Yesterday morning I may not have been able to predict which Arsenal players would start yesterday afternoon’s FA Cup third round game away to Nottingham Forest, but given our away form this season in pretty much all competitions, there could be a fairly decent degree of performance that I would expect to be put in.
And we got just what we’ve got for most of this season. Utter tripe.
And for me that’s the biggest problem. Yes I’m unhappy that we’ll not be defending our cup beyond the third round this season and yes, I’m annoyed by the fact that Arsène named an entire squad of youth and rotated players, but more than anything else I’m putting this performance into the ever-expanding “shocking performance” list for this season. So when I fail to see the upside of ‘exciting games’ like Chelski last week, or Liverpool before Christmas, it’s usually because I’m taking the context of all performances like yesterday’s into account.
The decision to rotate and play the starting XI that the manager did actually, from my perspective, wasn’t too bad. The selection had a smattering of youth and experience and that’s what he’s been doing all season. But to then select a bunch of kids in reserve was an absolute disgrace.
Why? On what basis? Arsène said there were some players ‘on the edge’ – most of them have only played half the amount of games they normally would by now, so why the actual flying f*ck is he using fatigue as an excuse?
It’s pathetic. It’s disrespectful.
Yesterday Arsène Wenger disrespected Forest with his squad (note I say ‘squad’, not ‘team’) selection. He also disrespected the competition by showing that he didn’t even want to name some of the first teamers on the bench for a salvage mission if things got bad, which they invariably did, because that’s the way this season has gone so far. But he and his players also disrespected us and more specifically, those fans who turned up and travelled to see an Arsenal performance that was nothing short of abysmal.
Defensively it was a shambles. The back line was so devoid of pace that all Nottingham Forest – 14th in the Championship and without a manager – had to do was to hit balls into the channel and let their 18 year old centre forward run on to them. Which he duly did, winning battle after battle against the beleaguered Mertesacker and Holding. Both the centre halves had shockers yesterday and Big Per’s comments afterwards about some players not getting a chance again probably said a lot. He must have been talking about himself but there’s a few in that team who could probably join him based on that performance.
That first goal was laughable. Playing for offside when you have a wall standing almost on the touch line? Who’s talking in this team? That is the kind of calamitous defending that my under-11 Sunday league manager would have – all those years ago – said to a that we have to learn the basics of football. These are grown men being paid thousands of pounds a week as a job, yet they behave with that level of negligence? It’s atrocious.
The second goal may have been a wonder strike, but the Forest right back had enough time to flick the ball up, watch it slowly descend to earth, before picking a nice spot and nestling the ball in the net. In all of this time the Arsenal players were where, exactly?
Number three was careless defending by Holding but we failed to deal with the threat in the build up to the decision and as for number four and penalty number two, we can all complain it’s another dodgy decision because Debuchy won the ball, but for Christ’s sake, it’s Armand F*cking Traore who’s dodging and weaving past Debuchy. Jesus.
There was very little to like about anything in yesterday’s game. Debuchy, Mertesacker, Holding, Elneny, Walcott, Iwobi and Welbeck all showed us why they are nowhere near breaking into the first team. The attack was so insipid it makes you wonder what has happened to these players. Walcott did his classic ‘disappear in plain sight’ magic act and quite frankly if we can get anything for him right now it’d be a bonus. He’s finished. He offered nothing against a struggling Championship side. Let him be somebody else’s problem now. Please.
Iwobi looks broken. The guy once again offered little but a few dribbles, some wayward shots and at this stage, you have to say that some time away from Arsenal might do him good. He needs his confidence repaired. Perhaps even dropping down a division so he can get a run of games against inferior teams to build himself back up, because at Arsenal right now he is a hindrance rather than a help.
Welbeck got a goal which didn’t come off his shin or arse and therefore felt weird to me. I guess it was a bit of an error from the ‘keeper so that kind of sits in keeping with the goals he tends to get.
Elneny showed why he’s about fourth in line for a place in our midfield. He passes ok, covers distance, but doesn’t really do anything else.
All-in-all it was a sh*tshow of a performance that is very much emblematic of the current managerial regime. The decline started happening over a year ago but Arsenal rewarded the management team with new deals because they hadn’t bothered to set up an infrastructure or succession plan for the next era at Arsenal.
So here we are. Lurching from one game to the next. Apathy seeping through the fan base as the team continues to deliver underwhelming performances like yesterday.
If I’m to look towards the positives of what’s happening at the moment it’s that I’m realising that Football doesn’t need to play as big a part in my life as it has done in the last few years. I continue to write my morning blog on my commute to work as something to do, but Arsenal under Wenger are making me find it more and more easier to shrug off because I don’t care as much as I did. Don’t get me wrong; I love Arsenal and will keep coming back for more every week until the day I die, but something is just not there as much with Arsène in charge. The fire has burnt out.
Yesterday after firing off a few angry tweets I put my phone on the coffee table turned upside down, went and made dinner, put up a picture in the kitchen, watched a movie and a nature programme and went to bed. There was a time when I wouldn’t be able to sleep after an Arsenal defeat. But that time isn’t any more. I had a great night sleep and it’s only when I realised I was going to write a blog this morning – which feels more out of habit than anything else – that I remembered the joke that was yesterday’s performance.
Catch you guys all tomorrow. Remember that there are far more important things in life and whilst Arsène is in charge, try to not care as much, because nothing will change whilst he is running our club.