Last night I had a weird ol’ dream. I was back in my old season ticket seat at Highbury in the North Bank and time had rewound and the team were now allowed to play back in the old stadium again. Which is weird because a) that would take some serious engineering work needed, not to mention a lot of re-housing of people in the houses that were the old stadium, and b) I never actually owned a season ticket in the old stadium.
The optimistic part of my brain – a rapidly dwindling corner these days when it comes to The Arsenal, which I put mainly down to becoming a grumpy old man – says it is my subconscious telling me that the glorious final years of Highbury will soon return and I will get to be a part of it. I was never fortunate enough to have access to regular match tickets as I only got my season ticket and then silver membership for the wife when we moved to the new stadium, so I always feel like I only got to semi enjoy the glory early years under Arsene, so the idea that we could have a title winning side and I actually be there for most of the games in that season is something that really plays on my mind.
I was there for the game that we won the league in 1991 and beat Man United, but it was my only game of the season that I went to, as my dad isn’t really a football fan so I could only go when his mate Roy had a spare ticket. Back in those days it was impossible for a nine-year-old to just rock up and grab a ticket. My parents wouldn’t have dreamed for a second allowing me to get on a train from Hertfordshire to Highbury including a tube journey as well. Then, when I was hold enough to get tickets in the early 2000s and go myself, I only ever got those games that went to the red members in the early days of the red membership existing. So most games I never stood a chance getting and always had to rely on Roy.
I know this is all memory lane preamble, but with lots of tactical analysis and gnashing of teeth going on about the Crystal Palace result still, I’m a little more sanguine after over two days, where the frustration has subsided a bit and I no-longer feel like a coiled up spring. So I thought i’d take a wander in to the annals of my own mind and drop it on to the virtual page for you this morning. Apologies if it’s a little boring.
Fasting forward to today and I sit here tap-tap-tapping away at my keyboard thinking about what Mikel Arteta might say in his press conference today ahead of tomorrow night’s game. I’ve always found his press conferences interesting and sometimes when I listen to what he has to say I think “yes, he knows what is needed, he’ll get there”. He’s good in a press conference, that’s for sure, but that isn’t even 1% of what is required as an Arsenal manager. 99% of it is on the pitch and that is where the actions are not speaking louder than the words. Like I said I am more sanguine about the result on Monday and I can see that we were by and large the better side that gifted Palace two goals. If we statistically repeat those numbers and cut out the stupid errors then we might stand a chance in beating Villa. But I feel like that phrase “cut out the silly errors” has been hard-wired in to our DNA for the best part of a decade now. We seem to gift goals to opponents all too often, yet in reverse we rarely have ours gifted to us. On Monday night it was a good save from the ‘keeper Guita and then a good reaction from Auba to put it in, then it was another decent stop whilst under pressure and then Lacazette was in the right place at the right time. Neither goal was due to brain farting on the Palace front. Yet both of ours were.
Against the Scum Son was left in acres in our box. We know that Mari wasn’t tight enough to Lukaku for Chelski’s first goal, James had the whole of the left hand side of the pitch for the second. For our goals against Burnley it was a fine finish from Odegaard and in the Norwich game Pepe delivered a decent bit of skill but Krul still made a couple of saves and the ball bounced kindly for Aubameyang. Perhaps I’m just viewing this through the biased lens of an Arsenal fan, but it feels like we have to work a lot harder for the goals that we score, compared to the ones we concede. Which is super frustrating. Cutting out silly mistakes is something I’ve heard too many Arsenal managers talk about for too many years. But perhaps that’s what all managers of mid table teams say each week? The only difference is that I don’t watch other teams and their managers as much perhaps?
What’s the solution though? Is it better coaching to cut out the errors? Maybe, but I don’t know how you can coach out stupidity on the football pitch. You can cut out things like dwelling on the ball too much, or backing off your defender like White did on Monday, but perhaps the easier option for a coach is to ensure that you get the sharp end of your team firing well. If you do that and your team scores lots of goals then you at least mitigate the problem of brain fart moments in games.
“Oh no, somebody kicked the ball against his own face and it went in our own net. Balls. Never mind, we’re still 3-1 up with ten minutes to play”
That’s where Arteta isn’t leaving himself enough ‘wiggle room’ with this team and that, I think, is why the frustration is there right now. The lack of goals is costing us for obvious reasons, but it’s also leaving no margin for error and unless the manager finds a way to eradicate every stupid thing we do – impossible for ANY team I think – then we will not get beyond a mid table finish this season. We’re eight games in to the season now. The first three can be chalked down as a write off, so he’s effectively had five played. In that we’ve had three clean sheets, one great performance and two dodgy ones that have led to draws. But the calibre of opponent is such that we should be looking at them as wins and the very fact we aren’t is why Thierry has said he can’t see Arsenal finishing in European spots right now.
Find that solution for scoring more goals Mikel, and find it fast, because the mistakes will keep happening and if we aren’t scoring enough goals, then the poor results will also continue. And that will cost you your job, my friend.
Back tomorrow with a match preview.