Wenger rages as saga of Arshavin transfer adds to woes

Arsenal 0 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Online

Maybe this contest should have been subtitled "the curious case of Robin Van Persie" or, as a consequence, "the baffling saga of Andrei Arshavin". Having, probably rightly, decided not to expose Van Persie, whose physical fragility has dogged his Arsenal career, to a third start inside a week, Arsène Wenger then left his team exposed.

Without Van Persie and in the continued absence of Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky the "chances of being creative were low", as defender Gaël Clichy admitted and Arsenal were a team going through the motions, praying something would happen, drifting towards a fifth draw in eight matches.

Wenger is raging against the injustices he feels, the financial imbalance he suffers – "Man United bought Berbatov for £31.5m and you look at the cost of their team and you will understand why," he said when asked why Arsenal trail the champions so badly – and raging over the ridiculously prolonged transfer of Arshavin.

It is all the more ridiculous because Arsenal do not appear to face any competition to sign the Russian international. His club, Zenit St Petersburg, have tried to create a market but one doesn't exist. Instead Wenger has tried to negotiate with Zenit, gradually chipping away at their asking price but, also having to endure his team drawing three times inside a week.

"When the biggest star is a guy who has never kicked a ball for you, it's very difficult to understand," said Wenger over the clamour and expectation around Arshavin whose status has been ridiculously enhanced, in truth, by his would-be manager's failure to address key, obvious areas of deficiency. Even then few supporters expect the 27-year-old, who has never played for a club outside his homeland and who is dangerously temperamental, to be the answer. But then if those areas of deficiency were explored now this match report would turn into yet another repeat of several others before it. Just like this match did.

Déjà vu for Wenger? It sure was. His team pressed and prodded and as the West Ham assistant manager, Steve Clarke, pointed out "moved the ball around in front of us" (the key phrase being "in front of us") without threatening to hurt the visitors who are on the crest of a Gianfranco Zola-inspired wave right now and have stretched their unbeaten run to eight matches.

Sure, James Collins inadvertently headed the ball against the top of his own side's cross-bar and Emmanuel Adebayor fluffed two headers and a golden chance to steer Bacary Sagna's low cross into the net, but it was a meagre return. From the first minute to the last West Ham were assured and resilient. There was no panic, no need for a man-of-the-match display from goalkeeper Robert Green and no fortune in their point.

And that's the biggest indictment of Wenger and his team who, rather than maturing, appear to have gone stale.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Sagna, Touré, Gallas, Clichy; Eboué (Vela, 36), Denilson, Diaby (Song, 90), Nasri; Bendtner (Van Persie, 69), Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Ramsey, Djourou, Gibbs.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga; Behrami, Parker, Noble (Savio, 71), Collison; Di Michele (Boa Morte, 84), Cole. Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Lopez, Spector, Tristan, Sears.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Arsenal Diaby, Vela. West Ham Neill, Collins.

Man of the match: Collins.

Attendance: 60,109.

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