Happy Christmas Eve to those of you that are celebrating it today. Hopefully it is a good one for you and you can make merry with whomever you wish.
Personally, it’s a delightful time of the year to spend with family and after such a disappointing display by the players on Friday evening, it’s a lovely old excuse for me to not really bother with football for a few days. So that’s what I think i’ll do until the next match day, which isn’t until the 28th, which is plenty of time for me to forget about Arsenal and Arsene’s excuses.
And having seen some of his post game comments after the Liverpool match it is clear he is in full excuse mode. Did he really blame the performance on a paralysis caused by the United game a full three and a bit weeks ago? I mean come on, that’s pathetic and, if this team are that mentally fragile then we should be wrapping them all up and sending them out to the West with Frodo and Bilbo Baggins with the last of the Elves on those little boats.
It’s pitiful really. Football is great because you have the immediate opportunity of redemption but Arsene seems to be clinging on to any old excuse these days. Whether it’s the schedule – in which his players have been rotated and rested and so should be fresher than most teams at the top of the league – or psychological damage done by one defeat, we’re starting to see it all and it’s all feeling a bit desperate if you ask me.
The only thing he hasn’t done so far is call out his players and after half a season of pretty indifferent performances in the main, if I was in his shoes i’d be seriously considering it, because nothing else seems to be jolting them into gear.
Let’s not forget that this is essentially the same group of players who, after a 4-3 home defeat to Liverpool last season, went on a decent unbeaten run. They also won the FA Cup. So they have the ability, but you have to start to question their drive and motivation and ultimately, you then start to look at the person responsible for extracting that from them in terms of their displays.
I don’t like constantly digging Arsenal out but you must read the news, hear things from people like I do, and Arsenal doesn’t seem like a happy place at the moment. Throughout the club it feels like everybody is a little bit ‘meh’ and certainly when I speak to mates it feels the same. So how do we shake this malaise? How can we ruffle a few feathers?
Calling out players for poor performances is one thing. Rotating out under performers like Alexis, Iwobi, Koscielny is another. I know I sound mad with at least two of that three, but if the next couple of away games go like most away games this season then we’re effectively done for a top four spot I reckon, so we might as well start experimenting in the league. Start seeing who’s got the fight, who can play in the system that is set up and who has possibly just gone a bit stale.
Send Iwobi out on loan. Try getting Chambers or Holding into the back three. Give Maitland-Niles a go in centre midfield. Play with Alexis in preparation for next season. Do the same for Ozil if it’s clear he’s stringing us along. By the way, I think that is exactly what’s happening, because I saw this same result with Flamini the first time we signed him. He started making positive noises around December January, then gave us the old “a deal could still be done” chestnut to avoid getting the fans on his back, even though he’d already made up his mind that he was AC Milan bound. That’s what is going to happen to Ozil and so I’d start playing with a team that doesn’t include them.
Or start playing these players in the Europa League. Because as the opposition gets better, it feels like winning that competition is the only real chance we’ve got of getting in to the Champions League. And with the way the team are grinding out results in the league at the moment – or not as the case may be, especially away from home – it isn’t exactly exciting at the moment. It all feels like a bit of a slog. The Europa League games have been the same but for different reasons, because the team hasn’t clicked and the performances have been ‘just enough’. But I’ve been getting more joy from seeing a bit of rotation and then Arsenal actually qualifying. So it might not be the worse thing in the world to just write off this season.
Call me defeatist if you like but I’ve written off this season already. Might as well go for a cup run.
Right, time for me to start the process of fattening myself over Christmas. Have a good one, love to all of your families, and try not to get too stressed about Arsenal. The players probably aren’t.