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Premier League
Saturday, 30th October 2010

Arsenal 1
West Ham United 0

by Gordon Thrower


Disappointed for the second Saturday running – but for very different reasons.

The annual visit to the library saw, as expected, a number of changes to the side, not only from the the side that prevailed against Stoke in the League Cup, but also from that that had played so poorly for much of the match against Newcastle in the league seven days earlier. As expected, Green reclaimed his place from Stech who had played against Stoke. In defence, although Jacobsen was available after being cup-tied, Upson had failed to recover from the hamstring pull picked up against Newcastle. Gabbidon moved over to the centre of defence to partner Da Costa whilst, at left back, Ilunga was preferred to Ben Haim. Dyer was unavailable for selection so Boa Morte returned to the midfield with Behrami, whilst up front Cole dropped back to the bench. This left us with a starting line-up of Green, Jacobsen, Ilunga, Da Costa, Gabbidon, Parker, Behrami, Noble, Boa Morte, Obinna, Piquionne.

There are a number of things you expect at this place. A lack of atmosphere, players diving all over the place and the manager trying the referee the match. We were not to be disappointed. Given the disparity in league places between the clubs it was also to be expected that the home side would take the game to us and, given the state of our defence this season, a drubbing wasn't entirely out of the question. Arshavin was the first to threaten, a run down their left ending in a weak shot that was Green's easiest save of the day – though it was not to be his last. However, given that less than two minutes had elapsed at this point, the expected onslaught failed to appear. Instead we were treated to the usual unsteadiness of the home side. Fabregas, Song and Nasri all went over at the slightest proximity of an opponent, though strangely, ref Jones often waited for an appeal from the touchline before making his decision.

In between Bambi On Ice impersonations both Arshavin and Chamakh managed to stay upright for long enough to exchange passes that saw Arshavin screw a shot comfortably wide. By and large the defence were coping well, though there were occasional lapses in marking, notably from a set piece awarded for yet another dive. Ilunga took the ball from Chamakh who threw his hands up in the air before gently lying down on the ground. The ref fell for it and Song was unmarked from the free-kick but put his header well over.

Green was finally tested properly a few minutes later. Song fed Sagna who pulled the ball back for Farbregas. Green dived and saved well to his right with a parry, gathering up the loose ball and preventing the corner. Our best chance of the the half came following a fine run from Noble whose powerful shot was straight at the 'keeper. Noble was fouled after the shot – but since he wasn't wearing a red shirt nothing was given.

We did win another free-kick on the right however in promising position – Clichy's “innocent” look after treading on Jacobsen's foot fooling nobody. Obinna's delivery was awful and it was spooned high and wide past the back post. A shameful waste.

Arsenal's passing in the final third had been hilariously poor, though on the odd occasion that it did come off Green was proving hard to beat. Fabregas played Song in but Green saved well. They were getting their usual assistance from the officials though. A poor ball saw Ilunga cleverly play the ball off an opponent for a goal kick. Somehow neither ref nor well-placed assistant saw the 180 degree deflection that the ball took and, bafflingly, awarded a corner. Squillaci's header was tipped over by Green to restore some semblance of justice. Green also dealt with the second corner by palming the ball out for a throw in which Fabregas promptly foul threw – lifting his back foot so far up that even the lino spotted it. That was just about the last action of an interesting half in which the home side had enjoyed a lot of possession but had been outworked for much of the match in midfield.

The early stages of the second half continued in much the same vein as the first. Parker was the first victim of the fall over and scream policy that gains Arsenal so many set pieces. Chamakh stayed so long on the floor that I feared for his life. The miracle that is the referee's whistle saw him recover from an injury that appeared so bad that the air ambulance must have been on standby. I swear that the sprinklers used at the Emirates must contain holy water from Lourdes, so often do stricken players recover so quickly. Jacobsen played safe at the back post and put the ball out for a corner that was dealt with easily.

Denilson was the next to writhe about in agony. Parker's challenge was strong but perfectly fair. The ref stopped play just in case – a strange decision given that it wasn't a foul and the injury wasn't serious. Even stranger in view of what was to come later. Parker then did give away a real free-kick taking out Chamakh in midfield – it was almost a relief to see a real foul for once. Normal service was resumed shortly after when Denilson went down under minimal contact from Boa-Morte, LBM picking up a yellow to add insult to injury. Nasri put his foot through the ball from 30 yards plus and his powerful drive rattlet the top of the bar on its way through to the snoring fans behind the goal, some of whom nearly woke up.

Then we had some spectacularly awful refereeing. Parker blocked a full blown effort from Fabregas with his face and, understandably, went down. The instructions to referees relating to head injuries are crystal clear. The game is to be stopped immediately. Mr Jones was having no truck with such concepts as concussion however, and he disgracefully allowed play to continue whilst Arsenal were on the attack. Parker gamely stood up, well sort of, but clearly he hadn't the faintest idea of where he was or what he was doing. Only after some desperate blocking and when it became apparent that we had managed to get the ball clear did the ref finally condescend to stopping the game – compare that with the instant reaction when Denilson had gone down earlier and you'll understand why Rob Green's reaction was to run to the edge of the box and give the ref an earful. Both Parker and the ref can count themselves lucky that the skipper was just dazed and confused. At least Parker had the excuse of having taken a blow to the head. What Jones' excuse was you'll have to ask him.

The next dive on the list was the most embarrassing I've seen since, well Di Michele's tumble against the scousers a few years back. An over hit pass somehow found its way to Arshavin who, having ascertained that a) he wouldn't be making much of it, b) he was in the box and c) Da Costa was somewhere in the general area, threw himself to the ground. It was so awful that even Jones, possibly still embarrassed for forgetting the instructions on head injuries, didn't fall for it – though he didn't quite go as far as producing the yellow card that the laws of the game demand for such simulation. One day a referee will have the guts to apply the laws of the game properly for diving. Sadly that ref will end up being pilloried for his bravery by the likes of Wenger. Until that day comes teams like Arsenal are going to carry on doing it because they know that the worst that will happen is that they don't get the free kick.

Chamakh went down again. Again the ref fell for it – well it was outside the box after all. Just before the free-kick Walcott replaced Denilson. Nasri eventually took the free-kick and Chamakh got on the end of it, only remembering to throw himself to the ground once the ball had ended up in Greens arms. Walcott's first involvement of the game came as fabregas played a fine ball inside Ilunga. Walcott bore down on goal and put the ball past Green only to see the ball come back off the post in to the arms of the 'keeper. Lucky? Maybe, but the 'keeper earned that luck over the match.

Piquionne, who had gamely ploughed a lone furrow up front, was beginning to show signs of fatigue and was replaced by Cole on 72 minutes. Meanwhile it was turning into one of those games that the press like to ignore for Robert Green. Walcott found some space on the edge of the box and his shot was turned away by Green despite the deflection that could have made it so difficult for him. Ilunga failed to deal with a cross from our left. The ball was cleared only to the edge of the box where Fabregas shot low and hard. Green got down brilliantly to save one-handed. Faubert then replaced Obinna with four on the clock left. This seemed like a good idea at the time – Obinna's defensive qualities aren't uppermost on his CV – however the substitution was a change that ultimately led to us losing. Song fed Clichy and, much as ilunga had done earlier, Fauber failed to get close enough to Clichy and committed the schoolboy error of turning his back on the ball. Clichy cut back in and played the ball into the box. Neither Da Costa nor Gabbidon picked up Song's run into the box and the bizarrely coiffeured one put the ball in at the far post with only two left to play.

It was gutting to concede so late when all had worked so hard – all that thrown away with one momentary lapse in defence. Still it woke up the hitherto silent majority in the crowd. I know it's an old cliché that the place is like a library but this represented one of the worst examples of “sing when you're winning” I can ever remember. It actually went quiet again afterwards as well!

Grant replaced Behrami with Barrera in a vain attempt to get something out of the match. This occurred just after LBM had made Fabregas looked daft with a nice turn that had been cynically ended by Fabregas pulling the shirt off LBM's back as he moved into promising space. Don't bother looking for Fabregas's name in the list of yellow cards. Either for the shirt pull of for kicking the ball away. Behrami didn't look too happy at the change but it seemed a sensible one to me. Barrera's first action was to be scythed down by a sandwich tackle by Bendtner and Nasri – I'd long since given up all thoughts of getting a decision in our favour from Mr Jones and I wasn't wrong this time. Fabregas then cynically brought a Da Costa break forward to an untimely end. We got the free-kick this time but despite the foul constituting Fabregas' third yellow card offence in three minutes – and his subsequent dissent his fourth – he still failed to appear in the book. Which made LBM's earlier caution all the more galling.

That was just about it. A spirited performance against the odds that didn't get the point it undoubtedly deserved. This was recognised by the travelling support whose applause for the team was generous and drowned out the ripple from those home fans who had stayed after the 88th minute. If we can marry that sort of spirit to a little bit of luck and some more attacking presence I'm convinced we won't stay bottom for long. As for Wenger, well I can neither confirm nor deny the rumours that the Anglo-French defence agreement provides for the short-sighted hypocrite to spend some time acting as a consultant to the Royal Navy. However, it would make sense. With all the experience he has of getting things to dive we'd never need fear one of our submarines ending up on a Scottish sandbank again.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Really didn't deserve to be on the losing side after that.


Lars Jacobsen
Decent if unspectacular.


Herita Ilunga
Given a tough time – just before Faubert did his jump Ilunga dis exactly the sam ething but got away with it.


Danny Gabbidon
Fine performance marred only by his little nap etc etc.


Manuel Da Costa
Fine performance marred only by his little nap as Song ran through for the goal.


Scott Parker
I believe the tv pundits refer to players who 'put in a shift'. Parker did overtime and the night shift as well. The selfless block from Fabregas' shot summed it up.


Mark Noble
Another who worked his socks off. His absence thanks to appendicitis will be felt over the next few weeks.


Luis Boa Morte
Didn't figure as an attacking force but wasn't afraid to get involved in the middle. The fact that he had a yellow to his name at the end and Fabregas somehow escaped scot-free was ludicrous.


Valon Behrami
Another who worked hard but his energy levels seemed to drop in the second half.


Victor Obinna
Not noted for his defensive qualities and did little to change that point of view. Wasted a couple of free-kicks.


Frederic Piquionne
Was on a bit of a hiding to nothing really – particularly in the second half.


Substitutes


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Piquionne, 73 mins) Another who had a bit of a thankless task. Battled gamely.


Julien Faubert
(Replaced Obinna, 87 mins) Sadly his one contribution was to turn his back on Clichy for the goal. The central defence might have been more aware of Song's run but it is Faubert's jump that will be remembered.


Pabloe Barrera
(Replaced Behrami, 90+3 mins) 'Go on son – you've got a couple of minutes of stoppage – go and rescue the game'. Oh full time. Hard luck.


Marek Stech
Did not play.


Winston Reid
Did not play.


James Tomkins
Did not play.


Radoslav Kovac
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Michael Jones.

Attendance: 60,086.

Man of the Match: Robert Green.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabbidon, Manuel Da Costa, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Luis Boa Morte, Valon Behrami, Victor Obinna, Frederic Piquionne.

Goals: None.

Booked: Herita Ilunga 23 Luis Boa Morte 53        .

Sent off: None.

Arsenal

Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Denilson, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh.

Substitutes: Walcott (Denilson 67), Bendtner (Arshavin 79), Eboue (Chamakh 90).

Subs not used: Szczesny, Rosicky, Vela, Djourou.

Goals: Song (88).

Booked: Chamakh, Song.

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Robert Green