Another insipid attacking display from the Gunners meant that for the second home match running, the visitors to the Emirates left with a point they probably thought they’d have to work harder for.
Optimism was high with Walcott and Song named in the starting line up and Fabregas on the bench. Theo caused problems for Blackburn from the off with his pace and direct running and it reminded watching Gooners of the outlet we’d been missing since the Stoke game – not coincidentally the last match we won against any team higher than League 2.
The early promise soon faded though and we were treated to another dull half played in third gear as our lack of desire and creativity came to the fore once more. The only plus point was the performance of Arshavin, who ran more in those 45 minutes than he has in his last 45 games, including one spectacular sliding tackle in our box having sprinted back 60 yards to cover Clichy. It’s a shame the rest of the team didn’t roll their sleeves up like that.
"That was a shit performance... I must find a cheap 14 year old striker who will be good in 2015"
The rest of the game drifted by with little urgency from the Gunners and little to talk about until the 75th minute when Nzonzi got himself sent off for a reckless tackle. Nothing changed though, we still couldn’t break down a well drilled but not exceptional defensive side. In fact as we went into injury time I realised I had forgotten Blackburn were down to 10 men, so little difference had it made. Yes, we had a couple of efforts blocked as we threw the kitchen sink at them before van Persie headed over the last chance of the match, but it was a poor performance made to look even worse by comparing it to the result at Upton Park at lunchtime.
I have to say, after watching Man Utd’s comeback I arrived at the stadium on a bit of a downer. If they’d raced into a 4-0 lead in the first half and won at a canter I could’ve lived with it – it was expected. But the manner in which they teased us by allowing West Ham a 2-0 halftime lead before storming 8 points clear left me deflated, and I have to wonder if the players didn’t feel the same. Apart from the first five minutes which were bright and zippy, they played with the air of a team which didn’t believe it could overtake Man Utd and that is unforgivable. I can be down and disillusioned because I don’t have to play, but the players need to be focused, motivated and above all have the mental strength and desire to grind out victory and keep the pressure on Man U. Where was the tempo? The passion? The determination to get the 3 points at all costs?
This lackadaisical approach is nothing new. In fact it was a carbon copy of the Sunderland and West Brom games when we failed to perform for 70 minutes until we threw caution to the wind, stuck Bendtner and Chamakh on the pitch and went for broke. In those games we had plenty of injuries to blame, but yesterday we had our best midfielders and strikers available. At one point in the second half it was only Szczesny and Vermaelen missing from our best eleven – everyone else was out there.
So if it isn’t the personnel, why did we perform so badly again?
I think it is a general malaise that affects all the players, one borne from a lack of experienced leaders for the young players to look up to and guide the rest through the tricky times. In building a squad of talented young players Wenger sends his kids out onto the pitch to fend for themselves. There is no Giggs, Scholes, Vidic, van der Saar, Evra, Carrick or Berbatov to mentor them, pass on their knowledge and teach them how to scrap and fight for a result.
The most interesting part of the afternoon came at the final whistle. One guy near me started hurling abuse at Wenger, angrily shouting at him to buy some players or go. Another guy some 10 rows below him took exception and defended Wenger, reminding him of the success he’s brought to the club. Such was their frustration it boiled over and both had to be physically restrained by their mates as they angrily traded insults. A few others joined in on either side and one guy grabbed another by his lapels screaming at him to “Get out of my face!” before the stewards belatedly moved in as things overheated.
This incident summed up perfectly the frustrations and feelings of the Arsenal support right now. If you’d conducted a poll in the stadium at the final whistle and asked everyone to line up with which angry fan they agree with, 30,000 would be behind the ‘Wenger must change or go’ guy and the other 30,000 behind the ‘Wenger has done wonders, give him more time’ guy. Both fans had points, but I’ve never seen such a demonstrative outpouring of anti-Wenger sentiment than I did yesterday.
The worrying thing is that Project Wenger has been ongoing for 5 years now and still our side has no backbone and no spirit – what little we had disappeared in traumatic circumstances in the 90th minute at Wembley along with any chance of lifting some silverware this season.
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