That just about sums up my Sunday. Thank God my three-year old, Lucien, all decked out in his full home kit to watch Arsenal with his dad, doesn’t yet realize that football is game in which you either win or lose, or he’d have been in tears. Sunday was beyond frustrating. I told myself to wait at least 24 hours before writing on the match, but real-life beckons and so I must do it now.

Arseblog’s assessment this morning is a bit harsh but basically spot-on. However, for personal reasons, when it comes to Arsenal, I always try to remain positive. The disallowed goal was certainly a turning point, as Wenger has said. If that goal is given, we have a completely different match in which Arsenal would have regained the momentum right after the break. The weather, the injuries, Andre Marriner… everything seemed to conspire against us. Our luck with officials’ decisions and injuries in the last couple of years makes me think that we used up all our luck during the Invincible season and the unbeaten run.

The first thirty-five minutes were as satisfying as possible without grabbing the lead. Arsenal controlled the match, continually pushed Chelsea behind the ball to defend, and reduced Chelsea to playing almost entirely on the counterattack. One moment of William Gallas flat-footedness, and Drogba efficiency, deflated the entire atmosphere. The second goal, an unfortunate own goal, just a few minutes later, had an even more devastating effect.

Yet, the side came out of the interval determined to fight back and get something from the match. As the second half began, we once again pushed Chelsea onto their back-foot, doing almost enough to get the goal. When the second goal was disallowed, the weight of the entire day fell on the entire side’s shoulders and getting the possibility of getting something from the match looked more and more remote with each passing second.

I know Arseblogger says about our injuries: “That is irrelevant. We were the ones who had to cope with some of our important players being out and we couldn’t do it.” But I would say that in the entire league, the only striker who has even been close to matching, and arguably has been more valuable than, Drogba is van Persie. Just by the very nature of football, I wonder if it is realistic to lambast a side missing such a key player, and more, losing to the strongest team in the league, possibly the world, at the moment, at full-strength.

We now find ourselves 11 points back, with a game-in-hand. Assuming we win the game-in-hand, which is Bolton at home, we are 8 points back at the beginning of December. I would have thought that it is not an insurmountable lead by any means since we have in the past come back from bigger deficits far further on in the season. However, without van Persie, with Eduardo struggling to look even a shell of his former self, and Carlos Vela needing games to even be in a position to attempt to fill van Persie’s role, it does look highly unlikely.

Had Vela gotten more games last season rather than languishing on the bench besides for some stunning Carling Cup performances and a few late-season league cameos, he would have been in a far better position at the moment. Still, he looks the better option at taking van Persie’s place than Eduardo, who is struggling to regain the form he had upon his initial return from injury 11 months ago. His confidence is obviously low and that is not good for any striker.

All in all, the van Persie injury will either see Vela and/or Eduardo step up their game in the coming months or Wenger may be forced to go back in for Chamakh in January. As for the defense, I don’t see there’s much to do there. Back in September, Arsene spoke about the fact that he was considering giving Gallas a new contract at the end of the season. But I fear it may be time to let the man walk and use the money the club didn’t spend this summer to find a proper CB partner for Vermaelen next summer. Of course, our defensive issues are not wholly down to the centerbacks, but the issue has to be addressed in some way. Arsene might also consider finding a more Song-type player to alongside the Cameroonian in the midfield rather than the likes of Denilson and Diaby to increase the club’s steel.

Up to Standard?

Tuesday evening brought us one of the strangest matches this supporter has seen in a long time. Arsenal completely dominated the entire match yet they won only 2-nil and Standard Liege hit the post twice. Coming back from injuries, we saw Carlos Vela get a long-awaited start and Theo Walcott get in on some action, but we also saw Kieran Gibbs go out for months just seconds from the final whistle and William Gallas look worse than Rocky after 12 rounds with Apollo Creed. We saw three clear penalties that weren’t given because, as Alan Parry said, “They must not have penalties in Austria,” referring to the officials’ home.

I am conflicted as to what I should think about the match. The injuries to Arshavin, Gallas, and Gibbs certainly overshadow the great attacking performance. I certainly don’t agree with Paul Merson and Myles Palmer that Arsenal could’ve lost this match. Of course, Standard’s first time hitting the post came before Nasri had opened up the scoring but even at 1-nil down Standard rarely looked a threat going forward.

Song had a great match and news of his newly-signed long-term deal yesterday was more than welcome. But it seems all eyes were on Vela, and rightly so. Ever since his magnificent introduction to the club with some truly wonderful goals in last year’s Carling Cup, we’ve all been waiting for him to get a right chance in the first team. He didn’t do as well we would have hoped the other night but he has been out injured for most of the season. Nevertheless, the internet’s resident bitter idiot, Myles Palmer, wrote, in an article entitled, “Carlos Vela needs to grabs this chance.If not, adios”:

It’s about time his Arsenal career took off. Seriously, how long can anybody be a promising young striker? If Vela was any good, shouldn’t he be in the team by now?

Huh? He’s been at the club for a year. He was injured at the start of the season. How long can he be a promising striker?? Are you serious, Myles? Not half as long as your beloved, English Theo Walcott, that’s for sure. “If Vela was any good?” Anyone who saw his performances last year in the Carling Cup KNOWS he is good. His problem has been that he is not only stuck behind van Persie but Eduardo as well and so he has not gotten the kind of playing time we all would have hoped. Is everyone else as sick of this tool as I am?

The injury to Gibbs is the most problematic for Sunday as I doubt many of us have much confidence in Traore or Silvestre stepping into the left-back spot against Chelsea. I would think the Boss may have to bite the bullet and play Eboue there.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers…

Still Paying the Price for the International Break

There’s really no sense in dwelling on this match. Sunderland is a solid side this season that drew at United and beat Liverpool. Almost our entire side had been away from the club for two weeks on plane trips and playing in meaningless matches. “But the international breaks didn’t affect Chelsea or United or Spurs,” you will say. And I would say that you are right, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t affect us. There are no excuses for losing the match but there are reasons.

Apparently, Arsenal’s title hopes are once again dashed, according to many. As of right now, this is just one disappointing result. It’s not the end of the season. But it does raise some serious questions. Was this performance indicative of how the team will perform without van Persie? That is the big question.

I tend to lean towards thinking not, but I am an one of those optimists when it comes to the Arsenal. I can’t see the side all of a sudden going from scoring 3 or 4 goals per match to struggling to score simply because van Persie has been removed from the equation and especially with Cesc, Arshavin, Eduardo, Rosicky, Nasri, etc… still on the pitch. It was a nasty day against an insurgent club on the Saturday following yet another two-week/two-match international break. Of course, despite those conditions, we still need to be able to get results.

Despite falling 8 points behind Chelsea (5 if we win our game in hand), we did control most of the game even if Sunderland did work harder against us in midfield than almost any other side we’ve played all season. Sunderland’s goal came off of a fluke bounce, though the bounce came after we failed to deal with a set piece, yet again. Aaron Ramsey failed to replicate his international form and Traore didn’t look altogether solid at left-back.

Another bright spot for me was the introduction of Carlos Vela. Arsenal looked more dangerous after he came on and if Eduardo cannot get it together, I now feel the Boss would not hesitate to use Vela more than he has in the past, having said openly that Vela is the reason Adebayor could be sold and not replaced. The return of Theo Walcott was another bright spot on an otherwise dismal Saturday afternoon.

Arsenal have shown themselves capable of picking themselves up from disappointing performances and getting back on track quickly. Following the Manchester defeats, we put together a 13-match unbeaten run which included 6 wins out of 7 in the Premier League. We have dealt with adversity well this season and we will now need to do it again.

In other news, Stan Kroenke has bought ten more shares and is now a mere 62 away from being obligated to launch a takeover bid. In other interesting news, Man City drew their sixth consecutive match and have won just one in their last eight, keeping only one clean sheet in that time, a nil-nil draw at Birmingham. Kolo Toure seems to have caught whatever disease it is that Adebayor has that keeps making him talk about Arsenal, saying:

I had problems with certain players at Arsenal, especially one, whose name I will not say because I don’t want to feed the controversy. I didn’t have much time on the pitch last year because I think there’s a player who got the manager believing that he and I had no understanding on the field. That did surprise me hugely.

I have never looked to put a spoke in anyone’s wheel at all. I have never wanted to be captain. My wish was to finish my career at Arsenal, but there are always banana-skins.

Don’t want to feed “the” controversy? That hasn’t been a controversy for anyone but Kolo since last season. It’s amazing how both he and Adebayor are living in the past, seemingly with Arsenal constantly on their minds. No wonder they can’t win matches or keep clean sheets. I don’t think that Arsene Wenger needed William Gallas to tell him that there was no understanding between him and Gallas, or “he-who-shall-not-be-named.” Every Arsenal fan has “believed” that for years. There WAS no understanding.

Anyway, seeing as how I don’t want to dwell on our first lackluster match in a while and we have a fairly unimportant CL fixture standing between us and Chelsea, I’ll have to leave it there, for now.