Tuesday night was absolutely abysmal on many levels. We are back at this juncture again, a real chance to close the gap on the leaders and instead of winning when it counts, we lose a very winnable game at home.
First off, I sometimes wonder what goes through the players’ heads. They shouldn’t need to be told how important this match yet they produced possibly the worst 45 minutes I’ve seen by an Arsenal team at home. There was no fluidity, no desire, no passion, not a single player on that pitch could say they performed at all in that half. Mustafi has been wonderful for us but he had his worst game in an Arsenal shirt, a silly free kick given away and poor defending from the second. It wasn’t all his fault, I mean it only took a horrible throw from Gabriel, for Ramsey to not control, to Coquelin refusing to make a challenge, then for Mustafi to do the same, for Cech to parry the ball into Deeney onto a platter for him to tap in. I mean, apart from Cech that was seriously unprofessional. I mean, do something, we made them look like Messi.
Secondly, the fans. I was watching the Southampton game on the weekend. I could clearly hear every single chant of ours word for word, loudly. It made me proud as an Arsenal fan that such a small group of our passionate supporters could be so dominant at an away ground. I see this regularly. At home games it is a different story. For about 3,000 away fans to make about the same noise about 60,000 home fans is extremely disappointing. Even when there are chants they are often drowned out, the passion is simply not there. A number of fans also turn up late and leave early. What is the point of playing at home if we cannot create a hostile atmosphere for our opponents? The 12th man is a real thing regardless of whether the men in suits in the boardrooms don’t believe in it, just ask the players how difficult it is to play away to Borussia Dortmund or Liverpool. There is very little home advantage. This doesn’t excuse the players’ performance but maybe, just maybe, with a more hostile crowd our players would have been motivated to perform better and/or Watford would be more intimidated. This has been a problem for a while now, and the club simply refuse to change anything.
Thirdly is yourself. Let’s be real, you haven’t delivered and won’t deliver a league title for 13 years come May. I am more patient than most, and during the financial struggle years I understood and respected that you got us Champions League football with the likes of Bendtner and Chamakh. In recent years we have splashed the cash, we have had time to gel with world class players like Cech, Alexis, Mustafi and Ozil to complement the wonderful waves of talent that you’ve groomed in Walcott, Ox, Koscielny and Bellerin. There is literally no more excuses not to be successful, yet you have only delivered two FA Cups in recent years, not enough for a squad of this calibre. Tuesday night however was particularly terrible as you refused to pick any of the in form players from Saturday’s thrashing of Southampton. None of Welbeck, Walcott or Ox started. I understand the need for rotation, but surely form needs to come into it? And Giroud starting makes no sense. He is a valuable player in the squad however he was simply inappropriate for this match, we needed to beat them with pace. Taking him off at half time was too little too late. Ramsey had a terrible 17 minutes and had to be subbed off. If he wasn’t 100% fit in the first place why didn’t a fit and firing Oxlade-Chamberlain start? This backfired in more ways than one as Bellerin was not able to come on as a result, another pacy player who you refused to start by the way!
If the above wasn’t bad enough the only player who could hold his head up high while we were trying to come back in the second half, Iwobi, was taken away from his preferred position to accommodate for Lucas Perez. Our attack pretty much died after that. I understand the need to bring on more attackers to get a result, but it infuriates me how you cannot understand the context of how we had 3-4 players with pace who were in form who had little or no contribution in the game, and then while the game was actually happening that you didn’t realise the one player who was actually a threat and you moved him out of position. While we are at it, what does Lucas Perez have to do to get a start and what has Ramsey done to consistently deserve one above any of the players mentioned? How come Alexis, who has clearly been our best striker, how come he didn’t start in the middle, with someone with pace like Welbeck or Walcott playing in the wings? It was made so much easier for Watford.
The fact is we have always papered over the cracks which is why whenever we are anywhere close to the title we blow it in some way or another. Winning the league is a true test, you cannot get away with all the shortcomings I’ve mentioned above. Watford with due respect took advantage, but god forbid if we play a first half like that against Chelsea, it’ll be 5-0 at half time.
Change is needed at this club on many levels, and it starts with you. You are well past your use by date, its time to walk away from the club when your contract ends at the end of this season, you’ve taken us as far as you can with your consistent top 4 finishes and last 16 Champions League finishes. It is time for someone else to take us to the next level and actually start competing for the big trophies.
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