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Monday, 25 January 2016

He's Done It Again!

Waking up on Sunday morning to find Spurs breathing down our necks in the table only added to the tension in advance of our afternoon encounter. I was convinced that the Chelsea side that turned up wouldn’t be the same one that’s struggled all season long and concerned that the psychological impact of us not having beaten the Blues for so many seasons, might be reflected in an inhibited Arsenal display.

After all the Gunners have hardly sparkled of late and all the talk of us being title favourites has seemed quite fanciful to those of us who’ve watched us eke out results in recent weeks. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 (whatever that may mean!), but considering how long it’s been since we last stamped our authority on a game, I would’ve liked to have seen Alexis out there from the start on Sunday, even if he wasn’t fully match fit and might’ve only lasted an hour or so.

There’s an intensity about Alexis that invariably makes things happen on a football pitch. With the Gunners pressing high up in the opening minutes, you could sense the nervousness in the opposition, the lack of confidence that results in previously composed players making uncharacteristic errors and even lacking in match practice, we really could’ve done with the additional attacking intent from Alexis that might’ve caused sufficient panic to enable us to press home an early advantage.

Instead of which, the Gunners complete failure to threaten Chelsea early on, afforded our guests time to settle and perhaps playing on memory alone, knowing quite how often they’ve managed to nullify us in the past, the Blues soon grew into the game, to the point where they were the source of such consternation that Costa was once again able to sucker one of our centre-backs into getting themselves sent off.

Truth be told, the Bambi-like BFG has been looking increasingly vulnerable, ever since being deprived of the protection offered by Coquelin. Gawd love him Flamini is a trier and it’s hard to criticize such a willing grafter, but there’s no denying how much more fragile we’ve been at the back in Franny’s absence.

Then Arsène only compounds the loss of Mertesacker by substituting our single most likely goalscorer. With the Chelsea fans’ taunts of “Diego Costa, he’s done it again” ringing in our ears, this really was a head in the hands moment, at the prospect of another Groundhog Day demise, but which was all the more galling because on this occasion it was at the hands of a far less formidable Chelsea side, who we really should’ve had the wherewithal to be able to beat.

There was the suggestion that Giroud had been a doubt prior to KO and I can understand the logic of leaving the pace of Walcott and Campbell out on the pitch to try and take advantage of the ageing legs of the likes of Ivanovic and Terry. Yet this presupposed that Theo was capable of actually having an impact upon such a significant game. Sadly he’s been such an anonymous passenger of late that even wearing the captain’s armband to honour his decade at the club, I don’t think there was a person in that stadium who truly believed Walcott capable of filling Giroud’s goalscoring boots.

You & Me Both!
Our brief sojourn at the top was fun while it lasted, but the table as it stands after yet another topsy-turvy weekend is perhaps a truer reflection upon current form. Moreover with the Gunners having long since become unfamiliar with the art of leading from the front, in trying to put some sort of positive slant on a gut-wrenching defeat, perhaps there might be some advantage to letting others make the pace, so we can return to making our more traditional late run on the rails.

Doubtless Arsène will trust in the expected leg-up offered by the long-awaited return to fitness of some of our long-term absentees, but unless Elneny is genuine first XI material, I would dearly love to see at least one more new signing before the transfer window slams shuts, if only to provide the rest of the squad with the psychological boost, by way of the club’s signal of our intent to go “all in”,
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