Ohh Arsenal…why do you do it to us?
All that excitement. All the talk. All the waiting and hope for an amazing season, deflated in the space of 90 minutes. Yes, it’s only 90 minutes and there’s a lot more football to be played, but that match yesterday was a bit of a travesty if we’re all honest.
I took to Twitter and fired off a few disappointed tweets, then opened up my Whatsapp to see the feeling amongst other Gooners and in the immediate aftermath of the game yesterday I was thinking about how ranty my blog would be today. But I don’t really feel ranty. I just feel a bit…well…I can’t think of a word that describes a ‘sigh’. But that’s it. I’m not even angry, because I’ve seen that kind of performance before, this year even. Remember when the players rocked up at The Emirates expecting to roll over Monaco and we saw a lacklustre team display that ultimately knocked us out of the Champions League? Or the performance against Swansea at home (and away for that matter)? Yeah, that.
The positives that could be drawn from yesterday’s game seem to sit solely on The Ox’s shoulders this morning, because he was a bright spot on an otherwise gloomy day, which was ironic given the glorious sunshine that engulfed the Emirates yesterday. He drove at West Ham defenders, he looked to have the beating of his man and fashioned a few good chances. But on a day in which it looked like we could have played for another six hours and failed to score, his display was always going to be overshadowed by an overall team lethargy.
From front to back there looked to be no fight in the team. It looked like an end of season game in which we’d already secured Champions League football and had nothing to play for. Yet it was the first of the season. I don’t buy Arsène’s comments about West Ham being more prepared than us because of European football; that West Ham team weren’t playing in the middle of nowhere during the week and Slaven Bilix has put out his reserves and youth players for most of the competition. So that excuse doesn’t really work I’m afraid.
And we can have no excuse for the goals we conceded. The first one may have Cech coming out the worst because of his inexplicable sojourn into no-mans land, but Kouyate still got there ahead of any of our defenders, so whilst the ‘keeper will rightly take the largest proportion of the blame the defence must also take a look at its organisation.
So too, I have to say, should the whole defence for the second goal. The fact that we had possession and gifted it to Zarate, then failed to close down before he rifled it in, was poor. Quite why Cech was so flat footed is beyond me. I thought he was supposed to be saving us points this season? Not costing them? One of the deficiencies in Almunia’s game – before he went crazy and haunted – was that he’d never do anything that would make you say “wow, got us out of jail there”. That is the sort of thing a top ‘keeper does and that is what Cech used to do for Chelski. Again, I know it’s only one game and he will no doubt redeem himself over the course of the season, but from one of the best ‘keepers in the league he’ll probably be disappointed that he didn’t get to that second goal.
But we can’t lay most of the blame at his feet. He wasn’t misplacing passes all day like most of his teammates. Santi, Rambo, Coquelin, Debuchy and The Ox all saw simple passes that just couldn’t find a many. It was a litany of unforced errors that saw balls being sprayed out of play all day. It was borderline laughable at the frequency with which it happened. Is it the new ball? Did they all have a heavy one last night? Or was it just a bad day at the office? Whatever it was, a few more performances like that and we’ll be playing déjà vu catch up exactly like we did last season.
As for our attack, well, blunt would be one way to describe it. We never really got going and once again questions will be raised of Giroud, but he was hardly given a plateful of chances to miss from five yards, was he?
Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned Özil? There’s a reason for that and it matches up with his involvement in the game.
We should give credit to West Ham, who set up well and deserved the win, but without the lacklustre defending on both goals we’d still be talking about a 0-0 draw, not a 0-2 shambles.
Big Per talked afterwards of bouncing back, but unless the attitude changes, we’re going to see more results like this throughout the course of the season. Champions can have bad days at the office, but usually only those are limited to once or twice and more often than not, you don’t see it on your own turf. West Ham should have been a three pointer but the team looked like they turned up to collect the points without any resistance. It will be a reminder to them all that this league is a difficult one and you have to prepare properly for each game. Mentally as well as physically. The manager will need to earn his crust this week and get the team into a position where they are ready to go again but be ten times better next Sunday, because Palace away will not be easy, so answers will need to come sooner rather than later.
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