more than good luck and a favourable schedule that got them where they are. And they definitely made the Arsenal defence uncomfortable. Pascal Cygan was far from convincing as a replacement for the injured Ashley Cole and Gaël Clichy, and Sol Campbell and Kolo Touré were not entirely convincing either. Add to that a rather poor performance by Gilberto in mid-field, and all kinds of wasteful clearances by Lehmann throughout the game, and you have a situation that clearly explains the two goals conceded and the fact that the game was never comfortable viewing for Arsenal fans.

There is little doubt that such performances in defence will not be enough against tougher opposition, and Arsène Wenger has quite a bit of work to do if he wants to have a team that continues to perform well between now and the January transfer window and can maintain a gap between them and the Premiership leaders that still leaves some hope that the season is not entirely over.

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