To start with, I apologize for being a bit late with today’s post, but I had a few problems at home last night. After driving home yesterday in a bit of a daze while contemplating a disappointing performance by my Gunners in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal, I heard a strange noise upon entering the house. It turned out that water was streaming out of the bottom of the hot water heater in the basement, and required a couple of hours’ work with my Wet/Dry Vac to clean up the mess.
During that cleanup, I got a phone call from my parents that my grandmother was being taken to the emergency room, which meant some anxious time at the hospital waiting for diagnosis and results from the doctors there. “Gram” is 90 years old and beginning to fail physically, but we were told this little medical scare was a minor heart thing and will require some monitoring for the time being.
So, a very eventful night for me, one that seemed to affirm the truth of that old saying that “bad things usually happen in threes.” And what terrible thing occurred to round out the trio, you ask? Well, being such a passionate Gooner, it was witnessing that poor display from Arsenal at Old Trafford (via Internet stream at work) that has them down 1-0 halfway through the two-legged semi to determine which English side heads to Rome for the CL Final.
It may sound weird to compare a lost soccer match to bigger or more important or costly family and home issues, but as you may realize by now, things have gotten to the point that my day-to-day outlook and emotions seem to follow the fortunes of Arsenal FC. (If you’re at the same level of fanaticism or have read Nick Hornby’s novel “Fever Pitch,” you’d understand.) So, I was already “down in the dumps” even before I saw the mini-flood in my basement.
And that was all due to the lackluster showing from our boys, who just didn’t seem to “want it” as bad as Manchester United. It wasn’t so much the performance from Arsenal’s patched-up defense, but some of the players further forward on the pitch. What happened to the “audacious” approach in attack being mentioned by Arsene Wenger for his side in this away leg?
I thought Kieran Gibbs performed well at left back, considering the opposition and occasion he was facing. And while Mikael Silvestre was partly to blame for the Man Utd goal, he did show us some more positive moments later in the match. Overall, the defense was shaky at times, but thanks to some fine saves from Manuel Almunia, Arsenal do still have a chance to get past United and into the final with the second leg on home turf.
But that will only take place with some changes in strategy and attack for the Gunners. Like some other bloggers have mentioned, I couldn’t understand why a number of Arsenal players were slotted somewhat out of position for this contest. With Cesc Fabregas in the hole, Abou Diaby on the left and Samir Nasri in the center of midfield, Arsenal did not look very threatening at all.
I was hoping for a breakout kind of game from Adebayor, but didn’t see the effort or spirit in the man from Togo. He and Diaby were most disappointing, in my opinion. And the pace of Theo Walcott was basically contained by Man United, which all resulted in a very stagnant offensive display from Arsenal in one of their biggest matches of the season.
While a Nicklas Bendtner header and the efforts of Eduardo offered a bit of hope late, the equalizing goal never came. In fact, the score could have been 2-0 or 3-0 to United, who did play well throughout, meaning things could have been worse at this stage of the game. So, I guess that gives Arsenal supporters some minor “positive” to take away from the first leg.
Keeping a clean sheet at the Emirates in Leg 2 will be tough, but remember, no opponent has scored vs. Arsenal at the Emirates since Christmas. And since Arsenal did score twice against Manchester United at the Emirates earlier this Premiership season, there’s certainly hope that the Gunners can still advance to the final. Even a 1-0 scoreline would suffice, leading to a penalty shootout to determine the finalist.
After the match, Arsene Wenger stated that “you will see a different Arsenal next week” (in the May 5 return leg), with many wondering how things can change. Will the return of Robin van Persie for the second leg be the answer? Hopefully a change in formation? A more composed defense to allow more runs from the fullbacks?
Whatever the case, something will have to change to keep Arsenal in the hunt for their first piece of silverware in four years, and to help take this Gooner out of the doldrums and looking to bigger and better things from his Arsenal.