Brighton and Hove Albion 2 – 1 Arsenal
There is no happy ending to this tale, from the players who routinely fail to perform, through the manager who is increasingly bewildered and broken, to the stayaway board and majority shareholder who refuse to contemplate taking any action to right the ship.
Inexorably, we’re heading to the rocks; the rudder is already broken while the senior command are fighting the women and children to get into the first lifeboat.
Brighton deserved their win and it feels like any criticism of Arsenal diminishes their performance. That ought not be the case. They were the better side, showing more determination, more…just more of everything a professional footballer needs. Two goals to the good inside thirty minutes, it should have been more yet the woodwork saved them from going into the interval level.
Even the football gods are against Arsène, it seems.
As per usual it was shambolic defending which did for us. Petr Cech was the architect of our downfall with two errors but the back four were significant contributors as well.
The first goal:
Zonal marking is the abdication of personal responsibility on the pitch. It’s for managers who don’t do defending and players who are incapable of man-marking; if you have both, it’s a combustible mix, ripe of self-destruction. The latest batch of Arsenal statues has been finished and plonked on the pitch.
The second was no better from Cech, a header he would stop nine times; yeah, this was the one. He apologised afterwards because he’s a nice bloke like that; did Koscielny apologise for the pass which created the opportunity or Mustafi for not bothering to mark Murray? I somehow doubt it.
Thursday night is going to be such fun.
I Can’t See Plan 1 Let Alone Plan 9
So where do we go from here? How can a lame duck manager, who is more desperate for a win than us, turn it around. “Am I still the right man? Yes, because I’ve done it before”, he defiantly declared yesterday although his demeanour underlined how dented his confidence and self-belief is.
While the manager is the focus, the performances being turned in by the players are nothing short of cowardly. Arsène was right that the manner of the two 3 – 0 defeats to City probably caused yesterday as much as anything else. We were beaten and then toyed with, a situation the players had quite forgotten about now we’re not in the Champions League. It will be some time before we return to those lofty heights.
The trouble is that this situation has been going on all season. Letting Alexis leave is looking a better decision each week, isn’t it? Would we be in any different situation? I’d feel a bit more confident in most matches if he were. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed a poacher’s goal yesterday, but for the most part is struggling to settle into a struggling side.
Everywhere you look, the club leadership is ineffective. The Kroenkes don’t want to take the necessary action. Arsène won’t walk away, he’s made that clear already and is hoping to get to the summer for a rest and then get busy in the transfer window. As if he should be let loose with any club funds.
In any case, this is a four-window mess to sort out. I can’t see Arsenal having enough money to invest in the squad to add depth as well as bringing in the players to improve this shambles. You only have to look at yesterday’s bench to realise how broken we are.
It isn’t just new signings, the players must re-learn the basics of football. It’s evident from the performance that they are bereft of belief, devoid of tactical nous and scared; their powers are diminishing and they don’t know how to resolve the situation
Reality is biting, to the point where Arsène realises the game is up. “It is very difficult, nearly impossible now [to finish in the top four]. We are too far behind. We need two teams to collapse not one.”
At least we’ll hear no more of the snake oil salesman on anything other than finishing as high as we can. Welcome to mediocrity.
The last word goes to Arsène. It’s a footballing equivalent of Spike Milligan’s “See, I told you I was ill”:
“I believe a quality of a manager is to try to shorten a crisis. I believe I can do that.”
Sadly, no-one else does.