Football is a team game, we win and lose together, so whether or not we win anything this season I think we should keep well away from blaming individual players. The league is won over a season and every team at the top could point to the odd incident that could have gone the other way, generally if we do not win the title this year we will not have deserved to win it, unlike some other years our results against Manu and Chelsea have shown we are just not quite there yet for a few different reasons in my opinion.
Yesterday's game was the epitome of footballing frustration, our performance deserved better and I feel if we had shown the fight of yesterday in every single league match then we would have a few more points more. Birmingham are tough opponents, they will battle and not give you any room to settle, yet we restricted them to very few chances, while as the game wore on we carved out numerous clear cut chances to make the game safe.
The high feeling when Nasri thumped home his cracker was replaced by anger at the rather fortuitous late Phillips ricochet. The second half saw excellent chances missed by Diaby, Nasri and Ashavin, there would have been no way back for Birmingham at two nil down. The introduction of Nasri and Arshavin was instrumental, Walcott had been ineffective and Rosicky not at his best. To come so close to the three points was agony, it really was. The Birmingham goal was also a fluke. Not only was Benitez in the middle of the goal two metres offside and clearly interfering with play but Sagna's clearance rebounded kindly towards the goal, Almunia was agonisingly close to keeping it out, but alas it crept over the line and our hearts were crushed. Like Goodplaya I don't really blame Almunia, it was a freakish deflection and although arguably he should have kept it out, the chances missed before that goal at one nil were just as critical. Overall Almunia has been very good for the last couple of months and despite the perpetual criticism from some quarters I really don't think he is the weak link that some people think he is.
Howard Webb is the new Graham Poll, he struts around the pitch looking like he should know what he is doing, looking like a self important referee and acting like a confident man who knows it all, however when one looks at the actual decision making and end product then there is very little beneath his shiny exterior, the man is an inept and cretinous fool who has no understanding of the game of football. As many of our useless Premiership referees he booked our players first for some very innocuous fouls, while he let Birmingham get away with some much more cynical and dangerous play. Craig Gardner's appalling tackle on Cesc in the first half summed it up, the initial ball playing challenge with his right foot was probably just about ok but the consequent follow through with the left leg was nothing but violent and malicious play, anyone who has played football themselves will know that there was no reason to follow through with the left leg other than to hurt the Arsenal skipper, this made it a clear act of violence in my book, a definite yellow card offence right under the pompous Webb's stuffy nose.
The FA seems to promote referees who look right, they don't like referees who can actually stand up to the likes of Ferguson and Allardyce, they prefer weak primadonnas like Webb who will always crumble under any pressure and make the easy decisions rather than enforcing proper discipline on the field of play. Ferguson has now got away with the blatant intimidation of officials two weeks on the trot, it is just accepted and ignored, if people think this doesn't affect referees' decisions then they are more foolish that I. Webb is an end product of the the weak system we have in place for choosing referees, it is run by the mighty Mike Riley for God's sake, what hope is there. We need referees who are intelligent but who have also played the game at a decent level, the current crop are mainly malcoordinated jobsworths who have no understanding of the game of football. Mind you it's not just the referees that are the problem, the crusty governing bodies running the game such as FIFA and the FA all stand in the way of progress, they have resisted all measures that would actually help referees cut a lot of error out of the game, such as video technology for example.
Anyway I'm ranting, in truth it's because I'm still fuming at the result and realising just how significant it may be come the end of the season. We are now losing touch with the top of the table, next week's match at Old Trafford between the top two will help us out in some way, but it is still hard to see us winning the league unless we win all six of our remaining games. There is no more room now for error, we still have to travel to the shitty Lane, take on City and travel to face Fat Sam's violent cloggers in Blackburn. This was no one off error at Birmingham, we have simply been making too many simple errors throughout the season and they have all combined to cost us a lot of points, that's why winning six games in a row is such a big ask, it's so hard to see us not shooting ourselves in the foot again between now and May.