Yesterday I wrote that I didn’t really feel too fussed about the game, that it didn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things and in terms of the physical result, I certainly feel the same in the cold light of day today after that abysmal home capitulation against Liverpool last night. But what I did want more than anything else was a performance which showed we were on the right track, building momentum, looking like a team who can have themselves a good season by finishing off strongly as we reach the latter stages of the Europa League.
What we got was totally the opposite.
I didn’t think a result any which way could do us damage last night, but I was very, VERY, wrong. Because the way in which this Arsenal team caved against a decent but very flawed Liverpool side was more worrying than I could have ever imagined.
In the Premier League you can’t turn up to a match and even be 90%, let alone the 50-60% we got from some of the players selected. It was lacklustre and half-hearted and frankly I am now more skeptical that the Europa League is an obtainable target after witnessing what we witnessed last night.
Liverpool were good. Let’s get that straight, but they didn’t have to be THAT good to beat an Arsenal side that put in the 90 minute equivalent of the first 30 minutes against West Ham. That’s back-to-back games in which we’ve seen some appalling football now and if we bring that kind of football to the Europa League then Slavia Prague are cleaning up.
And I’m afraid this is on Arteta because I thought his team selection was poor and I thought his approach to the game was shoddy too. In fact, last night was the first time under him that I’ve wondered whether he is in fact the right man for the job, honestly. I have backed him throughout – even when we were shocking in November and December – but last night I was on the phone to my ol’ mate Johnny Cochrane (who I think did the Arsenal Opinion podcast straight after) and I admitted that it is the first bit of doubts I’ve had about Arteta long term.
Granted, he was hampered by a string of injuries, but the application of the players is still something that is in his control. And yesterday evening there was a complete lack of it. Players who have been decent all season just looked to have mental breakdowns. At centre half Holding was poor for the first goal, Gabriel was weak for the second goal and he made an appalling pass for the third goal. In midfield Ceballos stunk the place out. Honestly I am so glad we aren’t forced in to buying him because we shouldn’t touch that with a barge pole. Misplaced passes, weak in the tackle, no structural security in his positioning; he was woeful throughout. But it wasn’t just him. They all put in stinkers of performances. Even those who have been good for us of late were anonymous. Odegaard didn’t get a sniff. Pepe was absent. Auba might have himself a fresh new haircut, but it was a familiar sight of nothingness from him and as for Lacazette, well, if anybody is championing a new deal for him then they need to have a word with themselves because he isn’t worthy of it. We need to cash in on some of these players and he is definitely one I would say needs to be moved on in the summer.
The likes of Tierney wasn’t great and seeing him walk off injured just compounded the misery of a terrible night. We were second to every ball, there was no fight, we didn’t lay a glove on a Liverpool team with proper makeshift back line. Teams have got at this Liverpool team all season – we have made it easy as pie for them.
What does this do for morale and momentum for Thursday now? That is what I am more worried about than anything else. We’ve all said that in all of the ‘big’ games Arteta has at least made us solid. This performance was anything but and if we lose on Thursday then you’re looking at probably another negative spiral like the one in November and December. You might recover as a manager from one of those, as Arteta has, but you don’t recover from two in a season, or at least you shouldn’t.
I hope there is an inquest today. I hope tomorrow the whole team sits down and has a word with itself. I also hope that we get good news on Kieran Tierney becasue apparently it’s his knee and that means he is probably out for a while. If it’s as bad as we all think then that could be his season out. It’s the same with Luiz and the rumors are that he might need surgery on his knee. Arteta never confirmed nor denied it and it appears as though our team is breaking down just at the worst possible time.
We simply MUST see a reaction now. We must change our eroding confidence and the poor form. That’s Olympiakos, West Ham and now Liverpool in which we’ve seen this team wilt. It has to stop, be arrested, and that needs to happen now.
Arteta better have an ace up his sleeve.
Catch you all tomorrow.