I’ve said many times on this blog that, in the grand scheme of things, I can swallow losing. It happens, teams are outplayed, other teams are better and results don’t go your way. I have also, frequently, qualified that with ‘as long as we’ve given everything.’
In my preview of Arsenal’s trip to Manchester United I spoke about how we didn’t have to worry about the team turning up and thinking the game was won because, well, you’d have to be certifiable to turn up to Old Trafford with that sort of mindset. In my head, that of an Arsenal supporter who flew to Liverpool on Friday night and stayed with Manchester United fans just to be able to support my team as they returned to the scene of their mauling last year, the team would want to make a statement at the scene of their heaviest defeat. They would want to show their ex-captain that he had been wrong to question them and that they would want to try, as much as they could, to show the world that we aren’t afraid of Manchester United.
What we got, however, was a team who lacked passion and fight. A team which was described to me by Manchester United fans afterwards (the reasonable kind, not the arsey ones) as the worst Arsene Wenger side they’ve ever seen at Old Trafford. Even, they told me, the side which got humiliated 8-2 put up more fight than what we witnessed yesterday.
On the flight home I had to endure 30 minutes with a plane which was around 70 per cent United fans. They were singing about van Persie and discussing how awful we were. Even the ones who came out with asinine comments such as describing Mertesacker as one of Wenger’s worst ever signings, hit the proverbial nail on the head with a statement of ‘There’s something very wrong at that club.’ I shrunk away in the corner of the plane, resisting the urge to defend my club, the club I have followed for decades, the club that means more to me than most things in this world because, well, really, what was I going to say? What defence could I offer for the performance we had put in at Old Trafford? Ahh yes United fans, but if we had Kieran Gibbs available then we would have thrashed you! The weekend had been painful enough without humiliating myself on an Easyjet flight just to top off the weekend.
If you ever needed an example of just how much some of the players at Arsenal today just don’t get *it* then after the half-time whistle Andre Santos provided it. From before the match started and right through the first half, the Arsenal fans sung very loudly of their hate for Robin van Persie. Santos must have heard it as he was playing right in front of us for that half. For him to ask van Persie for his shirt at the break defies belief. That it would not occur to him that this would infuriate Arsenal fans, that he would not think to himself ‘maybe the Arsenal fans don’t want to see me acting as a giddy little schoolgirl meeting Justin Bieber’ shows how out of touch and ignorant they are to the current feelings of the fans. It was an insult hurled straight after our own, self-inflicted injuries.
Other people with more technical nous than me will no doubt go in to the game in more detail. Unlike some I’ve seen, I don’t blame Mike Dean for, well, being Mike Dean. Should van Persie have seen red for his challenge on Sagna? Probably, even the United fans who were kind enough to drive me to the airport agreed with that, but it was a home decision to just give him a yellow. Would it have made the slightest bit of difference? Not on your life. It would have given the Arsenal fans something to cheer about but to the rest of the Arsenal side? It would have meant nothing.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am an Arsene-supporter. This doesn’t, however, automatically make me a supporter of the board, even though many people seem the two are inseparable. Yesterday a chant of ‘What do you, what do you, Ivan Gazidis, what do you do’ went up from the away fans and it is a fair enough question. A number of years ago I was told that Arsenal would face ten years of restrictions on transfers due to the Emirates move, that they would be forced to rely on bargain buys and youth players coming through. I didn’t believe it at the time but it’s hard to ignore it now. They tell us there is money to spend but I don’t believe them anymore and if they’d just tell us the truth, we’d probably all feel better for it.
But, as I asked when we lost after Norwich, or perhaps it was after the performance against Schalke, are the problems at Arsenal really ones which can be solved by splashing cash on new players? Yes, a striker would be absolutely lovely, but what of the mindset of the other ten who play with him? What do we do about that?
Answers on a postcard to Ivan Gazidis please.------------
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