Sunday, March 28, 2010
Arsenal Mugged Again...at the Scene of a Previous Crime
Just like Bruce Wayne going back to Crime Alley to see where Batman was born in fire, Arsenal returned to St. Andrews—the very ground where the foundations for this current side were built when Eduardo broke his leg.
Just like Batman, there turned out to be a real Joker in the pack—Manuel Almunia.
Two years ago, Arsenal's title tilt faded badly after Eduardo broke his leg in a tackle with Martin Taylor. The club did not know how to deal with such a setback.
William Gallas, the captain at the time, made an absolute spectacle of himself by sitting in the centre circle in protest after the match.
Their manager, Arsene Wenger, castigated Martin Taylor in the press for the forceful nature of his tackle, but the French manager retracted his comments sometime later after he realised there was no real malice in the tackle.
Their young squad struggled to come to terms with everything falling apart around them.
Cesc Fabregas was eventually made captain as Gallas was stripped of the honor, and so the first few bricks were placed in the foundation of this current side.
Roll on two years, and Arsenal are very much contenders for the title.
While they may have a young squad, their players are incredibly experienced.
They have overcome many obstacles during this season, and their manager deserves a lot of credit for dragging the team into the ring for the title fight.
Many pundits had written Arsenal off at the start of the season. Almost everyone said they didn't have a chance when they lost Robin van Persie in November, and when Manchester United and Chelsea took them apart.
However, each and every time, their manager and captain have picked up their teammates, dusted them off, and gotten them ready for the next battle.
At the beginning of March, the club lost Aaron Ramsey to a horrific leg break in the game against Stoke City at the Britannia. As before, all the right elements were in place for their title challenge to capitulate once again.
Not this time.
Having suffered through crimes like this before, Arsenal knew how to deal with the situation, and turned the tragedy to their advantage—running out 3-1 winners.
No captains crying in the centre circle this time. No, this time around, Cesc Fabregas stood tall when his team needed him most and fired home a penalty when the whole world was watching.
Miss—and his mind was elsewhere. Score—and send a message that this team are real, and will not give up without a fight.
Their birthing at St. Andrews was beginning to show.
Arsenal returned to the scene of the crime on Saturday...the scene of their birth.
It was a game where they did everything right. They played well, and on another day would have walked away with a win.
Media everywhere were in the middle of writing another list of plaudits for this newer, stronger, better Arsenal team when Kevin Phillips scored an equalizer in the 93rd minute—forcing a complete re-write.
Manuel Almunia's Joker act in goal costing his team an invaluable three points that very few teams take from Alex McLeish's team in Birmingham.
The 1-1 draw at St. Andrews puts a dent in their title hopes, but it has not extinguished that flicker of hope.
It will take more than that to beat this Arsenal team.
On Tuesday, the Gunners travel to Camp Nou to take on the most beautiful footballing side in the world—Barcelona.
It will be an epic battle, and will go a long way in declaring Arsenal's hopes for not only the Champions League but the English Premier League as well.