I don’t even know where to begin this morning. In fact, I almost don’t want to begin, because after what I witnessed yesterday the malaise I have over the football club I love and support has almost completely enveloped me.
I’m even at the stage where I’ve thought to myself that whilst the title was almost certainly gone from us yesterday afternoon, in reality it was gone from us from the the first day of the season, when we all knew that Arsène Wenger was in charge of the team.
It saddens me to write that. I love what Arsène has done to transform Arsenal into the internationally renowned football club that we are today. But this man is not the same bespectacled genius that arrived and transformed the football club in 1996. This is a shadow of that man. This is a man who is not capable of motivating a team to excel and yesterday was a damming indictement of his management, as we slumped to yet another away day defeat to a big team. Yet another limp performance. Yet another match in which the players were found wanting. Yet another match in which a manager of an opposing team knew exactly how we’d play and just countered it.
Chelsea will be champions. There’s no doubt about that. They now have the easiest run in, less football, plus they just look like they want it more. Arsène Wenger hasn’t had a side that looks like it really wants it – has the hunger and drive – for over a decade now.
The reason I’m rounding on the manager today is because I think our team is good enough to win the league. The squad is good enough and we have some fantastic players, but the way they are prepared mentally and tactically for games is ludicrous. Yes, Bellerin was fouled on the first goal, but Theo Walcott showed exactly what it’s like to be an Arsenal player under Arsène Wenger. Show a bit of promise at the beginning of the season, then fade away after Christmas. That’s just what Arsène Wenger teams have been doing for ten years and that’s just what’s happened to Theo. I seem to recall him making a couple of really good slide tackles in the Chelski game that we won 3-0 at home earlier in the season. Where was that Theo yesterday, as the current version watched on as Alonso jogged on to Bellerin to get above him to score the first goal?
It’s not just Theo though, who is an example of the comfortable life that is being an Arsenal player, because you could probably say the same about Petr Cech. He was a winner at Chelski. He was a fantastic goalkeeper and I thought that last season he was great for us. But as a friend of mine said yesterday on one of the WhatsApp groups I’m on, his rapid decline really is starting to be quite worrisome. He was slow to get up for the first goal and, well, let’s not even talk about the shambles that was his third. So what has happened? Is it just that he wanted to stay in London because he wanted a comfortable life, so Arsenal was the perfect fit, because he’ll be paid well and he can stay playing football for another couple of years without any worry of any real competition? Is Arsenal just a nice easy option, because he’s already won a load of trophies at Chelski and so when he hangs up his boots he can still say he’s had a glittering career?
This morning that’s what it feels like. And it feels like that because Arsenal don’t feel like a team who really have any incentive to go that next step.
People talk about our consistency. Gary Neville mentioned it, as well as the stadium being built, as an example of gratitude towards the manager. Does that mean we need to have another 25 years of the same story until it’s paid off then? Because I’ve already read this book. For the last ten years. I know all the words. I can recite them to you. And as sure as I’ve been telling everyone this past week that we’d get battered, the truth unfolded. We went to Stamford Bridge, we had no real game plan or idea of how to counter Chelski, we folded and then went home.
But hey, we play Bayern soon in the Champions League, which we’ve never done before and so who knows, we might even get to the next round, right?
Oh, no, I forgot. I’ve read this book. This is just the chapter when we are abysmal in the first leg and leave ourselves with too much to do in the next one.
It’s boring. It’s becoming tedious. I want something different. I don’t want to see the same problems every season. I don’t want to go into games wondering how we’re going to get beaten because we’ve got United, City or Chelski away. I want to have my faith back.
I have none of that at the moment.
But let’s not just hang the manager totally out to dry, because most of the players on that pitch yesterday, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Koscielny and Mustafi were a joke. The second goal was scored because of Coquelin’s horrific attempt at being a ball-winning midfielder was to fall on the floor, outmuscled by a smaller guy than him, but the two defenders were terrified to go near Hazard. Özil was anonymous. Iwobi gave the ball away again and again. Alexis? Well, he can storm off all he likes, because if his attitude will be like this for the remainder of the season then quite frankly, we’re better off without. When he wasn’t giving the ball away he was going missing. He is as culpable as anyone.
The only person who I thought looked a little brighter was the Ox and do you know what? When we have our midfield back up to more fuller numbers, I’d be tempted to go with an Ox-Xhaka central pairing, because Ramsey hasn’t done it, Coquelin is a budget midfielder and Elneny is still away at the AFCON. Perhaps he’s an option when he returns but right now we need something and it isn’t a guy who can’t pass, can’t be strong in the tackle and leaves acres in the midfield.
Chelski weren’t even that great. They’re just really efficient at what they do, which is the opposite of Arsenal, who were wasteful of some of the chances we did have but hey, at least Giroud keeps scoring, eh? Martin Tyler was quick to point out the consolation that we’d at least scored a goal at Stamford Bridge for the first time in four years. Sorry, but there’s no such thing as a consolation goal. I hate that concept. Does anybody every really jump for joy when you score to make it 3-1 with a couple of minutes to go? I certainly don’t.
I don’t even want to talk about the managers response and I don’t dare look at Arsenal.com today or tomorrow to hear players saying the same things about responding. You said that on Wednesday and Thursday guys. You said you should have a look at yourselves. If you did, all you must have concluded was “nah, we’re alright. It’s just been coincidence that we’ve lost nearly all of the big away games in the last six years”.
Sorry. Not good enough. Wake up and smell the coffee.
I’m out for the day. Back tomorrow. I doubt I’ll have calmed down, so I’ll understand if I don’t see you for a few days.
Try to have a good Sunday folks. Pretend football doesn’t exit.