Arsenal 2 – 1 Birmingham – shoot, for God's sake.

October 18, 2010 5 Comments by Sian

So, Arsenal are back to being big bad naughty Arsenal once more, and don’t they all just love it? A controversial penalty decision involving Marouane Chamakh and Birmingham’s Scott Dann set the scene for a pretty edgy second half with plenty of whistling by both fans and referee alike at the Emirates on Saturday. In extra time, Jack Wilshere’s superb performance throughout the afternoon was somewhat dampened when he was shown a straight red for a challenge on the tallest man in the world, Nikola Zigic.

Let’s address these two issues first shall we? Public opinion on the penalty seems to be divided down the middle, and that’s just amongst Gooners. On the one hand, very little contact appeared to be made with Chamakh seemingly anticipating what he felt was going to happen and acting accordingly. As in, flinging himself on the floor. On the other hand, Dann was nowhere near the ball with no chance of winning it, therefore the referee’s decision to penalise the away team was correct.

Personally I’m torn. Chamakh does go down very easily in the box, as made evident by the fact he’s ‘won’ us five penalties already this season. The word ‘won’ is in quotes because I’m not part of the school of thought that believes it’s big and clever to get a penalty. I’d sooner a player always try to stay on his feet and make the most of his goalscoring opportunity, but I know there are lots of other (craftier?) fans who think it’s a skill managing to deceive the referee and win themselves a slightly more nailed-on opportunity at scoring a goal. In times like these it’s always interesting to put the boot on the other foot and see how we’d feel if that penalty had been awarded against us. Pretty pissed off, I reckon, but what’s done is done.

Chamakh is going to have to stop going down so easily, mind. I know players like Ronaldo got away with it for years in the Prem, but there is always the chance that referees will become a bit too wise to it and will end up ignoring his appeals when he really is upended. But players don’t seem to think that far ahead do they?

The other root of the argy-bargy in the match involved little Jacky Wilshere, who is adorable (Chamakh’s words, not mine). The tackle he dished out to Zigic was studs-up, harsh, late, etc, etc. I don’t see how anyone can complain about him seeing the red because it was completely deserved. And daft. Obviously this had journalists and opposition fans and opposition managers wringing their clammy little hands with glee at the idea one of Wenger’s precious little angels had committed exactly the sin he’s been on a crusade against over the years.

So they must have been a bit gutted at his post-match comments: 

“He mistimed his tackle and he got the red card he deserved. But it was his first tackle in the game and you have to acknowledge that he got a red card and he deserved it but he didn’t spend the whole game kicking people. He played football and was one of the best players on the football pitch. Unfortunately it happened to him but I think it was more frustration. He didn’t want to harm the player – he mistimed his tackle. We do not complain about his red card but you cannot say he had a dirty game.”

This is the whole quote as given on Arsenal.com. All of it is true except for it being his first tackle of the game (I’m no statto but I remember him at least getting the better of Bowyer). Yes, he deserved it. No, he did not spend the game kicking people. He did play football and he was one of the best players on the pitch. As for it being mistimed, that’s probably true too. Where we’ve seen other dodgy tackles up and down the country this season, it’s tended to have been much earlier on in the game. The player ‘letting him know he’s there’. After over 90 minutes of play yesterday, I’m pretty sure Zigic already knew Jack was there so the idea of it being down to frustration is probably more on the money.

Added to this, Jack offered up his own thoughts on his tackle by making a statement on the official site too:

“I just want to say that I mistimed the challenge on Zigic and accept that I deserved to be sent off. I have no complaints about getting the red card and I will learn from this. I’m missing three matches now which I’m really disappointed about, but I just want to say that I deserved the red card.”

No “But he isn’t that kind of guy, his Mum’s on her way to collect him now, he donates regularly to charity” bullshit. Which is refreshing. He’s 18, ridiculously skilled and still nowhere near his full potential. Which is extremely exciting. He knows it was an unacceptable challenge that could have ended up hurting Zigic and I’m sure he’s counting his lucky stars that Zigic managed to walk off the pitch at that point.

Unfortunately though, it was made all the worse by the fact we’ve been in the papers so often criticising these kinds of tackles. In today’s papers they had an absolute field day. I read one match report where the bloke used only quotes from Wenger’s matchday programme notes. No mention was made of the fact Wenger said after the match that Jack had been correctly punished and had accepted the card. No, just Wenger’s “sanctimonious” rantings about these kinds of tackles. I mean this was in the News of the World where Kelly Brook’s backside was story of the day but even so.

Not really sure as to what else can be said. He shouldn’t have done it, we accept that. Is Wenger supposed to now go “Actually, I’ve changed my mind. Because Jack did it, these tackles are OK. We’ll get Aaron to apologise for causing such a fuss.” I mean, what can he do? I think he behaved exactly as he should have done.

Anyway, to the rest of the match. Arsenal’s finishing: bloody dire. Nicklas came on with about 15 minutes to spare and almost nicked one right at the end but when I say that Fabianski looked the most confident man on the pitch, you’ll see how nervous everyone else looked towards the end. That might actually be unfair on him as he was solid throughout. There isn’t much he could have done to stop Zigic’s looping goal and beyond that, he was there every time he was called upon.

So with the goalkeeping issue temporarily sorted, let’s address the issue up the other end of the pitch. Are they frightened of what might happen should they shoot? It seems that way! We fail to take chance after chance after chance and it will inevitably see us punished for it again in the season unless they sort themselves out. All in all it was an OK performance unfortunately soured by the contentious penalty and the red card but sooner that than an excellent performance going unrewarded. Plus we had one point in a possible nine in the run-up to this match- a win was bloody due!

Next up we have Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday and the return of Eduardo. Looking forward to seeing him get the reception he deserved after his move in the summer, where he missed out on getting the send-off he deserved. He’ll obviously score against us though. That this will happen is about as obvious as the fact Andrey will attempt another of his backpasses at some point during the match.

5 Comments

  1. Mr H
    2499 days ago

    nice post. Starting to enjoy reading your posts.

    On the attacking issue: I hate to repeat the often repeated, but here goes: injuries. It’s tough to be at your best without your best.

    On the other hand, since we’re always without our best, does that therefore mean our second best is by default our best?

    Either way you look at it, the trigger wasn’t pulled, and we seem to be entirely unwilling to score long range efforts. Something I’d like to see remedied.

    Keep up the good posting.

    Reply

  2. Treez
    2499 days ago

    I had a bad feeling about the Birmingham game. For all the lovely football we have been playing, we seem incapable of finishing teams off. We were clearly the better team but no one seemed to want to take a shot.
    Despite Jack having a fantastic game, I still think we are a totally different team with Cesc running things. Let’s hope he plays on Tuesday.

    Reply

  3. ghh1
    2499 days ago

    I got the feeling watching the game that our players had Tuesday on their mind. They seemed to want to conserve energy for the several big games coming in the next 10 days. That’s ok as long as good results are produced. Don’t you agree?

    Reply

  4. larubia
    2499 days ago

    Great blog entry, Siany. Wenger’s reply to Jack’s red card was so perfect, the press and opponents’ reactions were childish. I always love how you put things in perspective!

    Reply

  5. Alan
    2499 days ago

    Right again, Siany – you got the flavour spot on. Any chance of Arshavin trying to join in on Tuesday? When he arrived, it looked as though his thinking was too quick for his teammmates. I’m now beginning to think he’s just crap.

    Reply

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