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Monday 21 March 2011

They Are The Passengers....And They Ride & Ride & Ride

We might've been better off if Arsène had been banned from the dugout instead of Fergie? Perhaps he'd benefit from an enforced change of perspective, because with each passing game, it becomes increasingly hard to fathom why le Gaffer continues to place his faith in our gormless Brazilian galoot; when, from our point of view on the terraces, it’s become as plain as the hooter on ol’ Red Nose’s ugly mush that Denilson and some of his equally diffident colleagues, are absolutely bereft of the necessary quality, or the required drive and determination to ever bring home the Premiership bacon.

It’s all the more galling, with the recent leveling of the competitive playing field, where, despite punctuating matches with all too brief moments of brilliance, no one challenger has managed to rise above the relentless grind of relative mediocrity. I’ve rarely ever felt that the title was more there for the taking, by whichever team is capable of pulling their collective fingers out for the remaining few fixtures, rousing the appetite to elevate themselves above the the more dispassionate also-rans. What’s more, I fear that such pedestrian form won’t put us in with a sniff of the title in future, with so many other clubs looking to kick-on.

Thus with Arsène constantly reaffirming the Solvite like strength of the bond between his young charges and their dogged desire to shake-off their tag of perennial under-achievers, I keep expecting them to produce the sort of statement of intent, which might convince the none-believers amongst us that there’s a possibility we might not bottle it again.

However for all that le Prof might prattle on about the Gunners proving their resilience, by clawing back a two-goal deficit to earn a draw against the Baggies, quite frankly I’m afraid that Arsène has completely missed the point of the two we dropped at the Hawthorns on Saturday! I can appreciate that from his point of view, Wenger feels obliged to focus on his players' positive attributes in perpetuity, but surely there must eventually come a time to share a few home truths?

1-0 down at the break, after enduring 45 all too predictable minutes of relentlessly prodding the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, where we only once managed to conjure up sufficient pace and momentum to threaten Carson’s goal, there was a palpable mood of frustration in our corner of the ground, with a first-half display that was such a pale shadow of a performance from genuine title contenders.

I can’t recall the last time Fat Sam’s Bolton failed to roll over for his pal Fergie. But with Owen Coyle’s Trotters still holding their own at half-time, I would’ve liked to grab hold of the Gunners individually and physically shake some sense into them. Or at least be reassured that there was someone in the Arsenal dressing room with the sort of presence and stature to remind his team mates that somehow, in spite their half-arsed efforts to date, they remain within touching distance of greatness; thereby lighting a sufficient fire under our backsides to go out with all guns blazing. Unfortunately I fancy that lunatic Lehmann is more likely to be instigating fights in a phone booth than winning us a title.

I don’t enjoy singling out scapegoats, in what is after all a team effort. I’m sure that in defence of Denilson’s contribution, le Prof would quote prolific passing statistics and completion rates (albeit that these don’t reveal that 90 per cent are played sideways and backwards, over a distance of less than 5 yards!). But I’m afraid that after doing my best to give the bland Brazilian the benefit of my doubts thus far, my patience in a player who appears to have absolutely no redemptive qualities, has eventually run its course.

It’s not ineptitude that aggravates me, anywhere near as much as an apparent lackadaisical attitude. Rumour has it that the distraction of scandalous off-field shenanigans has put the kibosh on our Muslim brother’s season. But in a rare substitute appearance after the break, at least Marouanne Chamakh ran around as if he meant it.

I know Shava is one of the few players capable of producing the sort of quality strike that got us back into this game. But in an awkward away encounter that demanded we set about the opposition with a warrior like desire, the Arsenal simply can't afford such nonchalant passengers.

Who knows what game The Grauniad's Joe Lovejoy was watching, but in my most humble opinion Arshavin didn't deserve to be anyone's Man of the Match, when our Moroccan striker was forced to get stuck in out on his flank. Moreover, I might have misread the circumstances, but until it dawned on the diddy-man that Bendtner was replacing Ramsey, I could've sworn he was once again guilty of taking a few steps towards the touchline, thereby only adding to my suspicions that Shava is hardly the most committed Gooner.

There's no doubt that with his indisputable talent, Shava would be one of our brightest luminaries, if the Gunners season was on song, but sadly the diminutive Ruski just doesn't have enough of the "right stuff" to spur on our spluttering troops. In the absence of our skipper, personally I'd great hopes in Samir Nasri stepping up to the plate. Perhaps Samir is simply running on empty, but after spending so much of the first-half of the campaign proving the absurdity of his absence from the French squad during the summer, sadly Samir has seriously gone off the boil compared to those scintillating early season displays that had many pundits touting him as a potential candidate for player of the season.

Another calamitous goalkeeping/centre-back gaffe is more grist to the mill of all those who point to our manager’s failure to address our defensive frailties. But to my mind, the complete lack of zest and vigour in so much of our insipid football of late, only highlights quite how dependent we are on the “make do and mend” presence of Alex Song in a holding midfield role, protecting our flaky rearguard.

Ancelotti’s mob appear to have a far more formidable propensity for ramping up the heat in the run-in than we do. But I’ve rarely ever been more grateful for an International break. Aside from the hope of some of our players recovering (both pride and fitness) in the interim, it gives me time to kid myself anew that instead of being infected by the air of insouciance around them, the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey can inspire the sort of fortitude that might enable us to make a real fight of it?

Above all else, keep the faith
Come on you Reds
Big Love

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