I have to work. And by ‘work’, I mean write beautiful, creative, inspiring music. On a deadline. Try doing that when there is a Mariana Trench of a frown that won’t wipe itself off your forehead. Try doing that when you still find yourself shaking your head when you remember that last night Arsenal played Watford at home, conceded twice in 13 minutes, and then spent most of the rest of the game running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
“A chicken with its head cut off’? I hear you say? “Well… Wenger was in the stands, munching the second slice of his Touchline Ban Pie – maybe that’s why…”
Pffft – that argument holds no water. We play like this even when he’s on the touchline – flapping his arms like an early Wright Brothers invention, or complaining about time wasting to one of the Marx Brothers officiating this godawful spectacle we call football.
I was at the Elton John arena when we thrashed Watford earlier this season. 4-0, I think it was. I came into this game thinking ‘more of the same, please’ – let’s hope for a Chelsea loss (or draw) against Liverpool and try and gain some ground on the league-leaders.
It seems the Arsenal players had other ideas. At least – I think it was the Arsenal players. They looked familiar. They were wearing the traditional red and white. This amazing squad of ours, that Herr Wenger has been bigging up in the press all week…
They didn’t arrive for the match.
If they did, they were late.
Not only late – they weren’t focused.
Unless they were focused on being outplayed.
Outrun, outwitted, outeverythinged.
If I’m to get any work done today, I am going to have to vent a little. I will be using some broad strokes – observations built up over many
matches seasons. And some very fine strokes. Little niggly irks that stick in your thoughts like splinters. They aren’t permanent. They don’t require removal of the entire brain. But they are real. and they may be contradictory. (… You know how it’s possible to love your girlfriend, but can’t stand the fact that she never puts the lid back on anything she uses? Yes. Something like that.)
Humans are remarkably complex creatures, and can hold seemingly contradictory opinions on things without exploding. We’re not binary. We’re not single thread screws. I can say something, in this moment, that is true. You can go back to previous moments and find observations that seem to counter my latest one. Get over it. That moment is gone. I am a river. I am the same river that started up in the mountains as a juicy little spring. But now I am the river that has a thousand funeral pyres floating in it. I am filled with ash and shit and piss and urine, and soon I will vomit myself into the ocean. And the ocean will have to deal. There are creatures that find that stuff yummy. Good for them.
Here are a number of observations. Irks. Problems with Arsenal’s style of play, attitude, tactics, game management, mentality that I – in my infinitely unqualified wisdom – have noted. If you’re looking for opinion laid out neatly in rows like uncooked spaghetti you have come to the wrong place. This spaghetti has been overcooked. Eaten. Regurgitated. And laid out on this page for you to ignore. (If you know what’s best for you.)
I’m not offering solutions. (Although the simple solution in most cases would be not to do it: put the lid on the f-ing jar, my love…)
So here you go:
- Too often Arsenal teams rock up unprepared, unfocused and disorganized.
If any of us did the same at our places of employment, we’d be sent packing, with our desks emptied unceremoniously into a soggy biscuit box.
- Arsenal’s game management skills are non-existent
We are slaves to the Law Of Diminishing Returns. We leave ourselves less time to achieve more, and then buckle under the pressure. Or come gloriously, heroically close. We’ll take care of them in the
return fixture second half extra time . Whoops!
We see this all the time. 2 minutes to go and we have the urgency of a drugged tortoise. Gabriel must have used up at least 5 minutes just looking for someone to throw in to. Even Walcott noticed. All the way up the pitch, you see players lose the plot as the pressure piles on. They pass backwards. They try hollywood passes, they hang onto the ball…
Perhaps we could install LEDs on the goal posts and have them flash: here’s the goal..! put the ball in here..! time is running out..!
- Arsenal are incapable of breaking down teams who park the bus
We just can’t do it. We’re like that lab monkey that doesn’t realize that to get the peanuts out of the bottle, he just has to tip it over. His empty fist will fit going in through the opening – but won’t fit coming out loaded with peanuts..?
We just can’t do it. Tikki takka around the box, winding down the clock, until someone screws up and then they catch us on the break.
- Playing two in the midfield just doesn’t work. Most of the time.
The time we have wasted trying to find that perfect pair (while Cazorla is injured) could have been better spent. Surely?
- Mesut Özil really needs to shoot more often
It’s my main criticism of him. Too often he is the player presented with the best opportunity of shooting (and possibly scoring – bearing in mind you have to shoot to score..)
- Mustafi is not that good
He may be better than our other options, but that doesn’t make him good. His passing is wayward. He gets wrong side of players far too often. He isn’t blessed with the speed that can correct that mistake. And his complaining and flapping around is becoming tedious. Last night he was majorly responsible for the second goal – but he immediately turned round to rip someone (anyone) a new a-hole. Sanchez does the same when another player screws up. It’s petulant and hypocritical. Not endearing. No, not much.
- Sanchez can be a fantastic player. He can also be fantastically selfish. And desperate.
I don’t know how many take-ons he made last night. And failed in. A lot. I also don’t know how many bum passes he made. Oodles. Watching him attempt to go one-on-one with the entire Watford team – again and again? Not fun. Is it desperation? Glory-hunting? I don’t know. But it is definitely aggravated when playing him on the left. He cuts in, losing our width. And gets snuffed out in the midfield fustercluck.
- Giroud may have perfected the scorpion – but his hold-up play is horrible
I think he lost possession with all of his first 5 touches. Can we all agree that he should only be a super-sub? Please? I love Oli. He has scored some amazing goals and saved our asses plenty of times. But we are terrible when he starts. Let’s try Perez, maybe? Or stick with Sanchez up front..?
- What the hell has Perez done wrong that he can’t start ahead of Iwobi (or Giroud)?
Lucas Perez’s shot was the only enjoyable memory I have from last night. Sure – it would have been better if it went in – but then we wouldn’t have heard it clang. Or seen the entire goal vibrate for about thirty seconds.
- Gabriel’s passion is sadly not matched by his sharpness.
He seems like a deer in the headlights. That said – it’s hard to blame him for being put in the position he is in. He is plainly not a wing-back. Can’t cross. Can’t throw-in. He has Brazilian flair, sure. But without the substance that would make it an asset.
- Please – let’s not pretend that there is even a debate: we are terrible under pressure. Our performance is inversely proportional to the amount of expectation placed on us.
We bottle the big games. Almost every time. Without exception. Especially games against other title contenders. The Top 6.
We also bottle the games against the small fry when it counts. We never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. When those around us have lost points – we seem to go out of our way to try and deny ourselves any possible benefit. We do this with alarming regularity. Often it is only individual displays of brilliance (or luck) that pull us through.
- I can think all of these things and still love and support my team.
I spend thousands of pounds every year to come to the UK and watch Arsenal play. I never miss watching a game live.
I am invested – emotionally, physically, spiritually, in the success of this team. I don’t want them to fail.
I don’t have all the answers – I am not as qualified as Wenger. But I’m not sure he has answers to some of these questions – the players need to take responsibility, too. Yes – he is the manager and he chooses the players blah blah bah… But they are the ones who can make the difference on the pitch. The ball is at their feet.
I leave you with this thought – something that struck me during the week:
Life is simple when Football is the only complicated thing in it.
So – now that I have purged the complication out of my life – I can get down to writing some music that hopefully, some day, somewhere, will cheer somebody up.
UTA. COYG and all of that.
Thanks for reading. Comments below, if you can be bothered. 🙂
Paul Hepker (aka invinciblog/batmandela) recently returned to South Africa after a 16-year stint in Hollywood, where he plied his trade as a film and TV composer. He adopted Arsenal in the mid-80′s, and if it doesn’t start behaving soon he’s going to send it to boarding school.
As an ardent Gunner propagandist – he has contributed a number of tongue-in-cheeky images to the Goonerverse – one of which is bound to get him into trouble at some point.