I’m still struggling to properly rectify the decision-making of the manager this morning, after the debacle that was Tuesday night, but not really because of his team selection.
As I said yesterday, I could kind of understand why Giroud might start, but in hindsight he should have stuck with a pacey front three to unsettle a rather slow Watford back line. But this morning it’s more than that. I just don’t understand why he sets himself up to be vilified as he does sometimes. And what I’m thinking of when I say this is the decision to put Hector Bellerin in the squad, when he himself admitted after the game that he wasn’t fully fit, which is why he didn’t start.
That’s fine. I accept that as a fan and had a Bellerin not made the matchday squad we’d have all been gutted but would have understood. But by including him on the bench you’re saying ‘he’s ready’. It’s not as if we don’t have other emergency options in the squad should we need them. Debuchy is now fit. Jenkinson didn’t leave the club in the January window. There are players who could make the bench and let’s be honest, we’re unlikely to be making defensive tactical subs against Watford, so having a player making up the numbers ‘just in case’ makes sense to me. But that player has to be fit. By doing what he did with Bellerin, all he’s done is make everyone believe he’s fit, available, but rested with Chelski in mind.
Perhaps I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here, but I can kind of understand why Walcott was there on the bench, because as a forward he has to complete plenty of sprints (in theory) and the player himself has been out a while. So it may be down to a bit of fatigue left over from the weekend. Besides, it’s not as if we don’t have enough attacking options who could replace Theo, so the need isn’t as pressing.
Arsène just doesn’t help himself sometimes. He’s done the same thing with Koscielny before, having him on the bench, but not actually playing him at all even despite a shoddy defensive performance. It’s all just very bizarre decision making and it’s the kind of stuff that makes you question his judgement and ability to manage the team to its optimum.
Maybe he’s just protecting them. Maybe he just says stupid things like telling the world they are mentally strong and ready for a challenge before the game, then coming out and saying the opposite immediately afterwards. As fans we hear things like that and if we’re not rolling our eyes at it, we’re tearing our hair out. It just feels sometimes like for every ‘mental test’ they overcome, there seems to be another banana skin we seem to want to walk in to rather than hop over. One step forward, two steps back, etc, etc.
If as many of us suspect, these comments are designed to ensure that the manager takes the focus from the team, one can only ask ‘why’? Are these players so mollycoddled that they need to be protected from the world to such an extent that a perfectly intelligent man is made to look like a Clouseauesque parody? Like a person who flip-flops more than my Havaianas? Which is it?
We all know Arsène won’t single out criticism for individuals. It’s just not him. But I think sometimes he should hang the team out to dry more than he does. When they perform like they did the other night he’s the only one that comes out and makes himself look more foolish than he is.
I’m not trying to make excuses for him though. He’s as culpable as some of those on the cold, wet, pitch on Tuesday night. He has made himself the very embodiment of the club in the positive and the negative, so by the very fact I’m questioning the need to shield the players and the fact they are too protected, I’m questioning why he has been the key man to build that culture at the club. It’s safe. Everyone knows that consistency has brought a stability at Arsenal that other clubs don’t have. But it has also built an air of complacency too I think. And that can’t be good for anybody.
Normally at this point I’d say something like “still, at least we have another game on Saturday to reassess the issues”, but given the opponent and the fact that we always seem to lie down and have our bellies tickled, I can’t really even muster myself to talk that way right now.
I’d love to be proved wrong though. I’d love for him to do something this Saturday that changes the mindset of the team and steers us to victory. But right now I just can’t see it. Not the way they’re playing at the moment.
So I think I’ll leave it there for one day. Hopefully another 24 hours will give me a possibility to build some more excitement and anticipation for the game on Saturday lunchtime.
See you tomorrow.