I’m not quite sure what it is that Arsene Wenger or Steve Bould say at half time during matches these days but it seems as if they might be best saying it before kick-off and save us all the pain of what has become Arsenal in first halves this season.
It was all too predictable. Before the match started I highlighted Ramires as one to watch for the fouls that he would put in but I didn’t know that he would add diving to his repertoire, amassing a catalogue of bookable offences which resulted in two goals and a Man of the Match Award.
It would, of course, be poor form to say that the referee was the reason we lost this match, we were beyond awful in the first half. Sloppy, disinterested, static, pick a fault from the catalogue of previous poor performances and chances are it would fit. But, it can’t be denied that Martin Atkinson played his role and while Arsenal were dire in that first 45 their luck was equally bad.
At half time I felt confident we would see a better performance in the second half, such has been our way lately but the damage had already been done and our lack of cutting edge and clinical finish, to furnish just a couple of clichés which perfectly apply, cost us in the end.
It is concerning to say the least.
Afterwards, Wenger said
Tactically we changed some things. Psychologically I felt we were more on the front foot. We had a similar start to Man City last week – didn’t really go for it, didn’t really defend well and gave too much room to Chelsea. On top of that, I feel we were a bit unlucky because it was a free kick on the first goal and it was not a penalty on the second goal. We were a bit unlucky.
We didn’t play well in the first half. In the second half we came out with a different spirit, a different attitude and were much more dangerous and dominated the whole second half. Unfortunately, we didn’t come back. We didn’t make enough of our corners and free kicks and didn’t make enough of the chances we created. That’s why we lost the game. It’s very damaging for our position in the league and very difficult to swallow.
In previous seasons when fourth place has been under threat I have always had a quiet confidence that we would do what we needed to do to secure Champions League football for yet another year. This season I find myself with doubts for the first time, and rightly so I believe.
The transfer window is open and looking at our bench today, missing Arteta [calf], Rosicky [calf], Ox [ill] and Podolski [ill] and while I don’t doubt that a new forward signing would offer options denied to us at present as I have said for some time, I don’t know if signings are all it is going to take to fix things.
We have long been told of the ‘mental strength’ this side possesses but all too often it is found wanting until it is too late. Sides with mental strength don’t need to keep telling their fans that they have it, it is evident by the way they play for a full match, not just for half of one, and saying the words over and over will not make it so.
Lessons needed to be learned after Manchester City, lessons which have been in dire need of being learned for much of the season and, once again, we find the side unable or unwilling to learn from their mistakes. As I said, it’s concerning.
Watching the second half against Chelsea and the second half against City we can see that the talent is indeed there, it is in the application and consistency where Arsenal fail time and again. Can the window fix that? Will Arsenal use the window to attempt to, at the very least, give us the very best possible chance of fixing it?
I honestly don’t know, but I do know one thing – we need to fix it fast.
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