Arsenal go AWOL

Arsenal 2-3 W.B.A.

I have for a long time inexplicably looked out for West Brom’s results, a footballing peculiarity I can trace back to collecting Panini stickers in 1980, when theirs was the first team I had all the stickers for. At that time, with players like Robson and Regis, they were one of the better sides in the old First Division.

Yesterday they may have won a few more admirers with a display of real craft, commitment and counter-attacking skill. It’s very unusual for Arsenal fans as one to applaud an away side off, but all four corners of the ground did just that yesterday. The Baggies had been brilliant.

But what of Arsenal?

With very few exceptions, we were lifeless, listless and sloppy.

The fact that Wenger was left scratching his head – “I didn’t recognise my team today… many players made massive mistakes… unexplainable” makes any objective judgement on what went wrong pretty tricky.

Something, as Wenger said, wasn’t right from the start. I said to my brother, 15 minutes into the game, that I thought we were going to struggle and he shot me down in flames for being a miserable old git. But I was right; there was a lack of focus and urgency throughout and we got what we deserved.

For a side with title ambitions to find itself 3-0 down to a promoted side, having already conceded a penalty, tells you that it wasn’t all about the excellence of West Brom’s performance.

That lack of focus and urgency, coupled with a pandemic of defensive errors, made it the mess it was.

Between the sticks, Almunia was an absolute disaster. It was he who gave the penalty away, but if you thought his smart save would be the springboard to a commanding second half performance, you couldn’t have been more wrong. He was blameless for the first WBA goal, but erred badly for the second, and ambled unconvincingly out his box, leaving the goal gaping, for the third.

With every error he and his understudy makes, Wenger loses credibility. There is only so long you can defend the indefensible. The simple fact is this: Lehmann was dropped for making two errors. Wenger cannot drop Almunia for his multiple errors because the only other established option is even worse. The situation is risible.

The ironic jeers that then greeted every simple piece of handling will not help his confidence but the fans are not aiming their frustration at him, they are aiming it at Wenger. Like the caller who rang into 606 and called Arsenal a team with a £56m profit but a 56p goalkeeper, they do not understand how this three-year-long experiment has not been shelved.

But let’s be honest, he wasn’t the only one and it would be most unfair to pick on him alone. Watching your defence unravel in front of you in the way it did would have tested the mettle of any goalkeeper.

Sagna at right-back was all over the place, Song and Eboue were sloppy and ineffective. Diaby, Chamakh, Arshavin – the list goes on. Our two new central defenders, having quietly impressed in the season’s opening salvos, looked vulnerable all game.

Of the starters only Nasri, who battled hard all game and deserved his two goals, comes out with credit from yesterday’s mess. Wilshere did OK but he’s no superman.

For me, the most frustrating thing about it was the sense that having taken several steps forward in the early stages of this season, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot with this performance. Two steps forward, one step back.

All the old Arsenal failings – poor goalkeeping, sloppy defensive errors, plenty of possession but no way through, lack of bite and fight – reared their ugly heads again, just when we needed it least.

I accept we played 120 minutes in midweek, and our injury list is very long. But these are not excuses – the players are all experienced, and mostly all internationals. They just never turned up. It worries me that without Fabregas’s effervescence and bloody-minded will to win, we can at times look like a sports car without a driver.

We can but hope it’s a one-off, but it’s a worry, because we’ve been here before in seasons past.

Blip or bubble burst? We’ll know soon enough, with two huge tests next week.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Sajit

    Wenger has to take the blame. He gambled and lost. We will not win the league with Almunia in goal. He is just not consistent enough.

  2. shan

    Song is really bad recently, he is trying to score more goal than shielding the back four, that’s why we are so badly expose.
    as for almunia, i think he did OK. You all blamed him, even Cech couldn’t do anything with the defence like we show last night. supposely after the penalty save, we up our game, show some urgency up front but still we didn’t, where is Diaby, Clichy, both are very poor. So you all make Almunia as scapegoat.. easy ha.

  3. Booland

    Like you, I had predicted the performance when I saw the team. I hoped we won’t play like France! It wasn’t exception and not unexplainable!

    Our next four league games Chelsea, Birmingham, Man City and West Ham. We lost 15 points against these four teams last season, I think.

    So by the end of October we could be out of the title race?

    When will be the new year?


  4. Begeegs

    I thought that the the early call for a foul on Eboue when Nasri was clean through was very annoying. We could have been one up at that point.

    However, I’d agree that there wasn’t anyone out there who was taking the game by the scruff of the neck, except Nasri. Chamakh didn’t really get a lot of service. I am also starting to feel that Clichy needs to be dropped when Gibbs is back to full health.

  5. fourstar

    Of the starting XI, who played the full game in midweek? Certainly Nasri did, and he was our only bright spark, especially in the last 10 mins. I don’t buy tiredness I’m afraid. It was initially a lack of concentration to concede and subsequently a paucity of desire to turn it around in adversity. Very poor indeed. I hope we’re not turning into flat-track bullies…

  6. RotorGoat

    I’m not making Almunia a scapegoat – but he was, again, at fault. It doesn’t matter if he has 5 outstanding games because in the sixth there will be an error.

    His defence let him down too though – that much is true.

  7. RotorGoat

    I don’t buy tiredness either. But it was mystifyingly lacklustre.

  8. Tim

    Nasri and Koscielny were the only starters from WHL who started yesterday, so tiredness was not an issue.

    Yesterday’s performance smacked of complacency. We didn’t treat a decent West Brom side with enough respect, and got spanked as a result. Absolutely no argument with the result. As Arsene himself said afterwards, we got what we deserved – zero points.

    These things happen, even to champion sides (remember Man U losing home and away to West Ham?) The key now is to ensure it doesn’t happen again, which means forgetting about Chelsea for the moment and focussing 100% on Partizan. A good result on Tuesday and all will be well.

  9. RotorGoat

    We do have a history of complacency unfortunately. But you’re right Tim – a solid win and it’ll all feel a lot better…

  10. PD

    The point is though Tim that Man Utd have proved consistently that they may have the odd blip but they always manage to get involved at the top of the table when it matters.Until this team proves they can win a title,results like yesterday will not be viewed as a blip, rather as proof they can’t do it.A good result on Tuesday & all will not be well. Its very simple – unless this team gets a result at chelsea next week yet another league title challenge is over well before Christmas.

    Almunia is not being made a scapegoat. Practically everyone was rubbish, but it’s ludicrous to suggest he did ok. He gave away a needless pen (albeit making up for it), he was appalling for their second & pretty much hopeless for the third as well. He has never been good enough to be no.1 & Wenger has had 5 transfer windows to sort it out.No-one blames Almunia, this is totally Wenger’s fault.

    You have to question too why Eboue was played in attack. He’s our back-up rightback & no more. You simply cannot have one of your front 3 in a 4-3-3 who is not any threat to the opposition goal. It’s farcical.

    Just a totally depressing game. Nasri apart (who’s had 3 fantastic performances in a week) we were rubbish.

  11. Booland

    Noo.. only a solid win against Chelsea can make me feel better now!

  12. Chorlton

    It looked very much that the players went into the game expecting to score a hatful, but when the early attempts didn’t go in, heads dropped and players started to forget their jobs. It all got very sloppy and the precision disappeared. When Nasri finally got us going again, many players seemed to have a complete lack of urgency in the final 5 minutes, thinking we could win by passing the ball about in midfield. The team seemed devoid of leaders and mettle.

    Personally, I would dump Eboue and bring in Lansbury on the right if Theo isn’t fit. Eboue is an understudy for Sagna, nothing more. As for Almunia, I would take the gamble against Chelsea and bring in Chesney. Almunia is “injured”. Flappy was poor against Spurs. If Chesney can shine against Chelsea, then he immediately leapfrogs the other keepers.

  13. Chris

    Same old same old ….. point 1 an observation no one seems to have made so far – where was the on the field leadership yesterday?

    Poor old Cesc, what must he be thinking?? He goes off injured at Sunderland, 1-0 up. Game ends with 2 points dropped as his teammates, the French kindergarten et al, gifted an opportunity to win the match with a penalty award, blow it and concede in the 95th minute. Nasri’s supposed refusal to stand up, take the pen and the responsibility, along with Sagna admitting they communicate in french across the defence, being just two embarrassing stories to emerge from the Sunderland fiasco.

    A week later, home game against the Baggies, what most would consider beatable oppostion. Cesc (and Vermaelen) sit and watches an embarrassing, listless, leadership display and 3 poinst given away.

    Be honest with yourselves, what would you think of your teammates if you were Cesc, a World Cup Winner ……????

    Point 2 ….. The ‘French’ farce really starts to p*ss me off ….. Our full backs, Clichy & Sagna – fantastic two seasons ago but a downward slope ever since. Gibbs should be given Clichy’s shirt as soon as he’s fit and personally I’d prefer to see Eboue start in Sagna’s place – at least he can deliver a cross. Diaby and Song, what a comedy of errors in central midfield, has anyone seen their pass completion rates for yesterdays game? Nasri, yes he scored a couple and was probably Arsenal’s best player (for the final 20 minutes…). Praise the lord, he arrived at the club with a fanfare two years ago and its the first time I can recall him ever standing up to be counted as a senior player and ‘leading’ by example …. and remember that only happened once we were 3-0 down. A reality check ….. how does he rate against our best rampaging wide men …Pires, Ljungberg ?? Not PC to say this but way too much pretty pretty french arrogance and way too little (french or other) steel. Imagine the mincemeat Viera & Petit would make of Diaby and Song ….

    Time to ditch the French African bias Arsene! La plus ca change, la plus restez le memechose. We’ve seen it for 3/4/5 seasons now. You have Lansbury, Wilshere, Gibbs and when he recovers Randall, all of whom know what the Premier League is all about by now. Points aren’t given out for simply turning up, teams – even pretty pretty Arsenal, have to earn and fight for points, doesn’t matter whether its Chelski, Barcalona or Blackpool……..

    Arsene, no more french arrogance pleez – you have done wonderful things for Arsenal Football Club but its disrespectful to the millions of Arsenal supporters who have had their weekend ruined by watching yesterdays garbage. A reminder – Arsenal are an ENGLISH team based in LONDON who play the majority of their matches in the ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE.

    ps … and while you’re at get a replacement for Manu The Clown, my 11 year old’s school team has a a big fatty who fills most of the net who I think would be an improvement, I’ll ave a word with his dad if u want 😉

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