If last Thursday’s performance against Östersunds FK was what the players described as a ‘professional’ performance, is it fair to say that after what we witnessed yesterday evening, we were treated to an ‘unprofessional’ performance?
Because that’s what it felt like.
Let’s not forget that we were up against a mid-table Swedish team who had done the unthinkable and won the Swedish Cup to get into the Europa League. A team who were experiencing the ‘bright lights’ for the first time. A team that looked star struck last Thursday in the opening exchanges.
What was supposed to happen last night was an Arsenal team – admittedly rotated – who went out there and ‘did the job’. Technically by virtue of the fact that we are in to the next round of the competition you have to say that this was the case. But anybody who watched the performance of this Arsenal team, that performed to lengths that are unfathomable, will know that this was not an evening for celebration of safe passing to the next round. Instead it is for introspection and question and the question is:
How the actual f*ck are we going to win this competition with performances like that?
Certainly you can make the case for the fact that a full strength team doesn’t include many of these players. Ospina didn’t really do much wrong but isn’t a top-flight ‘keeper. Bellerin is our first choice but quite why he was picked (and STILL played 90 minutes!) is beyond me because we are running him into the ground. Good preparation for Sunday’s bombardment no doubt.
The defensive two of Holding and Chambers looked shaky all night. Why not have an experienced head of Mertesacker to guide them in a three and provide cover?
On the left Kolasinac looked suspect for the first half but much better in the second half as we pressed forward more. So again, I say unto thee, why not play three at the back and play to the strengths of the squad players? It’s clearly obvious that he’s a good wing back but he looks a little ropey in a four. And Chambers and Holding are afforded an extra body in defence with a back three so why not go there?
Oh, I forgot, it’s because Arsène Wenger doesn’t set his team up to play to player strengths. Square pegs must be shoehorned into round holes to fit some sort of system (and I don’t know what that is right now) and when the result is the shower of absolute faeces we saw last night it is irrelevant because we got through. Learning from mistakes? Nah. That’s for ‘professional’ teams. We’ll just stumble our way through and lurch from one bad game to another thanks.
Midfield was a hotchpotch of misplaced passes and sideways nothingness and as for the attack? Well, let’s just say that Welbeck won’t be muscling his way into any first team starting line ups any time soon.
He wasn’t even the worst of the lot though. Mkhitaryan did little to impress on an evening when his propensity to overhit a pass really did worry me. I hope Jose hasn’t properly broken the class player we saw at Dortmund because after Spurs away and tonight it starts to sew the seeds of doubt. It feels a bit like the link up with Auba is just to give him a ‘fwiend’ right now as much as give us a world class striker, because he’s looked a little lost in two of the last three games. Those damn seeds of doubt.
Doubt. That’s one thing that I certainly have when it comes to Wenger and his sanity, because if he thinks Alex Iwobi is good enough for Arsenal right now, then there’s something not quite right in his head. Misplaced passes, running into blind alleys, lightweight out-muscling off the ball against clearly inferior players, poor technique leaning back on striking the ball towards goal. He’s got it all in his locker. It’s a locker that should be cleaned out. It’s time we all accept the sheer volume of Iwobi’s clear flaws and move him out of the team. Whether that is a loan spell or permanently out of the club, I’d be inclined to see what playing in another team on loan does for him, but all that’s happening for this young Arsenal fan is that our faith in him is eroding, bit by bit. Last night was yet another example of a player not fit for purpose in this current team. What’s more depressing than anything else is that he will get yet another chance on Sunday and will most likely deliver yet another turgid display, simply by the fact that he’s a favourite of Wenger and we have Mkhitaryan cup tied and Welbeck looking like a ghost of a Premier League footballer. It’s a travesty that we go into a cup final with a player like that getting into the first XI and it is a damning indictment of the state of the current team and imbalance of it all.
I had a great evening other than the football though, because I had a lovely Chinese with one of my old schoolmates, although as a gooner himself he didn’t exactly enjoy the evening, but apart from the dogs dinner of a performance we had a great time catching up.
And that’s where you have to take your pleasure in The Arsenal these days, because it certainly doesn’t come from the Football. You take it in meeting like-minded friends and colleagues, in sharing a jug or the amber nectar or the grape, in singing songs pre game and talking of victories of yesteryear, which is why I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the gentlemen I meet at the local pub to Wembley which we’ve made our home in recent years. I’m looking forward to that more than anything else.
This weekend feels like it could be a painful one and Arsène’s comments about it playing a part on last nights game are yet another example of excuse making. Let’s not forget that this has historically been a competition he’s been happy to ‘throw’ at the expense of the bigger prize and yet here we are putting everything in to it, such has the managers stock and ability to build a capable squad fallen.
He talked about the first leg, about being prepared for this game but clearly preparation and adequate rest is still not enough for some of these players to motivate themselves, and the emphasis has to be on them motivating themselves because the manager clearly does not have the capability to do it any more.
When we get back to the end of the season it’ll be interesting to see just how many games we’ve lost because we’re up to 11 in all competitions already. To put that into perspective last season we all acknowledge was a horror show. We were shocking and it showed after Christmas.
How many games did we lose by the end of the season?
So we’re one game away from equally last season’s defeats volume, yet we still have to play United away, City in the Cup and at home on Thursday. That also doesn’t include the Europa League and with the way we’re playing we’ll be suffering defeat in that too.
There’s no doubt that change has to come in the summer and that has to be with the manager but until then we have to lurch our way through the next three months.
I worry that it’s going to be a long three months indeed.
Catch you all tomorrow.