Needless to say yesterday’s papers were full of Champions League banter.
Suddenly; we’ve become “Koptastic” again instead of a bunch of no hopers. Rafa also came in for praise with his surprise selection of Peter Crouch. I’m not sure this was fully merited given our first half performance but it the second it did begin to pay off; thankfully it was not too late. Perhaps more decisive was the substitution of Crouch for Ryan Babel late on in the game? As with Walcott for Arsenal, his pace told at a vital time when legs and concentration were wanting.
Not surprisingly a penalty decision, for the second time in the tie, attracted the most coverage. It the light of the first leg incident one has some sympathy for Arsenal. It is natural to draw comparisons but the two are separate incidents, that only serve to highlight the inconsistency that you get with referees, and not part of some anti Arsenal conspiracy theory that some of yesterday’s quotes suggested.
Arsene Wenger called Tuesday nights decision “dodgy” and said that we won because of it and the naivety and lack of concentration of his side after their second goal. The decision looks dodgy in the light of last Wednesdays, which was wrong, but it was correct. Touch an on rushing player in the box and you are asking for trouble. Wenger’s reaction is understandable, the man’s just lost and he feels there’s been an injustice however even so Arsenal had more than enough chances and above possession to win the game, they simply didn’t take them.
What I cannot take is the following from Mr Wenger.
“We have a feeling of disappointment and injustice tonight, that makes it doubly difficult, and doubly hard to accept. If you lose against a team who you feel are better than you, then fair enough. But that’s not the impression we got after these two matches.”
Looking at the Premiership table it is clear that, over the course of the season, Arsenal have been better than us however his comments regarding his teams, perceived superiority, in this particular tie defies belief on two accounts.
Firstly, may be I’m being naive old school but when a game of this magnitude ends, especially when you’ve played each the number of times we have recently, you lose gracefully, say well done and wish the winners luck for the rest of competition. Ruing your luck and criticising the referee is one thing, all managers do it, but to say that after 180 minutes of football that we did not deserve to win is at best sour grapes and at worst graceless.
We did not influence the referees, we did not cause Bendtner to clear his own team mates shot off the line. We did not cause Adebayor to miss an open goal. We did not cause Senderos to go walkabout for two of the goals on Tuesday. What we did was bide our time, do what we needed to do at the right moment and made the most of the opportunities that came our way. We were, above all, professional. Surely Wenger is confusing our so called luck or inferiority with his own sides carelessness and lack of eye for the main chance?
Secondly since we are on the subject I might as well get my anorak on. Since the FA and Carling Cup thrashings we have played Arsenal five times wining two and drawing three, scoring 11 goals in the process. Although Arsenal have had plenty of possession and, let’s be honest, outplayed us for long spells they have been unable to turn this to their advantage in any of these games. Time and time this has happened, on Tuesday, last week and last October in the league. All the pretty patterns they weave, and let’s face it is nice to watch, have not been turned into game winning performances. Fact, they have not beaten us in the last five games. Something else for Wenger to think about once he has cooled down, along with the naivety and lack concentration he sited?
At the end of the day this doesn’t bother me. We’ll look after ourselves and not worry about others. However I love good football and Arsenal can play some excellent stuff, I wish we could string passes together, knock the ball around and create openings like they do. It is a great advert for football, however it’s beauty is only skin deep if you have weaknesses in other departments and manager who, despite a record and philosophy is respected throughout the game, on this occasion chooses to lose with an blinkered ugliness and lack of magnanimity that is in direct contrast to this.
Someone (apologies as I remembered the quote but could find the author of the article) in one of the Sunday broadsheets last weekend summed this up perfectly
“.. there are no marks for artistic impression in football and Arsenal’s conquerors would be entitled to offer remarks similar to that made by Cesar Luis Menotti when the Argentina team he coached, and not Brazil, who considered their play superior, won the 1978 World Cup. “We congratulate Brazil on their moral victory. Now we hope they will congratulate us on our actual victory,”