Watching Arsenal as a neutral must be great fun. A bit like Liverpool. Goals, but quite frankly, shambolic defenders and you have yourself a recipe for enjoyment from an armchair and a beer and not a lot else.
Unfortunately for me, and I suspect you if you’re reading this, the emotional investment in Arsenal isn’t great fun at all. In fact, most of the time it’s frigging painful.
Defensively we’re a laughing stock. We have no structure, discipline, players look terrified on and off the ball, we play ourselves into trouble, there doesn’t look to be any talking that goes on. I feel like I could go on forever. Being an Arsenal defender is like saying you’ve been to Uni and you’re from Cambridge. It all sounds good on paper and at face value, but when you find out that your Mum and Dad live in Cambridgeshire and you spent four weeks at Portsmouth before leaving to ‘pursue other interests’, that’s what being a defender is like at Arsenal. It sounds good on paper but the reality is that you don’t advance yourself. Because you can’t. Because the manager puts little stock in setting up his team with defensive solidity. He doesn’t believe in the phrase “build on a solid foundation” and the evidence is the shaky displays we see like last night.
Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal ruin defenders, because there is no discipline. It’s like when I used to play for the local under-9s team and the coach just used to boot the ball in the air and watch us all run around like headless chickens. That’s what Arsenal training must be like.
Alright, Antony Taylor went full ‘referees union’ last night on Arsenal, with a very soft penalty, but why did Hector wave a leg anywhere near the most dramatic exaggerator in the entire Premier League in Hazard? It was crazy. Although I’m reluctant to point too much of a finger, given that we’ve seen Welbeck hauled down at the Emirates against United for much more than the slightest of touch that caused an embarrassing reaction from the Belgian. Once again referees costing us goals but once again, we also contributed, I’m afraid.
And after Jack – who I thought along with Ainsley Maitland-Nile’s were the two brilliant sparks on an otherwise terrifying experience – had blasted us into dreamland too.
But only Arsenal can contrive to shoot themselves in the foot and the second goal was an absolute disgrace. Three at the back can’t see a left back trotting across the field to flick the ball home to make it 2-1? What are they saying to each other? Are they all just making caveman noises? Are they trying to communicate through the medium of arm-waving? I’d love to know how they work out what the other is doing because I find it baffling. Chambers had a torrid time of it and the whole stadium looked on apprehensively at times as he mis-hit a pass or got beaten by his man. I’m a big fan of Calum but this certainly wasn’t a night for him. Or Mustafi, who lacked the calming presence of an experienced centre half alongside him and whilst Holding fared slightly better than Chambers, he still looked a little shaky too. As I say – the communication at times was baffling.
But not as baffling as our midfield which, let’s be honest, doesn’t look like it exists at the moment. At one point I saw Xhaka playing right wing and Jack was left to fend for himself with three Chelsea players in the middle of the park around him. There was so much green grass in the middle of that pitch that you could have parked a couple of double deckers in the middle. This is a real issue now. We have a shaky defence being protected by one disciplined player and one that looks like Henry Cavill but certainly doesn’t get across the pitch as much as Superman. We need to do something about this because Xhaka isn’t working. And I’ve defended him because I think he’s a good player. But not in the haphazard way Arsenal play.
But then again, does it really matter, because this season is practically done from a league perspective? We aren’t getting anywhere near the top four. We have a team crumbling and looking like they’re hardly a happy and united camp, a manager who doesn’t really know what his best team is, who can’t win away from home and tend not to win the big games at home. We’ve still got City at home, United and Spurs away to play and at this rate we’ll be staring down the barrel of sixth or seventh by the time we hit the end of February.
We simply aren’t good enough and that’s why I’m hoping that the club reboots itself soon. The summer would be ideal. Sell Alexis abroad now. Take money for Theo. If Özil doesn’t want to sign now then move him on (and that pains me to say). Build a pot of cash and find a better man/coaching set up and better structure to have another go. Let’s try something else.
I probably sound overly negative about last nights result and yes, games like last night are not ones to be too angry about but as always with Arsenal, it’s the wider context that has got me miffed this morning. It’s the season as a whole that has me angry that we’re almost out of a top four race by January. JANUARY! We’re not even talking the usual ‘out of the title race’ stuff. This is the top four. This is the stuff that we used to do as our bread and butter.
But we’re going backwards. And no last minute, injury time screamers from full backs can put a gloss on where the club are at the moment, I’m afraid.
Catch you tomorrow.