There’s a brilliant headline elsewhere on this site at the moment, “Wenger released his fury at Liverpool again“. It could be read as Arsène getting his angry coat on with Liverpool for being so excellent in the first twenty minute of an absolute horror show for Arsenal. However, I prefer to read it as Le Boss unleashing waves of fury at his team, a bit like the character on Streetfighter ” whose special move was the “SONIC BOOM!”
Picture the scene at half time, a shell shocked group of players, an angry boss…
The owl faced one looks up, “Yes, boss?”
Okay, so it’s not that funny. But you have to try and find some humour in the events that unfolded Saturday lunchtime. What’s the alternative, anger? Despair? Neine danke. I feel partly responsible, you know. It wasn’t enough that my last blog bigged up our hitherto pretty mean defence (something that even as I wrote it, a nagging voice in the back of my head asked, “Should you be saying this now?”), no. I also ended up spending the first ten minutes of the match waiting for Virgin to restore BT Sports to our television package.
If only I’d been watching from the beginning, would Arsenal have begun the match as calamitously as they did? Who am I kidding? Me watching, or not watching, a television 200+ miles away from Anfield wasn’t going to affect anything. Not with the team involved in a collective dereliction of duty.
What struck me the most when normal service was resumed (oh, the joy of listening to Michael Owen treat us to the world first sounds of a “commentator” orgasming whilst broadcasting) was, well, how awful we were. Obviously. Not just that though. I couldn’t understand why we were pressing so high up the pitch and leaving all that lovely space for the likes of Sturridge, Sterling et al to run into. Okay, yes, we were two, and then, three down pretty quickly. But the fact that we were two, three down so early meant that, had we regrouped, defended a little deeper, we might have drawn the sting from Liverpool. With so much time left, we could, maybe, have worked our way back into the game. Okay, it wasn’t likely, but we surely wouldn’t have ended up shipping five. Instead, we were like lemmings over a cliff.
As bad as our defending was, and without wanting to single anyone out on a day that was horrendous for all involved in it, I think we need to talk about Mikel. He’s been a great servant to the club over the last 2 3/4 seasons, but I’m seeing increasing signs that the Spaniard hasn’t got the legs to do the job he’s there to do anymore. Certainly when paired with Jack Wilshere anyway, he was simply overwhelmed on Saturday. I don’t know if it’s just me seeing what I want to see, but I think one of Flamini and Ramsey should always be starting. Obviously, neither of them were available at the weekend and, for me, their absences were felt massively. With Manchester United in town on Wednesday night, as bad as they have been recently, we may end up thinking back to Flamini’s self inflicted suspension as a real turning point in our season.
For all of the gloom that we’ve all been shrouded in since Saturday lunchtime, it is worth remembering that it was only three points that were lost. And this team has made a habit of responding to setbacks this season. Manchester City unexpectedly failed to take three points from Norwich so, whilst “Little Horse” somehow managed to defeat Newcastle and replace us at the top of the table, we are still in the top two.
An email from my uncle Stephen on Saturday reiterated all the familiar criticisms of Arsène Wenger’s recent teams; flat track bullies, no plan B, unable to cope with a big game. Depressing as it was, it’s difficult not to agree based on what we saw on Saturday. However, Wednesday provides us with a real opportunity to show everyone that we are not just the “paper tigers” I once referred to. Manchester United may be managed by someone who apparently has no idea how to manage them, but they are still Manchester United. They still have players who have become regular bête noires to us in Mata, Rooney and… er, that other bloke. A win against Manchester United would, I believe, represent a big win for us (take them where you can get them?)
Of course, the flip side of that is that, with Manchester United enduring their worst season since time- well, the Premier League- began, there will be no hiding place if we lose. I guess it’s up to the manager and his players to make sure that the appropriate response is forthcoming on Wednesday night.
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