Arsenal bereft of ideas as West Ham's run continues

31 January 2009 06:17
West Ham will take pride in an away point that stretches their unbeaten run to eight matches, but the only people who could actually have enjoyed Saturday's stalemate are Andrei Arshavin and his representatives.

Any doubt that Arsenal need an injection of creativity disappeared in a blizzard of tedium. And to think this was once a cathedral of attractive football.

Arsenal are in danger of becoming the Woody Allen of the Premier League, a once-brilliant performer churning out almost unwatchable mediocrity and dreaming of past glories.

They may be unbeaten in 10, but five of those have been drawn, and the assumption that they will eventually kick on and overhaul Aston Villa in the race for fourth is looking increasingly suspect.

'I'm not too worried about Aston Villa,' the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. 'It's important for us to win games. We lacked some creativity with the final ball, but you can't fault the desire. We just lacked some sharpness.'

What is bewildering is that their scratchiness was at least partly self-inflicted. Robin van Persie has been their most effective forward this season, and has hit a run of particularly sweet form, and yet he was omitted for Nicklas Bendtner, who, as so often, was wasteful when he wasn't anonymous.

'We have to be cautious with [Van Persie], because we've played three games in six days,' Wenger said.

'We've had some bad experiences when we've pushed him before.'

It wasn't until the 63rd minute that they finally produced a move of the sort of fluid quality that was once their signature, but after Samir Nasri had released Bacary Sagna, a stretching Emmanuel Adebayor could only poke his low cross wide.

Abou Diaby had an early header deflected onto the bar, and it took James Collins on the line to keep out Kolo Toure's hooked shot, and that was it. West Ham themselves offered nothing, but why would they?

A point edges them nearer safety, and they can relish the improvement in their defence since Steve Clarke took over as assistant coach in October.

As negotiations over Arshavin drag on towards the transfer deadline, and with Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue both suffering thigh injuries, the only reason for optimism for Arsenal was the news that Cesc Fabregas's rehabilitation from a knee injury is progressing well.

'My leg is getting stronger and the doctors tell me that the ligament has healed,' Fabregas wrote in his programme notes.

'Now it is about building up the muscle and on Thursday I had a very little jog for the first time, so it is good news and I am happy because I can see a big improvement.'

The midfielder will return to England from Spain in a fortnight, when a further assessment will be made, but the indications are that he may return before the April date that initially seemed probable.

As Wenger pointed out, Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky should return within two months, and in that regard the arrival of Arshavin is not essential. The danger is the much-needed flair arrives too late.

Source: Telegraph