It was an embarrassing way to end an already lousy week. Following the 4-0 drubbing at Milan where the team grossly underperformed, we continued with yet another shambolic performance at the stadium of light. To say that Sunderland did not deserve the win would be to give them a massive disservice; it was more an issue of us not fighting for it.
The start to the game did give all gooners some sense of optimism. In recent weeks, Wenger had realized that Arshavin was just not good enough anymore and had dropped him in place of the effervescent Oxlade-Chamberlain. Following Gervinho’s return from the ACN, Le Boss was again unusually efficient replacing him with Walcott (who had been underperfoming since forever). And thus, an exciting front 3 of Gervinho-RVP-Ox took to the field.
The optimism carried on into the first few minutes on the pitch, where the team was dynamic and constantly probing for a goal. It was going fine until Coquelin was felled by the potato pitch; the momentum went out of the window as the team reshuffled to fit in Squillaci. Of course, it is easy to say that the pitch caused the loss, but it was really more of a factor than the reason. Calculating Mertesacker’s injury there last week, we have had 4 players lost over the space of 2 weeks just because of the state of the pitch. Is it too much to ask that a Premier League side produce a decent enough pitch for football? I don’t think so.
We cruised on possession without incision all match long, just like in Milan and the percentage of duels we won overall did not matter as we were not clever with how we used the ball. It was ultimately unfortunate for Chamberlain, one of the players who had put in a real shift, to concede that own goal and to give him stick for it (as many papers will) is just being overly critical and pedantic, considering that he (a right winger) was the man defending that shot.
Sadly, few of the players could be said to have been as contributing as the Ox. Gervinho was content to run the ball to the sides and pass it back, Robin lost possession way too many times, Ramsey did little to prove that his creativity wasn’t lacking and the centre back pairing of DjouLlaci was definitely going to be exploited by any attacker of any team.
Asking for a overhaul would certainly be an alarmistic reaction, but we do need to sort some things out. Players, like normal humans, don’t seek to be disliked. If there is a match, they want to go out and play of course, and not shirk out and laze around the pitch. But there is a difference between playing with your heart and giving everything for the club VERSUS just doing what you have to do and putting in minimal efforts week in, week out just so that others cannot accuse you of slacking off. A very obvious example would be Walcott and Chamberlain, and I don’t have to categorize who is which.
These players we have had our fair share of. Denilson, Clichy, Eboue, Traore and Vela were examples. Getting rid of them was the right move but there are still shirkers in the current squad. Walcott (I’m not Walcott bashing, but he is fast losing his importance for us already), Djourou and perhaps Arshavin. There has to be competition to keep people on their toes, to make them want to give all out for the team.
As it stands, we are now already out of the League and FA Cup whilst the 2nd leg of the Champions League is increasingly looking like a formality for Milan and their large nosed-nosy striker. The Premier League is realistically out of reach after 8 losses already this season and we are at best challenging for 3rd. I guess gunnerblog was right on twitter last night,
“Since our disastrous summer our only significant and realistic aim has been a top four finish. That doesn’t change.”
Perhaps we should all accept that (since the otherwise is impossible) and move on to the next premier league game whilst keeping our spirits and hopes up for the 2nd leg with Milan.
It was frustrating, extremely frustrating indeed to see the team put up such performance again and again. This season, playing well is more the exception rather than the norm and it says a lot as to what we currently are. However, Thierry has this parting shot for all of us.
“If you are an Arsenal fan then you are an Arsenal fan, that’s the way it is. Once a Gunner you are always a Gunner, you can’t change.
I am sure the fans will understand that they have to stay with the team. We all need to be together because it’s the same when the team is winning and also when you lose.”
And aren’t we just more in love with Mr. Arsenal himself?
Finally, today’s post ends with a tribute to Henry and what he achieved in his 6 weeks loan here.
162 minutes played. 7 games. 3 shots on target. 3 goals. 2 match winners and infinitely more memories for all gooners. I represent all gooners as we bid Arsene’s favorite son and Arsenal’s best servant a fond farewell.
Thank you Thierry, we know you’ll be around.