Wigan 3-2 Arsenal
Wenger said on Friday that we were “very close” to winning a trophy. This morning, a trophy has never felt further away.
Yesterday’s ten-minute capitulation at Wigan hammered the final nail into the title coffin and was so dispiriting that people are very reasonably asking: can we keep hold of third now?
It was a game in which almost all our weaknesses were ultimately brutally exposed. On yesterday’s evidence we are a team without a goalkeeper that collectively cannot defend, whose squad players lack the wit, composure or drive to hold onto a 2-0 lead for ten minutes when the pressure is on.
It does unfortunately mean, coming so close to the end of the season as it has done, that some people will just as likely remember this campaign for unacceptable giveaways like this (and there have been more, West Ham and Birmingham spring to mind though at least those were draws) than the general progress that many Arsenal fans feel has been made. It would be a shame if that were the case, though we do now have three games to do something about it. Win those and we will finish on 80 points – a huge total for a team in third place. Lose another couple and the season will end on a very sour note indeed.
Much depends on what Wenger says and does to his team between now and Saturday. He knows that the success or failure of this squad reflects on only one person: himself. He knows that for every poor goal shipped, for every goalkeeping error, for every piece of complacency, he is the one scrutinised. Rightly so. They are his players.
I have no doubt he himself is tired of having to talk up the togetherness and spirit of the squad, only to see car crash endings like yesterday’s occur. His players should not have to be cajoled into a performance by the manager, but that’s the job he has on his hands this week. They should be doing this themselves, it’s basic stuff. Determination, drive, urgency. These are givens.
Wenger was furious after the match, accusing his players of a lack of cohesion and discipline. He sensed we were struggling to keep hold of the ball and make chances – yet he did not bring van Persie on until it was too late. Why?
As I said, I do think we have improved, I think many of our players have improved, but without the core of our team our squad has been badly exposed. And we still lack what we need most – a killer instinct. That might come with time, but it’s clear that we need a couple of players who possess that attitude to come in over the summer and infuse the current squad with it.
Sometimes, some of them seem incapable of motivating themselves, and that is unforgivable.
The goalkeeping situation is now critical. Wenger must know that. Neither of our main goalkeepers are good enough for this football club and as a statement of intent, both need to be shipped out in the summer and replaced with someone from the top drawer. Why this was not addressed in January when it was plain to see is amazing.
Overall, it was a performance that has clouded a lot of the good things that have gone on this season. But those clouds cannot be ignored because they keep reappearing.
How we move on is the million dollar question and I suspect this summer could end up being the defining one for this team, and perhaps also for Wenger.