Tottenham 2 – 0 Arsenal
I mean, really? Was that the best you could come up with? The lie which underpins the latter years of Arsène Wenger’s reign was exposed in the final North London Derby at White Hart Lane. Tottenham exposed every flaw we had when playing a back four with the back three.
Hands up, I’ve wanted us to move to a back three for some time but once again, Arsène chose the square peg in a round hole route. Not that Rob Holding would necessarily have made a difference but if he was experienced enough for an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, he was experienced enough for a North London Derby.
Out-played, out-fought, and out-thought; from kick-off, Tottenham were determined and energetic while we were on the back foot, grateful to Cech for a string of saves which kept us in the match. Dele Alli missed a sitter; another match where you could scarcely believe we’d got to the interval level.
And then his luck ran out. Or Tottenham got the just reward for their hard work. Alli reacted quickly to a rebound and Ox couldn’t clear it; his left foot is just for standing on. It’s easy to point the finger at him alone but there were six Arsenal players in the penalty area against two forwards. And they still scored.
As for the second, Kane’s dive conned by the referee. There’s no other way to call it. Like Rashford, he was neither clever nor intelligent, and he certainly didn’t earn a penalty. A dive’s a dive; let’s not beat about the bush here.
Kingdom of the Blind
To claim that it changed the course of the game to close your eyes to the reality. We were already beaten; we don’t have resilience, and conceding goals in quick succession is something of a forte of modern Arsenal.
No matter the squad, the same mental frailties are frequently exposed. Two-down in a big match and we don’t have the players to respond. No-one cajoles or grabs them by the scruff of the neck to bully a performance out of them.
I’m genuinely lost for words about the performance. It’s David Rocastle’s birthday tomorrow and he was, according to everyone who knew him, one of the nicest blokes you could wish to meet. You don’t have to be weak on the pitch to be nice off it. Rocky was as determined as Patrick Vieira, strong and mentally ready for battle. We don’t have anyone with those qualities at the moment.
Alexis lost possession 20 times, the same as Gibbs and the Ox. Giroud didn’t have possession 20 times. Özil was marginalised, as much by our performance as the Tottenham midfield.
Desperation gave us the back three, without having the personnel to make it work further up the pitch. Giroud is pointless in this formation; he simply cannot hold the ball up well enough and bereft of confidence, his finishing is woeful.
He and Özil are the easy targets but there’s more to it than that. We need a ‘Kante’ in the centre. Ramsey and Xhaka are not that player. If you’re a cockney, you may say Coquelin’s introduction gave him just that.
The Lion and the Unicorn
The players must take their share of the responsibility for the performance. But it isn’t just down to them. Arsène continually talks about the handbrake being on. He is the one charged with finding the release for it. If he can’t do that, he is failing in a fairly core part of his job.
On a day when results had gone their way, Arsenal were woeful.
We needed players with the hearts of lions but found ours running around deep in the forest with those mythical beasts of determination and desire waiting to devour them. There’s no two ways about it, Tottenham played with as much technique as our XI but meshed them into the traditional football concept of a will to win.
Arsène can’t do that anymore. He hasn’t been about to do it for half-a-dozen years but every game exposes his failings more cruelly than the last. Yet the board still think he is the man for the job. Too scared to act, too conservative to win; geared for footballing failure through a lack of knowledge. Wenger, the one-eyed man, rules their kingdom of the blind.
There’s something very rotten in the state of Arsenal Football Club. There used to be a football club over there. Now it’s just a monolith.