The last time I felt like this was in late February. We lost two games on the trot too back then: United away and Swansea at home. I guess it hurt more, simply because these defeats put paid to our title hopes.
But our current form does have a lot of common with our February capitulation nonetheless. The same dispirited approach. The same poor performances. The same result.
What characterises the state of numb despair I feel right now is a very simple stat, shown deep into the second half: the number of passes made. A table showed Cech as our top passer with 33 passes up to that point. Petr Cech, our goalkeeper, either attempted or completed the most passes on Arsenal football team in roughly 60 minutes of football. I can’t bear to look which it is. And frankly, I don’t think it really matters.
There was a lot of talk going into the game about how important a win is. I talked myself, as I’m sure did a lot of my fellow Arsenal fans, into believing the Gunners will come up with a response. Not that it was pure faith in something good: it was ground in the fact we do indeed improve the level of the performance on the back of a loss. But yesterday was not that case.
I’m pretty sure after the game our fans bemoaned the absence of Mustafi and Cazorla, maybe Mertesacker and Welbeck. “If only there were available, things would have been different”. There is no sure way of knowing of course, but I fear our problems run deeper than that. I don’t think the introduction of two players, however important, can transform a polished turd into a chocolate.
We can discuss City’s goals, and rightly note that at least the first one should not have stood, that Sane was offside. Possibly the second one should have been scrapped out too, as Silva was clearly getting in Cech’s way, made a movement for the ball, and was offside. We can talk about fine margins and crap referees and bad luck.
But is there any point in it? I mean, does it make our own performance deserving of something more? Does it make Mesut Ozil, our highest-earner (or second-highest) any less invisible? Does it make Alexis Sanchez realize he doesn’t have all the time in the world when he receives the ball?
I’m bringing both players up because their contracts dominated the media for the last couple of weeks. These two players want shiny new bumper deals, ones which would considerably up their current wages. Maybe they even hold the club ransom, I don’t know.
The problem I see is that if you have the ambition to be the this highly-paid, you have to contribute accordingly. Did either player do anything in the last two games to warrant such exceptional treatment from the Club? And before you say “these are only two players, the others should help them”, may I remind you the whole point of having players of such calibre is for them to bail you out when things go south. Maybe not every time, but certainly more often than they currently do.
The only “big” game these players turned up for was Chelsea. They did nothing against Liverpool, Tottenham, City and even United and Everton. We lost three of these games, and barely drew the other two. Ozil is naturally excused for Liverpool, he was not with the team at the time.
We now find ourselves in fourth, nine behind league leaders Chelsea. We’ll be fourth after this round of games regardless. The scary part is that we are actually only one point above Spurs, and just four above United. The same United we’ve been laughing at all season. Losing two consecutive games does that to your position.
But my worry is not the position, it’s the quality of football on offer. We have blown a one-goal lead twice in 5 days. We have allowed an extremely out-of-form Everton side to beat us. We have let City without a host of key players win. City, that have started Yaya Toure in midfield and De Bruyne as a striker, flanked by Sterling and Sane. Now, these are all good players. But City’s proverbial front three was vastly inexperienced and not used to playing with one another, while we had a settled back four. Yet we lost, and deserved it.
I believe there’s now the usual argument on Twitter raging on about who’s at fault: the manager or the players. I say “I believe” because I haven’t checked and I don’t intend to. But if you want my opinion, both the manager and the players are to blame for this mess. Arsene for the type of mentality he instilled and whose results we now see. He seems to be unable to fire up the team. The players for not even trying.
Honestly, I looked at Ozil and I despaired. He doesn’t seem remotely bothered. He doesn’t get stuck in. He’s no Coquelin, obviously, but neither is Theo. However the Englishman did a lot of defensive work yesterday. Ozil just disappeared. Poof.
I don’t where we go from here. We wanted a statement of intent and we got one. Though it wasn’t the one we hoped for. This team sent out a message of total indifference. It has shown all the hallmarks of even last season’s defeats. We are back to square one, and the fancy talk about how we’ve changed, and the new-found unity and resilience goes to the toilet. Because we haven’t, and seem unable to, back it up with action. Ultimately, it’s the only thing that matters.
I’ll leave it at that. I would like to wish you guys a very merry Christmas in advance, because I don’t think I’ll write anything before the 26th. Try to be not like me though. Don’t take it as seriously. At the end of the day, it’s just a game of football, not people’s lives or the well-being of yourself, your family or your friends.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.