A bad time to stumble, stutter, splutter

Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal

You can’t really get away with blips or slumps or off days when you hit the final furlong of a season in which you are challenging for something. Look at how we won the league in 2002 – we got 13 straight wins from 10th February. In 1998, 13 wins and a draw between January and clinching the title.

Even last season, it took eight wins and two draws from 16th March to claw our way to the elixir of fourth. Form and momentum.

That’s what makes yesterday so ominous, really. Penalty or no penalty, we were very, very average until right at the end of the game. Two shots on target says it all. We let Stoke out-muscle us, and we let them get to us. We looked very one-paced until right at the end.

That’s now two wins, two draws and two defeats in our last six league games, with our next four being Spurs, Chelsea, Man City and Everton. From where I am standing it looks beyond our capabilities. Our form is too fitful.

True, Stoke have an excellent record against the top sides at home. And true, things might change. There will always be ups and downs. But to claw back those four points will require a phenomenal run-in and the kind of consistency we’ve not shown for a while.

We’ll be fourth if City take two points from their two games in hand. I suppose arriving at fourth having been top is an improvement on arriving at fourth having been sixth…

In all seriousness though, it’ll be interesting to see how Wenger approaches the rest of the season. Last season he tweaked things to improve our defence, and it worked, albeit to the detriment of our attacking play. Now, our defence remains mostly solid. It’s further up the pitch where confidence seems to be sagging. How can he boost us for the next stage of the campaign?

He could start by injecting a bit of pace. Theo, oh woe is me. We do miss his goals and his ability to stretch defences. The nearest we have to him is the Ox, who didn’t start yesterday. His confidence is up, unlike some of our players, and for me he comes straight back into the starting XI for the FA Cup.

Wilshere’s form is worrying too. He had a poor game yesterday following an excellent one against Sunderland – but we can’t afford that. Is he injured? Podolski didn’t offer enough either. But maybe it’s harsh to pick those two out. It was sub-standard stuff, really.

I wouldn’t say the Sunderland performance was a glitch – but they were very accommodating visitors and our next four league games will be anything but accommodating.

What better, then, than an FA Cup quarter final to get things right. What an important game that is turning out to be.

6 thoughts on “A bad time to stumble, stutter, splutter

  1. I really enjoy reading this blog normally but I am absolutely incredulous that you can report on that game without mentioning Flamini’s absence. We’ve got one defensive midfielder in the squad & Arsene won’t bloody pick him – all the other issues are linked to this.
    Arteta continuing to play as a first choice there is up there with Arsene’s worst ever decisions…e.g. Almunia staying as no.1 for three years. Absolute & utter madness.

  2. I know it’s a major bugbear of yours – not sure Arteta is *that* bad there but I do agree Flamini is better. Perhaps just a case of him needing a rest, or a small injury. Slightly baffling though, as was Ox on the bench. The whole day was one to forget.

  3. It’s not a question of him being ‘bad’, just totally unsuitable. To me, it’d be like choosing to play Vermaelen at left back every week & leaving Gibbs on the bench. If this was a one-off I’d accept there might have been a ‘resting’ or an injury but this has been going on for months. It’s Arsene’s absolute obsession with technical ability over everything else that can be the only reason. And it’s killed our season.

  4. Everton is arguably the biggest game in Arsene’s time at Arsenal now. If this season ends as it now looks likely to : no domestic trophy again, out of the CL in the last 16 again & 4th in the league again…then for all the optimism this season …..what has actually changed ? Frankly, if we lose then on Sat it’s got to be the end. He should be honest & brave enough to accept it’s time and walk away.
    I just pray he spends the week re-watching Everton’s visit to the Emirates in December again : they targetted Arteta right from the kick-off and mercilessly exposed him from start to finish. Only for Per/Kos were both brilliant & kept Lukaku quiet we would have been well beaten.

  5. I guess Jack’s injury gives Arsene yet another reason not to drop Arteta. I really hope I’m wrong but I fear this will be like most games where we’ve played both Flamini & Arteta. Arteta being the ‘main man’ & Flamini having to work around him. Or in other words : both of our central midfielders being asked to play to their weaknesses. I’d love him to be brave enough to go with Flam/Ox & leave Arteta out but won’t happen.
    Anyway……despite my fears, come on you Reds…..I’m up at 4 in the morning to get to the airport in time for my flight over to the game so it better be worth it !!

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