Before the game on Saturday I felt surprisingly positive – Arséne had put out a strong side filled with players of real ability. Players that would make the first 11 week in week out, with perhaps Coquelin being the only exception. Pre-match I struggled to find anyone who could knock the line-up. Relief was almost tangible across the fanbase – Arséne was taking the match seriously and named a decent line-up as the graphic below indicates.
Looks impressive doesn’t it? How many times have we seen this line-up, with perhaps the only changes being at right full-back and right midfield. Last season this pretty much got us up into the Champions League stages. So what happened?
Player Mentality and a huge lack of Professionalism happened.
Regular readers know I am a super-positive person and I almost always back Arséne because I see in him someone who wants to win as much as I do, someone who also tantrums a bit when we lose, like I do. I want a manager that cares and Arséne cares. Think what you like about him and his salary, but you can’t say he doesn’t care. Look at the line-up – we started Premier League games with pretty much that same set of players – and WON. They are all talented players in their own right and player for player I struggle to find a player that I don’t think is good enough. perhaps Gervinho, but even then he’s not far off and a year or two and he will see his best form.
He also kept the bench strong with Theo, Cazorla and Jack all itching to get on. Sensible decisions that any manager would have made. All three needed a rest. You cannot argue the fact that all three have been over-used and a breather was required.
The game started with a speed and tenacity driven by Coquelin’s sharp snappy tackles and I thought it boded well for the match. There was a focus about Arsenal – get the job done. That didn’t get through to some of the players themselves though and Diaby was a particular culprit in this regard, languidly strolling about the pitch, not really showcasing his real talent. He was missing a bit of his “burst” and it showed up the weaknesses in his game. He played within himself, trying not to get injured and he was often caught in possession, failing to offer much going forwards. One man doesn’t make a team though, so there was still plenty to play for.
The problem is that for all of their shouts of encouragement between them, the players all played with an eye on Tuesday night and you can’t do that. There was an overall lacklustre feel about Arsenal and an assumption that a goal would present itself to us. It did, but only late in the second half when we were chasing the win. It also went in at the wrong end, but we know how the result went.
I guess the big point to come out of this is that top-top players don’t miss the big chances and Gervinho missed a sitter and so did Arteta. Top-Top players turn up every game. Too many players didn’t.
I feel sorry for Arséne, the venom that has spilled out towards him when the players didn’t turn up for him, the manager is always responsible – but a manager can only do so much. He affected the change too late, but then how often this season has a different Arsenal side stepped out of the changing rooms and changed the game after a few stern words? Arséne was right to give them 20 mins to redeem themselves, but they let us all down.
There should be a serious amount of anger in that squad. The players need to look at themselves and come out and say it wasn’t good enough. They need to stick up for Arséne and take the blame. You can bang on about the organ grinder all the time, but if the monkey’s keep buggering off to pick their own bottoms, you need to get new monkeys.
There are players across the squad that mentally or physically were not good enough. They have until the end of the season to prove themselves, Arséne has been more ruthless in getting rid of players that aren’t up to scratch and I don’t expect that to stop in the summer.