Stoke City 3-2 Arsenal
It’s impossible to make any sense of this season, because you have absolutely no idea what Arsenal will do when they step on the pitch. Good luck anyone trying to second guess how we might play. We might make light work of a seemingly hard game (Dortmund), we might throw away winning positions (Swansea) and we might go tight and eke out one-nil wins (WBA and Southampton). Then of course, we might collapse like a pack of cards, as we did yesterday at Stoke.
The 90 minutes was a microcosm of the inconsistency of this, Wenger’s latest and almost certainly last, Arsenal side. So bad it was pathetic in the first half, then a brief, stirring comeback that fell short. But ultimately, we remembered none of the defensive lessons we seemed to have learned over the last three games. It was a dog’s breakfast of a performance.
We started the season by drawing a lot – we didn’t lose for the first six games of the season – but in the subsequent nine games we have lost four times, won four times and drawn once. That is the epitome of inconsistency, right there.
Now obviously, it was always going to be harder because we had three rookies in the back five. But the mistakes the defence made were just basic. When you are lacking in experience, at the very least you should be drilled to within an inch of your life to keep things tight, shut down the opposition, prevent crosses. Too much to ask, clearly, and when you are 1-0 down after 25 seconds, you’re already in trouble.
We “weren’t decisive enough”, “not dominant enough”, “too fragile” – and you can now add “multiple set-piece disease” to the lexicon of failure. However the boss says it, we’ve heard it all too many times before.
With Newcastle coming next in the league, it’s anyone’s guess. Every game is anyone’s guess. We are almost half way through the season and we’ve not yet started.
Wenger can’t seem to change the narrative for long enough for it to make a difference. If you were a betting man or woman, you’d say the most likely outcome for the second half of the season is more of the same. We probably won’t beat one of the teams we measure ourselves against. We’ll win some and we’ll lose some in no particular order and we might be there or thereabouts for the fourth place trophy in May.
We’re stuck in a loop.