The title of today’s blog pretty much sums up my mood about the club at the momentum. It is broken. Defeat at home to Watford yesterday wasn’t unexpected. In fact pre game, as I talked about the possibility of Wembley with my fellow drinking partners for the afternoon, in the back of my mind there was always the possibility of defeat against a hard-working but ultimately limited Watford team.
You have to congratulate them. They worked hard and did their jobs well. They set up to be organised at the back and hit us with a direct counter. Even though the first goal wasn’t even a counter attack. It was a rather predictable throw in that was shockingly defended – particularly by Gabriel – and had a relatively simple Igahlo finish.
What’s worse than the defending yesterday, was the response, or more accurately the lack of a response. Arsenal are behind, in a cup competition we probably should be getting to the final in and certainly focused on given we’ve ballsed up the other competitions we’re in, yet the team’s reaction to going behind was pitiful. It was just like Swansea. Players static. Movement non-existent. Mesut Özil so patently a cut above everyone else and looking for something from one of our attacking players, yet in Alexis we had a return to the usual form of this season, whilst Giroud too showed his recent goal scoring appears to be the exception rather than the norm. He was pretty shoddy throughout and that Welbeck – who we all know has his flaws – looks at least two steps in class up from Giroud at the moment, shows just how far we have fallen this season. 2016 is shaping up already to be an annus horribilis and we’re only halfway through March.
This team is broken mentally. They don’t have the wherewithal to drag themselves out of this confidence vacuum that has engulfed them.
Players look broken. Alexis is a shadow of his former self. Mertesacker and Gabriel look like they’ve never seen a football field at times. Yesterday we never looked in control in defence. Every time the ball was pumped forward by Watford my heart was in my mouth. In midfield Elneny looked stable enough, but as Ben pointed out to me after the game, that’s because we have no control of the game. So what we’re left with is that any player who looks like he can control possession and tempo looks like a star in the making.
Ben’s right; we don’t control games any more. We haven’t done so for so long. We lurch from one passage of play to the next, hoping that our move results in a goal but as soon as it doesn’t and possession is turned over, we’re all terrified because we know that teams can carve us open.
The fans resolve has broken. Yesterday outside the ground there were grown men fighting. It’s farcical. Fighting. Actual fighting. The fanbase is crushed, tempers are now at an all time high and the anger is palpable. People have had enough because they’ve watched this story play out too many times. Arsenal bottle competitions. Then, after all competitions are done, Arsenal go on a good run of winning games when it doesn’t matter because there’s nothing at stake except the coveted Champions League spots. The team pick up form, the manager uses that as a reason why we were unfortunate this season, then we spend a summer hearing about players that we won’t get anywhere near to signing, because the manager has his opinions and woe betide the staff at Arsenal who question him.
So we’re in stasis at the moment. That’s how I feel. We’re in a position that we’ve been in before and will be in again under this manager. Arsène is the grand-high master of all at Arsenal and he is the one that decides everything at the club. So, if as I have said we are broken, he is the man who is charged with fixing it. But as I’ve said before in an analogy on a previous blog, he’s the equivalent of a mechanic who used to fix cars in the 80s. If you took your brand new Fiesta in to see him now, he wouldn’t know where to start, what with all of the computer systems and electronics. That’s Arsène and Arsenal today. He doesn’t know how to fix this. How can he? Otherwise he’d have done so by now. We’ve had the cash to buy the right players for some time now. We’ve change the information and tools available to him to improve his own chances of success (data analytics, new conditioning people, etc), yet still the same mistakes happen year-after-year.
Everyone I speak to at the football are just a bit bored of it now. For those that aren’t reacting like cavemen outside the ground, an apathy has set in around Arsenal, and it’s an apathy that’s born from repetition of life under Arsène. It’s boring. People are bored. And we know there’s no immediate end in sight. The club will do nothing. They have no interest in that. If they could have another ten years of this ‘brand building’ exercise they’d take it with Arsène. More cash reserves, more global exposure, screw looking for glory, not if it comes at a price that doesn’t meet their expectations.
So we have at least another year and a bit of this and as fans – those fans who are the reason why the team are mentally shot, apparently – we are expected to sit on our hands and politely clap the team towards their mediocre stumble towards the end of this season and the next. We will have another season with Arsène and then perhaps the club can look towards the future. Or, perhaps more worrying, the club will just the him another three years.