Post-match reflections: Mental fortitude’s Arsenal 3-2 Pragmatic AND shambolic
Van Persie facing a potential ban, refereeing incompetence, and more.
* Van Persie’s contract is up in 18 months and he will surely demand a hefty wage increase to stay at Arsenal. Wenger’s goal is not to make sure that he stays, but to make the decision one solely for the bean-counters, proving that Arsenal still have what it takes to compete with the best. Today’s display of mental fortitude is a fine way of doing so.
* Villa will rightly feel aggrieved that they were on the end of two refereeing oversights, one elbow missed and one shockingly incompetent offside decision. But being angry at referees only stokes any flames when you’re at the top of your game – when you’re playing like Villa are, it just looks like empty steam from a manager running out of ideas.
* Arsenal’s qualification for the Champions League could well hinge on Van Persie’s potential retrospective ban for his elbow. Welcome to modern football – where tens of millions of pounds and a club’s short-to-medium-term future hinge on the number of times Sky Sports News decide to replay an incident.
* The problem so many ‘pragmatic’ managers find out about when they are sacked, compensated handsomely, and paid to appear on TV to complain about their sacking, is that such a style is entirely unjustified when the team isn’t playing well. When they’re actually sabotaging their own ambitions, it’s unforgivable. It’s easy to see why teams with much to lose – a title, their Premier League status – opt to keep it tight, but why anybody ever thought that it was an acceptable model for Villa – a club synonymous with mid-table mediocrity – to follow is baffling. They may have been set-up well at the start, but that’s the problem – if you aim to be tight, you have to be tight all the time. If you aim to be exciting, you only need to show flickers of it to succeed.
* Given Arsenal’s usual history, it’s probable that Van Persie will be banned – if only due to the fact that the game otherwise heralded the return of Sagna and Arteta.