EPL 2007-2008: Chelsea 2 – Arsenal 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
March 23rd, 2008 • 2:36 pm

Well, that is it, isn’t it? It is not mathematically over, of course, but our only hope is that Manchester United does the same thing we just did and drops all kinds of points in their remaining fixtures, which is highly unlikely. And to think that not long ago, we were five points clear at the top… It’s disheartening.

There is no debating the result today. The Gunners were undone by bad defending (Gallas looking particularly guilty on the first Drogba goal, and the whole defense going to sleep on the second), and fairly toothless attacking.

I have said it several times and I’ll say it again: The team has run out of steam, and the main reason is a lack of depth on the bench.

There was some hope, of course, when Sagna (of all people) scored a perfectly placed header on the hour mark, after what had been, until then, a fairly even contest. And for a few more minutes after that the young guns looked full of confidence, but they failed to capitalize on it, and then the same old figures (Drogba, Anelka, Belletti) came back to haunt us and clinch the points for the Russian’s mercenaries.

The Gunners are professionals and they will still keep fighting, but unless Manchester United start dropping points very soon and Arsenal start winning again immediately, after what has now been their worst run of form in the league in many years, then all hope will be lost for good.

At this point it’s hard to imagine that we’ll be able to rescue the season with a Champions’ League win either. There are just too many high-profile English teams in the way, and I highly doubt that the Gunners will be able to rebuild their confidence after this week-end.

In order to gain confidence, you need to win and you need to score, and we simply have not done enough of that lately. It is very disappointing, after exceeding all expectations for so long. But it is a form of reality check, I suppose.

Will Wenger draw the appropriate lessons from this? Will he finally amend his purchasing philosophy and come to a more reasonable compromise between youth and experience? If he does not, there is reason to fear a few more lean years before the players he is developing gain the stamina and consistency that are really needed to win trophies.

I don’t mean to sound too gloomy. I am not excessively disappointed today. This is a game that we could have afforded to lose if we had not wasted all these precious points in the previous fixtures. So in effect the battle was lost in the past few weeks, not today.

A win at Stamford Bridge would have been an extraordinary lift and would have relaunched our assault on the title. It was not to be. We simply did not have enough defensive steel and enough attacking incisiveness. We did not really deserve to win, and we didn’t. And there are more than enough reasons to fear that this season is over for us.

Whatever happens, it will still have been an improvement over the last one and a better achievement than what was expected by most people. But it was still not enough to really challenge for trophies, and you have to wonder how much more patience all these still young players will have before they decide to go try their luck elsewhere.

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