Chelsea 4 – 1 Arsenal
Craven capitulation. It’s the only phrase to use, it genuinely is. Wallowing in a bed of self-pity is, of course, on the cards but I’ll (genuinely) reserve my pity for the hardy souls who wasted thousands of pounds to travel to Baku. They deserved better. We deserved better and so did Arsenal Football Club.
The first half promised better. We contained Chelsea’s initial burst to put them on the back foot. Then we folded, crumpling like a torn concertina with a groaning accompaniment to the humiliation.
Eden Hazard got the headlines but Olivier Giroud haunted us. Braver and more alive to the moment than Koscielny for the opening goal, seizing on Maitland-Nile’s naivety for three and four. Undone by the old boy, a cast-off for whom we had no use.
The same failings we saw at Wembley when Manchester City tore us asunder last season, resurfaced on the European stage in front of a global audience. Arsenal, once the pride of north London, suffer from no self-esteem.
It’s going to be a long and frustrating summer. The repair work needed is beyond our widely-reported budget. Player sales are always the ones you don’t want to leave but honestly, how many would I miss based on this performance? Lacazette; Torreira, reduced to tears by the events. I’m struggling beyond those two.
The big names love big games until they pull on the red shirts with white sleeves. Aubameyang’s performance was as ineffective as Henry’s in Paris. I could go on, picking holes in individuals but is there any point?
Sadly, there is. Both sides featured ‘match winners’; only one turned up. Eden Hazard got the fairy tale ending to his Chelsea career that he dreamt of, albeit at the expense of Petr Cech.
Love on the Rocks
Mesut Özil, on the other hand, didn’t. It’s a populist move to slate him but, as Tim notes below, the travelling fans were hugely unimpressed by the German. His contribution in the first half was a few nice passes and covering plenty of ground. Not in the second half though; he was largely anonymous, turning in a typical away day for him.
Right now, Özil is a luxury we can’t afford. Last night was the game for him to shine; he failed to influence the outcome and it is time for the club to be ruthless. Finding a club to take him and his exorbitant wage demands is not going to be easy but, along with Mkhitaryan’s pay, this is a millstone around a Europa League club’s neck.
Josh Kroenke, resplendent in his blue suit with a red club tie, stood on the podium like a prize plum. This, Junior, is your and Daddy’s mess we’re paying the price for. Incompetence at the top, filtering down through senior levels to the pitch; a once proud club is being brought to its’ knees, a laughing stock.
Enos & co don’t want to invest the money to bring this squad up to scratch. Competing at the top of the table or for European honours requires proactive ownership; we don’t have that. The dynamism must come from Raul and money comes from, well, where? Sponsors, fans; anyone but the owner.
Whether Unai Emery survives to see the outcome of his work is another matter. The capitulation, coming hard on the heels of the end of season collapse in the Premier League, marks him out for the chop. Arsenal are, I believe, unlikely to take that step. Not for any reason other than it will cost too much money.
Pick A Part That’s New
There is a wider issue at play here. We’re in transition; it strikes me that too many believe transition brings immediate results. The squad which ploughed through this season remains largely the same as the one we watched last season; not much changed. The same mental frailties exist, alongside the same lack of direction.
For me, the time to judge Emery is at the end of his two-year contract, not now. We claimed more points, reached the Europa League final; no trophies, no glory but a sense until Easter, that we were heading in the right direction.
A quick start to next season might prove the doubts wrong about the coach in the same way a slow one should lead to his demise. That we’re even talking about it now feels like a knee-jerk reaction; hugely unfair but that is modern football for you. That was old football as well.
It may prove to be the case that he isn’t the man to lead us to the next level but we need a steadying hand. Manchester United are on their fourth manager post-Ferguson and are still mired in mediocrity. It’s the template we seek to avoid; we’re not doing too good a job of avoiding it.
Arsenal, from top to bottom, is a club which must find a spark of life. Anger at yesterday’s performance quickly subsided to ambivalence and beyond. Replace the manager; names bandied about were met with “Why would they come to Arsenal?”; why indeed.
Allegri, Ancelotti but not Sarri. Italians are in vogue in the Premier League but not the man who handed us our arses in a half-empty stadium in Baku. Fans didn’t turn up but neither did we.
Yesterday was a long and painful evening. Prepare yourself for a similar summer.