Derby defeat puts title out of reach

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal

It’s easier to damn than to praise after a defeat against your long-suffering nearest rivals, so let’s start off with the praise.

Firstly, for Arsenal to retain bragging rights in this fixture for 20 games, lasting over a decade, is a magnificent achievement for Arsene Wenger, it really is. History will forever remind us that between November 1999 and April 2010 we did not lose a single league game to them.

Secondly, Sol Campbell. For a creaking 35-year-old, he really did roll back the years last night. Despite the predictable abuse, his experience was there for all to see, and his urgency and drive was bettered by no-one. When we were chasing the game in the second half, he was often mixing things up at the half-way line. And when we had pushed up right at the end looking for the equaliser, and suddenly it was a one-on-one chase to get the ball with Bale, Campbell matched him yard for yard. I’m not sure what his plans are for next season, but given the possible departure of Gallas and the certain departures of Silvestre and Senderos, on this form another year would hardly be a gamble.

Thirdly, Robin van Persie’s return showed us what we have missed. Despite the lion’s share of possession we had done little to trouble the Spuds defence until he came on. He was incredible when he did, having one volley and a pinpoint free kick marvellously saved by the not so Hilarious Gomes. How we have missed him.

Overall though, it was a performance full of what-ifs.

What if we had had fewer injuries over the course of the season? Vermaelen was last night added to the roster of the crocked, joining the back of the snaking Colney queue for plaster and strepsils. For much of the game we were without three of our best midfielders, both of our best central defenders and our best striker. Spuds were without a few of their best players too so it’s not an excuse, but over the course of a season it’s been a major factor.

What if we had played with the incision and wit of the last 15 minutes a bit sooner? All the possession of the first half counted for naught. While some of our players stood up to the occasion, others did not. Wenger’s comments on Sol Campbell and the team in general were telling:

“Sol was one of our better players tonight. I think he was outstanding and he has shown what a winner he is and if he won championships, you see why. He deserves a lot of credit tonight because he turned up with a real performance.”

Others, he said, “were not mature enough”.

It wasn’t the night for a mixed bag of a performance, but that’s what we got. For all our possession, we weren’t creative enough in the midfield and we gave away both the goals weakly.

“Our passing was not quick enough, not sharp enough,” said Wenger. “We had a lot of ineffective possession.”

But the bottom line is we lost, and that means, unless you’re a big fan of improbability, we’re out of the title race for another year. To be honest, it’s been a long shot for a while. We’ve come back from the dead twice this campaign, which is impressive enough, but we were always chasing, chasing, chasing, and four points from the last nine has made that chase all but mathematically impossible.

Where do Arsenal go from here, you might ask?

Wigan is the answer.

12 thoughts on “Derby defeat puts title out of reach

  1. Nice write up sir.

    Sums up my feelings exactly. A lot of what if’s. Not just in that game but for the season as a whole.

    Why Mr Wenger did not add to the squad in January is a mystery to me. The excuses were the good players are cup tied in the champs league. But we were still in 2 other domestic comps at the time!

    Anyway there’s nothing to say new additions would have helped us.

    Overall a pleasing campaign as we have improved since last season no question.

    I agree with Alan smiths comments regarding the domestic cup comps and perhaps Arsene should pay a little more attention to those next season.

    Onwards to next year and it has been another enjoyable season for me personally

  2. Yes campbell was head and shoulders our best player.
    A tale of 2 keepers once again- one making 3 world class saves, the other not able to make one good save- both goals were preventable by a good keeper.Even great keepers make mistakes- but every time we play a good team- we play 2 goal catch up and lose
    What Wenger said after the game was an understatement of massive proportions. This team has developed a losing mentality and it will continue to fail with these players in midfield.They played like kids without their dad. It is not good enough.

  3. goonertalk – I have to disagree about this being ” a pleasing campaign” – it’s yet another season without a trophy! It just gors to show how expectations have fallen and winning nothing is considered “pleasing” by some supporters.

    We have never been more than an outside bet for the Premiership this season and winning the Champions League was never going to happen – going out at quarter final stage is about our level.

    In future we need to take the FA Cup and even the League Cup more seriously as they are our most realistic chances of silverware, unless something fundamental changes with the team to allow us to stand a more realistic chance of winning the bigger prizes.

  4. The impact Sol has had on this team demonstrates the need for players with more experience and more of a winning mentality. Without such players in the squad the younger players will never learn how to win. Waiting for our young players to mature is a waste of time, as they will never fulfil their potential without more experienced players alongside them to teach them their trade.

    As an analogy, if a young person wanted to be a carpenter he would become an apprentice working with an experienced and silled carpenter, who would pass his knowledge on to the apprenntice so one day the apprentice becomes skilled and experienced in his own right. What Wenger is doing at Arsenal is akin to putting two apprentices together and hoping that somehow they will discover the secrets of the trade. It’s never going to happen!

  5. Agree Farnborough – except that we do have experience. Trouble is, the experienced players we have are either out injured or just not good enough.

    New experienced keeper, new experienced centre half, and probably another experienced central midfielder and we might get the balance right.

  6. diaby, almunia , denilson, silvestre, wallcott needs to play fringe roles or leave.

    I dont care who comes in if that happens.

  7. Rotor, you — and Arsene — summed up the night very well. Great write-up.

    Prior to last night NB had 8 goals in 10 matches, yet hardly saw the ball most of the game. Staggering …

    Sol Campbell: what a performance last night, and what a redemption he’s had this season. Legend.

  8. Farnborough Gunner

    While I mostly agree with you, the Premiership has become that much harder these days. We are improving but we see forever also rans because other teams are increasing at a faster rate. Not an excuse for a club like Arsenal though!

  9. The only thing I disagree with is the “both our best central defenders out” we had both and lost one after 19 minutes, I prefer Sol to Billy, he has been a great addition to the squad, best player on the pitch last night by a mile. What a difference RVP made too, he terrorised the scum for 20 minutes, the biggest miss of our season I believe. If we could keep him injury free for a whole season he would be up there with the best in the world, no doubt at all.

    Here’s to next season!!!

  10. Sajit,
    This season I think Chelsea and ManU were somewhat weaker than in the past few seasons. I don’t know if they will make improvements this summer, but I am sure ManCity and Tottenham will.

    This year was a good chance to capture the title for this reason and we certainly showed some improvement over last year–the young players are making some progress. But it shouldn’t be exaggerated when projecting for next year, I think. We need some experienced, quality players as Farnsborough says.

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