As I stood in the stands up in the gods, with my feet numb through the ice of a cold midweek away bore draw to a very average West Ham, I couldn’t help but think to myself:
What are Arsenal these days? What is our identity.
That’s the overriding emotion I took from the stagnant performance against a visibly leggy West Ham.
I don’t really know what sort of football team we are any more.
Are we a passing team? Not really.
Are we a high press team? Nope.
Do we counter attack with lightning pace? We do not.
Do we spread teams by playing with width across the pitch? Nah.
Do we play with physicality that out muscles opponents? You’re having a laugh.
So what exactly are we?
I’ll be damned if I know. And I’ll be damned if Arsène does too.
He switched to a back four for this latest Arsenal fixture, rotated some players to try to get a bit more freshness in the team, but the outcome was the same: a side away from home who are ponderous in possession and do not make opponents work hard enough.
If you play Arsenal at home all you need is shape and discipline. They don’t have the approach to break you down and as long as you give them the ball and play everything in front of you then you’re ok.
This was West Ham’s game plan and they executed it with a little help from the Arsenal players.
There was no real drive. There wasn’t the urgency from the first minute until the last. Özil looked like he wanted to move the ball around but every time I watched him look up I saw a player who could pick a pass if only somebody made a run.
But our wide forwards were Iwobi and Alexis and both contributed but one moment of opportunity in their whole time on the pitch. Iwobi hit the post and Alexis made Adrian save the ball in the second half. I think it was his only save on the second. It almost felt like an ironic gesture from the home tannoy announcer that he was voted man of the match.
Iwobi was rash. Utter trash. Alexis must be delighted that he played because he out-trashed the Chilean all night.
Most of the players looked like they were knackered, which I find astounding given that some have only been playing on Saturday and others have only been playing midweek.
The only positive I took from the evening was the way Jack moved the ball around, but he was in a midfield in which as soon as he drove forward he had a static Giroud to wall-pass to and two wide forwards who did their level-best to put-stink one another.
Something is wrong with this Arsenal team away from home. We look timid, ponderous and without any kind of idea of how to break down a team and that my friends, is going to see us finish a loooooong way off the top four spots. We’re competing against the Totts, Liverpool and Chelski for two positions for Christ’s sake, so how the hell is this Arsenal team with such glaring deficiencies going to get close?
We have a couple of home games and maybe we can up it for those, but what happens over Christmas when we play Palace and West Brom?
I’ll tell you what happens, because we’ve seen this movie a million times already: we come up against teams who set up to be difficult to break down, whilst we huff and puff, before eventually succumbing to a sucker punch on the counter. Who’s got Rondon at 7-1 for the game on New Year’s Eve? I’d have a cheeky fiver on it now if I were you. Choose the first or last ten n’all.
It’s predictable. Just like this Arsenal team. We aren’t a side that excites anyone any more. People talk about lazy journalism, but is there anything more lazy than “Arsenal play great football”? Since when? Are you watching 2004 DVDs? We haven’t played good football for four years.
That draw last night feels like a defeat. And it feels like a defeat because a) West Ham aren’t very good, b) there’s a classic Arsenal feeling of Deja Vu going on, c) we don’t have any real identity any more, and d) we know we’re in for another 18 months of this at least.
Can you fast forward please? I’ve seen this bit before.
Catch you tomorrow.