I can take losing, I really can. When Chelsea outplayed us for large chunks of the match last month I walked out of the Emirates disconsolate, but full of admiration for the movement and skill of Oscar, Hazard, Mata and Torres. We tried but failed to match a side which cost as much to build as our stadium.
But today we didn’t try. Not one little bit. And that is why I am fuming.
I could tell after a few minutes that we weren’t in the right frame of mind. While Norwich were running their arses off to try and close us down, we casually stroked the ball sideways, then forward a bit, then backwards, then sideways, then sideways some more… you get the picture. There was no tempo or purpose to our play and the team looked short on determination and focus.
Arrogant Arsenal thought all that was required of them was to turn up and little Norwich would swoon at their wonderful technique, laying open a path to their goal.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a freak result or a bad day at the office. We saw this a number of times last season, losing to Blackburn, Swansea, QPR, Wigan, Fulham and Sunderland. Not because we were outplayed by a good footballing side as happened when Chelsea came to town, but because we underestimated our ‘inferior’ opponents. We were poorly motivated on all occasions, as we were this evening, and that is down to the most arrogant man at the club — Arsene Wenger.
A genius in the transfer market he may be (when he can be persuaded to enter it) but his motivational skills must once again be called into question. I showed more heart screaming at the telly and thumping the sofa in disgust than any Arsenal player did tonight and that is unforgivable. It keeps happening and it will happen again this season, mark my words. The players may be different, but it’s the same old problem which tells you the common denominator is Wenger.
"It's ok guys, he only plays for Norwich, we don't need to close him dow...... oh."
It wasn’t just his team talk that wasn’t up to scratch though, his tactics were also found wanting. When we needed a Plan B he changed the personnel but not the formation. Which of course had no impact whatsoever and we continued to play slow, ineffective passes in front of Norwich’s disciplined backline where it couldn’t hurt them. Then he finally
threw another body up front for the last 10 minutes and we ended the match with a front two of Giroud and… Mertesacker. Are you fucking kidding me? If you’re going to go 4-4-2, why not try an actual striker up there like Podolski who has 44 goals for Germany and is the only natural finisher in the squad? Oh hang on, you took him off early again after playing him out of position all match, so you couldn’t. Unbelievable.
The man who did lead the line was Giroud who, after taking one step forwards with a good display at West Ham, took a couple backwards today. He looked lost again, his touch was poor and his link up play was non-existent. His nervous fresh-air shot in the last few minutes betrayed his lack of confidence and while I refuse to judge him definitively until the end of the season, we have a serious problem up front if Wenger has decided Podolski is best suited to the left flank.
Things don’t look much better at the back to be honest. The goal was diabolical with nobody bothering to close down Alexander Tettey as he wound up for a pot shot (mistake one) which Mannone pushed back into play instead of to safety out wide (mistake two) allowing Grant Holt a simple tap in. I wrote last week about how poor our keepers are and tonight was further evidence that Wenger has neglected the goalkeeping position in recent years.
Neither Mannone or Fabianski is fit for the Premiership, let alone a place in Arsenal’s squad, and how Wenger thinks he can get away with having three inexperienced keepers beggars belief. I rate Szczesny, but the fact remains he is still young. Our top three keepers have played just 93 times in the Premiership between them! Where is the experience back there? You might see a youngster fill the number three and/or even number two goalkeeping jerseys at a club, but only one man would choose to nurture three inexperienced keepers at the same time in order to save a few quid in the transfer market. The last time we signed a keeper over the age of 22 was way back in 2004 when Almunia joined from Celta Vigo reserves as a back up to Lehmann.
Since then we’ve tried to do things on the cheap, famously refusing to pay more than £2m for Schwarzer a few seasons ago, preferring to gamble that Fabianski or Mannone would come good. Well, neither has done or ever will do — and guess who kept a clean sheet for Fulham today?
I’m also concerned about our marking at set pieces. Today we should’ve been 2-0 down when Turner headed wide from a corner just before halftime. We look ill at ease with the zonal marking system and after earning many premature plaudits for our defending in August, we’ve now gone eight matches without a clean sheet.
I promised not to judge the team until ten matches had gone by, so I’ll not rule us out of anything yet, but seeing as we’ve succumbed to our achilles heel of last season already (taking certain opponents too lightly) it’s not looking good. We are ninth and the top three look pretty far away already — don’t think I’ll bother with Match of the Day tonight.
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