Meek Arsenal are all at sea

Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal

The baffling thing yesterday was not so much that we lost – because lord knows, name a circumstance and Arsenal can magic up a defeat for it – but that we were, and still are, nominally in the hunt for the title. We look as if someone has poured us into the league table but forgot to say ‘when’.*

Up against an injury-ravaged team suffering from its own existential crisis, we excelled ourselves by bringing all of our own majestic psychological demons to the party.

And what a party it was. As if it wasn’t bad enough to be dishevelled in defence, inadequate in midfield and largely invisible up front, yesterday we simply did not look like a team that believes it can go all the way or has the stomach for the challenge ahead. We were well beaten and we were beaten too easily.

Congratulations to Marcus Rashford, by the way, who looked hungry and direct and fresh – all the things Arsenal weren’t. In two matches over four days he has scored â…” of the amount of goals Theo Walcott has scored all season. More on Theo later.

The comparison with the 3-0 at home, when we unleashed the dogs of war and blew United away in the blink of an eye, does not bear making. We’ve been harping on about that, and about City at home and one or two others, but sandwiched between all that has been a lot of stodgy football.

I don’t know what’s happened to this side, but something is missing. Welbeck’s late, great winner at Leicester was a moment to savour, but it didn’t spark us back into life as we’d hoped it would.

Our form has simply evaporated since Christmas. The best thing you can say is that we’ve hung in there, but the chance to win the most winnable of leagues is withering before our eyes unless we can engineer the kind of turnaround in form that seems entirely beyond us. Unless we can remove the lead boots.

I know it’s far from impossible, but where’s the belief? Where’s the bloody-mindedness? Who’s driving us forward? We weave pretty enough patterns, but the ruthless end product is absent.

You can’t get away with it when so many players are playing within themselves. Gabriel did not look ready to come back into a game like this, Coquelin struggled, Ramsey was ineffective and up front we basically carried two players. Wenger went top-heavy to generate some attacking momentum, but playing Alexis and Theo through these stormclouds of form is not working at all.

At least with Alexis you can say he never gave up: even if nothing else is working for him he tries to make things happen. But Walcott? I’ve stuck up for Theo many time before, but he was absolutely invisible yesterday. He’s too often invisible.

Three wins in ten does not tell a lie. With an injury list that has eased over the last month, now was meant to be the time to move up through the gears.

United away is always tough because it’s United away. But we wilted too easily against a far from vintage side. I don’t buy the notion that it’s a physical hangover after being ridden roughshod by Barcelona’s possession football, because there were five days between the two games and Utd played on Thursday too.

It’s as much psychological as it is physical – Arsenal’s great Achilles heel, some would say – and Wenger’s got about six days to fix it, via a midweek home game, before our Saturday lunchtime derby delight.

On yesterday’s evidence, I won’t hold my breath. But Arsenal are odd, football is odd and you just never know.

*With the greatest of apologies to P.G.Wodehouse.


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

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. PDDD

    Pathetic. Talking about team selection is irrelevant. Yesterday was further proof (not that any more was needed) that Arsene is simply incapable of putting together a title-winning squad. If we can’t win it in this God-awful season (this season’s champions will be the worst since Blackburn) then there is no chance of it ever happening.
    If he loves the club anywhere near as much as he says he does, he will have gone to the Board last night & told them to find a replacement. Enough is enough.

  2. Jim

    Of course it’s on him. He’s meant to be the one motivating them and directing them and they look clueless.

  3. PDDD

    I have consistently argued he should have gone after the Cup Final win over Hull. Last year’s FA Cup didn’t change that. (that & our improved league form in the 2nd half of the season were totally based on sheer luck – Coq’s emergence despite Arsene having written him off as an Arsenal player)

    The longer he stays the harder it will for the new manager. Whoever it is will now be inheriting an ageing squad, a squad with another two years of failure (in league terms) draining them psychologically & the club’s marquee player in Ozil begging to be let go in the summer. (and who would blame him)

    Klopp, Guardiola, even Pochettino…how many more potential managers are the Board going to ignore while they cling on this sentimental notion that we are getting closer to the fairytale ending for Arsene ?

    Speaking of Pochettino…if the Totts win it, everything Arsene has ever done for the club will mean nothing to me, He will always be remembered as the idiot who handed the Totts the title on a plate. I will never forgive him.

  4. Jim

    Last bit is harsh. For all the current travails he made us better than them for 20 years.

  5. Lee

    Should we expect more? Yes. Should we be surprised when it doesn’t materialise? No.

    When a manager highlights the money the manure spent on their midfield you know he hasn’t got a clue. He claims that the commitment was there, really?
    No effort, no heart or passing and a considerable amount of players just cruising and taking the cash.
    Walcott – one trick pony
    Gabriel – out of his depth
    Koscielny – gone hiding
    Coquelin- a lucky short term fix to a major problem in this team. Yesterday showed why he isn’t the answer
    Ramsey – needs to get back to basics and stop believing the hype
    Sanchez – has been sussed and needs to play quicker release football

    Wenger – Out but rewarded with other contract. When will they get rid of this dinosaur

  6. PDDD

    Yep, harsh but that’s how I feel. It’s over 50 years since they won one. That counts for more than the 20 years he kept us better than them. If he’d done his job, all of this talk of their improvement would still mean they would be 10 points behind us.
    Imagine, the Totts as champions. With a much younger team than us. I can’t see us ever finishing above them again with the two current managers in place.

  7. Shedman

    So I went to the pub to watch it with a mate and I would say that 95% of the times where I put the effort in to do that we end up losing. So maybe it is my fault ? Sorry all……

  8. Shedman

    But in all seriousness, its time for change even if we manage to win it this year. We should be strolling it but we aren’t. I’m beginning to get more worried about next season when the usual suspects are back to form and we add Spurs to that too. We a settled squad we should be moving forward, instead we have gone backwards.

  9. Jim

    We were better last season – much better. Perhaps all those outfield signings upset the equilibrium. 😉

  10. PDDD

    How bad would tonight have been if we didn’t have a squad with such great mental strength ???

  11. Jim

    Leaders everywhere… horrible to see them so diminished.

  12. PDDD

    Are they diminished or is it just a reflection of how good they are ? It’s all very well putting together good football when there’s no pressure but when there is pressure …….

  13. PDDD

    So, Arsenal Lotto ? Pick a finishing position from 1 to 6.
    Sadly, I have so little faith in Arsene & his team left that West Ham’s win today upset me more than Leicester’s did.
    I’m voting for 4.

  14. Jim

    It changes with every performance. Before yesterday I’d have said fourth or fifth… but I’m über-positive now and I’ll say fourth. 😅

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