Ten minutes from time I was ready to accept the draw. This was born out of the simple fact we looked flat and more likely to concede than score. Olivier Giroud’s introduction didn’t quite produce last week’s effect, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was simply horrendous and had me wishing we had Lucas available. But we didn’t.
Some hours after the whistle I realise a draw is not that bad a result, all things considered. Spurs are looking quite good this season, something they proved by taking points off Liverpool and comprehensively beating City. Chelsea are still to play Pochettino’s men, which can provide us with an opportunity to make up lost ground.
Not that we have lost much. Even after resounding wins, Liverpool and Chelsea are in front by two and one point respectively. It’s nothing in a season where the title race promises to be extremely tight.
Of course we now have to beat United to avoid falling further behind, but we don’t play Mourinho’s men for two weeks, so we can cross that bridge when we get there.
(Think you know which team to back when United come to the Emirates? Then have a look here at Arsenal vs United to see if bookies feel the same way.)
The perfect Gooner stocking-stuffer! Get it here
And yet … I feel really disappointed with yesterday’s result. With the performance too. It’s the third time Arsenal dropped points at home, and Opta tells us the last time a team with the second-best home record won the league was in 01-02. Maybe I’m making too much of our home form. After all, Boro have proved their mettle by drawing vs City at the Etihad, while Leicester, despite their slump, are still capable of getting a result against a big team here and there. It’s not like our results against Karanka’s and Ranieri’s men are completely inexcusable.
Still I feel let down and I can’t put my finger on the why. Perhaps it all goes back to a rather lethargic performance, something that reminds me of the way Arsenal dragged their feet over the line last season? Drawing half of their games, losing to Swansea and United, unable to surpass teams sitting deep, showing no desire or urgency to get the result.
It can hardly be blamed on lacking certain players. In fact, Sunday’s squad was only missing one nailed-on starter: Santi Cazorla. Granit Xhaka, however, put in a very good showing, perhaps the best of all our players. And let’s face it: if we can’t beat strong sides without just one player then we can just forget about beating strong sides. We are Arsenal. We will always have key players injured, only the number will vary. Yesterday we ostensibly lacked only Cazorla, which is a better situation than most.
Hark back to last December. We have dismantled City at home, only the scoreline didn’t reflect our superiority. We did so without Mustafi (obviously), Coquelin, Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez. We had a Flamini-Ramsey pivot and Campbell on one of the flanks, for Christ’s sake! So don’t tell me yesterday’s squad wasn’t good enough to beat Tottenham.
Another thing that bugs me for no apparent reason was the penalty. You can’t really blame the keeper for not saving one, yet Opta once again informs us the last time our keeper saved a pen was in August 2013, and that keeper was Wojciech Szczesny. Meanwhile our players have their penalties saved all of the time. Walcott and Sanchez missed one apiece even this season. Don’t we practice spot-kicks at all? How come we are so crap at them? Actually, I shudder to think what would have happened if Clattenburg gave us one for the foul on Xhaka, because neither Cazorla nor Giroud were on the pitch. Anyone else I just wouldn’t trust with one.
While we are on the subject of Clattenburg, I think he really could have done better. It looked like Wanyama was just given license to do whatever the hell he wanted. Victor said “thank you very much, ref, I owe you one” and proceeded to kicking everyone within reach. Guess what? He wasn’t even booked for any of the 4 fouls he committed, and some of these were quite cynical and deliberate.
But really, it’s not the ref’s fault we were so crap. He didn’t help, obviously, though at least we didn’t get Martin Atkinson for the third game running, or Mike Dean, or Anthony Taylor. The problem was we didn’t create enough, something Arsene acknowledged after the game:
“In the second half we looked a bit more flat physically, a bit more less sharp and we couldn’t find the creativity, the fluency around the box nor the vision we are used to.”
We had Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi (not one of his better games), Alexis Sanchez and Granit Xhaka to provide our attack with ammunition, but it was blindingly obvious we weren’t doing enough. I struggle to grasp this.
Was our lifeless performance down to the midweek game? I would be surprised if it was. We played on Tuesday, some of the players (Bellerin, Monreal, Walcott) didn’t feature at all, while other (Iwobi and Giroud) didn’t play the full game. Xhaka too should have been fresh, it was his first game after the suspension. Arsene refused to put the low physical levels down to our CL escapades:
“No, I don’t think so. No. Maybe I felt we were not compact enough. We were stretched and after you that you run more – we did in the first half but not in the second half. In the first half they played many long balls and they stretched us because we pressurised very high, so it’s more difficult.”
I understand it’s impossible to score 4 goals every week. I understand these flat performances will happen and they are not necessarily a part of a bigger trend. I understand it’s a bit childish and ungrateful to whine about a draw which continues our 16-game unbeaten streak.
And yet I’m disappointed. I’ve watched Chelsea smash up Everton. I’ve seen the final score of the Liverpool game. Hell, even United managed to win and scored three goals in the process. And they were playing Swansea away on the back of a Thursday away match in Turkey. While we barely scraped a draw at home, our second consecutive home draw in the league. For which we needed Wimmer to spectacularly head the ball into his own net.
I’ll sign off here. Here’s hoping at least some of our players will get a deserved rest in the next two weeks and we’ll rip United a new one come November 19th.