Quite often when I write my daily ramblings I just start typing without really knowing what the title of the blog will be. Usually it just comes to me as I draw my final conclusions. But today is different in that I’ve started with the title and I’m working my way from there. That’s because there was one word that I keep seeing that has been going round and round my head ever since the final whistle blew to confirm that we’d dropped another two points, surrendered another two goal lead, handed Man City another bit of impetus at this crucial juncture in the season:


That performance from Arsenal after the first ten minutes yesterday absolutely reeked of an arrogance that I don’t think I’ve seen from Arsenal this season. We showed some scintillating stuff in the first 10 minutes, we scored two fabulously well-worked goals, then we sat back and allowed West ham back in to a game that they should have been nowhere near. We played with our dinner and got a little upset when suddenly we realised that it too could have a say in a game in which it really shouldn’t have.

Arsenal treated that football match like a training ground exercise after we had gone two goals up and I’m afraid that isn’t really acceptable. And you could tell afterwards that Arteta was frustrated with his players, even referencing the silly ‘flicks’ in his post match conference. Culprit-in-Chief of that yesterday was Thomas Partey. At fault for dallying on the ball and allowing Rice to steal in ahead of him and turnover the ball 25 yards from his own goal, before the ball in to Paqueta gave West Ham a lifeline from absolutely nothing that, until that point, they had done little to suggest they would get. In fact a few minutes before that instance there were audible groans from the home fans.

We had silenced them. We had done exactly what I’d hoped we would do and keep a home crowd quiet by starting fast, starting well, looking like a team fighting for a title. But perhaps thereafter we showed our inexperience because we were lacklustre for the remainder of the game. Our passing was slower, lacked some intensity, the cutting edge wasn’t there and we just seemed to be accepting of the situation. West Ham had a period after their penalty (which was a dive if you ask me) in which they woke up, started to create chances, started to ask us questions. We held on to halftime, at which point I went for a walk around the block to calm the nerves, hoping that Arteta would get them in the dressing room and give them a rollocking.

Whether he did or not we will of course never know, but whatever happened in there, it did not wake us up in the slightest. That second half was quite abject compared to what we have seen all season. More ponderous passing at the back, more mistakes, players uncharacteristically off their game with their radars, etc. After the second West Ham goal there was a moment with about 15 minutes to play in which Odegaard just sprayed a simple vertical pass off for a throw in. So unlike him. In the first half Partey did something similar and when the camera cut to him he was tapping his own head as if to say “what on earth are you playing at Thomas?”. He was dreadful yesterday, but then again there were a number of sub-par performances.

Like Bukayo Saka for example. We need to accept he is arguably our best player, has been brilliant all season, is one of the reasons we are in the position we are in. But we also need to feel comfortable in calling out a poor performance when we see one and yesterday we definitely did from the England international. His penalty miss was poor, high and off target. In the second half the ball broke to him somewhat unexpectantly in our half and he was faced with a three-on-three and his decision making was poor, dribbling a simple shot in to the grateful arms of Fabianski, who in reality had little to do for most of the game and certainly in the second half.

And I think for me that was another really frustrating thing about yesterday; the lack of a second half response, because it never came at 2-1 up, but it certainly didn’t come at 2-2. The goal they scored in that second half will have Ramsdale frustrated as he didn’t see it, but it was floated in to an area that you expect one of Gabriel or Tierney to deal with. We didn’t, Bowen got yet another goal against us, we ultimately slipped up again and whilst yesterday I was feeling the raw emotion of dropped points, even though I’ve mellowed a little overnight, I still can’t help but think that City will now go on and take this title from us.

I know there is a lot of football to be played, I know we are four points clear with a chance to go seven clear on Friday night at home to Southampton, but confidence is massive in football and City’s is through the roof with some of the wins they’ve been getting recently, whereas ours will now be wavering somewhat after giving away two two-goal leads in just over a week. We are now in a situation where if we find ourselves two goals up, we’re going to feel uneasy, especially if we do it quick and early like we did yesterday and last weekend.

Arteta needs to get them on the training ground tomorrow, he needs to tell them that they have done so great all season, but now is not the time to be messing around like we did yesterday. We need to see more from these players from a mental perspective and we need them to show they can handle the pressure of the final weeks of the season. That’s the big question that everyone will be putting out there this week.

A word on the absentees yesterday. Tierney came in and in the first half made a couple of misplaced passes that you probably get from somebody who is a little rusty. But other than that I thought he did ok. He got forward well and created a good chance when he put the ball across the goal for Jesus to almost get on the end of. But he isn’t Zinchenko, he doesn’t give the same midfield security that Zinchenko does and it showed. Holding too showed the difference between our first choice and our reserves. Antonio bullied him all game and whilst the goals weren’t Holding’s fault, you could see in general play the difference that having Saliba in defence brings. He will travel with the ball, he will play progressive passes that work and just by being on the field he will give more comfort to other defenders. There was a few times in the match where Holding had the ball and West Ham backed off and let him travel with it; he was not going to hurt them, so they let him have it and he slowed it down to walking pace. That’s the difference. Maybe we can survive Southampton at home without Saliba, but if he’s not back for Man City, it will have a massive bearing on our ability to get anything out of that game.

Right, I’ll leave it there for today, and be back tomorrow with some more thoughts. Have a good’un.

P.S. if you want a little more catharsis we did the pod last night on some post-match reflections. Have a watch here if you’re interested.