Arsenal 1 – 0 Norwich City
1 – 0 Welbeck (59)
It summed up the day really. An uninspiring performance on the pitch was met with a ‘of sorts’ protest. Laying bare the divisions in the fanbase, Arsène received backing in a more traditional football manner, his name chanted from the stands.
21st Century Arsenal: apathy rules. Everything about the club is governed by an air of ‘meh’.
It’s not clear whether the support for Wenger was genuine or more of a protest about the protest; there’s a contrary streak within us as supporters and we don’t like doing as we’re told or being told what to think, particularly by some of those involved who seem to think abuse and vile chants are the way forward. The same people who no doubt hate the likes of Stoke and United for their abuse and vile chants. Actually, they probably don’t, finding some vindication of their own bile in there.
Arsène chose to take it at face value even though he may be embarrassed about the embarrassment of supporters who are embarrassed by others who think the club is an embarrassment. Too much Soap! I think…
However, dismissing the discontent is a dangerous game: it’s always going to be simmering below the surface until there is a tangible improvement on the pitch, ready to resurface at any slide in mundanity or repetition of current mistakes. Perhaps an inspiring victory will set us on the road to contentment.
That didn’t happen yesterday. Even the normally effervescent Alexis was subdued and even though he hates to be substituted, won’t have had any complaints about being hooked. Arsène thought the performance “serious and organised” but without “a good of pace”, which is positive-speak for dull.
The points, which dangle the carrot of second place in the Premier League, were secured with Danny Welbeck’s goal shortly after his arrival for Alex Iwobi, a move met with derision not for either player but the manager’s decision. It paid off, Olivier Giroud – nearly 900 Premier League minutes without a goal – headed down Hector Bellerin’s cross and Welbeck applied the finish for his fifth of the season.
Two points behind Tottenham who visit Chelsea tomorrow? It would be entirely Arsenal that this season with all the attendant hullabaloo, ends up showing a step forward in the history books despite being a gloriously wasted opportunity.
Goalscoring was a point Wenger acknowledged as a problem post-match,
What the problem we have faced this season is exactly the same problem we had today. We lost in the first game of the season against a team who sat very deep and didn’t come out. After that, all the teams came here and sat very deep. We did not find a way, in the air or on the ground, to score goals. Today again, I think once we were 1-0 up, there were more goals in the game for us, but we couldn’t finish the game off.
To be just two games from the end of the season and still have the same issues as on the opening day is baffling. Arsène referred to his three decades in football elsewhere in his post-match chats but to have failed to address a fundamental issue is of deep concern and leaves no confidence that there will be any solution found this summer.
That we are left persisting with Giroud in his poor form whilst Danny Welbeck is nursed back to full fitness, underlines the extent of the issues facing what is on paper at least, a very talented squad. A shame football is played on grass.
The performance was so distinctly average that it’s hard to get excited by any of it. The verve and vigour of the King Power, the passionately stubborn resistance of the return at The Emirates; they were all missing as we passed in the spring sunshine. Unbeaten against the top four with the potential for a maximum of one defeat against the three clubs – assuming City complete the final Champions League quartet – immediately around them is better than Arsenal could have hoped for at the start of the season and might reasonably have left them with title dreams.
If they did, those hopes lie in tatters as clubs lower down the table have found it relatively easy to defend and force the Arsenal crab to leave its’ shell. The atmosphere was blamed for the performance, with little regard to players who are below par. The relationship is symbiotic with both feeding each other; a crowd lifts the players but if they don’t respond, the crowd falls but it’s over a passage of time that the damage is done. No club in the world sees underperforming players inspired at kick-off; look at how quickly a crowd can be silenced when we are the away team.
Norwich huffed, puffed and forged a couple of good chances that Petr Cech dealt with in the manner you’d expect a world-class goalkeeper to. If only we could have found a striker in the same transfer window. And a midfielder. That’s the over-riding sentiment of this season; regret, an opportunity missed.
It’s not hard to see why Norwich are in the relegation fight but it’s a shame that they are falling into the trapdoor just as Newcastle find form. If they are going back to the Championship, I can only hope Sunderland go with them from a personal point of view.
Wenger believes in a brand of football which is aesthetically pleasing but by his own admission, easy to defend against. It means that either he has to change or the players do. If neither happens, we are stuck in the same cycle and come next May, the protests may well be more vociferous inside the stadium.
Having been given the backing, Arsène it’s over to you.