I am impressed as I’m sure you are. Just when you think that there are no new ways to cause our own downfall, we dig deep and find one. Or at worst, resurrect an old one, dust it down and give it a quick polish.
Leicester City 3 – 1 Arsenal
That’s all the record books will say. When you dig a bit deeper and see we were down to 10 men, as well as conceding a penalty, you may think we lost our heads. The truth is we’d already done that a minute or two before Mavropanos saw red.
The marking at the corner for the opening goal was all over the shop. We didn’t clear the ball properly and when it came back into the area, all our fragilities were exposed. The new boss can’t be the same as the old boss; we need someone to come in and sort out the defence.
Having just re-watched the incident, I still can’t decide whether it was a red card or not. No doubt it was a foul, and no doubt it was cynical, but there’s a question mark over whether Mavropanos was the last man. Is Rob Holding quick enough from his starting position to catch Iheanacho? I’m not convinced. Maitland-Niles? Certainly.
I am leaning toward a red, just not convinced 100% about it. And that doubt must surely have entered the referee’s mind; it obviously didn’t cloud the issue enough but in those circumstances, I wonder if the official even thought about it? The foul was a red card in ‘old money’ and I suspect that’s the view he took last night.
The complexion of the game, already altered by the goal, was irrevocably changed at that moment. To that point, we’d begun well in an attacking sense. We started well in an already open game; it was a real ‘end of season’ match.
After the dismissal, Leicester grew in confidence as Riyad Mahrez tried to put in a match-winning performance for the new manager. It didn’t work; he did little to impress me against the 10 men, not that I’m the new boss, of course.
There was some fight left in the ten-men and a spirited performance ensued. When Aubameyang equalised early in the second half, I felt we might go on and win it. His goal deflated the home side and boosted us. We’d already seen chances go a-begging, spurned by ourselves or stopped by Jakupovic.
It wasn’t one-way traffic; Cech’s busy evening included some good work. Then came the pivotal moment. Arsène likes to rail against officials, deflecting from the players, to stop them receiving flak. He’s not usually right but on this occasion, he was spot on:
The penalty is a very creative, imaginative aspect from the referee. We watched it again. It’s a nice dive but it’s not a penalty
Which might well be the nicest way anyone has ever said, “You cheating b*stard”.
And it was a dive. Sure Mkhitaryan was clumsy, but I don’t think he touched Gray. If Tom Whathisface is looking for a new partner at the next Olympics, Gray’s got to be among the contenders. Jamie Vardy added another goal to talk about in interviews about why he didn’t move to Arsenal.
As an observation, he was caught offside more times in one match than Adebayor at his worst, re-affirming that we dodged a bullet with him.
Mahrez tried all evening to impress the new boss, but his moment to be an Arsenal player is gone. Even his goal won’t change minds on whether he will improve this team given the issues we face.
In the Zone
While we can point to the referee now, it doesn’t alter the fact that we are without an away point this year. The Calendar Year Champions trophy won’t be making its’ way to the Emirates for 2018.
Is it now so deeply ingrained in the players’ psyche that we need a new boss to solve the problem? It certainly looks that way. Last night, where the official stole the show, was a rare occasion. The defeats resulted from self-inflicted wounds. With Laurent Koscielny out until Christmas, signing an experienced centre-back is this summer’s priority. The hard work then begins of getting a new system into the players’ minds.
I’m no fan of zonal marking, it’s my view that teams which employ it don’t practice defending. The first goal underlined how poor we are in that aspect of the game. But the horse bolted and already reared a new family; there’s no point in getting bent out of shape now. It’s someone else’s problem.