Arsenal weekly focus: Is the glass half full or half empty?
Arsenal’s potentially promising season has started to disappoint yet again. Just a couple of weeks ago the Gunners were the only English team to be involved in all the four competitions, but now after defeats in the Carling Cup final and the UEFA Champions League second round Arsene Wenger’s men have the FA Cup and the Premier League to salvage some pride in what proving to be another frustrating year.
The past week had been dull to say the least for an Arsenal fan.
Goalless draw against bogey team Sunderland
The Premier League title race was forced open by Chelsea’s home win over Manchester United last Wednesday and the North London side found themselves four points behind the Red Devils with a game in hand. Last Saturday’s home game against Sunderland was a golden chance for Arsenal to pile more pressure on United before the Manchester club’s Sunday visit to fierce rivals Liverpool.
Again, the Emirates faithful returned home asking one simple question. Why their team fails to win at home given all the dominance on the field? Ok, it’s true referee Anthony Taylor made horrible mistakes, particularly late in the game, by not awarding Arsenal a penalty when Andrei Arshavin was bundled over by a fortunate Titus Bramble and assistant referee controversially ruled the Russian offside when he looked to have scored a perfect goal. Some Arsenal fans could argue that luck is never on our side on crucial match days, yet winners are those who make their own luck and that luck was ought to have been made if the Gunners took their chances when they fell in the way. Sunderland’s goal keeper Simon Mignolet was the hero of the visiting side but Arsenal reflected how Steve Bruce’s side is slowly becoming a bogie side for the Londoners. 1-1 at the Stadium of Light and 0-0 at the Emirates are hardly the results of title winning team although to be fair to Cesc Fabregas and company, the Barclays Premier League is a hell lot closer compared to other leagues across the continent.
The goalless draw against Sunderland was not an ideal preparation for Arsenal performance wise before the demanding visit to the Nou Camp on Tuesday and as far as the Premier League standings are concerned, the Gunners closed the gap on Manchester United to three points with a game in hand after Liverpool did the London side a mighty favour by outclassing Sir Alex Fergusson’s side 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday.
Outplayed in Catalunya
The Barcelona clash at the Nou Camp played a part in Arsenal’s lacklustre showing against Sunderland and with all the attention focused on a potentially historic victory over the Catalans in the Champions League, the focus on the Premier League clash dropped and the North East side escaped with a draw from the English capital having succumbed to four successive defeats earlier in the Premier League.
Arsenal arrived in Barcelona with a 2-1 first leg lead over the mighty Spanish champions and optimism filled the Gunners camp after key striker Robin Van Persie along with captain and Barcelona boy Cesc Fabregas were declared fit to face Pep Guardiola’s boys.
Optimism soon turned to pessimism and darkness set in to destroy Arsenal’s Champions League dreams. A rampant Barcelona ran through the visiting side as Lionel Messi brought back a feeling of déjà vu for Arsenal fans by scoring a brace in the hosts’ masterful 3-1 win. Although Robin Van Persie was harshly sent off in the 55th minute when the score was 1-1, yet the result was beyond any doubt as the statistics of the home side’s 19 shots on goal to Arsenal’s 0 and ball possession of 68% to the visitors’ 32% would testify. No one knows what could have happened had Massimo Bussacca put the second yellow card in his pocket but in football or for that matter in any sport there is no place for assumption. What has happened is the reality and everyone concerned with the match has to live with it and get on with it. Here the reality is Arsenal are out of the Champions League and to save their season have to beat Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final on Saturday, March 12 before embarking on a final push to the finishing line of the Barclays Premier League title.
Whatever happens against Manchester United, both in the FA Cup and the Premier League title race, defeats to Birmingham City and Barcelona have left Arsenal’s season half-full or half-empty depending on an individual’s perception of the Gunners’ season so far.