Where does one even start after a performance like last night? It was maddeningly bizarre and ultimately a classic example of how infuriating Arsenal make us all as fans.
Let’s start with the actual outcome though, shall we? A 3-3 draw when you are supposedly hunting down a team who have won 13 on the trot simply isn’t enough if you harbour title aspirations. I’ll be honest with you and say that I’m teetering on the brink of completely ruling us out of the title. I have but a shred of hope that this side can string together some kind of winning streak. But given our shocking record against big teams – particularly away from home where we still need to go to Liverpool and Chelski – I’m finding it hard to really hold on to much other than that faint hope. We’re supposed to be a side who are ‘flat-track bullies’, remember? One of those sides who turn over anybody lower than sixth and fall down because we have records of defeats against the bigger sides going back about five years. So in that respect, a 3-3 draw against Bournemouth is not really good enough.
And for 70 minutes, the performance was nowhere near enough, with the word ‘abject’ ringing around my head at the moment. We were second to every ball. Every knock-down was pounced on by a Bournemouth player. We sat off them and let them dictate possession. We couldn’t retain the ball for any length of time. Bournemouth waltzed through our midfield like it wasn’t there at times. And we punted it long far too often to Giroud, who was being dominated by Nathan frigging Ake.
At halftime I tweeted that I’d love to say it couldn’t get any worse, but this was Arsenal, so sure enough for about 20 odd minutes in the second half it was in fact worse. We were wretched at everything we did. Defensively the shape was like a plate of strawberry jelly. We wobbled every time Bournemouth went forward. And what made this all worse was that it wasn’t as if Bournemouth were technically a great side, they just pressed hard, worked at keeping their shape and profited from our own stupidity.
And it was stupidity that put them 3-0 up. Bellerin had an absolute stinker of a performance last night. He looked like he was making his debut again and quite why he decided to trot over in to a central defensive position for Bournemouth’s first, is baffling and crazy. Daniels had the freedom of the left flank and Cech was beaten at his near post.
But hey, this was early in the game and Arsenal had plenty of time to respond before halftime, right?
Wrong. We persisted with our lethargy. I don’t really know what Ramsey was doing all night, but he was given the central role he so readily craves and I saw nothing to suggest he deserves it on a regular basis, because he didn’t really link up play and he didn’t really show those ‘arrive late in the box’ moves that he was so successful at a few seasons back.
But let’s not dig out just Ramsey, because they were all poor yesterday, including Xhaka. Quite why he put his hand on the Bournemouth player inside the box is beyond me. He didn’t need to, the guy was always going to go down if touched and when he did, we all knew Oliver was going to point to the spot. Fraser went down easy, but it’s a penalty all day long and I’d be spitting feathers if it wasn’t given for us, so nobody can have any complaints. Xhaka has these moments of mentalness in him though, doesn’t he? I guess we have to accept that as much as the Chelski fans accept that they cheer every time that human form of bile that is Diego Costa scores for them.
So 2-0 down and looking ragged. All over the pitch. Hector was going full Eboue on us, Mustafi gave foul after foul away and Monreal on the other side wasn’t much better. Our two full backs who had exposed Palace so easily just a couple of days ago, now looked like they’d never set foot on a football pitch. Bournemouth weren’t doing anything tactically superb; they simply played balls in to the channels and had winning runners, yet we gave them so much space to do so.
Arsène suggested we were dealt a harsh hand by having to play 48 hours after Palace, but I’m not having that, not for a second. Sure, Bournemouth had an extra days rest, but the fatigue levels can’t be explained in full because from 70 minutes on we became dominant. It just doesn’t make sense to blame recovery time when the team gets stronger towards the end of the game. So for me, that’s a deflection tactic from the manager, because he knows that overall the performance just wasn’t good enough. It also wasn’t good enough from him. It’s his job to get the players ‘up for it’. He failed for 70 minutes. It’s also his job to pick the right team for the right game. He failed with that too, because Lucas Perez deserved another chance after a good showing against Palace and Ramsey centrally just didn’t work – although I’ll admit I thought it should have been so in the middle of the park.
And yet, despite all of this, you have to give the team some credit. Coming back from a three goal deficit takes some doing both physically and mentally and the way that the players swung the tide is admirable. And at 3-2, when they had Francis sent off, it felt like we could even go on and win it. That would have been some achievement and that would have truly got the players off the hook from a complete pasting this morning.
The goals we scored were good too. Alexis – who had spent most of the evening complaining and not passing to Monreal when he overlapped (perhaps Nacho told the Chilean he was partial to some dog when he went to the Far East) – showed great drive to get on the end of the ball for the first goal. For the second goal, Podolski – I mean, Lucas Perez – showed great composure and superb technique to bring it back to 3-2. Then finally Giroud showed how much of a handful he is by nodding home the third. It was the right response to a wrong performance. It’s just a shame that we left it until the last 20 minutes before we turned on the afterburners.
But that’s Arsenal. That’s what Arsène Wenger teams of the last decade do. They fall away, look dead and buried and either wilt, or show a little bit of fightback when it’s probably too late. We needed three points last night. I think Chelski will turn over the Spurs this evening and that will leave us 11 away from them and dead and buried in the title race. The only team that could blow an 11 point gap would be Arsenal or the Tiny Totts. And Chelski aren’t that sort of side. Sadly.
So I end today’s blog as I started it. I’m confused as to whether to be angry, relived, frustrated, elated and resigned.
Oh to be an Arsenal fan, eh?