All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Arsenal 1 – 0 Wigan

Posted by hiphopmama on December 6, 2008

  • 1-0 Adebayor, 16′

This weekend, my sporting worlds seemed to collide, and not in a good way. As a devoted Lakers fan, I watched with chagrin as my blazing hot team gave up a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter to lose to a sub-.500 team in Indiana. They followed this up with a fairly convincing win over Toronto and then, on Friday, tried to give away yet another sizable lead to a struggling team. In the third and final game of this road trip, the Lakers toyed with the Wizards like a cat lazily slapping around a mouse, building a 19 point lead in the second half, only to see it evaporate with their talented bench players on the floor. The Lakers ended up pulling out the win, but not without some nervous moments, including a chance for the Wizards to win the game on a last second three-pointer. 

What does this have to do with the Arsenal game? Plenty, especially for my viewing experience. Just like the Lakers in all three games, Arsenal were the superior side and played like it for stretches of time. The Lakers were considerably more dominant, but it’s true just the same. Arsenal jumped out to an early lead with a somewhat fortuitous 16th minute strike by Adebayor, who benefited from poor positioning by Titus Bramble and slotted the winner past Chris Kirkland. The rest of the game was hot and cold. The Wigan attack threatened numerous times and often for sustained periods, but they were unlucky and never broke through. The Arsenal defense played fairly capably for the early part of the game, but as it drew to a close they started to panic. Arsenal were close to that second insurance goal many times, with Robin Van Persie twice just missing the chance to double the lead, but when they couldn’t secure it, they became increasingly harried at the back. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they slipped up at the back all the way up to the midfield area. Eboue, who came in as a substitute for an injured Nasri in the first half, played a couple of poor passes and lost possession at crucial moments, and as the crowd got on him for it he seemed to shrink away and play even worse. You couldn’t help but feel awful for him, especially since he was filling in on the left wing when his normal position is at right back. Wenger eventually subbed him out for Silvestre at the very end, killing time and adding an extra defender, but it seemed like a questionable move. Silvestre didn’t play very convincingly, and it must have been even more devastating for Eboue to have been removed like that.

Arsenal managed to hang on, but only just. Amr Zaki, returning from injury, came on as a sub and ran his butt off to try to pry open the Arsenal defense. Heskey had the best chances for Wigan and only narrowly missed a header to tie the game, sending it just over the bar.

It was a nervy win for Arsenal, but three points is three points, I suppose. The word I kept thinking was “composure,” as that is exactly what the Gunners lacked. When it was clear they weren’t going to get a second goal, they should have just maintained possession and worked the clock down. Instead, the looked frantic in their passes and unsure of what exactly to do, and as a result they awarded Wigan a number of opportunities they needn’t have had. In the end, though, they managed to follow up their enormous win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with a victory, something they had been unable to do after beating Manchester United, or just about anybody, for that matter, as consecutive good performances have been hard to come by for this team. 

Watching Arsenal almost dissolve under pressure after a good start was certainly familiar to me after recent Lakers games, but it also reminded me how fortunate I’ve been to have the purple and gold as my basketball colors. Because while Arsenal have mostly lost this kind of close game, the Lakers have almost always won them. LA is currently 16-2 and clearly leading the Western Conference, yet I have been consistently critical of their play, particularly their defending and composure late in games. All of which is true, but it bears remembering that, even with all these apparent issues to tweak, they have still won a remarkable percentage of their games, which counts for a lot. You can say, as I have, that they have won the games that they were supposed to win, but even that is impressive. Plenty of teams – Arsenal included – can’t manage to do even that. The Tottenham debacle comes to mind, as do their games against Fulham, Hull City, and Stoke City. So I guess the moral of the story is, be grateful for what you have, because it can always be worse. Unless you’re a Clippers fan.

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