Redemption came Sunday for Rafael Benítez, but come May, an equally important narrative from the weekend’s football could be Arsenal's sloppiness in failing to punish slips from so many rivals in the Premier League title race.
Since back-to-back away defeats in Manchester, Arsenal had quietly and efficiently put together a run of four consecutive league victories to support Arsène Wenger’s claim that he is “convinced” his team will win a trophy.
The reward for such consistency had been a golden opportunity to move within three points of Chelsea, with a game in hand. Yet familiar weaknesses were again evident as they allowed West Ham to scramble to a 2-2 draw despite trailing by two goals with just 16 minutes remaining.
Van Persie scored the goal early in only the 15th minute and was supported by Gallas, who scored in the 36th minute, making clear the Gunners' intention to take advantage of Utd's loss.
With such a superb start, it was looking that Arsenal's goals would flow. But the hosts were gifted a goal when Mannone parried Valon Behrami’s free kick onto the head of Carlton Cole, who scored from close range.
Four minutes later, Alex Song was adjudged to have touched Cole and substitute Alessandro Diamanti gleefully equalised from the spot.
Scott Parker’s dismissal clipped the wings of West Ham’s chances of completing the comeback. The home side was also indebted to keeper Robert Green for a stupendous save from van Persie in injury time.
Damn—a game we never looked like we'd win (from the start or even after being 2-0 up!)! Arsenal always looked like the second-best team for most periods of the game to a relegation-threatened team!
All throughout the game, I was left wondering if this kind of thing would've happened to Chelsea if they had led. The answer was no.
We looked extremely light when defending and we needed three players at times defending Cole to get the ball off him. This just shows other teams the way around Arsenal is to boss them around physically.
We always seem so casual in possession when we have the lead. There's no zip,penetration, or pace.
I blame Wenger (as bad as I feel about it) for the last two draws that felt more like a defeats. He waits and doesn't change the system, formation, or make any changes at all when his team is suffering.
Clearly at 60 minutes, when West Ham were throwing on fresh attack-minded players, we should've responded with a substitution ourselves considering most of these players had played a CL away game mid week.
It was at 80 min that he brought on Bendtner for Eboue, which was a bad decision again. Eboue was the only player who looked up for it.
The fullbacks are having a really, really poor time this season. Sagna can't get forward and Clichy cant defend. Every time Sagna has the ball, the game and the momentum of our games go down (I know it was his cross that created the first goal) and it was a lucky goal at that).
Clichy seems to have lost confidence in his ability and looks a shadow of himself in the last few seasons.
We are too reliant on Galls-Verma-Song to do the defensive jobs. With Denilson injured, players like Eboue and Diaby (who can't defend for anything) play full time. And Vito Mannone is a parody of the fantastic keeper that played against Fulham. I wonder if Sagna and Clichy defend these days at all.
All we required was a clinical performance. WH handed us two goals with barely a fight. We are just not professional enough. The defensive problems are back.
Not to Worry about
We should not worry about our team. People may say the defeat at Upton Park means:
1. We need Nando to partner Robin (despite being the side to score the most goals).
2. Song, "Clicky," and Sagna are not world class (because someone plays FIFA a lot).
3. Wenger was wrong to field Mannone (because people who saved our butt should be benched or rested).
Relax, we'll win the actual derby.