The Arsenal enigma rolls on

Jewell in the Town

Ipswich Town 1-0 Arsenal

enigma [ɪˈnɪgmə]
a person, thing, or situation that is mysterious, puzzling, or ambiguous
[from Latin aenigma, from Greek ainigma, from ainissesthai to speak in riddles, from ainos fable, story]
enigmatic [ˌɛnɪgˈmætɪk], enigmatical adj
enigmatically adv

[Forgive me, positive Arsenal fans, for I am about to moan]

The schizophrenic nature of this season makes blogging very hard indeed. Just when you feel a surge of oomph, along comes an exhalation of gaah. I’ve completely given up anticipating what this team could achieve this season, on the grounds that nobody, from the fans to the pundits to the manager, can possibly know. I’ve taken to shrugging my shoulders, in the finest French tradition. Like this team, it’s able to say everything, and nothing.

In fact, I’m fairly sure I’ve written those exact words, albeit in a different order, several times this season already.

As Mr Mouse says, there’s certainly no point in analysing individual performances – for what is there to say? And as for the team performance, well we’ve seen similar disappointments all season, living cheek by jowl with aggressive, impressive, high-tempo victories. That this performance came with many of our ‘backups’ is neither here nor there – it also contained Fabregas, Wilshere, Arshavin, Walcott, Djourou and Koscielny. It was a strong team. The ability to switch from superb to supine appears to be endemic.

It would be too easy to mark this defeat – our eighth of the season – as just ‘another bad day at the office’. Strictly speaking it was exactly that, but that would be passing the buck. Why are we having so many bad days at the office? That’s the question.

Let it be said that Ipswich, as Leeds before them, played their socks off and deserve all the plaudits coming their way. I thought they were terrific. But we were far off the pace, and no amount of cheerful tweeting on my behalf will change that (it was worth a try).

Let it also be said that we should still make the final. The trouble is, we seem incapable of making things easy for ourselves. Incapable of taking the bit between our teeth more than once in a while. The upshot of last night is that Ipswich have seen a way through us, and beyond that, West Ham or Birmingham will have seen a way through us too.

We’ve been talking about consistency, and momentum, and collective will-to-win all season, yet we only see it in bursts. In fact, we’ve been banging the inconsistency drum for years now.

Here I am, doing it again. I’m tired of it.


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

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Haris Džidić

    Please, we’re not an enigma, we’re just poor. It’s time to see the Chelsea win for what it was, a win against a team in crisis, a team that lost to Sunderland, Wolves and Birmingham in the same period.

    I don’t buy the inconsistency argument. We’ve been consistently poor for the best part of 6 years, and Wenger needs to answer for it.

  2. Jeff

    Who knew being involved in four competitions could be so discouraging?

    Expectations (specifically low ones) are key to the enjoyment of these matches; although I have trouble convincing myself that they’re over-achieving when they play well, and that the top performances are not their normal level.

  3. East Lower

    I guess that’s the doom scenario. I don’t want to believe it but performances like last night’s don’t help at all.

  4. Anonymous

    “….we should still make the final”. I think YOU are guilty of complacency here. Whatever did you see last night or on Saturday to make you think we can score two goals without reply against a team set up as Ipswich (and Leeds) were? I just have a lasting image of a number of players ambling around without a care in the world and a Manager who, it appears, doesn’t want to upset them.

  5. East Lower

    Maybe so. Ever hopeful that desptite patently not having done so to date, we can actually learn, actually change, take criticism on board and do something about it.

  6. Haris Džidić

    What’s the doom scenario? Not winning anything for 6 years? Those are just facts, unfortunately.

    I love Wenger, but if someone told you in August 2005 that we would win nothing for 6 years (not getting even close since that CL final), would you think Wenger is still untouchable?

  7. East Lower

    The doom scenario would be that, rather than improving incrementally to the point where we can win the league, this group of players is found out as simply not up to it.

    I don’t think Wenger’s untouchable at all, but now’s not the time to judge this season overall. That can wait till the summer.

  8. Haris Džidić

    Thanks for taking your time to reply to these mate.

    I don’t think there’s a way to look at the last few seasons and see incremental improvement.

    We had the CL run in ’06, and we didn’t repeat it since.

    We had a nice title run in ’07-’08 (up until the Birmingham game) only to regress next year.

    There is no clear improvement year-to-year, in performance, attitude or results.

    As for the Carling cup, I don’t know why Wenger changed his approach this year. Is he doing it for trophy hungry fans? And more importantly, if it is a trophy worth winning, why was he robbing us of the opportunity to do so for 13 years? And besides, I find it very hard to believe a youthful Carling Cup Arsenal team from years past would’ve done worse than what we saw last night.

    I’m sure you’ve heard the argument that winning this trophy could be a springboard to winning other trophies, a psychological victory. I don’t think that holds water, and this is why. A few weeks ago we beat Chelsea in emphatic fashion, after years and a ton of matches. A mental breakthrough, I’m sure, and the squad had tons of belief etc. Just look at what happened since then.

    5 played, 1 win, 3 draws, 1 loss .. and that’s against terrible opposition.

  9. Jeff

    “Please, we’re not an enigma, we’re just poor.”

    On current form – not the last six years, not this season as a whole, but the last few weeks – we have been poor. We’re struggling. We’ve done well enough to be in good positions in FOUR competitions, and given how high the expectations are, it is painfully disappointing to see some of the performances in the last few weeks.

  10. Haris Džidić

    How would you describe the last six years as a whole? I’m not trying to be argumentative, just curious.

    As for being in good positions in 4 competitions: we’re 4 points off United who have a game in hand, we’ve lost the first leg of the CC semi 1-0, we’ve barely scraped a draw against Leeds at home, and we have to face them away, and oh yes, Barca is waiting in the CL, because we managed to finish second in the worst CL group ever.

    These positions are not very good.

  11. Mark Meredith

    I’ve commented about this before, on this very forum – there has to be something wrong with the culture of the club if the players cannot motivate themselves for a game like this. League Cup maybe, but it is a semi final and a chance to win a trophy for the first time in six years. There are mediocre players in the squad that are being paid far, far too much money for what they are delivering. The manager has surrounded himself with sycophants that do not question even his most stupid decisions.

    Ivan Gazidis, what exactly is your role at the club? If you genuinely do run the club – rather than the first team manager, who is YOUR employee – then you should have had that employee in your office this morning and told him that his performance is unacceptable.

    This would never ever have happened if David Dein was still here.

  12. Jeff

    I would say Arsenal have been a good team over the last six years. This current run isn’t a huge surprise given some of the performances from the previous couple seasons – I said good, not great. At times though, like the AC Milan away win, when Flamini was still in the team; at times in the last six season I’ve enjoyed Arsenal every bit as much as the teams that could get over the final hurdle and win things.

  13. Jeff

    You’re right about things being delicately poised. It sort of makes it exciting. Are we just about to be buried on all four fronts? If we go out of all three cups in quick succession, and on current form that’s certainly where we’re heading, and we fall 15 points back of the league leaders, I’ll still be interested in the battle for fourth.

  14. Jeff

    There is something strange about how lifeless some of the performances have been. It’s often felt like we needed to start making changes at the half-hour mark.

  15. Tim Clark

    Ooh, cheers for the shout. I still feel pretty miserable about the game. We’ve got to turn up against Spammers… Haven’t we?!

  16. East Lower

    We almost certainly will. Obviously that’s a good thing, but on current form something will tail off again until the next time we need to prove our doubters wrong, at which point we will need to put in a good performance. We almost certainly will. Obviously that’s a good thing, but on current form something will tail off again until the next time we need to prove our doubters wrong, at which point we will need to prove our doubters wrong….

    Repeat ad infinitum…

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