I don’t know whether it was said in the immediate aftermath of the game against Everton on Monday, but I only read those Martin Odegaard quotes yesterday afternoon, in which he admitted that Arsenal have a mindset problem. He said something along the lines of being ‘afraid to lose the win’ or something equally as worrying.
So here we are again. We’ve danced this dance before. We’ve seen these types of quotes for the best part of 15 years now in one guise or another. Remember back in the day when Johan Djourou used to come out after a bad defeat and use words like this, as well as ‘we must learn from it’. And yet we never do. We never did. So this morning as I woke up and wondered what was in my head to drop on to my virtual page, I had the vision of this kind of nonsense comment from a squad player to be up on the site and that familiar feeling of DeJa Vu.
This Everton result has hit me hard, I won’t lie to you, because normally I’ve gotten over defeats by now. It was the manner of the defeat, the overall performance, the familiar images that are now circulating the internet about how we don’t create chances, about how shocking we are on the final third, it’s all just left a bad taste in my mouth and that is lingering. And then you start to look ahead and it feels a little bit like it could turn in to last season around this time. Remember when it felt like we’d never win a football match again? Yeah, that’s what it feels like. Why? Well, for me it it purely because of what we are doing – or lack there of – in the attacking part of the pitch. No team is getting anywhere unless they are functioning in the attacking part of the pitch. Most teams that get relegated get done because they can’t get goals and they don’t have that Premier League standard striker who will get them out of a whole.
Now, I’m not going to drop into the pit of despair and go all hyperbolic on you by suggesting that we could get relegated, because of course that would be obscene. We are seventh, four points off West Ham in fourth and if we win the next four games then all will look very different. But with the way we are playing and with our inability to break teams down – especially away from home – a 100% record in the league between now and when we play Man City on 1st January feels like the biggest uphill mountain a team has ever faced.
If you look at it on paper and if you take the Arsenal side who looked like they were starting to click pre-international break, then maybe you have that hope. But we have seen all of the familiar failings of this side in the last few weeks. Nine goals shipped in four games. So much for that fantastic-looking rock of a defence, eh? That doesn’t feel like a defence that is going to shut out Southampton, West Ham, Leeds, Norwich and Wolves before the Champions come to town. But those teams in themselves, when you look at it, are all games we should be looking at and thinking we could go on a run. But as it stands I’m looking at Southampton and thinking “tough game, probably a draw”. Then to West Ham and that feels like the form they are in will see them teach us a bit of a lesson. Then you look at Norwich and whilst they aren’t great, they’re at home and we are terrible away, so maybe a draw? Then Wolves away and that has hardly been the happiest of hunting grounds. Imagine if we pick up just three points from three draws in the next five games. It’s not inconceivable, but what is inconceivable is that Mikel won’t have the trigger pulled on him if that happens. And if the worst does happen and we do drop a host of points over this Christmas period, then he really should be given the axe.
I don’t like talking like this by the way. I want nothing more than to see him succeed. He was an Arsenal captain, I feel like I have seen times where we look like we’re controlling games and look good. I have felt at times like this team is on the verge of unlocking its potential. But every time that happens we get stupid setbacks like the last week and it feels like we’ve taken a stick of dynamite to the foundations of a good football team and blown it all away.
What also worries me is that Arteta is doing the weird things again like he did a year ago. He’s making weird tactical decisions and his subs are feeling bizarre. He tried to explain away the Nketiah inclusion and the Pepe omission, but didn’t really sound too convincing and I’m still baffled as to why a penalty box striker is told to play left wing. It feels like he’s trying to be too clever and that is what happened at times last season. I want to like Arteta so much but every time he seems to get things right he goes and does Galaxy Brain stuff that makes me become frustrated with him.
But I’ll try not to end on a low here because that’s never too much fun to read or even to write. If…and it is a big IF…we can win on Saturday and follow that up by a win against West Ham – both home games – then we will be looking a little better in terms of the league position and also potentially form. We would then go in to an away game against Leeds with a bit of momentum and perhaps there can be a run that could be built. The dire performances of the last two matches are not unrecoverable, but this team needs to respond in a big, big way, and that has to be on Saturday from 3pm onwards.
Catch you all tomorrow.