Shock losses to Braga and Spurs
Arsenal stumbled to their second shock defeat in four days when they went down 2-0 to SC Braga in the European Champions League. For the second time in a week they looked like they would score a hat full of goals, only to be defeated by their poor defence and inability to capitalise on their chances. Arsenal previously beat SC Braga 5-0 at home earlier in the campaign and they are now languishing 10th in the Portuguese league. Arsenal dominated possession and the area in the middle of the field, but unfortunately could not be as positive in front of either goal. As in the game against Spurs on Saturday, Arsenal looked set for an easy victory, but unlike the Spurs game no goals came. Nasri scored an absolute belter against their local rivals. He was on the bye line but somehow managed to get the ball around the post and past the keeper, amazing.
The main difference between the two games was that Spurs came to play and as much as I hate to see Arsenal lose to them, it was a great game to watch. Although it was unbelievable that they could go from 2-0 up and cruising to lose 3-2. Spurs break came with the penalty given away by the illustrious captain Cesc Fabregas. He must have had some sort of brain storm, maybe it was a stroke. As the ball was going over his head he raised not only his own arm, but he lifted Chamakh‘s at the same time. He complained loudly to the referee that he was defending his face when the penalty was awarded, but he would have to be a foot taller for anyone to believe him.
Wins against Villa and Wigan
Things started to get back on track at Villa Park last weekend. Nasri and Arshavin were in great form and only Brad Freidel and some poor finishing saved Villa from being many more than two goals down at half time. Arshavin probably had his best game of the season so far and there was nothing wrong with his finishing on 39 minutes, when he picked the ball up on the left, cut inside past Richard Dunne and scored low in the far corner of the net. Nasri almost replicated his Spurs goal two minutes later, but this time the ball ended up in the side netting. He made up for that a minute before half time with a superb volley from an Arshavin corner.
Former Arsenal hero Robert Pires was dragged by Gerard Houlier at half time and replaced by Nathan Delfouneso, who played upfront and Villa were a different side in the second half. Only 7 minutes after the restart a poor clearance by Squillaci went to Ciaran Clark on the edge of Arsenal‘s box and he drove past Fabianski into the roof of the net. Mourane Chamakh restored the 2 goal lead 4 minutes later. A through ball from Rosicky was flicked under the on coming Freidels body. But on 71 minutes Arsenal‘s defence was unable to deal with a corner from Ashley Young, it was flicked on by Dunne and Clark again saw it over the line. The finish was tense with only a one goal margin, but in the very last minute Wilshere closed the door with a goal from a cross by Chamakh.
This win put Arsenal on top of the table for a couple of hours. But Manchester United won their later game to leapfrog them and Chelsea did the same on Sunday to see Arsenal finish the weekend in third place.
Tuesday evening Arsenal played host to Wigan in the Quarter Final of the Carling Cup. Arsene Wenger shuffled the pack and played some of the second string and some of the players returning from injury like Van Persie and Walcott. Whereas in recent years Wenger has played mainly young and emerging players in this competition, I believe his selection this year reflects the strength of the squad and his determination to win something, even if it is only the Carling Cup.
Now this game was not televised anywhere, as far as I know, so I’ve only seen edited highlights. But I understand normal service applied. Arsenal dominated, missed several good chances a few good calls for penalties were turned down. Defenders kicked Theo at will. There was a brilliant back heel pass from Van Persie that Vela should have scored from. An own goal from Alcaraz and a good one from Bendtner on 67 mins got the win that was needed to get through to the semis, where they were drawn against Ipswich the next day.
Watch for that amazing Van Persie pass
Just to make the best of a freezing snowy night in old London town for every Gooner fan, on the other side of the city West Ham were putting 4 goals past Manchester United to put them out of the Carling Cup. I bet Fergies face was red, oh that’s right, it’s always red.