Arsenal 1-3 Manchester Utd
So that’s that then – another less than gentle reminder that despite all the pre-match bullishness of Wenger and some of the squad, when push comes to shove the current crop are little more than pretenders.
Yesterday’s defeat was as lop-sided as the Chelsea game was, and equally as painful.
P8 W0 D1 L7
That’s the stat I put out on Twitter – I got it slightly wrong as it happens but the point is made whichever way you cook it. It refers to the last eight games against the top two. Goal difference of F5 A18 is perhaps even more painful to consider.
You know, had we lost all those games by a single goal having played well enough, you’d have been within your rights to shrug your shoulders at the bad luck of it all. But of those seven defeats, only one – the hapless 2-1 loss at Old Trafford this season, when we played very well but for two crazy errors – has felt like bad luck. In all the others, we have been seen off with either relative or consummate ease.
So for Wenger to suggest the problem is mental is perhaps not so very far from the truth. Against Chelsea and Man Utd, we’ve got the fear. And particularly at home.
At least, it might explain on one level just how rotten we were yesterday. And boy, were we rotten.
I’m not going to bother going through all our weaknesses player by player, because this blog post is late in coming and it’s been well covered elsewhere. I do concur with the criticism that has come to three in particular though – not that many covered themselves in glory. Clichy’s form has melted away, Denilson has been flattering to deceive for far too long (culminating in a truly horrible performance yesterday) and Almunia looks utterly shot.
Maybe much can be put down to problems of the mind, but really, should it be Wenger’s job to have to cajole a performance out of some of these players? Individual errors continue to cost us, and yet I can’t see any evidence of them going away. Wenger, of course, must take some of the blame for that too. Some of his players are just not performing, or are doing so in frustrating fits and starts.
So looking forward, what can be done? In the short-term, a change of personnel would help. Almunia and Denilson should be dropped. Clichy would probably suffer the same fate but for a lack of credible alternatives. Besides, I do think he deserves more time to pick his game up.
And up front, we need to stick B-52 on and hope to god he’s fit enough. There’s a man who – if nothing else – does not want for self-confidence. He offers us something we are clearly lacking – a tall front man who can hold the ball up.
Wenger could and should have addressed some of our weaknesses in the transfer window but, not surprisingly, he has chosen not to. That’s another baffling one but at least he’s in good company – the market has been massively subdued.
In fact, rather than strengthening the squad in January, we actually find ourselves a squad member shorter thanks to the departures of Senderos and Wilshere. So we’re stuck with what we have.
The previous time we were thumped, we did pick ourselves up and go on a decent run that – briefly – took us top. It feels like a long time ago now.
At this stage it feels a tall order but with Arsenal, you never know. It would certainly be nice to put a positive dent into those bleak stats on Sunday.