As I listened to the chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” from our fans at the Palace ground in the away end, I asked the question to Ben – who has become somewhat of an Arsenal therapist in the last couple of seasons – is it me or is this like the season with Bruce Rioch? We were pretty turgid that season and only just scraped a fifth place UEFA cup spot thanks to a Dennis Bergkamp wonder strike.
I’ve concluded that right now it isn’t like it was during that season because in that season it was the players that openly rebelled against Rioch and that forced him out the door. Thankfully. No, this is different, because the players aren’t being open about playing for the manager in public, they’re doing it in silence with their actions.
They’re doing it with performances like last night. They’re not fighting any more. They’ve given up. Whether it’s ducking out of headers in their own penalty box, or what looks like token attempts to win the ball in the air, this collective of players just aren’t able to rouse themselves for either their own professional pride or the manager’s future. Quite how Arsène and anyone at the club can justify a new deal after witnessing last nights capitulation is beyond me.
But let’s not just focus on Arsène. I think I’m running out of rage and anger with him, the players and the club to be honest, because I don’t even feel angry this morning. I just feel resigned. I’m weary watching this Arsenal team sh*t the bed on what is now a fortnightly basis. Four defeats in our last four away games, Champions League football not to be seen in the near future (even if we were an embarrassment in that competition anyway), players like Özil passing the ball out of play to a substitute, there is nothing left to be angry about in this Arsenal team because we’ve all already sent enough rage their way and got no response.
That back four is an utter disgrace. Hector Bellerin is a shadow of his former self but from what I hear he’s playing with an injury, which might explain his form, rather than the rumours he’s a reverse ransom with that haircut of his. Monreal is done. I think he’s still spinning from the amount of times he was turned by Zaha. But let’s reserve the most damning criticism for Mustafi and Gabriel, neither of the whom looked remotely like they could organise themselves on a night where Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend joined Zaha in having the freedom of Selhurst Park.
There was just so much space. On the flanks, in the middle of the park and just in front of our back four, our players just didn’t close down space and I don’t think they won a 50/50 all night. Probably because they couldn’t really be arsed. But it was in attack too that we were just so very ‘meh’. Actually, that does a disservice to the word ‘meh’, because the sharp end of our team was as potent as the lemon and herb sauce that Nando’s serve.
Not only should Theo Walcott not be playing, it is a disgrace that he’s even considered to be captain material. He offers literally nothing in some games and so it was last night. On the other flank Alexis was woeful and he’s been like that a lot lately. He clearly wants out and so we should give him his wish. And Welbeck too in the middle offered little to nothing. If he is being played for his mobility and pace that it injects in to the front three instead of Giroud, then it isn’t working, because our players looked static in attack all night. There was little or no movement and it speaks volumes of a team on their knees in terms of confidence and now with seemingly little to play for.
If somebody offered me a 7th place finish now, based on that performance last night, I’d probably take it. Because sitting through more matches like that – and there will be more I’m sure of it – is just boring and painful.
I just want this season to be over. The semi final is supposed to offer some respite but in reality, I see nothing of the sort based on what’s been happening with this team, only more misery.
Some of those players probably need some time out. The defending for two of the goals was poor, even if there were a couple of fortunate slips in there, but we could have conceeded more. Benteke will probably be disappointed he didn’t take advantage last night because Arsenal were there for the taking. He had one moment when he had the freedom of our box and it was only the palm of a beleaguered Martinez that stopped him.
Given that performance, you’d think that there would be some kind of catalyst for change, and I’m not even talking about the manager (although I’d prefer that to happen). If I was in Arsène’s shoes I’d just try something totally new. Bring in some of the fringe players like Holding and Jeff, because maybe there’d be a bit of a fight from players who want to establish themselves. But that won’t happen because Arsène doesn’t make examples of players who clearly don’t care a jot. So what’s wrong with a bit of experimentation when the season is dead and buried? Let’s try Willock. Let’s have Jeff, Holding, Martinez in between sticks for the rest of the season, Maitland-ankles holding, Lucas Fucking Perez for Christ’s sake (when he’s back fit). Let’s just not have another collective of players who are in the first XI because they’re the highest earners at the club.
Oh well. Never mind. It’s only football is what I keep getting told and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier about the fact my Easter long weekend won’t be ruined by Arsenal, because we don’t play again until Monday. It gives us all freedom. I’m going to enjoy talking about everything else but football with my in-laws who incidentally don’t really like football, so there’ll be no temptation whatsoever to even strike up conversations. It’ll be great. I suggest you do the same; find people that you love in your life who have little or no interest in football and talk to them about other stuff. It’ll be healthy for you.