This blog comes to an hour before I set off to watch the Arsenal match with my uncle, granddad and two cousins… a quadruple kiss of death if ever there was one.
Having said that, I was nowhere near a television in Camden on Wednesday night and it did fuck all for the Arsenal in Milan, so… I got a tweet on my way back from Ghostpoet’s excellent gig saying that I was going to be very harsh tomorrow. My reply was that I would be, if I’d been watching. And that still holds today, I haven’t seen anything of the match on Wednesday, and I don’t want to. It sounded like a new nadir in a season full of them. And it came with Keiran Gibbs reappearing to allow Thomas Vermaelen to take his rightful place in the centre of our defence for the first time in months.
As it was the first time the Verminator had played at centre back in months perhaps it was unsurprising that he played, by all accounts, like he’d never played there before. I don’t know what Arsene Wenger did in a previous life, but to lose two centre backs just as we get two full backs back, speaks to a man who must have- as Martin Q. Blank said in 1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank- done some naughty shit. As the Arseblogger has already said, I think the loss of Per Mertesacker is a real blow and not just because we are currently one injury or suspension away from Squillaci. Although, of course, Koscielny is expected back for next weeks visit of the North London Neanderthals.
The fall out from Wednesday appears, rightly so on the back of our worst ever European result, to have been fairly toxic. The media have reported Arsene raging at his players. They have also reported that a summer clear out, yes, another one, is imminent. The highest profile casualty is said to be Theo Walcott. If only young TJ had spent a bit more time honing his technique and dribbling skills rather than writing those bloody books, eh? I think the progress of the Ox this season has shown the “he’s young” argument that some of us have made to be a total fallacy. You’ve either got it, or you haven’t. Theo doesn’t and I think the time for carrying players that can’t contribute on a regular basis is over. It has to be.
And, this week that started so well, with Arsenal coming from behind to win a tough match at Sunderland thanks to Thierry Henry’s last goal in an Arsenal shirt, ends with another tough match at Sunderland in the 5th round of the FA Cup, our last hope for the season. Last hope, February 18th. How quickly, how far we’ve fallen over the last year. I’ve got very little time for James Lawton, but I totally agreed with his column in the Evening Standard last night. Anyway.
This afternoon it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Walcott, yanked at half time in favour of a 34 year old on Wednesday night, replaced in the starting line up by Gervinho. The Ivorian has suffered the extremes of football at the Africa Cup of Nations, scoring a spectacular winning goal in the semi final before missing the decisive penalty in the final shoot out. We can only hope he reacts a bit better to disappointment then Andrei Arshavin. I hope that, having dropped the Ox to the bench, Arsene restores the youngster today. I think him and Gervinho in tandem could cause all sorts of problems- or is it just idle hope?
I don’t know what else to say really. We can sit here and talk about the players all day- at the end of it all, the eleven (plus subs) that Arsene chooses to go out and do a job this afternoon have got to take responsibility and go and do it. I can’t make them, Arsene- obviously- can’t make them. Sunderland will smell blood today and, after last week, you’d think they’ll be right up for revenge. Martin O’Neill doesn’t strike as the kind of man to pass up the opportunity to rub our noses in it. Although, I do think he’s probably a bit off when he says about how tired we’re likely to be after our Milan exertions- it doesn’t sound like we overly extended ourselves in Milan.
Today, it’s our season at stake really. I know it’s the FA Cup, I know we’ve still got 4th in our grasp, but I feel that if the players don’t stand up and put in the kind of performance that the cannon on their shirt demands, especially after Wednesday, then we’re going to be on a slow boat to hell all the way to May. Come on Arsenal.