I was not going to write anything today. This morning I just did not have the energy for it. I drank a little too much at my company awards do in Leicester on Saturday, then hot-footed to Manchester yesterday. By the time I got home, I was drained, physically and mentally.
I had today booked off as annual leave, a bit of time to rest and recuperate. But here I am in the office, working. And I felt I needed to get a few things out there.
Arsenal, what a disappointment.
I have seen us play countless times, my away credits currently site at 63, I have seen us win great games, I have seen us get smashed out of site, but I do not think I have ever been as disappointed as I was yesterday. As frustrated as I was when I woke up this morning.
Arsenal have lost their identity.
When we have previously lost, there has been reason. The refs, injuries, an inadequate squad hamstrung by financial restrictions. The frustration of defeat has been tampered with an “oh well, lets get on with it” attitude. But yesterday, there is nothing left in me except for bitter disappointment and apathy.
We should have won yesterday. Whilst Arsene Wenger was right when he pointed out that the Manchester United side was not as depleted as some might be claiming, it was still very depleted.
It might have contained the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay, but it also had central midfielders playing in defence, and various players who’s shirt numbers are so high that they would not even be lottery balls.
Wenger sitting their saying that Manchester United have spent money, whilst Arsenal have £150m in the bank, perhaps shows how deluded he has become.
The issue is not the defeat. We lost. OK. It is the manner of defeat.
I have never seen us pass so poorly in the middle of the park.
Despite having 61% of the possession, we continually gave the ball away. It continually went sideways from Gabriel to Bellerin, back to Gabriel, across to Koscielny up to Coquelin and back again.
When it came to incision through the middle, there was none.
There was a hole in the middle of the park. Coquelin for all his good defensive attributes is not a creator. He is not in the team to pass the ball. He disrupts play and keeps it simple.
We then have Aaron Ramsey. He is a ball of energy, he covers a lot of ground. But he is not great on the ball. He has a tendency to dwell on it, to miss the opportunity to play someone in behind. And with that moment, the space is gone, the player is offside of the defender has covered.
And Mesut Ozil prefers being higher up the field, doing his often great work in and around the box.
With Ramsey also pushing up, it left us with a massive hole. Coquelin could not bring the ball forward, and no one was coming deep to help out.
It is the first team I have really noticed us missing Santi Cazorla in the middle of the park. His distribution, his creation from deep.
A team who for a decade has been known for a style of play. Pass pass pass. Well out passing ability in the middle of the park completely left us.
And the issue is it was not just one game. You can kind of accept a poor performance every now and again. But this has been happening for a while now.
Since we went top on 2nd January, we have won just 2 league games from 7. 9 points 21. It is simply not good enough.
It is all so predictable. Even earlier in the season, when we were top, or 2nd, there was a feeling that we were doing it without playing very well.
“That’s a sign of Champions, winning when playing poorly”
Whilst that is correct, it is only a sign of champions when you start to then play well. Arsenal have just not done that. We won games in the first half of the season playing poorly. Now we are drawing or losing games when playing poorly.
We are tactically inept. We look like we are playing without a plan.
There is also a worry about the heart of the team. Our heads go down when we go behind.
This season, we have won just 2 games after going behind – both against Leicester. We have also snatched 2 draws.
In comparison, Spurs have won 5 times from behind. They are also on a 6 game winning run, and look as much champions as we look like coming 4th.
With a key game coming up next Saturday against Spurs, and a game midweek this Wednesday, we do not have time to feel sorry for ourselves. To lick our wounds.
Football is an odd game, we could be top this time next week.
As a final thought, Theo Walcott. I feel for the man. 2 years ago he had finally arrived. Scoring over 20 goals. Injury has robbed him of his last two years, and now he is running scarred. He is hiding. He does not want to be passed the ball. He is a deer in headlights.
My issue with him is not his performances, but the fans and their hypocritical nature.
They cheer for Olivier Giroud and jeer Walcott when he is taken off. Yet just a few games ago, these fans were treating Giroud with disdain. Those who were continually shouting “FFS Feo” also probably sit their shouting “FFS Giroud”. They would moan whoever.
I have always felt there is a certain element of our fan base that would moan and complain at anyone. Whether it be Eboue, Gervinho, Walcott or Chamberlain.
Arsenal need to find their confidence. They need to find their identify.