EPL 2007-2008: Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
March 2nd, 2008 • 5:17 pm

A very poor Arsenal team was quite fortunate to escape their first defeat of the season at home and salvage a point.

Then again, they were unlucky to concede an own goal by Senderos and, while Almunia had a few good saves, in truth this was a game that the Gunners should have comfortably won at this stage of the season. Aston Villa are significantly improved, but they still rely on set pieces a lot, and the Gunners have gotten better at defending those.

Unfortunately, it was really on the attacking front that Arsenal was lacking. It was as if most players had lost their edge, including Fábregas, Hleb, and Adebayor. Walcott had a few promising opportunities early on but did not capitalize and failed to have an impact as the game wore on.

It is not exactly the best time of the season to endure a drop in form. Yes, the horror show at Birmingham had a lasting impact, if only psychologically, but it is not enough to explain what is now a succession of poor results.

Amazingly enough, the Gunners are still top of the league, but you cannot help but feel that what happens in the Champions’ League this week will have a crucial impact on the rest of the season, for all three title contenders.

For the Gunners, it is quite simple: a victory in Italy or a draw with goals scored would provide a big lift at a crucial time. If you want to “win it for Eduardo,” you have to show on the pitch that you actually mean that. Otherwise, it’s just an empty cliché.

I don’t quite know what it is at this point that is causing the drop in form. It could be fatigue. But that’s where the lack of depth in the squad shows the most. And I have said what I thought about the lack of depth in the squad this year. I just don’t see how Arsène Wenger can rationalize keeping such a short squad when the transfer window was open for a whole month in January. I just don’t see why the club couldn’t spend some money on one or two established players to provide substantial support when injuries or fatigue take their toll.

It is, in my mind, the biggest gamble that Wenger took this season, and if it pays off it will be quite remarkable. But you have to agree with bookmakers at this point that Arsenal are not favourites to win either of the two competitions that they are still involved in. I will believe in them until things are objectively over, but it pain me to see players struggle on the pitch right now with not enough reserve to support them.

Being in the black with a packed stadium every week is all well and good, but sometimes you also have to base your calculations on the need to actually win trophies. I am not saying I would like to win at any cost—otherwise I would be a Chelsea supporter. But the battle in England is not just about creativity versus physicality. It is also, as with any sport, about stamina, and that’s where squad depth and energy levels play a crucial role.

We won’t find renewed depth between now and Tuesday. But let’s hope that Wenger can find the words to stimulate this team and instill the belief that they can actually win stuff this year.

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