As soon as the last gasp winner was thrashed home by Tom Cleverly to give Watford their first win at home against us in donkeys years, I switched off the TV, went in to the kitchen and finished making food. I then had a thoroughly enjoyable evening where football wasn’t the topic of conversation for a second.
I hadn’t felt worried about the game beforehand because, if I’m honest, I was half expecting a performance like this. Away from home this season we have been sluggish, devoid of creativity and at times ponderous. So to see this Arsenal team put in an almost identically insipid performance against an industrious but not special Watford as they did against Stoke, it felt like yet another Groundhog Day performance, from a team who really don’t look very good any more.
It’s boring. Watching Arsenal isn’t very much fun any more. I’m not getting very much pleasure from it and the fact that we don’t seem to have any real kind of style any more just makes it all the more tedious. We have no drive. We have no cutting edge. We just lurch from one passage of play to the next.
What’s also obvious is that this team has very few ‘special’ players in it. Cech used to be, but I feel like he’s showing his age and on a day where you saw Lloris and De Gea make world class saves to keep their team from conceding, it is obvious that we don’t have the same advantage. He’s not rubbish, he just doesn’t do what he used to do, which is regularly make saves that make you say out loud “how has he saved that??”
In defence we have a rapidly deteriorating Koscielny, a converted full back in Monreal, a Mertesacker who’s ‘okay’ but nothing more and a Mustafi who frightens us all every time he goes to ground. In Bellerin we have a right back who has stagnated and on the other side Kolasinac has been great but it shows how desperate this team are, that we’re all over the moon at a proper player playing in his natural position.
Midfield is boring and it certainly was yesterday. Elneny just gives and releases. He’s a pass completion master but does little else and it feels like he’s in the team to literally just put a body in the starting XI. Beside him Xhaka can spot a pass but he wasn’t at his best yesterday.
But the bigger worry for me is the attacking options, because it’s clear that Özil and Alexis are miles ahead in terms of ability in comparison to the other players in that position. Iwobi did what Iwobi does yesterday, travel with the ball, beat a few men but the second he hit the final third, he was toothless. On the other side of him Welbeck looked rusty but we also know his limitations. He’s a decent player but not exactly the type that gets you off your seat. Lacazette is a finisher and you could see he made some great runs yesterday, but with no creativity coming from further back on the pitch, he just made run after run without people spotting him.
The options on the bench were Walcott, Giroud and Wilshere and if Jack was fit you feel like this team is crying out for his creativity. But he isn’t fit and so we stumbled towards the finish line and ended up with nothing.
Of course you can complain about the clear dive for the penalty to give Watford the equaliser, but you can’t complain about the rest of the match. The Arsenal players just didn’t look as hungry as the Watford ones and whilst our home form has been decent enough, away from home we have been tripe. There just doesn’t seem to be any kind of backbone in this Arsenal team and even Troy Denney said on TV afterwards that it was easy to get at Arsenal.
It felt like Arsène was preparing for life after the two superstars yesterday, experimenting away to Watford by leaving Özil on the bench when in fact, it just made his decision look bizarre. We’ve now already lost three games this season and still have Spurs to play twice, United to play twice, City twice, as well as Everton twice, including next weekend. The way we’re playing I can’t see us getting anything in Liverpool again and if we do lose that, what are our expectations for the season? Because mine will be another one of scrapping around about sixth or seventh.
We are declining. We have been declining for some time and the FA Cup win was a sticking plaster. With Arsène at the helm we look more and more like we’re a team out of ideas in these types of games. We don’t have an identity because Arsène doesn’t really have any idea how his team should play any more. He’s asleep at the wheel and we’re all helpless back seat passengers having to watch this car crash unfold.
Arsenal don’t excite many people any more. We’re just there. We exist but we’ve got players who don’t want to be there, a manager looking out of ideas, a fanbase massively divided and an owner who just wants his money pile growing thanks to the cash flooding in to the Premier League.
We are no longer an elite team. We haven’t been for a while but I think we pretended that we were amongst ourselves. We’re one of the better ‘also rans’ and the decline of Arsène’s once great empire he built is rather sad. As well as tedious.
I’ll still go to games though. If only to meet mates for pre match drinks. The football is of little interest but the social element is great. A bit of gallows humour and a beer is all I really take from Arsenal these days.
Catch you all tomorrow.