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Thursday 29 November 2012

Plain As Le Nez On Le Prof's Mush

Just in the door from the long schlep back from Merseyside and I made the mistake of putting a recording of the midweek MOTD on the box. No sooner than the programme had started, than I found myself suffering the sight of Gareth Bale storming forward, to create Spurs opening goal against the Mickey Mousers and then when Shearer highlighted Dembele's midfield strengths in the montage shown at the end of this match, this only served to highlight the patently obvious weaknesses in the Gunners game at Goodison and sadly, in all our other recent outings.

Everton's equaliser came as a direct result of us casually gifting the home side possession, in a far too dangerous position, for the umpteenth time on the night. With my positively sieve-like memory, I can't be certain but I think it was Ramsey who was at fault; besides, you can't go far wrong in blaming Aaron nowadays, since his increasingly infuriating habit of not paying due regard to the importance of retaining control of the ball, is fast making him the latest scapegoat of the fickle terrace boo-boys.

But my point is that this incident occurred in the aftermath of what seemed like a ten minute period, where the Gunners controlled the ball, with endless sideways and backwards passes, constantly switching play from one side of the pitch to the other, without anyone in red & white showing the slighted bit willing to take responsibility to go past the massed ranks of the Everton defence. Thus we dominated the play for this long spell without ever even looking like getting behind the defence and creating a tangible threat on the Everton goal and then seconds later, after we've gifted them back the ball, the Toffees string a couple of passes together that result in Fellaini beating Sczczny.

There's been plenty of times in the past, when the Gunners patience and their penchant for wanting to walk the ball into the back of the net, has left me tearing my hair out on the terraces. But there is a big difference between patiently biding our time, waiting for the right opening, or the precise moment to unpick the lock and the situation we have now, where we appear to have absolutely no one on the pitch willing to drive forward with the ball, or to take responsibility for lending our attack that all important forward impetus.

I suspect that if the opposition were to allow them, the current first XI could spend the entire 90 minutes  tamely prodding the ball about amongst themselves, in two-thirds of the pitch, without ever making progress into the final third. Then perhaps this blindingly obvious lack of drive against Everton, or the age-old problem of the absence of any leaders, willing to inspire those around them with their determination to produce this forward momentum, wasn't so surprising on a night when Koscielny limped off after his first kick of the ball.

Along with most other Gooners, I would've happily settled for a point at Goodison Park, if we'd managed the humble feat of achieving all three against Villa on Saturday. Yet against Paul Lambert's inexperienced and unfamiliar outfit, it was left to our French centre-back to create just about the single only credible threat on Villa's goal, as he at least attempted to inspire those around him, by bulldozing his way into the box. With a little more composure and if Laurent's sight of the ball hadn't been obscured by his nose bleed, he might well have won the game for us, almost singlehandedly.

But surely something is seriously amiss, when we are left relying on our commendably committed but somewhat lumbering centre-back for the only evidence of any forward momentum. Moreover, I can't help but wonder if there's an element of incompetence involved in Koscielny's injury this evening. Obviously I don't know the facts, but my instincts are that when a player limps off, with what looked like a groin strain, after his first effort to make contact with the ball in the opening moments, one can't help but wonder whether this is a result of him having failed to warm up properly.

On a bitterly cold night, there's the suspicion that they've come out to stretch and warm up twenty minutes before KO and subsequently sat down in the dressing room, long enough for their muscles to grow cold and stiffen up, to the point where they're far more susceptible to injury the moment they exert themselves.

Most worryingly is the fact that it is hard to see where we are going to find the solution to an Arsenal side devoid of any drive. There were a couple of instances this evening, down on the wing in front of where we stood in the Upper Bullens, where in the past you would've backed Theo to turn on the turbos and go past the likes of Tony Hibbert as if he was standing still, but watching the defender match Walcott stride for stride this evening, I can't help but wonder if Theo has lost some of his blistering pace?

Both Wilshere and Cazorla undoubtedly possess the guile and the composure, to outwit lesser mortals and go past their opponents, but when playing on the park together, both of them seem to be reluctant to press home their obvious advantage. Time and time again, we witness one of them drop a shoulder, or drag a ball back to leave their opposite number for dead, enter the space between the opposition's midfield and defence, to the point where it appears as if we're capable of mounting a challenge on goal, only for them to turn and play the ball sideways or backwards, for a frustrating return to "Go", to begin our march around the board anew.

It's got to the point now, where in some respects I often find myself half-hoping for us to go a goal down in games, if only because this appears to be the only way of inspiring this Arsenal side to pull their finger out and induce the sort of forward propulsion capable of creating a genuine threat on the opposition's goal.

Then again, it just about sums up where this Arsenal side is at right now, when I find myself listening to the scores elsewhere on the night, on my terrace tranny, at first grateful to hear that the likes of West Brom are having a 'mare and then only to end up fretting that we might find ourselves falling behind the likes of lowly Swansea. Still at least we can take some solace in the fact that there are always others worse off than us and I suppose at this present point in time we can count our blessings that we're not Liverpool fans.

Sort it out Arsène
Come on you Reds