Was it against Manchester United in the 5th Round of the FA Cup?
Was it against Chelsea in the league yesterday?
It was on Saturday 23rd February 2008, when Arsenal visited Birmingham City at St Andrews in the Premier League.
Before the game even kicked off we were sitting 5 points clear of Manchester United. If Eduardo doesn’t suffer that horrific injury at the hands of Martin Taylor we would have won that game easily. In the second half Arsenal played some excellent football and were for the most part crusing so you can’t say that the Manchester United game a week before halted our momentum. Unlike Alan Hansen and other so called “experts” I just don’t buy into that. Unfortunately the players didn’t perform in the first half (which under the circumstances is completely understandable) by which time we were trailing 1-0.
Conceding that last minute penalty (along with the events that preceded it) was the most devastating moment in our season. No game has hurt Arsenal as much as that one.
If that tackle doesn’t happen, we wouldn’t be 6 points behind the leaders right now.
Because the fact is we haven’t recovered since that game.
The belief just wasn’t there any more.
And the team as a whole just hasn’t performed since. You have the strong-minded players like Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy who have been solid and playing well but others have not.
He hasn’t been firing since. Look at the two Premier League games before the Birmingham City one. We played Manchester City away and Adebayor was on fire. Make no mistake about it, he was sensational that day. And more importantly his new partnership with Eduardo looked like it was finally coming together, and proof was the stunning goal Eduardo scored from Adebayors header. And just before the Birmingham game, we played Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates. Senderos opened the scoring and Adebayor scored another late on.
But since then he hasn’t scored in the league, and only once in the last 8 matches.
The main problem is that since then he has been basically playing upfront by himself which is one of the hardest jobs in football. If he plays as the lone striker he needs service and he hasn’t been getting it. Hleb, one of our best creative players has been misfiring and we don’t have Rosicky in the side. At least Eduardo would give him support in attack but obviously now that’s not possible.
The match report I wrote after the Manchester City game basically gave Adebayor the highest praise possible. I hailed it as pretty much the complete performance and it was. And I refuse to believe that he has become this terrible player overnight. I will be the first to admit that I have been very critical of him in recent weeks, but in hindsight I think those comments were very unfair. I mean where is the service? How many crosses did you see from wide positions against Chelsea yesterday?
And when you see him play it looks like his confidence is shot. He keeps passing the ball square or backwards instead of taking on players or passing it forward. It’s like he’s afraid of trying anything because it might not come off. And unfortunately his slump has come at the wrong time.
Is another one who has suffered a similar dip in form.
I’m not sure how I can explain his below-par performances of late really. He obviously looked distressed after Eduardo’s horrific injury and we all know Hleb’s game is ball retention and possession, so he is more likely than most to suffer a bad tackle than the rest.
Is that playing on his mind? Who knows.
The problem is that Hleb is supposed to be one of our main creative forces, along with Cesc Fabregas, who in comparison has been carrying the team. And especially with the absence of Rosicky, Hleb should be stepping up and improving his performances not the other way round.
Maybe his mind is elsewhere, probably on the ice cream business he and some Italian friend look like starting up this summer.
Did his strop at the end of the Birmingham game signal the end of his leadership? Did he lose respect in the dressing room? Because our defending has been suspect since and littered sloppy goals being conceded.
There’s no doubt that Gallas is a winner, and you can understand his frustrations at the end of an emotional football match but is that the right way to react after the game? It was hard to see if he was upset with Gael Clichy for making that mistake just before conceding the penalty or the fact the referee gave it.
He hasn’t looked the same since, but you wonder if that has to do with the return of Kolo Toure as well. It has been noted that Gallas and Toure can’t work together, and the fact is that Gallas and Senderos had been playing excellently together and as a partnership, have 7 clean sheets in 11 games – which is exceptional.
The Team In General
Well obviously losing Eduardo for the rest of the season is a massive blow, and looking in the position we are now we know who significant his absence really is.
He settled into the team from January and been scoring vital goals at vital times. There was the double at Goodison Park when we were trailing against an inform Everton side. Then there was the opener against West Ham United at home. Scoring early is so important in these tight games (especially as the season closes) and he was the man who would be most likely to break the deadlock. As it stands, in the last few league games our goals have come from Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner (who are both hardly regulars), Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos and Bacary Sagna.
He offered that extra threat we needed. Now the opposition know that all they have to do is concentrate on Adebayor alone and keep him out of the game.
With our midfield and Adebayor drawing blanks Eduardo would have made the difference.