What Dropped Points Will Cost Arsenal?
Let me start by saying that I am not the sort of person to scapegoat a player; that’s not my style. I have strong opinions on players sure, but I wouldn’t ever pick out one player and blame them for an entire season. A game maybe, if it’s warranted, but never a season.
Gervinho for example. I have very strong opinions on him. I think he has amazing talent but awful execution of said talent. He could be something special but more often than not he is something distinctly average at best. This is an opinion some share and some don’t and the cause of many heated debates.
Ramsey is another. I hate the way people scapegoat him and have also had many heated debates defending the lad and have lost count of the amount of blogs I’ve written in his defence, and Theo’s, and Per’s and Giroud’s. All players the boo-boys hop to and from to blame our season/s on.
Sagna’s mistake against United is pretty much the reason for this blog today. Some will call me a hypocrite and say I am scapegoating him, in fact many have already, but from my perspective I don’t think I am. I’m not blaming him for the season although I do apportion more blame on his shoulders for the United result than I do the rest of the team. Harsh? Maybe. Justified? Also maybe. Grossly unfair? No.
I said at the time and again today that if we don’t make the top four we can look at that mistake as a huge cause. It wouldn’t be the cause but it would be one of the most significant, in my opinion.
Sagna has a name and that is why I am using it but it really could have been anyone. It is the mistake, not the person, that I worry may be a season defining moment. I have to mention the name when talking about an incident otherwise people may not know what I am talking about but to me the name is irrelevant (unless of course it is something that happens every single week).
The reason I worry that particular mistake, over other mistakes, may define our season is the timing. I have a belief, some think it is bonkers, some radical, some totally agree, and that belief is, points dropped near the end of the season have a great significance than points dropped at the beginning or middle. Why? Because there is less time to recover. When we lost 2-0 to Liverpool, 8-2 to United, 4-3 to Blackburn and 2-1 to Tottenham did it matter? Of course it did but did it make the champions league spots unobtainable? Evidently not.
It didn’t make the top four spots unobtainable because we still had 31 games and thus 93 points to play for. In fact, we claimed 22 out of the next 24 points before another mini-blip.
The three back to back losses in January 2012, did they put 3rd spot out of reach? No because we had 16 games left and thus 48 points to play for, which wouldn’t have changed our league position had we won them all but would have put us only 5 points behind the champions and possibly would’ve given RvP a reason to stay, who knows, total speculation. However, the point is, the games before January whilst important to our league finish were “recoverable” from if mistakes were made. Losing to QPR and Wigan as well as drawing with Chelsea, Stoke and Norwich potentially were not because we had fewer games to build momentum and put pressure on our rivals at the most crucial of times. Thankfully we still crossed the line.
Do you think Chelsea or Totteringham would worry about Arsenal being a point or so behind with 25 games to go more than they would with 5 games to go? No. They wouldn’t even be worried the same amount. The closer you get to the finishing line the more things matter.
An example would be, who do you think would be punished more for making a mistake, a marathon runner or a sprinter? The sprinter right? Because they don’t have the distance to make it up. If the marathon runner makes a mistake with a mile to go they probably won’t recover either but if they made one with 20, 15, 10 miles to go they could.
Another example would be United winning the league against Villa. Was that victory against Villa more important than all the others, the same or less so? I’d say more and I’m sure the United players would too. If they didn’t beat Villa and lost all of their remaining games they may not have been crowned champions but they knew if they won that game, not the 30-odd before it, but that game, they would be champions. They made mistakes along the way, not many grant you, but they made mistakes and they recovered from it and put themselves in the position to finish top. Just like 2002 when we won at Old Trafford. That win clinched the league, without it we may not have been champions.
Back to that mistake and that is the position we were in. We made mistakes, individually and collectively, recovered from them and put ourselves in a position where our destiny was in our hands. Win our games, we finish third/fourth. We went one nil up and then had something to lose which due to that mistake we did. Can we say for certain we would have won without the mistake? No, that cannot be known, but that doesn’t make the mistake any less crucial.
That is why I believe that mistake could, probably won’t but could, prove to be more costly than the same player (I’m honestly not singling him out, it just so happened that was the last big defensive mistake that cost us point IMO) passing the ball to Fellaini to score the equaliser when we played Everton in November. We’ve had time to recover from that and pick points up and put our destiny in our hands however when we drew with United we handed our destiny other to two other clubs. They will probably hand it back very soon but at this stage of the season we shouldn’t be counting on gifts.
Some people who I respect very much for their opinions, even if I disagree with them, have said that Giroud missing opportunities etc are as much as a cause for our ‘situation’ than defensive mistakes from any player. I don’t agree and maybe my reasoning is flawed or just naïve but I stick by it.
In days gone by it used to be 2 points for a win (before my time) but the reason for that kind of shapes my opinion. For me, all games start with each team holding a point each, if you score more than the other team you take their point (which is why it used to be 2 for a win) and get an extra one as well. If you finish nil-nil you walk away with the point you started with. If you go behind and then claw back for a draw you have ‘won’ the point you started with. If you go ahead you have three points to add to your tally at the final whistle. If however, in that time you concede the same amount of goals you scored you have to give a point back to the other team (and one is given back to the universe or something). Which is why people say “that’s two points dropped”. You were winning and you lost the points. Obviously if you lose you call it 3 points down the drain but technically it’s only 1 unless of course you were ahead, then you really have lost 3 points.
It is for this reason I don’t put missed opportunities to score above or on the same level as a defensive mistake. Call me crazy, call me stupid but there was a reason we made up “1-nil to the Arsenal” and there’s a reason it only takes one goal to win a football match. If it’s the last game of the season and you need a win to secure your target and it’s nil-nil and you miss an easy shot then of course it’s the same but with 35, 30, 25, 20, heck even 5 games to go it’s not the same in my book as a defensive error (no matter the culprit/s).
There are obvious flaws in my argument and my reasoning but I’m not here to present an airtight argument. The Giroud chances at Everton we could say would’ve put us at an advantage if he had scored but it was a nil-nil game and we still had five left to play so with 15 points up for grabs I don’t think it is on a par with giving away a 1-nil lead. Sure, it counts and we could’ve done with those chances being buried but they weren’t. In one situation we were chasing a lead and didn’t get it, despite trying hard to. In the other situation we had a lead and gave it away carelessly. If United had scored in a different manner from a non-mistake situation there’d be nothing to “complain” about. We can also say that we could’ve gone on to win the game 2-1 but I think that is more unfair than mildly berating a player for a headless mistake as blaming the team for not scoring more after being in a winning position and then seeing that lead slip for no reason just before half-time is harsh in my book.
I guess my point, which is probably getting a bit lost, is that mistake against United or any other mistake that comes in the next few games could well shape our season. If we win our remaining games but don’t make the top four we could pin point that mistake as the turning point. Sure we made mistakes before that but we recovered from them and got back into the driving seat. The last few games of the season are like cup games and mistakes are incredibly hard to bounce back from.
It may seem like I am blaming Sagna as an individual, I am not. I blame him (and it could be anyone) for making a mistake that was unnecessary and could prove fatal to our top four hopes given we were in a position to claim a top four spot without relying on other results.
I’m still confident we’ll take fourth at the least but I’d much rather it was up to us and not down to other results, especially at this stage of the season.
I’m sure many of you will disagree and that is fine, I welcome opposing comments but before I go I want to leave you with something to ponder.
You can build a house with the best foundations in the world but if you don’t execute the building of the house properly you won’t have a safe house to live in and it could tumble at any moment. However, you can build average foundations, making a few mistakes along the way, but still have the finished house pass building regulations. What goes before is important but what happens at the end is final, vitally so, because it cannot be built upon.
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