Monday 13 February 2012

Arsenal's high point this season?

Watching Thierry Henry scoring the winner against Sunderland sparked such wild celebrations that I was forced into thinking it might be this season's high point.

When it comes to low points, there have already been a lot to choose from: the mauling at Old Trafford and other away-day defeats at Swansea and Blackburn also come to mind for me.

Yet it's some of the off-the-field activities that are angering other fans. They believe the directors are trousering the profits and/or watching their shares increase in value while the team grows more and more ragged around the edges.

Before the Sunderland game, this was the kind of thing the fans were talking about. How the high point was the Champions League final defeat against Barcelona and how it's all been downhill ever since. They put this down to a lack of investment in the playing staff.

It was hard to argue with that assessment, despite Arsenal dominating possession against a dogged and determined side like Sunderland. And when the Black Cats took the lead, thanks to Per Mertesacke tripping over his own legs, it looked like the faithful would have to swallow yet another inglorious defeat.

Somehow from the depths of despair came hope in the shape of supersubs. Subbing has never been Wenger's strong point, in my opinion. He sticks rigidly to the format of taking players off in the 67th to 70th minutes of matches. No doubt he decided that was the optimum time to remove players from the fray after years of meticulous research! Well, it's not a good idea to question that policy as Andrey Arshavin has found to his cost. After airing his disappointment that Wenger is inflexible in this area, the poor little Russian has seen his minutes on the pitch dwindle to nearly nothing. He is so far down the pecking order now that he seems more 'pecked at' than 'pecking', as Wenger's thinly-veiled criticism of his defending at Swansea would seem to indicate.

Yet the little Russian sparrow showed that he can still fly on the wing! Although he only had a few minutes on the pitch, he made his time on it count by supplying our strutting peacock of the past, Thierry Henry, with a goal on a plate. Henry wasn't in the mood to miss.

Before that another supersub, Aaron Ramsey, had pulled Arsenal level with a superb long-range strike that went in off both posts. He's been so out-of-form of late, he also seemed an unlikely saviour.

Most unlikely of all was seeing Wenger's subs work out so well. Normally it feels likes he's forced into subbing, as he was when Mertesacke went off or it's completely formulaic. If you do the same things habitually you're bound to get it right sometimes: like the broken clock that's right twice a day!

Time seemed to stop when Henry scored the winner. Let's hope that was not the high point of the season, as Arsenal have still got the FA Cup to play for starting again at The Stadium Of Light.

One thing is clear though: it will be tougher without Henry, who will be sorely missed now he's returning to the MLS. Like Berry Gordy's tongue-less peacocks of the past, this proud exponent of the beautiful game has never been too loud for his master. Hence, Henry has always been revered by Wenger and treated like the legend he still is.

Meanwhile, our little Russian sparrow will have to learn from the legend and be a bit quieter if he wants to earn more game time at Arsenal. He is our classiest player and somehow Wenger needs to get the best out of him, if Arsenal are to remain fourth and challenging for silverware in the cups.

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