Arsenal 0-2 Swansea
This time, the broken crests are merited. Arsenal are all at sea after a performance so dispiriting, so lacking in any redeeming points, that the only conclusion you can draw with any confidence is that something is very wrong at the club.
I was, for the second game running, prawn-sandwiching it up in Club Level. It’s ambitious, impressive, organised, attractive. And then the game began.
A bird’s eye view from a central location – this is normally a good thing, a selling point. But yesterday it merely served to highlight how lacklustre Arsenal were, how short of ideas and energy and movement. Pass, pass, pass, sideways pass, pass back, pass sideways, pass. But where was the incision? Where was the speed of thought? Where is the danger? When Arsenal are like this – and we have been like this three, four or five times this season already – it is boring. Boring. I don’t think we once truly stretched the Swansea defence, not once did we put them under sustained pressure. It was as if they were merely going through the motions.
“We’ll sing when we want”, blasted the visitors from south Wales, which was a good thing because nobody else was much. I do remember a chorus of ‘Giroud’ going up in about the 48th minute, which says it all. There is nothing to sing about. It’s all very well saying that the fans have a duty to raise the tempo of the players, but it’s nigh on impossible when the ball rarely goes into dangerous areas. Play with some verve and energy and the crowd feeds off it.
Incidentally, props to Swansea who look a fine side. They were more dangerous in front of goal and had it not been for Szczesny, the game would have been wrapped up sooner.
All in all this reminds me a bit of late 1994, early 1995, when Arsenal were turgid, a shadow of the old swashbuckling George Graham side of 1987 – 1992. This season’s Wenger side – a few good results aside – has been a pale shadow too, shorn of its goals-from-nowhere man, who was sold in the summer for £24m.
Back in 1995, an ‘unsolicited gift’ made the board’s decision to dispense with Graham easy. Wenger’s future is harder to ascertain. He won’t get the push. Will he walk? He always said he will judge himself at the end of the season. That sounds fair to me.
The frustrating thing is that these players are mostly decent. Man for man, we have a good defence, some hugely dynamic midfielders, youthful vigour on the flanks. Some people say we have for a while been punching above our weight – scraping top four through various miracles. I’m not sure I agree with that. I look at these players and I see very good players punching far below their weight. Players who can put in dynamic shifts against City away, Spurs at home, but the very next game not manage a shot on goal.
Sure, we need to strengthen, that is obvious. But beyond that, and more importantly, they need reinvigorating, a new approach. They need to believe. Can Wenger turn this round again and make it happen? He did last season, (if you buy into the notion that scraping third is ‘turning things around’). But this season performances have been worse and more worrying. In the short term, he might just do it. Long term? Well I’m obviously not the only one doubting.
It is clearly the biggest challenge of his 16 years.
“Forwards, not sideways” – overheard yesterday. No doubt mirrored elsewhere with similar or different words.