I don’t really know what more can be said about Arsenal away this season that hasn’t already been spoken about time and time again this season and quite frankly, from a footballing perspective, next Monday and the end of this horrific campaign can well and truly get in the bin.
I could talk about the worst run of away form for Arsenal in the league since 1966. I could talk about why we seem incapable of replicating the ‘home’ Arsenal that has seen us so impressive at times on our home soil, yet away from home we look so bereft of confidence you wonder how long it will be before we actually pick up a single point away from home.
That’s how shocking it’s become: we aren’t even talking about wins any more, just a single point, that has eluded us and shown this team to be pretty spineless at times in the last five months.
It’s a really tragic end to a managerial career and with Huddersfield away on Sunday you just wonder if there will be more misery to come.
What’s weird with this game is that in the opening exchanges we looked up for it. For large parts of the second half Arsenal looked up for it too. Yet the same deficiencies at the back cost us in both a goal and a man disadvantage.
Mavropanos could be deemed to be harshly given a red given that Holding was on the cover but in real time he’s in the centre and Holding’s run is diagonal behind him and so I can see why the – appalling – referee gave the red card. I still think there’s a good player in there but he’ll need some pre season games now to prove it because he won’t get a chance on Sunday I don’t think.
That sending off turned the tide the way of Leicester and they peppered us a bit before halftime, with Cech coping admirably with their efforts. But in the second half at least the players reacted. There looked to be some fight and in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang we have a gem of a finisher. Next season will be exciting just to see him getting the nod from day one and with him available in all competitions we know we have a player who will get us goals and assists anywhere.
Sadly though, right now, we also have a defence who will shoot themselves in the foot anywhere too. Then, whilst hopping around on that foot, that same defence would look down the barrel of the gun to see what comes out before shooting ourselves in the face.
It’s what we do.
Leicester’s second goal and penalty was as soft as can be but it feels like Leicester are masters of that against us. Remember Vardy kicking his leg out at The Emirates a couple of seasons ago?
Of course it was that little scummer that smashed the ball home and of course it was then Mahrez who made the points safe in stoppage time. I didn’t bother listening to any commentary so I can only guess how often the terrible commentators made references to Vardy turning down Arsenal and Mahrez being a target. Yawn. Effing yawn.
I’m more interested in those players currently playing for Arsenal and it has become clear over a number of games this season that change can’t come quickly enough. Harsh truths need to be dealt out. I’m not specifically talking about this game but the season as a whole; this game meant little in the grand scheme of things but there are some players in that Arsenal team who need to realise that if they don’t perform there are serious consequences for them. That simply isn’t the case under Arsène any more.
There needs to be personnel changes. Significant personnel changes. We need a bastard managing the team. And by that I don’t mean a Conte or Simeone who would shout and scream every five seconds at them, I mean a stone-cold manager who will hook off a play on 30 minutes if he doesn’t look like he’s fighting. I mean somebody who doesn’t have favourites. I mean a person who thinks “hang on a second, my job is on the line here, I’m not taking any chances”. That is not in Arsène’s make up and where historically he has had enough backing and history with the club’s hierarchy to feel confident that he could make a decision like playing Ospina in a semi-final second leg, rather than being a bastard and telling the Colombian that he is second choice to Cech and so that’s why he isn’t starting, this time it hasn’t worked. Now we need somebody who is going to make that call.
What’s sad and something I thought about this morning whilst I was on my morning run, is that even as little as five years ago I remember worrying about losing Wenger because some of our best players would leave the club. I don’t feel that way any more. That may be partially due to the fact that it doesn’t feel like this club has many players that are indispensable and so it’s hard to feel too attached to some of them, but I also think it’s because Arsène isn’t as much of a draw any more.
In fact, I don’t think many managers are for players, because these Dad players join clubs for ‘projects’ and money. Ten years ago players joined managers. They wanted to play under those managers and that’s how Arsène had an advantage, because he is a wonderful person, by all accounts. Think of the Ramsey story about him being contacted by Wenger and Fergie, about how Fergie sent Giggs to show a 17-year-Old around Carrington, but when he got to London Conley he was given the tour by Wenger himself.
That’s where Arsène could steal a march on other clubs but not any more because the ‘project’ and the money is too big.
I’ve moved a little off topic from the Leicester game but I really can’t be bothered to go into the details of how Leicester broke us down, particularly because a red card fundamentally changed the dynamic of a football game, but also because despite rallying, we still have away some shoddy goals.
And we’ll continue to do that until the club can bring in somebody who can analyse the failings of the defensive unit – I’m not just talking about back four and ‘keeper by the way, but the whole way in which we play when we don’t have the ball – and look to take some corrective action.
Some of it I think can be coached. Then there’s a smattering of new signings needed. Then we need to develop an identity. Then we have the makings of a team because there are some good players in there. But right now we’re seeing a rudderless ship that continues to fail when on its travels.