We lost the battle, can we win the war?

St.Totteringham’s Day 2013 is looking very unlikely. Also looking unlikely is Arsene maintaining his record of always finishing in the top four. For that record to continue it will be thanks, in no small part, to operation ‘Fat Spanish Waiter’ and not the usual 5pur2 comedy show.

After our 2-1 defeat at the hands of the enemy, we sit 7 points behind them and 5 behind the Russians. Essentially it means we need them to drop points in three of their remaining ten fixtures, whilst winning all of ours. With Everton and United still to visit and Swansea and Newcastle to be visited, not even the most ardent Arsenal / Arsene fans can surely believe we’ll win all our of remaining ten league fixtures? So realistically, those three games we need 5pur2 and the Russians to drop points in becomes four or five. If it’s the latter then we’re expecting them to drop points in 50% of their remaining fixtures. On current form I just don’t see it happening.

Before the game I said it was important not to lose. A draw, whilst not ideal, wouldn’t have been drastic, especially with those occupying third and fourth still having to play each other. But defeat has dealt us one blow too many. They can play out a draw against each other and still have points to play with. Furthermore, these are not the same teams as last year. The reaction of both sets of players at the full-time whistle told you everything you needed to know about how big a result it was psychologically.

Last year 5pur2 looked tired, out of ideas, mentally inferior, and had a two-bob manager. This year they have a manager who won trophies with Porto and a player in Bale who is doing what Van Persie did for us. Chelsea, whilst not in the best of form under the stewardship of an interim manager they hate, are not the same 6th place finishing team of last year. They are not putting all of their eggs into one Champions League sized basket. And then there is us. We look jaded, having used the same eleven players for almost every game. We don’t have a truly world-class player like Fabregas or Van Persie to bail us out. And mentally we look shot; we just don’t have the confidence. For the second or third time this season our unbeaten league run has ended at five games. 5pur2 are currently on twelve, their best ever in Premier League history.

And then there is the game itself. For the most part I thought we did ok, we were arguably the better team. But when the opposition, the home team, reach half time with only two shots on target and only 43% possession (via @Orbinho), and yet hold a 2-0 lead, you know something is fundamentally wrong. It’s called our defence. To get caught once is feasible; you try to play offside, but get caught out by a diagonal ball and one defender being slightly too deep. But to get caught a second time, in an identical fashion, only two minutes later is ridiculous. Vermaelen was in no man’s land (he’s been lost in no man’s land for quite some time now) and Monreal decided letting Lennon go was a good idea. Having been an even contest for the best part of the first half, we gifted them a two goal half time lead.

The response after the interval was just what we needed, an early goal from the BFG (via a deflection from the world’s greatest). A small period of Arsenal pressure followed and then, with one stupid substitution, Arsene killed our momentum. Arsene has never appeared the shrewdest when it comes to substitutions, but this was beyond belief. Having ignored Rosicky for the last few weeks he decided to throw him into the mix. Would it be for the non-existent Walcott? Or maybe try to get Theo into the game by moving him up top and taking off the ineffective Giroud? Maybe take off the quiet Cazorla? The disappointing Wilshere? Or Arteta, a defensive minded player, replaced by an attacking minded player?

No, Arsene had other ideas. Lets take off Jenkinson (our second best player of the match so far) and then move Ramsey (our best player of the match so far) out of position. I can only explain this substitution in one of two ways. Either it was decided pre-game (and therefore didn’t take into account performances on the day) or it was based on player reputation. That Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla, Wilshere, and to an extent Arteta can be so quiet, so poor, and not be one of the ones to make way is beyond me. And then there’s Podolski. A proven goal scorer, sitting on the bench when you need a goal, until the 75th minute. Having made the diabolical Rosicky substitution on the 60 minute mark, what was Arsene waiting for? What little momentum we were starting to build following our goal was gone, and from that point on a third for 5pur2 looked more likely as they created chances on the break. In the end Szczesny didn’t have to make any saves of real note, but that was largely due to wasteful finishing. Lloris at the other end was largely a spectator.

@OptaJoe showed a head-to-head table for the top five. We have 4 points from a possible 21 (the 5-2 at home and the draw at City). When you combine that poor return against our direct rivals with our ability to also self-destruct against the ‘smaller’ teams (Norwich, Bradford, Blackburn) then it’s little wonder we’re about to go eight years without a trophy and most probably slide outside of the top four.

I hate to be so negative; I’m usually more glass half full (much to the annoyance of my sister and Dad). As my good friend Simon Rose always says “it’s a 38 game season”. But today was a sad realisation as to where things have gone and the dark tunnel, to which there appears no light at the end, which we seem to be travelling down. I’ll finish with the words of my sister, from a message she sent me at full-time; it’s sad but true:

“I feel jaded, sad, and lacklustre. No anger for the first time ever. We did our best and we aren’t good enough; so sad.”


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