Inspid was the first word that came to my mind after yesterday’s display and I’ve already seen a number of Arsenal fans use it, so clearly I’m not alone in my view of how this Arsenal team failed again to show any kind of drive, any kind of belief and quite frankly looked like they couldn’t be bothered at times.
Some players are out of form, some players are already on their holidays, but as a collective all of them are failing on a regular basis. I saw a stat yesterday which said that as of yesterday’s result, Arsenal confirmed that the best run of wins in the league was four matches that we strung together in October. Four. That’s the sort of form you expect from a mid table team. So perhaps we should be thankful that this season has seen so much underachievement from some of the bigger football teams. Because otherwise we’d be staring at an even more bleak season.
I listened to the manager afterwards, but his words were hollow to me. He talked about a good first half performance and not taking our chances, but I’ve heard it all before and quite frankly, I’m done with it. He’s a busted flush. The players aren’t performing for him on such a regular basis, there’s no way you can say he still manages to motivate them. But it’s not just that, it’s his selection decisions that are becoming symptomatic of a man who has lost his sparkle, and the plot I’m afraid. It’s pretty common knowledge to the footballing world that Olivier Giroud has lost form. Arsene recalled him to the starting line up against West Brom regardless, which I thought at the time was down to his want to rotate Welbeck so he does not suffer fatigue, but then started him against Sunderland. I said in my match preview that Sunderland will player with two centre halves who are less mobile and so we should exploit our own mobility in the front third by playing Welbecck with Iwobi and Alexis. So what does Arsene do? He gives Giroud another run out in the team. Why? I can only think it is because of sentiment, because he is not deserving of a starting place.
He absolutely stunk the place out too. He won barely any of this aerial duels, he could not hold the ball up, he made no running or movement and at times in the first half I saw Ozil pick the ball up, look up and see no movement, so go sideways. He was atrocious, with the failed back-heel straight to a Sunderland player in the second half, a classic example of that. He offered nothing up top but Arsene being Arsene, failed to act until the customary 70th minute. It was so farcical it was unreal. From about 50 minutes the away fans were chanting Welbeck’s name. It was fairly obvious Giroud wasn’t working and yet the manager persisted. Why? What did he think he was going to get?
It was the same with Ramsey. The guy loves a trick or two, doesn’t he? Unfortunately, he too is out of form and those tricks and flicks coupled with his inability to complete a pass longer than 20 yards, only serves to highlight how he should be hooked from the side too.
The manager has now moved in to territory where nobody really knows what he’s doing. People are talking about how Martinez at Everton makes bizarre selection and substitution decisions. Arsene and Roberto clearly phone each other up to see how they can ‘out-crazy’ each other, because everything about the manager’s decisions were wrong yesterday. Why Giroud and Ramsey? Why Mertesacker when he was up against a small and mobile forward in Defoe? In the second half, when Sunderland got their act together, the players simply found their range and played ball after ball into the channels for him to run in behind and he nearly managed success in that regard. Why doesn’t Arsene see these things? Or isn’t he told about the opposition and what they might do?
Then there’s the subs. Theo Walcott should be so far from the team right now that the only interaction he gets with his teammates is if they FaceTime before and after the game, because he brings nothing, literally nothing, to the output of this Arsenal side. Ducking out of challenges, running in to traffic, he’s a complete waste of a substitution. Yet Arsene persists. Why? He has Campbell who will offer more, yet Walcott is always next in line when it comes to subs. Why hasn’t Arsene relegated Walcott like Podolski yet?
Sentiment. It’s the only explanation I have. Arsene has too much sentiment from some of these players who let him down. Yesterday’s game was an out-of-form team who simply didn’t have the drive and when you look at how Leicester played yesterday, it hurts all the more, because you know every one of their players gave a minimum of 50% more effort than every single Arsenal outfield player yesterday. These pampered pre-madonna’s are coasting their way to the end of the season and if United win their remaining games I think we’ll drop out of the top four too. If that happens, then the last bastian of ‘yeah but”s will have gone from any of Arsene’s supporters.
This season feels like the last ten minutes of a maths lesson at the end of a Friday at school, with you watching each second of the clock tick by, wondering when the hell all of this is going to end. I’ve never wanted to see the summer for so long. That makes me sad because I love Arsenal. I just don’t like them very much at the moment.