Abject Arsenal Performance But Did It Make The Point?

Southampton 1 – 1 Arsenal

1 – 0 Ramirez (35)
1 – 1 Guly (41 og)

A friend of mine has a theory about high-scoring wins, a big margin of victory means that the following game will see you struggle to score. Somehow Arsenal contrived to prove that point with a lifeless performance at St Marys, one which brought them a point but did it make enough of one? It is part of the endless bafflement, frustration of football supporters that a team can easily slip from the sublime to the ridiculous. Despite how it may be portrayed, it is not the sole preserve of this Arsenal vintage, many of its predecessors were equally capable of playing a team off the park before turning out to be a Sunday Park side.

Post-match, Arsène was equally disappointed,

We lacked purpose, penetration and speed. All qualities we have usually but lacked tonight.

He has become more irascible as time has passed over the past two seasons, particularly in the pre-Christmas half of the season. This time, as with last, it is not hard to sense why. Yesterday was the opportunity to consolidate the challenge for the top four; it was an opportunity wasted as Tottenham won – Chelsea to do likewise tonight – and created a gap of five points through Arsenal’s failure. The upcoming fixtures offer the prospect that we may go into February once more with a significant gap to close on them.

Immediate attention turned to the squad and strengthening. It is not a case of replacements, it will be surprising if any of those cast to the training ground and no more, leave. Arsenal have to bite the bullet and strengthen before selling, taking six months of financial pain for footballing gain. Little surprise that post-match, Wenger was once again coy about his targets,

We are looking everywhere. We are open-minded. We want to strengthen the squad everywhere.

It would naive to believe that he was going to name anybody specific at this stage. The received wisdom is that signing players now is harder than in the Summer. Possibly and believable with Arsenal having difficulty finalising Thierry Henry’s loan last Winter despite several weeks warning of the impending event. No repeat this time around with the manager confirming that this is not an option being pursued at the moment. Smoke and mirrors aside, that suggests a central striking solution has been identified.

Whether that will arrive is largely, you suspect, down to Theo Walcott and his contract position. Last night’s performance did nothing to enhance his reputation as the Second Coming of Thierry Henry. Forwards are like that though; starved of service, they struggle but the central striker at a Premier League club, a Champions League competitor has to be able to take that one opportunity when it arises. Walcott did not nor did he contrive to create the opening which changed one point to three. Such performances are part of the learning curve upon which he has embarked, the criticism that follows is something he will have to get used to. Just as one good match does not make him the saviour, so one average or bad match does not make him a waste of space, not worth the money being bandied about. The truth is somewhere between the two.

But it is not about one player, it is about the whole and we should not lose sight of that. Four wins and a draw in the last five games is a good run to be on. A shame about some of the previous fifteen because that form is as good as those at the top of the table. In many ways, we should have seen this performance coming. The five, six, sevens of this season have always been followed by Premier League matches in which we have struggled to carve a result. In fact, Wigan is the only Premier League game following a high-scoring win that has itself been won. Granted three of the other fixtures were against Chelsea and the two Mancunian clubs but the pattern is there. Whether it is coincidence or not, I don’t know but the regularity of the occurrence suggests that there is an element of psychology involved, Southampton and Aston Villa with all due respect to that pair, are not flourishing. They are games that Arsenal should win if they have genuine aspirations for the top three. As with last season, we are now relying on others to falter rather than our own head of steam, to achieve a Champions League place at the end of the season.

It is this which must spur the manager more than anything in the transfer market. You read or hear managers about needing characters in the dressing room, about how Tony Adams would have kicked some life into Bacary Sagna for his performance last night. Well, that kind of character is few and far between. What is apparent though is that some leadership is needed, a willingness to stand tall and drive the side forward with passion. I don’t think you will find that in one signing but what may be found is the catalyst, the players who collectively bring that out in others.

And maybe the manager needs it as well. He sees the players on the training pitch, knows their frame of mind but sometimes that will not be apparent until the white line has been crossed. Then he needs to know that there are people he can rely on. There was some mental strength shown in achieving a point yesterday but where was the spark that changed one point into three? That is the key to any signings this Winter; those with the quality to make a genuine difference.

’til Tomorrow.

545 thoughts on “Abject Arsenal Performance But Did It Make The Point?

  1. @Henristic
    Nice counter. But as I already said once, I just found it baffling how you can be so convinced of the number of forward runs being significantly lower, but at the same time not being able to even cite one example where TV5 was doing it all the time.

    In all honesty, why I reacted so strongly to that opinion back then was because it reeked of “Bouldie must have improved the defence” syndrome where every little thing that somehow goes right defensively is automatically to Bould’s credit, even if the team has been doing it for years.

  2. Always a mistake to rotate more than a couple of players at once. Especially key ones. It sends a subliminal message to the rest to take it easy. Rotation should be less obvious than that. He should have dropped only one of Mata or Hazard, not both (assuming Evils 9.43 post is correct).

  3. Evil,
    I was never convinced in any strong meaningful sense. It was always a hunch, based on what I observed (and yes I know this is unreliable). A few others have noticed it too.

    I understand and share your skepticism of the ‘Bouldie effect’. I remember been bashed by Dexter for expressing mine during the summer. I doubted that any one assistant could make any real immediate impact.

  4. Good grief! Has there been a more tortuous and one dimensional argument than that between Evil and Henristic over the last couple of days?

    I confess to having given up trying to follow it, having missed the beginning from last year or season. Not sure which.

    Bloody good effort though. A truly impressive body of work.

    The Society of Nitpickers must be keeping an eye on this one.

  5. Just getting to see the highlights of the Chelsea match on the Roger Mellie now. I thought Marin was a promisiing player before he joined Chelsea, but he is finding it very difficult to get anywhere near the first team this season. Obviously a bit eager have been given his first start in the Prem, but that foul was a red card all ends up. The ref bottled it cos its early in the game and he doesn’t want to send a home side player off at this point in the game.

  6. @Henristic
    The big question is, if it happened more frequently last season, was it for better or worse? Did you watch the match yesterday? Wouldn’t you agree that it might have given us a chance to score if one of our CB’s might have gotten more adventurous, considering how predictable we were in our build-up play?

  7. It seems that Rafa is even less willing to say anything about anything than he was at Liverpool. Very clearly not his side and he’s just holding someone else’s place for them.

  8. @Bob

    What does American have to do with anything hahahaha, I’m American and wouldn’t get into that debate.

  9. Ref was a coward and because he gave a yellow card the panel can’t mete out a post match punishment. The FA is so set in their old fashioned ways that they will never allow a ref’s decision to be questioned. The referee clearly made a mistake and Marin should receive a ban. A stupid tackle from a young lad desperate to claim a regular position in the first eleven.

  10. Bob/Dups
    Lol, I had dropped it days ago, but Evil brought it up again yesterday as example of me not using facts in my arguments. If I didn’t ‘deal’ with it now, it would ruin my well earned reputation (you know, of being a fence sitting twat).

    Hope the message is clear now to everyone else, don’t fucking accuse me of stuff! 🙂

  11. I thought I was argumentative, but hats off to Evil. He NEVER fucking gives up. He’s a more polite and considerate version of Fungunner,

  12. @Henristic
    Same to you, haha. I think someone less patient than you would’ve told me to go and do one a long time ago in that debate!

  13. ‘mattgoonerknight
    January 2, 2013 at 8:46 pm
    “but that mite be my love for Brazilians ”

    lol. Sorry.’

    Oh, that’s where you’re from. I was wondering why you didn’t get my earlier quip! Think landing strip and a bikini wax, that’s what we Brits refer to as a Brazilian which you love so dearly.

  14. PG made a good point on twitter

    If the FA can rescind a improperly awarded red card why can’t they increase a red to a yellow.

    Surely both are refs mistakes

  15. And I’m Nigerian 🙂

    Tackle was a defo red.

    In his first season when he was scoring goals, I didn’t mind TV’s forward runs much. On many occasions afterwards, I thought he did it too much. I haven’t thought that way this season. I think he’s staying back more (if truly the case) has helped us defensively, but I wouldn’t mind if he did it once in the final 10-15 minutes of matches like yesterday. So long as it doesn’t become a habit again, and opponents know to take advantage of it.

  16. @Matt

    Yea I have been drinking pretty much all day as I took the day off, if I was sober I would have got it. Yea we call it a Brazilian and I like them as well hahaha. No I’m from Pennsylvania but grew up on Brazilian and Arsenal futbol.

  17. “Matt,
    Please explain what you mean by ‘landing strip’.”


    Errrrm, you know, like a run way, but on a “lady”, downstairs.

  18. @MAtt

    Yea your better than me, I wouldn’t have explained. My recommendation, look it up mate!!! Hahahahahahahahaha

  19. Paul N

    Well, a lot of them are ****s, ai dups? 😉

    I know you don’t like bad language Paul, hence the stars asterisks

  20. The problem with our results is good or bad, the final scores are always so goddam respectable. The 8-2 aside, as the fire in me has cooled somewhat about that seemingly mortal wound….

  21. Purple Verve: How about that rotation by Rafa? He rested Mata and Hazard after a run of 4 wins. Kinda the equivalent of resting Cazorla and Wilshere on our team. Lost to the worst team in the League. Now the ingrates want Rafa’s head. Could you imagine the absolute ape-shit if Arsene tried that type of rotation and lost to Southampton.

    Not picking on you Purple but Managers are dammed if they do and damned if they don’t. As for me, I must remind myself never to join the Over-The-Top nonsense after a poor performance. I will take 13 points out of 15 any day of the week.

  22. Shotta. I think a poor result against a bottom of the table team feels more crushing when expectations are raised through a run of positive results.

    If we really want to finish in the top four games like these need to be won, especially when our closest rivals continue to pick up points

  23. It is not dropping points that causes the disappointment – it is the manner of dropping the points

    In the case of our performance at St Mary’s a feeble offensive effort with Boruc barely troubled all evening

    And Arsene felt the same judging by his comments

  24. YW got this one beautifully. It was a crap performance, we agree. S’ton played quite well, tactically. It was also a draw, we can agree. We lack depth in some respects (attacking ability, breaking down stubborn defences that know Walcott’s every next move), and we appear to lack some measure of tactical maturity, at times. It doesn’t help when a mature player performs well below par (Sagna).

    A run of 4 wins and a dismal draw is OK in any book, the important thing is not losing when you play poorly. The important thing is picking up points against one or more competing teams, which we have now done for 5 games running. It now depends, as always, on continuity, the next result. The thing is, this team, and why and I think PaulN and Shotta respect these lads is their character to pull themselves back into contention after a rubbish display.

  25. The coming run of games will I am sure settle more than a few questions about this team, Walcott, Santi, Giroo, TV and other talking points. City, Chelsea (A), Liverpool, Stoke and Sunderland (A), with Swansea FA cup tie to help us sweat a bit over Bradford Blues.

    A really rubbish performance is not a bad way to start a challenging fixture list; it clears the head.

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