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  • By Charlie Stong

Great performance but cheated again

Photo: Charlie Stong

We were fantastic tonight - absolutely brilliant. As good tonight as we've been bad in recent weeks.

And it would have been nothing short of a travesty had we not taken anything from the game after another one of Arsene’s best mates, Anthony Taylor, decided to give another dog shit decision against us to temporarily turn the game in the Chavs’ favour.

Just like that ref whose name I can't even bring myself to mention at West Brom on New Year’s Eve, Taylor couldn’t wait to blow his whistle and point to the spot after Eden Hazard - as good as he is - went down clutching his shin after barely being brushed on the big toe. A dozen replays and you still couldn't say for certain if he'd been touched, but apparently Taylor could.

This is getting beyond a joke now. Dean has for years sought to be centre of attention and to be the main talking point of his games, yet the FA continue to allow him to officiate.

And tonight it was Taylor's turn to royally f*** us over. Why do the dinosaurs who run our game continue to pontificate over video replays? If they were already in place we would have taken six points from the past few days and not one - that's assuming the person looking at the replays is not as incompetent as Taylor or Dean, of course.

We would be level in third place on 44 points with Chelsea and Liverpool. Instead we find ourselves five points plus a heavy goal difference deficit behind.

I'm fed up with talking about referees. For Christ’s sake FA, FIFA, UEFA, whoever you are, get video technology installed now and we can start talking about the players rather than the refs.

Thibaut Courtois's performance tonight showed why Chelsea were happy to let Cech go and he - and Taylor - were all there was between us and three points.

After initially shuddering at the prospect of a defence containing both Callum Chambers and Rob Holding, and early fears being justified, we actually defended reasonably well considering, although Xakha’s misplaced passing almost cost us on more than one occasion yet again.

After questioning the selection of Ainsley Maitland-Niles of late I’ll happily eat my words today, for this evening he was superb - rarely leaving himself exposed at the back, while looking threatening going forward. He looked like a real talent tonight.

Alexandre Lacazette looked bright up front again, thwarted on more than one occasion by the excellent Courtois. It's only a matter of time before he starts scoring lots. Mesut Ozil was back to somewhere near his best and Jack bossed the midfield for much of the game.

But ultimately it was all too much about another joke refereeing decision letting our opponents back into a game we really should have won.

In my 30-odd years of following the Arsenal, rarely can I remember a season of so much frustration.

If it's not us shooting ourselves in the foot with shocking defensive lapses like the ones against Manchester United its these appalling, amateur refereeing decisions which are giving us no chance.

They say you make your own luck - and to a certain extent that's true, but at the times when you really could do with some of it, it rarely seems to be on your side.

What it means is we're fifth - and with a vastly inferior goal difference to both Liverpool and Spurs realistically six - points off the top four. Unless we can start putting some league results together quickly we could soon find ourselves too far away from the top four for a second season. But it's not time to panic just yet. The signs are okay, if only the refs would start to give us a break.

But what it does mean is that the cup competitions now take on even more relevance. Next month the Europa League starts again and that's rapidly looking our best chance of making the Champions League next season.

Before that we travel to Forest to start the defence of the FA Cup and then to Chelsea for the first leg of League Cup semi next midweek.

As Ian Dury said, there's still reasons to be cheerful. Happy New Year.

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