Well, what an average week.
One bad decision snowballed into multiple.
The biggest problem this week was how we approached the Europa League. We went big, played a group that had been rinsed physically by the Leeds game, we didn’t win.
Then we headed into Sunday, we were forced to rest players, and our lack of depth couldn’t handle City’s quality.
We lost 1-0. That’s not bad against the best team in Europe, the problem was less about the result, it was more about the acceptance of a lesser defeat.
‘We didn’t get spanked as bad as we usually would have’ is a 2019 way to look at games. Yesterday, after going down in under 2 minutes again, we just seemed to land on the idea that losing by one goal would be acceptable.
That’s not cool.
We played our way back into the game after Sterling of all people headed in birthday boy Mahrez’s cross early on.
We were certainly asking questions of City, especially in the last 15 minutes. We were stretching their defence, we were pinning them back, we had some moments. The hope was that we might have a go in the second half.
We played with fear. The whole game was predicated on caution. Odegaard rarely took a chance by turning into space. The Norwegian was not at the races, it was a timid showing from him, but again, maybe his fitness was running low after a few games in a row after very little before. Mo Elneny’s fear of vertical passing seemed to infect everyone’s confidence. Auba, clearly knackered, offered next to nothing going forward. His fake jumps for balls in the box were embarrassing. His body language was shocking at times. He offered nothing. Is it time to accept that he can’t handle three games in a week? Is it time to accept that in hardworking games like that, you need a different forward leading the line: Lacazette or Martinelli would have offered more.
Defensively, I kept on thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have ball players.’ Rob Holding was fairly decent, but he’s not really built to be spraying it around against City. Pablo Mari was supposed to be the artful of the two, he just kept passing it Holding. Hector Bellerin was deeply frustrating all day. His partnership with Pepe was horrendous, not helped by the wingers return to normal form. His first touch was horrible. His decision making wasn’t great. Then you had Tierney, not his best day out, but maybe City was too much to ask after 5 games out.
Let’s talk about Pepe. He’s just not the full ticket, is he? His runs were poor, his touch wasn’t great, his decision making was laughable… he looks like he should be a good player, I’m just not sure we’ll ever see it. I’d prefer to see Martinelli on the left and Saka coming in on the right
We also have to be very honest about this squad. It is very nothingy without Thomas Partey. You can’t expect to beat City with Mo Elneny playing next to Xhaka. It’s not the Egyptian’s fault, he’s a sound guy, no doubt, but he’s painfully limited in games that require accurate passing with an edge of boldness.
The Arteta system needs fast passing from the base and it needs someone leading the line that is fully fit. Auba couldn’t run the line, he hid from crosses, and he looked sad. Elneny is living the dream, he’s the African Carl Jenkinson, we need to move on from him.
We also need to find a strong narrative heading into the end of the season. At the moment, there’s nothing to hold onto as a fan. We’re 1 step forward, 2 back every other month. It’s exhausting. There’s progress, but it’s not wrapped in anything. Arteta keeps telling us what we already know. He needs to give us hope. He needs to show us he can give us a run or another trophy.
Ending Leicester City’s title run next week? Yes please.
Ending Jose Mourinho’s Spurs career? Double yes.
Winning the Europa League by putting Unai ‘Good Ebening’ Emery to the sword? Don’t say sexy things you don’t mean.
This season has been shit. Give us some f*cking joy. Put a run together.
Check out our On The Whistle Podcast. It’s with Matt and Johnny. It’s a good one. They are basically miserable af and I keep the positivity bubbling. I’m that guy now. Imagine?