Arsène Finds Himself Looking Down Walcott's Three-Goal Barrel, Hoping Theo Doesn't Pull That Trigger
Apologies but I forgot to hit the "publish" button after finishing my weekly missive below on Sunday and following the utterly demoralising schlep to St Mary's on New Year's Day, where the Gunners failed miserably to turn up (to such an extent that I even overheard several Saints' fans commenting on their way out about how crap we were), I thought it best to save any further comment until after the weekend's outing to Swansea, where hopefully a drastically improved display will ensure that I don't end up feeling quite so obliged to go off on a furious tirade, about how an undeservedly arrogant Arsenal side needs to take a serious look at themselves!
Seeing the Gunners drop points is water off a duck's back to me, so long as I can go home feeling that we've given a decent enough account of ourselves and done justice to whatever ability there is in the Arsenal side concerned. However it was such a frustratingly limp and unspirited performance on Tuesday that a stranger could've been forgiven for thinking that it was Southampton who were the team supposedly challenging for Champions League qualification and the Gunners struggling to avoid the relegation quagmire.
We will seriously end up kicking ourselves, if the two points we so casually dropped at St Mary's end up being the points that cost us 4th place. Albeit that sadly, based on that miserable showing, we are more likely to be needing the points to prevent ourselves being dragged down towards the relegation dogfight than we are to be needing them to challenge for a fourth-placed finish.
Based on Bakari Sagna's admirable and often unsung consistency up until now (which has been all the more remarkable considering the imperfections of those playing alongside him in defence), if Baks appeared to have gone off the boil against Newcastle, lamentably he was a walking disaster against Southampton. It was suggested to me that his dip in form might have something to do with the anniversary of the death of his brother, but I've checked that since and this tragedy happened in Feb 2008. So as I've intimated below, perhaps the dramatic dip in form of the Gunner's own Mr Reliable is indicative that, contrary to what AW would have us believe, something is well and truly rotten and that unfortunately it's definitely not in the state of Denmark (either that or sadly, Sagna is about to make his exit)!
There were more than a few ironic chuckles on the terraces at St Mary's on Tuesday, as AW sent on Gervinho and Ramsey, as we couldn't possibly have wished for two more unlikely saviours. While Gervinho was so devoid of any confidence and his customary headless chicken impersonation left us all thinking that the African Nations Cup couldn't possibly come soon enough, for me it was Aaron Ramsey who highlighted the principle problem with our squad and the complete absence of the sort of stalwart characters, capable of inspiring and cajoling the best out of those around them.
It's true that Aaron was only given a fifteen minute run out at the end of Tuesday's game, but instead of injecting some last-minute energy into the team with his fresh legs, he had only been on the pitch for a few minutes and rather than offering himself as a recipient for the ball, as one might've expected, he was already pointing towards his team mates, suggesting the ball be passed to someone who'd been out there for the entire 90.
To my mind I always find it infuriating when those in red & white begin pointing at one another, to suggest that their team mates are better placed to receive the ball. As far as I'm concerned, forget any potential improvements resulting from any minor tinkering with individual elements in our team, this is indicative of one of the major weaknesses in the very foundations at the Arsenal for far too long now and which badly needs to be addressed before we can ever expect to achieve anything.
Quite frankly, it's this pointing at one another which suggests to me that far too many of our players are happy to collect their obscene wage packets each week without ever sticking their heads above the parapets. The pointing indicates a player who would rather his team mate be given the responsibility for possession of the ball than him, when instead he should be busy finding space to make himself available.
I would've much preferred to have seen Carl Jenkinson playing against Southampton on Tuesday, as even if he had been guilty of naive errors, I could've at least gone home with the satisfaction of seeing at least one true Gooner, willing to put everything on the line to achieve a result.
Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on the potential of Jack Wilshere, but this pointing malarkey always seems to highlight the age old problem of an Arsenal squad devoid of leaders, prepared to take responsibility and to offer themselves up, as the player blessed with sufficient belief and ability, either to grab a game by the scruff of the neck themselves, or to inspire their team mates around them to do so with their commitment to the cause. Worse still, so long as they continue pointing at one another, this only serves to perpetuate a "jobs worth" attitude throughout the squad, as they look at one another and think "well if he doesn't want the ball, why should I bother"!
Watching Match Of the Day on Tuesday night and enduring the agony of RvP notching another brace, I couldn't help but be reminded of Robin's exceptional ability and the fact that he could've been relied on to have produced the sort of one-off goods necessary to have nicked all three points against Southampton. I have to admit that I was left feeling that without Robin's peerless talent and in the absence of the sort of leadership to lend this Arsenal side some genuine character, we are doomed.
Then again, I bumped into my mate Miles outside St Mary's, who I've known since he was the landlord of the Alexandra pub in Finchley, where his tour operations begun many moons back by running coach trips to away games for his Gooner maters. Miles was handing out flyers for the Sport Options trip to Bayern in March (£255 one day, £329 overnight - and no I'm not on commission :-) Deluded perhaps, or doubtless still drunk from the previous night's revelries but Miles assured me that it was our destiny to win the big-eared prize this season.
Who knows, stranger things have happened and if we needed any further demonstration, QPR beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was a reminder that it does indeed remain "a funny old game"
There you go, that's what passes for "no further comment" in my book. Here's wishing everyone a very happy & healthy New Year
Keep the faith
Come on you Reds
e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com