Frustrations are mounting. November is usually the point in the season where you see what your team is made of. You find out if the faith placed in the squad was right, you find out if you’ve nailed your fitness game and you find out if the correct mentality is there.
If there are cracks in the windscreen, this is when they start to splinter.
Yesterday’s line-up on the face of it, looked fairly solid. It looked solid because it’s the same starting 11 we play every week. The defence was the same, Santi and Coquelin at the base of the midfield with Ozil pulling the strings for Sanchez, Giroud… and Gibbs. The left back moved up a position after his goalscoring cameo against Spurs.
Things didn’t start well on an afternoon of upset. Coquelin looked like he did a bad to his ligaments. He signalled to the bench that he needed to go. It got worse though, because Wenger opted to bring on Arteta. A player so past his prime he’s literally rotting.
The game was pretty standard post international break. We were sluggish, there was a lack of zip about our play, but we took the lead when Ozil whipped in a cross so perfect Giroud just needed to walk into the ball to put it over the line. No missed headers this week.
Then things started to go really wrong. Chris Brunt fed James Morrison from a freekick, the ball looped over Petr Cech. A really poor goal to concede. A total lack of concentration from all in our defence.
Things went from bad to worse, Arteta turning in a relatively soft cross from Poppy hater James Mcclean. It really was tough to stomach, mostly because we all knew Arteta shouldn’t have been on the pitch.
Well, within 3 minutes of the restart, Arteta wasn’t on the pitch as he’d picked up an injury, his 74th in two seasons. For the second time this year we had to replace a sub who’d replaced an injured player earlier on in the game.
I call this phenomenon ‘injury relay.’
Billionaire Flamini coming on not only caused us a problem because he’s not exactly a game changer, it also cost us the opportunity to chase the game down with attacking talent we don’t have on offer.
Come on, admit it, you were thinking about how great it’d be to bring on Jeff?
THIS IS NOT A TITLE WINNING THOUGHT.
We did bring on Joel Campbell. I mean, I like him for his effort, but talent wise, he’s so far off the pace it’s embarrassing. It’s like whilst the others train, he’s in the nursery playing with Duplo. He looks like a professor wheeled out to fight Mike Tyson in his prime. Clueless. This was exemplified when he failed to turn a floated pass. He didn’t just miss, he missed like a professional misser looking to entertain through incompetence. Also worth noting that Ozil rattled the post with a nice shot across goal.
We had chances to kill the game off. But we weren’t really at the raced. Players didn’t show up, minds weren’t focused and it was pretty apparent that the beating our small squad has taken of late is starting to take its toll.
We had one more roll of the dice in the 86th minute when we landed a penalty after brunt bundled over Olivier. Santi, normally so cool, stepped up to slot home… and slipped like Beckham on the run through, ballooning over in the process. What a plank.
Our dismal record against Pulis continued. A massive opportunity missed at the top of the table. Back into the comfort of 4th place.
Squad matters: One of my pals said that it always happens in a season. That moment when you realise that the nagging feeling you had about Wenger being wrong about something was actually right. All Arsenal fans question themselves. Wenger is a manager of the utmost intellect. He can joust on most topics, religion, globalisation, terrorism… but he can’t spare a little of his smarts for his squad.
Arteta was dead 3 years ago when Chelsea set up a team to take advantage of his weakness through the middle. He can barely string 3 games together without picking up an injury, yet he’s our number one back up for the 24 year old Coquelin. This summer was the summer of defensive midfielders, they were available by the truckload. But we ignored them all and stuck with Arteta… and Flamini, another player we know the manager isn’t exactly fond of talent wise.
I don’t know what the prognosis is for Coq, but if he’s out for an extended period of time, our season is over. I don’t mean to be dramatic here, but we have no one that can cover his position. Jack Wilshere could, but that’s a big if and fitness wise, he’s a massive, massive risk.
Why are we in the position again? How did the manager get himself into this situation again? How did he not see what we all saw?
What makes me madness me the most is this. Why does our squad have players in it that aren’t good enough? Wenger has been trying to get rid of Joel Campbell for years. If we can’t get rid of him, sell him. Arteta shouldn’t be on the playing staff now. He’s about as effective as Robert Pires would be. Flamini hasn’t been good enough the whole time he’s been here. So why is he a prominent squad member?
People say, ‘he’s good enough for the squad, but maybe not good enough as a direct back up’… I’ve seen that so many times. If he’s not good enough as back up. He’s not good enough. It’s absurd that fans think it’s cool to have players that are ok for like, 10minutes every three months. Like we’re some sort of sentimental community care home for likeable players, over being a sporting entity that can’t have chinks in its armour.
Our starting line-up has a strong familiarity. It’s the same players week in week out until they break. Sanchez has been really poor of late. He looks in desperate need of a rest. He’s not going to get one until he pings a hamstring. I kind of feel like Laurent looked jaded, possibly mentally. I’m not going to blame Wenger here, but we have a manager that believes in pure focus all the time… sometimes without understanding the players are sentient beings (i.e. Wenger doesn’t usually give players time at home over Christmas because he doesn’t like spending time at home). I thought both our centre backs were weak yesterday. I also though Giroud, outside the goal, was pretty bland.
We’re not in a situation where we don’t have a deep enough squad to deal with rotation, which puts more load onto the players, which leads to more injuries. It’s the cycle we see every season. It’s the cycle we thought we’d see the back of when the money rolled in and we could afford a bigger squad.
People are pointing out that we are only 2 points off the lead in November. Sure, I can see that, I have eyes and the internet. But also, it’s worth noting that Spurs and West Ham are 5 points behind us. Liverpool, a team that sacked their manager for poor results, are 6 behind us with Southampton and Everton and their are now 3 teams ahead of us. It’s not like 2 points has any breathing space.
Yesterday was a massive opportunity missed. The sort of slip we come to expect from this side. The sort of loss that would be easier to deal with if you weren’t fully aware that these sort of blips are quite regular. Zagreb, Olympiacos, Bayern and Sheffield Wednesday.
I want to be confident about the league, but I can’t be. I think for a side to win the league, you have to sense invincibility, or at least the potential to be invincible. I don’t get that with this squad. It’s feeble at times. A team best served under little pressure. A team that feels 2-3 players off being contenders.
It’s such a shame as well because we have some brilliant players coming into their prime. We have a season where nobody wants to win the league. Wenger knows best though, and after last season, he decided he didn’t need any outfield players.
We paid the price for that yesterday.
It’s not about bad luck. It’s about bad planning. It’s about invincible complacency.
Still, there’s always the January transfer window, right?
P.S. Remember to #PrayForCoq today.