That was pathetic last night. Abject in the extreme. There were so many reasons why Arsène and the players should be embarrassed this morning.

Team selection

Wrong wrong wrong from the start. Gabriel at right back? If Bellerin is not fit enough to play, then don’t even have him on the bench. Call him injured before and you at least let the world know that he isn’t available. By naming him as a sub Arsène was essentially saying “he’s ok, but I’m saving him”. It’s a shoddy decision and quite frankly the manager needs to hang his head this morning. He often talks about ‘the next game’. His mantra is all about ignoring the bigger games and focusing on whatever is in front of him. His team selection last night went against everything he talks about. It was, quite frankly, an appalling performance.

Olivier Giroud starting against Kaboul and Prodl must have been a joy for the Watford back line. I talked about it yesterday morning and I thought I could understand it, but the benefit of hindsight shows that it was totally the wrong choice. It was the wrong choice because…

Arsène doesn’t bother with history

Remember how Fergie always seemed to play Ji Sung Park or Darren Fletcher against us, because they had the right attributes and could get at our team, despite the fact they might not have played against any other team in previous matches? That’s because he looked at previous matches and history and got a formula to defeat us. Earlier in the season we smashed Watford by playing a pacey front three and Watford couldn’t handle it. Last night we were ponderous. The build up was slow, we were second to every 50/50 and in midfield we were…well actually…we didn’t have a midfield in that first half. 

Arsène could have looked at that game and seen that pace could have undone Watford. The substitution on 45 minutes of Walcott for Giroud was a tacit admission of guilt. He knew he f*cked up and that move was an attempt fixed what he’d already broken. Sadly, the pieces were already shattered in too many places, so we buffed and puffed and never really looked like winning. The second half was an improvement, but the damage was done and it had been somewhat inflicted by the managers own inability to acknowledge the weakness of his opponents. Perhaps that’s because…

The mentality of Arsène Wenger teams isn’t right

We haven’t been ruthless for 10 years. We have been technically good, we have had mouth-watering performances at times in the last ten years, but there isn’t a ruthlessness about Arsenal teams under Wenger and that is because the manager is part of the problem. He has helped to cultivate a malaise around the club which means that whenever the team are good enough but just fall short, nobody at the club really questions. There just isn’t the drive in his teams. They don’t have the unwavering thirst to win at all costs. 

The Invincibles weren’t truly ‘invincible’. They played poorly at times. But there was a desire. A hunger. An unwavering thirst to get to the end point. But Arsène Wenger teams of the last ten years haven’t had it. That’s because there’s no accountability. There is no ‘fear’. The manager doesn’t ‘fear’ for his job. So why should the players? They don’t ‘fear’ the axe because they know the axe won’t fall on them. The worst they can hope for is that somebody else pays their massive wages at another club. Or, from an individualistic point of view, they will be good enough that a team in another league will pick them up with a year on their contract left.

Do you think Alexis wants to stay in an environment like that? Of course he doesn’t. That’s why he’s saying all the right things about the ball being in the club’s court and that he wants to stay, but when it boils down to it, the only way he’s staying at Arsenal is if they pay him double what a championship contending team will do in another European league. Why? Because money is the only reason you’d stay at Arsenal right now. There is no true victory. No true competition. Not in a title sense. 

So what?

Watford were ‘ok’. Nothing more than that. They capitalised on a very ‘Arsenal’ implosion and the game slowly dribbled away from us in the drab London evening. The players showed a little bit of bite in the second half and Lucas was a crossbar away from a equaliser, but in truth we never looked like winning it, because we never really looked like we had the drive.

But hey, from what the rumours are, Arsène’s signing a new deal, so we probably have another three years of this repetition. We should probably get used to it, a bit like:

  • 2016: Swansea at home  – lost embarrassingly to a poor teamtowards the bottom
  • 2015: Swansea at home – lost embarrassingly to a poor team towards the bottom
  • 2014: Chelski away and Swansea at home – lost embarrassingly at Stamford Bridge and followed up by an embarrassing 2-2 draw to Swansea

Still. Let’s give Arsène and his team some credit: we’ve imploded a little earlier than usual and it’s not to Swansea. At least that’s different.

I’m not looking forward to Saturday at all. I wasn’t before this game. But now I just feel like crawling in to a dark hole and pretending it just doesn’t exist. Because when I emerge from it, all I’ll know is there’s another race for forth on our hands.

Which we’ll probably get, as the ink slowly dries on another three years for the manager.