Worse yet for the Dutch champions they are now in deep financial do-da's due to the fact that their finances are closely aligned to the now bankrupt DSB Bank. But sad as that is that's their problem. Ours was to pick up some more points and stretch our lead at the head of Group H with a growing injury list.
Arsenal were without Rosicky (knee) Walcott (ligaments), Bendtner and Eduardo (both groin), Denilson (back) and Djourou (knee) for the Champions League visit to AZ Alkmaar. While also not available for selection Nasri (broken leg) and Lukasz Fabianski (knee) were at least on the comeback trail with our reserve team. So our starting line-up still, somewhat surprisingly, included Manonne but also the returning Clichy, plus Eboue up front together with all the usual suspects. Whilst the returning from Mexico Vela was on the bench alongside all the usual bench warmers.
I found it difficult to support a team playing in blue (long sleeves) against a team wearing red shirts with white sleeves and white shorts, but I expect I'll get over it. It certainly confused my much better half when she wandered past the telly.
Arsenal's performance on a blustery cool night with a strong swirling wind was deceptive. Although seemingly keeping Alkmaar at arms length and looking like we could always step up from the second gear in which we played is not really worthy of a full report so I'm not about to give it one. We could and should have buried them, but didn't. We could and should have played at a higher tempo, but didn't. We could and should have maintained the lead once we'd gone ahead, but failed. We are still vulnerable at set plays and we still fail to benefit from ours. We can on occasions kill teams off, but as with this match we all too often fail to do so. A two-goal lead is the minimum requirement for a team that leaks quite pathetic goals from mediocre teams but we never got that far and didn't play as if we were desperate for a second. All of which has left us just one point clear at the top when it so clearly should have been three.
The match was played out in a neat 17,000 capacity stadium and the atmosphere was good until we scored, after which all you could hear were the Gooners until very late on. Alkmaar had plenty of possession early on but for all their neat passing they never looked remotely like penetrating our midfield, never mind the defence. They stroked it around, we covered and pressed. A break by Diaby saw Van Persie's shot saved as both sides played the passing game. Clichy to Arshavin to Cesc for the killer cross but the ball had just cleared the goal-line prior to the cross. The Verminator in fast to start a counter attack.
Alkmaar could be summed up as having a lot of possession without managing to create any real pressure. Arsenal were not worried about them having the ball because we felt we could step up a couple of gears at any point. Indeed we could have but never really did. 'Come on you Gunners' a shout from Maria could be clearly heard and was perhaps a plea for us to change gear. 25 minutes before Alkmaar's first shot in anger. An Eboue cross from which Arshavin tried to score from a narrow angle. Great play by Eboue to start an attack. Great interception by Clichy, but later a poor throw by Gael put Gallas under pressure.
35 minutes in and Arshavin forces a defensive error, steals the ball and plays the perfect weighted ball into the path of Robin's perfect run left. Some might have expected a shot but he chose the perfect weighted pass which rolled across the goal for the incoming Fabregas, with another well timed run to tap home from close in. 0-1 Arsenal. 'We're on our way'. Almost inevitable I suppose that our only flair players available on the night should combine for the goal.
A Fabregas shot easy for the keeper. A vicious shot by Robin that swerved and had the keeper beaten, except for a fortuitous touch that saw the ball go for a corner. Alkmaar with a shot over from long range. We went in at half time with a worthy lead, looking unflustered, in control and untroubled.
Wenger's puffer jacket was an indication of the temperature but we didn't do enough to warm things up. Arshavin looked to be tripped just outside the box but won a corner. Eboue somewhat theatrically won a free kick. From the free kick taken by Robin the keeper saved well and low to his left. Arshavin tried a chip and missed when I expected to see the net to bulge. Robin and Andrey both went down in the box in the same move but neither looked like penalties. 'Shall we sing a song for you' indicated a quite home support.
Robin made space but powered his shot over. While I think of it Robin, for a rash tackle and Clichy for a foul during a rare Alkmaar break both picked up yellow cards. As did substitute Vela for delaying a free kick. Diaby nearly scored an own goal off what looked like his shoulder following a deflection. Carlos replaced Robin on 74 minutes. Arshavin with a shot deflected for a corner. It looked as if this would be a routine win, but Alkmaar went close enough to scare us. Despite this we soon got back on top and appeared to dominate. Ramsey on for Eboue. When Vela looked to have won a nailed on penalty it looked all over but the ref was clearly mindful of Platini's directive that Arsenal shouldn't get nailed on pens.
Arshavin broke left shot saved. We were not quite but very nearly coasting. Brilliant turn by Arshavin wins free kick on the run. Lens got carded for a very poor tackle on Song who was excellent throughout. Three minutes added time and in the third of these they won a free kick near the half way line Mereno pumped it forward. Diaby failed miserably to put any pressure on substitute Pelle and was poorly positioned for his subsequent header. The head pass inside was perfect and Da Silva fired a great shot past Manonne as our defence looked on. 1-1 in the final minute of the ninety-three.
Totally sickening but we have no one to blame but ourselves, this match should have been done and dusted long before added time. There is no point whatsoever in being the superior side if we don't make it pay. Sort it!
It could have been worse I suppose given that Barcelona and Liverpool were both beaten at home, Inter scraped only their third point in three games and Rangers were hammered at home 1-4 for the second time. We'll still qualify with ease and should still win Group H, but we need to be altogether more dynamic.