Better now than later for lacklustre Gunners

So Arsène Wenger got what he wanted, a point in Kiev, but as he got on the plane back to Luton late last night, he would certainly have wondered how his side didn’t come home with all three.

What could and should have been an easy introduction to this season’s Champions League and ended a trend of coming back with nothing from Eastern Europe turned into a salvage effort where all Arsenal’s bad habits came to the fore.

Having had some trepidation before the game, it was clear to see early on what a poor side Kiev have become thesedays. They were chasing shadows all over the pitch and simply couldn’t cope with our passing and movement.

Robin van Persie has been pretty deft at scoring near post goals during his Arsenal career, but when it’s not working, he’s got to think of going across the goalkeeper. Twice last night he had opportunities that better strikers would have finished, and it’s clear to me that he’s some way off top form.

Manu Adebayor did extremely well to take advantage of a Kiev defensive mistake, but should really have hit the target after getting himself into a position with the entire goal to aim at.

And then there was Cesc Fabregas. I had just been discussing with a mate how inspiration a player he is, but his half-hearted strike on the stroke of half time smacked of a lack of ruthlessness which I’m not used to seeing from the young Spainiard.

When Manuel Almunia snatched the ball from along the goal-line after a Kiev forward had hit his inside post, that should have been the wake-up call that we needed to up the gears and push on.

All it did was inspire the hosts and win a limp but understandable penalty. I was furious, seeing the replays, that it had been given, but I can understand why the referee chose to give it.

My faith in Theo Walcott continues to grow. Aside from his point-saving delivery which Willie Gallas put away, I admire the fact that time and again he got up from tackles that should have been more harshly dealt with – and it’s something he is going to have to get used to.

His may not have been a perfect performance, but there is a growing maturity about him that suggests that the Gooners’ and Wenger’s faith will be rewarded this season.

I hope he takes some time to watch Cristiano R*nald*’s performances over the last couple of years. He has the capacity to be as good a player – and without stooping to the play-acting, learning to ride the tackles and do whatever he can to minimise injury while at the same time not shirking from the challenge will be the making or breaking of him.

So it looks as if any hopes of an early qualification have been dealt a bit of a blow – but I’d rather get disappointing draws which should have been victories out of the way now than later on in the season, when it REALLY matters.