The season that just keeps on giving gave some more yesterday as Arsenal sunk to new lows in a topsy turvy season when they dropped 3 points against a lowly, yet resurgent Wigan side. That’s our tenth defeat of the season. What an achievement. It’s our second defeat in two weeks. The other one coming at QPR. It’s also the second time in two weeks we’ve had every right to question the players commitment to the cause.
Yesterday was disappointing on so many levels. Like a few mentioned in the ground before the game, whenever Wenger spends a week blowing smoke up the backsides of the players, it usually ends up in a complacent performance.
Wigan switched it up from the off which made me feel uncomfortable. Arsenal ended up shooting towards the North Bank for the first half. We had the first chance of the game when Thomas Vermaelen whistled a shot just wide of the Wigan post. Our goal was another horror show of defending.
6 minutes in we earned a corner. Robin Van Persie, a player we’re looking to offer £8million a year didn’t beat the man at the front post (how many times do we suffer that indignity?) the ball was cleared as far as Sagna, he returned the header to a Wigan player… they bombed up the pitch, crossed to Di Santo, he hit a first time shot that hit Chezzer and ended up in the net. Shocking defending. Where was our midfield? Why we so committed after 6 minutes?
The second goal didn’t take too long to come. Precisely 2 minutes if you’d like me to be exact. Victor Moses, of ex-Palace notoriety had the ball out on the right, he jinked right, then cut out left, hitting the byline leaving Sagna for dead, he crossed, Djourou fluffed his clearance, Chezzer spilled the ball, Vermaelen didn’t know what he was doing and Jordi Gomez nipped in to bury the gifted opportunity.
An absolutely terrible start.
Things managed to get worse. Arteta had picked up what looked like a hamstring complaint before the second goal. That meant bringing on Aaron Ramsey to rescue the game. Oh dear we all thought. Some very vocally. I don’t think those fears were calmed when Ramsey bottled a 50/50 in the middle of the park after about 5 minutes.
When Arteta left the pitch, so you felt, did our chance of the winning the game. There was no leader present anywhere. The lack of communication was so bad that at one point, there was no one to take a corner on the right side. Rosicky eventually took it… no further than the front post, obviously.
The player who seemed most interested in pulling us back into the game was Vermaelen. He managed to get himself on the end of a drilled low cross from Rosicky and he bulleted his header in. That gave us hope, but the performance never really stepped out of the low gear it had started in.
The team meandered into the second half bereft of any ideas or tactics on how to break down a well oiled Wigan side. Sagna was having the worst game I’ve ever seen him have in an Arsenal shirt. Victor Moses had him chasing shadows all game. He was stronger in the challenge, he was quicker and he was smarter than the Frenchman for the whole ninety minutes.
Up front, what can I tell you? Theo Walcott was utter garbage all evening. His touch was awful, his decision making was embarrassing and his input into the match was precisely zero. He can’t play against a deep lying defence no matter how weak they are as players. Robin Van Persie went missing in a big way yesterday. Where was his rallying cry to the rest of the team? Where was his swash buckling performance? I appreciate he’s had an amazing season, but so did Spurs for the first three months. The season is 38 games. The job isn’t done until it’s done. He’s gone missing over the last few weeks.
It’s not his fault though. If there was ever a two week period where we’ve needed a second striker of great quality, it’s been these two weeks. Wigan and QPR dropped points are partly down to shi*e defending, but also, more importantly, down to the fact that we have played the whole season with one striker. Robin is probably as mentally drained as the fans are at the moment.
Santos was very dodgy in defence again. It seems to take him 8 games to get fit. However, going forward, he was a shining light compared to the rest. Direct, creative and gutsy. Nothing dropped though.
I also have to take exception to the substitutions. I understand why we’re not starting with Chamberlain, I really do. He’s raw, he’s been largely ineffective when he’s been brought on, but he has a spark about his game. Perhaps if he was given longer than 20minutes he’d be a little better than he is now.
Yesterday, with half an hour to go, it was clear that we had no creativity in the side and half the attackers weren’t interested. Why oh why did we bring on Gervinho? He has the WORST one on one conversion rate in the Premier League. He’s been awful in every game since he came back from the ACN and he’s very weak under pressure.
Yesterday, the stage was set for the introduction early of the Ox. He came on with 20 minutes to go, he didn’t do a lot, but he runs at players, he puts defenders on the back foot and he can play that creative centre midfield role better than any of the players we had on show yesterday.
The game just fizzled out without a whimper. Sure the refereeing was poor. When is it not? The embarrassing act that all Premiership refs have of only booking a time wasting goalkeeper in the 93rd minute is something the league should address… but what did we expect? They’re trying to survive. Yesterday’s result wasn’t a surprise. It looked like Wenger hadn’t shown them the videos of Wigan’s last two games. In fact, we turned up so casually, it looked like the players hadn’t been told about the results they’d achieved over the last two weeks.
When Wenger talks about the last 6 games deciding his transfer policy this summer. I hope he’s looking at certain players with cross hairs. JD isn’t good enough. Theo Walcott, for all his stats, isn’t good enough. Szczesny needs proper competition. Alex Song needs competition and he needs to be pulled into a room and told Wenger was misquoted when he said he’d learnt from Cesc. Gervinho needs to address his form. Wenger needs to address our striking woes. The team needs more experience. We desperately need a creative centre midfielder.
I don’t think we’re in danger of losing top 4. I still think we’ll make it. We’ve just made life so much harder on ourselves (historically, haven’t we always?). The biggest worry is that Arteta left the ground on crutches. The importance of him in our midfield can’t be underestimated. We looked lost without him. Who are we going to play against Cheslea? Ramsey will get eaten alive. Outside him, who are the options? We have none. Unless Wenger panics and brings Jack back.
Personally, I’ll be glad when this season is over. I haven’t enjoyed it this year. The shambolic inconsistency of our squad has made it a roller coaster of total misery versus small pockets of jubilation. This season needs to be killed off so the club can rebuild for next year. Saturday needs to be a victory. No moping around. No mental tiredness or playing with the handbrake on. It needs to be a solid win. If it’s not, we’re back in serious trouble again.
Arsenal need to not put stats like… ‘We’ve never lost on a Monday night’… that was asking for trouble on a totally ‘don’t jinx the game’ note.
Before I leave you, I can’t abide by ‘this is the team who have won 9 our of 11 games’… do you know what? Who cares. This is the team that’s lost 2 out its last three games. Two against bang average opposition. That’s not acceptable. You don’t judge results on what went before. If anything, it makes it all the worse because we seem to be more up for the games against the big team. What does that tell you? We haven’t done the double against any of the bottom 5 this year.
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The season of the false dawn is nearly over. Let’s hope that come the end, the sun actually does rise. It’s looking 50/50 at the moment.