Arsenal travelled to Swansea in the FA Cup in a game which I said yesterday was impossible to call. It all depended on which Arsenal showed up and given that there is no gauge for which one we will see available anywhere on the planet, we all turned up to watch with a mixture of excitement and dread – drexcitement if you will, Arsenal’s own special blend of what makes following this team so special. And infuriating.
The first half was far from what anyone could call enthralling. Slow to move the ball, disinterested in moving off it, it was what we’ve come to see all too often from Arsenal this season. And last. It did not bode well and it did not lead to happy Gooners, frustrated that once again the Hyde Arsenal seemed to have locked the Jekyll in the boot of the team bus. Or is it the other way around? I can never remember.
I’m not exactly someone who could ever be accused of being tactically savvy but when I saw the line-up I had a feeling we’d play 4-4-2 and I think that’s what we tried. Sort off. We certainly didn’t have a winger throughout the first half, Ramsey not being one and Theo refusing to be one. We played Giroud and I can’t remember us crossing in to him at all.
I’m going to be upfront about something before I continue – I find myself becoming increasing irritated with Theo. He has acquired an arrogance that he has neither earned nor is he able to wear well. Why is he taking free kicks when we have Cazorla and Arteta? At times his insistence on being through the middle meant that Giroud was pushed out wide. Now I’m no expert but if you have a brain you realise that isn’t how that’s meant to go, if anyone can go out wide it is not the big [lovely] lumbering centre-forward. It’s you Theo.
I wasn’t the only one who was finding my affection for Theo waning and halftime descended in to a discussion of just what exactly formation we were playing. No-one knew but most agreed that Theo was playing whatever position he wanted. They were not happy times and the fans were, once again, looking for someone to blame. It was Theo’s turn, fairly or unfairly.
The second half was significantly better and we dominated for the most part. Of course, we fell behind some 90 seconds after Michu came on to the pitch, carved open through the middle. It wasn’t deserved but it was, perhaps, predictable.
What was encouraging was that Arsenal didn’t let their heads drop and went straight back at Swansea seeking the equaliser. It would come through our own substitute, Lukas Podolski rifling home on the turn to drag Arsenal back in to it before a sumptuous assist from Giroud put Gibbs in and the full-back finished as if he was Podolski; on the volley and through the keeper with power and precision.
Arsenal had the lead for the first time in the game but I don’t think anyone felt secure. Defensively we were wobbly, nothing new there, and while the game was end to end it was hard to tell whose end was most exposed.
Of course, we did what we do best and allowed them far too much time and space in the box, unable to clear properly they equalised. Many were to blame, it was all too familiar.
It would be easy to focus on the negatives in this game but I don’t want to do that, I’ve been doing that far too much lately and quite frankly it’s depressing. I don’t know how some of the more miserable supporters manage to exist with nothing but tales of woe in their head.
Leaving the first half aside which was poor from both teams, we showed a little bit of bite in the second. There was some semblance of passion and desire, none of which will fix the defensive lapses we are prone too but offers a consolation in that we weren’t a team of jaded individuals with handbrakes wedged up our arses.
In the review I did of 2012 I said at the end that I didn’t think 2013 could match the ‘excitement’ we had been served in the year just past. Of course, when I say excitement I use that as a catch-all term which encompasses terror, dread, elation and the like, but from the snoozefest that was our 1-1 draw against Southampton on New Year’s Day we moved back in to mental-mode and it seems as if our consistently inconsistent form seems set to continue offering more thrills and spilled pints.
Quite how there are any Arsenal fans over the age of 45 who aren’t in a cardiac care ward I’ll never know and games like today make me wonder if the instances of alcohol and drug abuse might just be higher in the Gooner population. It would be understandable.
The replay now means that what could have been a free week for the players is no more but that option is significantly more appealing than being out of the cup. It would be nice to believe that once we get them back to ours we can teach them a lesson but we know from recent experience that it will be far from that simple. But that’s not our immediate concern, next up is Manchester City and that offers a whole host of other problems for Arsenal to deal with.
[thanks to @AlexJMulhern for today's blog headline]------------
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