Easter is all but over, much like our season. The FA Cup semi-final next weekend offers the prospect of silverware but I can’t think of the last time I’ve thought about a match with such trepidation.
West Brom’s defeat yesterday pretty much sealed our Europa League fate, not that there was much doubt anyway. Albion’s chances of catching us were severely damaged by a lacklustre performance, almost the polar opposite to the one they produced against us. Perfidious Albion, indeed.
Liverpool and City’s wins may ease the pressure on the players. Acceptance that the top four is out of reach could release the mental shackles which bind them. While I hope, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Arsène thinks a good performance will end all our woes:
“The fans want to be behind the team and the way we respond on the football pitch will decide the attitude of the fans.
“The fans love the club. It’s a good period to be united and not divided. Historically Arsenal has been about that.”
And he’s quite right. We want a team to believe in, we love the club and our attitude toward the team will change. Just as with the players themselves, confidence in the stands is easily lost. However, when the support doesn’t believe in the team, it never ends well.
For tonight’s game, it’s hard to take much solace from Middlesbrough’s woes; we’re still hopelessly out of form, out of sync, and out of ideas away from home. The nub of problem stems from a lack of leadership on and off the pitch. A state of flux has engulfed the club and that is entirely Wenger’s fault.
You can crush us, You can bruise us
Arsène’s decision to dilute the captaincy is reaping the disarray which inevitably follows. There is no one player on the pitch who is dragging better performances from others, by coercion or confrontation. No one is leading by example. Alexis and Ox offer the effort to others to follow but rarely is it. The heart, the desire, the will to win; nobody on the pitch has enough respect to be able to lead.
It strikes me that a leader would be viewed with suspicion and resentment in this very nice dressing room; “Who are you to come in and disrupt our niceness with your orders and shouting?”
The problem is that’s exactly what they need.
In these situations, one player usually becomes the magnet for all the criticism. Hector Bellerin is the lucky chap, with everything from his performances to his ‘man bun’, causing grief. Wenger spoke about the player:
“He has not come back to his level since he has been injured.
“I think for a while, he was still feeling the ankle. Then you get bad habits and you forget that your job first is to defend and win challenges because you protect yourself a little bit.
“He is trying to focus on what is important again, to defend well. He is a guy who is genuinely Arsenal and wants to do well. He’s ready to play with pain.”
So, he’s playing in pain but doesn’t need surgery? And people think Arsène is still the man to lead the revolution the squad and club needs? Yea Gods.
But you’ll have to answer to us
Tonight will likely see the return of Petr Cech in goal, which is harsh on Emi Martinez whose only mistake that I can instantly recall was giving away the penalty at Selhurst Park. Laurent Koscielny is certain to come back into the shambles called the back four.
What other combinations does the manager try to drag a good performance out of the team? Welbeck or Giroud in the centre? Alexis? Iwobi back? I’ve given up trying to work out who as a partnership will reignite the passion in the team. It certainly isn’t Wenger who will do that.
Insert your own XI here. There’s also Q&A with OneBoro ahead of tonight’s game.
Finally, Dad’s Jukebox has been fixed and returns with a barnstorming playlist this morning: the history of the Clash via their cover versions.
Enjoy the match
if you can wherever you are watching it.