It’s a bit misty this morning in London as I make my way in to the office via the Metropolitan Line train. As misty and clouded as the vision that the apologists have following yet more points dropped at home against a supposed rival. They tell me that we should be happy that we got a point and that given the circumstances it was not the worst result in the world. To those people I say: wake up and smell the coffee.
Yesterday was a chance to restore belief everywhere that this Arsenal side are capable of something. That they can put aside the recent turgid performances and show that they were up for a fight. That’s what Arsène said after the game – that coming back twice shows a resilience in the team. I saw little of that if I’m honest. What I saw was a team who should be looking at winning a big game at home, peter out a performance in which they were second best. Just look at the numbers from 7amkickoff. Arsène can try to spin his propaganda all he likes but in the cold light of day we saw a team second best who should have been going all guns blazing to try to win a football match.
All I saw was fear. Especially in that last 20 minutes. City looked the more threatening, City were looking to take the game to us – although even they were playing for the draw to some extent towards the end – and after we equalised I don’t recall any sustained pressure that suggested our players wanted to really go at a leaky City back four. Perhaps that’s because they were afraid of conceding, which makes sense given the abysmal defensive display we saw at times yesterday. A point it may have been, but City hit the post twice and we were more thankful of Ospina saving us than they were of Caballero saving them in their defence.
We are a shambles at the back. It’s easy to work the ball beyond us and that collective of players look petrified every time the ball goes out for a corner. They should be, and so should we, because we are all over the place at the moment.
“Yes, but the teams confidence was so low, so at least they battled and didn’t lose again” will be the war cry of the apologists, but I seem to recall that when we played City and Everton in December, both of those teams were on the back of indifferent or poor form. Yet unlike us, they used a game against Arsenal to recapture some form, whereas we’re left being thankful for a draw. That’s not the mentality that we should be adopting. That’s not the mindset our players, manager and fans should have. We should all be thoroughly disappointed in yet more dropped points at home. Because that’s what this is.
Yesterday I blogged and said that nothing other than three points is an option for Arsenal if they want to get fully back on the wagon and start to look upwards. Well, what do you know, but we failed to do that and are still looking down instead of up. The top four spots look ever more increasingly unlikely and when you consider that we still have to play Stoke, Spurs and Southampton away – all grounds in which we struggle at, as well as United and Everton at home, this top four ‘trophy’ is probably unlikely now.
So when that happens, when we finish outside of the coveted ‘top four’ that Arsène has so often used as his excuse for why the team has continued to be competitive and delivered, will he then admit that he is failing? When the last bastion of his crumbling empire has its ‘trophy’ removed, will he finally admit that he is no longer capable of having a team that is competitive enough to challenge for honours?
Or will he just sign a new deal now because he’s so blinded by his own ignorance that he simply cannot fathom life away from Arsenal?
I think we all know.
Yesterday I saw a pretty toothless Arsenal. I didn’t see a team so terrified that top four was beyond their grasp that they threw everything at victory. I saw Mesut Özil looking a pale imitation of the guy we’ve seen at the beginning of the season and last season. I saw a non-existent midfield at times. Can we all please just collectively lobby to see no more of Francis Coquelin? He’s an utterly budget midfielder and if you think that a top four team should have a player like that who’s played 40 odd times in a season, then you’re quite sorely mistaken. He’s the sort of player that an Arsenal team of 15 years ago would have lined up against as he played for West Brom, or Palace, or West Ham. He isn’t a player with the technical ability to justify inclusion in this Arsenal team.
But perhaps he’s only in there because despite his limitations, at least Arsène knows what he’ll get. Pressing, yellow cards, some tackling. The rest of the team right now is a mystery what kind of performance you’ll get. Which bore out yesterday in the pattern of our play. City maybe terrible at the back, but when they have the ball you can see a pattern and build up to their play. It looks like they know what they want to do with it. Structurally Arsenal were all over the place. There wasn’t really any kind of build up at all. It was just attempts at building up enough possession retention. There wasn’t dynamic movement going forward. There wasn’t any kind of pattern. So what we’re seeing right now is a team who look afraid of their own shadows at the back and going forward don’t really want to make runs in behind and don’t really know what to do when they press forward. We have pace in our team, but it’s not being used to full effect, because we’re not seeing explosive drive forward when we regain possession. So we lurch from one build up to the next.
If you’re an apologist, please can you explain to me why structurally we aren’t delivering, when the players all report in to the manager and deliver his wishes? Please explain to me who is responsible for the composition and identity of the team? Perhaps it’s those fans who want the manager to leave? Perhaps we’re all to blame for what’s going on, on the pitch? Or maybe, just maybe, there is a man once great man on the side who is now being found out, and refuses to accept or acknowledge that?
Need I remind you that we have to play City in a semi final in three weeks time. Based on that performance, do you hold out much hope that we’ll get to a final? Because I don’t. I don’t believe that Arsène will set his team up any different from yesterday and I certainly don’t believe they will rise to the occasion. Recent history tells me that.
We’ve been waiting for weeks to see some kind of reaction from the players and all we’ve had is patches. We play West Ham on Wednesday and perhaps it’s an opportunity to get that all illusive win to get us back on track, but we all know that with Arsenal you’re just waiting for the next slip up, especially this season. But even now it wouldn’t surprise me to see West Ham come to the Emirates, rely on our toothless attack to put in another average performance, then look to take advantage of Andy Carroll on set pieces. And if you want to question me about a toothless attack when we scored two goals yesterday, just consider the goals we scored: anscrappy mistake by City for Walcott (who was fairly anonymous aside from his goal, as per usual) to score, then a corner which dribbled in because City had nobody on the far post. I don’t want to sound all ‘footballing purist’ here but how many other clear cut chances did we create?
I know an announcement is on the cards and I know we’ve got another two years of the same, but I’m just hoping that Arsène himself is having second thoughts, because I don’t want to have to watch more of this for a couple more years.
Might take a day or two away from blogging after this one. Haven’t decided yet, but in my life I’m a bit more of an optimistic person, with everything except Arsenal. I don’t like what Arsenal turn me in to so perhaps I should focus on a few other things and see if I can rekindle some more love for the game.