On Friday I threw together a blog. My heart wasn’t in it if I’m honest. What was there to say? It was short and it wasn’t all that sweet, but in it I said
Win [against Blackburn] and things continue to look a little bit rosy, lose and all hell will break out amongst the fans. The magic of the cup is something we hear talked about on a regular basis, mostly because it means that anything can happen – usually if you aren’t prepared enough.
It wasn’t that hard to predict really. Arsenal face lower league team and fail to do what is necessary. It’s happened so often as to be depressingly familiar and, like just about everyone I follow on Twitter, as Arsenal racked up corner after corner and dominated possession like a training game, I said ‘this has one nil to Blackburn written all over it.’
Of course, I didn’t really believe that because even after they fluked their goal via a poorly palmed out effort, a shot struck in to the ground and a bounce of the post with their only shot of the game, I still thought we had more than enough to go on and get a result.
And we should have.
Post match and attention turned the amount the board and Wenger haven’t spent and the money they have spent on players some fans think aren’t up to scratch, but that was a side issue. Would van Persie have played if we’d kept him? Doubtful. Would a £30m striker have started? Just as unlikely. Sure, options on the bench, but you can only use three of them and we brought on Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. If that isn’t enough to beat a Blackburn side who seemed just as surprised as the rest of us that they had taken the lead then what the hell is?
What was all to depressingly familiar was the inability of Arsenal to break down a team who played two banks in front of their goalkeeper. With nine men to get through we just couldn’t find a way to make anything happen. At halftime I said that we were missing someone with a little bit of magic and in Cazorla, Wilshere and Walcott we should have been able to find that.
We didn’t and we lost an FA Cup match at home for the first time since 1997 and the first time we have lost to lower leagued opposition in the FA Cup under Arsene Wenger. League Cup, now the FA Cup, both draws which Arsenal should be winning at a canter, both games Arsenal thought they could turn up to and breeze through.
That isn’t about money, that’s about mentality.
It is the mentality we have had since the Invincibiles began to break up. It is the mindset that they are better than opposition from outside the top half of the table and it borders on arrogance at times. And every single season it costs us.
I’m all for self-belief, you need it to succeed in any walk of life, but self-belief without the hard work and effort to back it up is arrogance. Pure and simple. Arsenal are arrogant. Or lazy. One of the two.
It isn’t a case of being ‘not good enough’ – the team that faced Blackburn were good enough. The team that played Bradford were good enough. Norwich. Swansea. Villa. Fulham. Take your pick, the attitude was the same and the results were not what the side was capable of achieving.
Afterwards Arsene said
I couldn’t see how we could lose the game because we had a lot of the ball and they had one shot on goal.
But this isn’t the first time that this has happened to Arsenal and unless something dramatic changes in the mentality of this side it won’t be the last either.
Urgh. It’s depressing. To go over the same stuff time and time again.
I am fully aware that, despite what we’ve been told, we’ve operated under financial restraints since the move to the Emirates. Because of this we haven’t been able to be as competitive as fans would like. I get this. This also means that the players that we did have, the van Persie’s and Nasri’s and Cesc’s all wanted to move on to somewhere they could compete, unable, perhaps, to appreciate that had they stayed at the club they might have been able to compete with Arsenal. Cause and effect.
Perhaps Wenger was naive to put his faith in these players, perhaps he was foolish to believe that youngsters he was forced to use sooner than he would like because there was actually no money available to buy more senior players would end up with Arsenal competing at a higher level. No doubt there have been things going on behind the scenes that we will never be privy to.
None of this is me saying that Wenger is untouchable, he is very much accountable for the decisions he makes. I’m just not sure we are too clear what decisions he is actually in charge of.
Regardless, this is a sideshow, a distraction that takes us away from the very real truth that no matter what else has gone on, the players that took to the pitch against Blackburn had more than enough to defeat a Championship side.
They failed and not for the first time. Upsets happens, this is football, you have no divine right to win anything despite what some people seem to think. What becomes unacceptable is when it becomes a repeating pattern and that’s what we have now.
Round and round and round we go. Where we’ll end up, nobody knows.
Oddly, I find myself closing this by paraphrasing the words of a Scouser who tweeted me. They called for Rafa’s head and where have they been since? Be careful what you wish for is all I would say to some.