Good Evening All!! It’s a rather pleasant day here in the middle of no-where, but the weather is last thing on my mind as I try to make sense of the carnage we were subjected to on Saturday. I’m not usually fond of producing post-match analytic pieces and I tend to leave it to the pros, but I simply couldn’t sit still and decided to vent my frustration:
Times like these test our faith, they really do. The abysmal performance on the green is a testament to our slow but sure fall from the heights that we scaled a decade ago. We were thoroughly out-played by a team that barely had to kick it into second gear to win. Our only saving grace were a few of Mannone’s snap saves and some lax finishing from United’s forwards. I shudder to think of the score-line had their forwards been more clinical. It was one of times I really wanted to drown myself in drink until the alcohol erased the very memory of the entire evening unfortunately that kind of binge drinking would require me to auction off my kidneys on the black market to foot the bill so I was forced to watch the match relatively sober as our lads put up another woeful performance at the Old Trafford.
That performance brought so many adjectives to the mind and almost none of them good; I’ll try to start with the positives:
Santi and Mert (and Sagna to a lesser extent) seemed to be the only ones who showed even a vestige of spirit and fight. Jack wasn’t half bad either but our inability to keep possession and thread more than three passes together and the lack of any sort of continuity. Continuity and momentum are made even more important to a player who is still looking to return to his regular rhythm and Jack was not provided any sort of base or support on which he could build on. Cazorla battled on alone but his efforts amounted to naught as he seemed to be the only one trying to take on a rampaging United midfield. Support from the rear end of our midfield line was obliterated as Arteta was simply out-classed by that ugly troll that is Rooney. Ferguson realized that Arteta was the base of our midfield and his metronomic passing is the foundation for our creative play. His canny strategy of unleashing the troll on the Spaniard meant that we were left with no-one to pick the ball from defense and distribute it to the others. You have to admire Alex’s psychological component of it too: Arteta’s perfect hair must have infuriated a balding Rooney which would have spurred him to do even better. Touche sir, touche.
The lack of threatening runs into the box even when we had possession was painful to watch. Giroud and Poldi who provide the only viable goal threats were neutralized effectively and their lack of initiative did not help either. Some time ago I lauded Wenger for his experimentation with Ramsey on the wings, as I hoped that playing out of position would improve his overall ability and mature him as a footballer but evidently that experiment has failed miserably. Yes, he lacks the pace and trickery that characterizes today’s wingers but a little creativity wouldn’t be amiss would it? Ramsey was lost and his roles as a winger seemed to have eluded him completely.
Rafael was out to prove what a real Brazilian full-back looks like as he combined with an ever-effective Valencia to tear Andre Santos into tiny bits and defecate on his remains. Vermalen didn’t cover himself in glory either. His performances have been steadily falling since his injury. I hoped that the captain’s armband would spur him to greater heights but that’s another count on which I’ve been wrong.
Even the great Shane Warne possessed a Doosra (it was an alternate-tactic, for all the non-cricket followers), it was merely a delivery that swung into the wicket to befuddle the batsman who was getting too comfortable with the leg-spin. But Arsene believes differently, he seems to buy into the thought that our pass-pass-pass game will work always. That is laughable, our lack of an alternative game-plan is starting to hamstring us as oppositions have learned that employing stock tactics of staying deep and closing down our forwards will render us impotent. A little wing play and a ball pinged into their strikers in our box will most certainly fetch them a goal.
Not only were we out-thought and out-played, it seemed to me that any aggression, passion and vigor on the pitch were displayed only by the men in the table-cloth red while our lads waddled around with all the deadly aggression of a pack of Koalas.
There has been much fury directed toward Santos and his accepting a certain shirt. Most gooners are polarized on whether it was done on purpose while others profess that Van Persie played it all out. I’m not convinced by either argument and can’t be arsed by either, but honestly neither would surprise me. What can one expect from a chap who expected to see Yossi Benayoun at practice prior to the start of the season? The man is clueless.
Santos can do what pleases him in his time off the pitch but I expect him to display the commitment and skill that goes along with the red and white when he walks onto the green. I’m more worried about the fact that he failed to do that.
Much has also been made of the hug-fest that RVP insisted on conducting in the tunnel prior to the match. If I were to be brutally honest I would love nothing more than to see Tommy V and Jack wipe the floor with him with a couple of right-hooks and a crushing blow to the solar plexus but as I have said before, football clubs mean very different things to fans and players. In the cash obsessed world of sports entertainment: Today’s enemies are tomorrow’s friends, so it doesn’t make sense to antagonize anyone.
Expecting professional players to see things through our eyes is but an opiate induced pipe dream at best. Face it men; loyalty is long dead and gone. Tony Adams, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard are only specters of a bygone era when footballers were not from a different planet as us, fans.
Our next battle is against the Germans again, it provides a choice: To pull ourselves out of the funk that we have been slumping into and thrash Schalke in their own back-yards (easier said than done though) or drop deeper into the Mariana trench of misery. Gibbs and the Pole at goal are rumored to be fit. Their presence would considerably improve the confidence level at the back. It is painfully obvious that the captain would do well with a spell on the bench as his recent performances do not warrant a slot in the starting XI. The Frenchman who promises to fill his boots might not be in sterling form but has something I consider a rare commodity in tough times like these: Call it what you will: ‘heart’, ‘fire’ or ‘grit’ or simply the will to claw back from a losing position rather than tamely accept fate.
The short span of time between matches also means that while there can no real phase shifts in our strategy but the morale of the team could do with some lifting. Perhaps it will come in the form of a rousing speech from Bould or an old fashioned earful of withering condemnation from the boss?
Some times when you have a squad as talented as Arsenal, the key to victory can come from something as simple as a morale boost or rediscovery of the hunger to win. This is the only key ingredient missing… Let us hope that the traveling fans in Red & White(who have been spectacular so far) can provide that much needed boost.
Originally I had titled my post: “Agony & Misery”. Later I decided to add the word ‘optimism’ to the title as being an unflinching optimist is a very integral part of being a football fan. Consider this: With only a few second of stoppage time remaining, only an insane football fan would harbor hope of scoring two goals in the forty second remaining to clinch a victory, the mathematicians, the tacticians and the thinkers would have walked away long ago. Hope springs eternal; the moment we forget that is the moment we lose our identities as lovers of the beautiful game and become a miserable bunch of cynics. Raise your glasses!!!!Here’s to Arsenal hammering Schalke!!!