Picking Up the Pieces of What’s Left of the Season
In recent times, Arsenal fans have become used to seeing their team capitulate in grand style on a regular basis.
This is a team that would defeat Barcelona tonight and draw with Leyton Orient a few days later. A team that would go on an amazing seven-game winning streak, beating the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle and Liverpool before losing to Queens Park Rangers.
A team that scores a very late penalty on the 97th minute and somehow, somehow manages to concede a penalty minutes later. A team that led Manchester United and Chelsea with five and eight points respectively in February and still ends up in third place.
The team is managed by the legendary Arsene Wenger, that always has a thing or two to say to the media in the wake of a win, draw and of course, defeat.
When the Gunners lose a game, whether it’s to a European juggernaut or to a team 65 places below them in the division, Wenger already has his famous bag of excuses he dips his hands into before releasing his statement to the media Vultures.
Sometimes, he points his fingers at the officiating – that penalty the man with the whistle failed to award, the offside goal that shouldn’t have counted, that decision that didn’t go his team’s way and the list continues. Sometimes, it’s the poor state of the pitch that’s fit enough to rear cattle, injuries, suspensions and what have you.
This time, Arsene Wenger simply stated that his team wasn’t good enough to win the game (via Arsenal.com). Judging from both lineups, I still can’t believe that this team wasn’t “good enough” to beat Blackburn, a side that shipped in seven goals in their last visit to the Emirates.
When Arsenal took onto the pitch to play a Blackburn Rovers side languishing in the mediocrity of npower Championship football, many had expected the starting lineup to be good enough to see out any threat the Rovers posed.
For fuck’s sake, Wojciech Szczesny was in goal with a defensive rearguard of injury returnees, Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the defense while Nacho Monreal and Francis Coquelin occupying the fullback slots.
Just a week ago, Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker manned the center back roles with such valor to put up a collective performance worthy of a 5-star tag.
In midfield, vice skipper, Mikel Arteta was the deployed in the holding role alongside Abou Diaby, allowing Tomas Rosicky the chance to spark his creative juices further up the pitch. With a midfield triumvirate of this caliber, expectations were placed on their shoulders to run the show against Blackburn’s midfield.
The forward line had the red-hot Olivier Giroud to spearhead the attack but instead of playing alongside his goalscoring partners of crime, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, Giroud had to make do with Gervinho and the Ox supporting him through the flanks.
There’s no point taking you through the match but Arsenal fans will wonder what have might been if Theo Walcott was on the end of that sumptuous through ball from Rosicky. To be honest, I really hope that Gervinho doesn’t start any game for this team till the season ends. To add to his aberration of a finish, Gervinho was back to his frustrating best and after 70 minutes of sheer mediocrity, Wenger put him out of his misery when Santi Cazorla’s number came up in the fourth official’s board.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain alongside a considerable chunk of his teammates (bar Rosicky and maybe, Monreal) put up the performance of an average Joe. After so much hype from his exploits last season, the Ox has failed to live up to the expectations he set for himself, and he tries too hard nowadays, when a simple pass to a teammate would have been a more plausible option.
Speaking of expectations, Arsenal has failed woefully in regard to the initial targets set and some of the blame would go to the manager for a couple of decisions he has taken this season.
Say what you must, but even though the goalscoring exploits of Walcott, Giroud and Podolski have softened the blow created from van Persie’s departure, the club has never been the same since Alex Song left that midfield. Don’t get me wrong, Mikel Arteta has been doing a very great job, but there have been moments when fatigue took its toll on the Lego-haired Spaniard.
Many Gooners would rate Abou Diaby highly but Wenger made a wrong decision on Saturday to leave him on the pitch at Rosicky’s expense. The Czech maestro was at the heart of everything good in Arsenal’s midfield and he even rattled the cross bar with a sweet finish that left the keeper for dead.
At the sound of Mike Dean’s whistle, it was a pretty familiar feeling, as the Gunners are odds on to be set for another trophy-less campaign should they fail to get the right result against Bayern Munich in their two-legged affair.
In the Premier League, things aren’t exactly rosy, as the Gunners are currently in fifth place with those Merseysiders breathing down their necks while they hope to nick past Tottenham for that coveted Champions League spot.
The fans are also at crossroads, as the angry wails of those that want the manager out are more or less equal to those that want him to stay and turn things around.
In a club like Chelsea with a trigger-happy chairman like Roman Abramovich, many can say that Wenger would have been axed ages ago by the Russian billionaire. At Arsenal, things are done differently and the fans have acknowledged the fact that Stan Kroenke and those folks in the Boardroom don’t have the nerve to give Wenger the boot.
If the situation remains the same next season, they may choose not to renew his deal that would be reaching its climax.
With this in mind, we need to pick up the pieces of what’s left of the season and as the manager has rightly stated, we have to rebuild the confidence of this team. Arsene Wenger has to find a way to instill confidence on his boys because they’ll need all the confidence they can get against a side like Bayern Munich.
Arsene Wenger rightly made no excuses for the team’s poor showing against Blackburn but he’s mindful that the defeat only adds to the importance of tonight’s match against Bayern Munich.
In the manager’s humble words,
“It is vital for us to fight for silverware. “Unfortunately [the FA Cup] will not happen for us now and we can only look at ourselves and not complain about anything else. We have to come out with a strong response on Tuesday.
“First you have to rebuild the confidence because we are not playing against Blackburn in midweek. We play Bayern Munich so a lot of confidence will be needed.
“We were on a high [before Saturday] because we played well at Sunderland last week and the team looked happy and full of belief but we couldn’t maintain the focus.
“The top level is about consistency in every single game and that’s what we could not show. Coming after the Sunderland game we came out with a flat performance and that shows that, mentally, we are not capable at the moment of preparing in exactly the same way for every game.
“The players are really hurting but you have to take it on the chin and come back with a strong response. That’s all we can do.
As fans, we need to rally behind this team and give them the support they need to push for European qualification, as it remains paramount to our plans for next season. Qualification to the Champions League will still make Arsenal an interesting football destination for the top players in the business, should the club decide to go for them this summer.
We can all agree that we wouldn’t have had Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla if we were playing Thursday night football.
When the going got tough last season following two embarrassing defeats to AC Milan and Sunderland, we the fans rallied our troops to victories over Tottenham, Liverpool, AC Milan, Newcastle, Everton and Aston Villa before the blip against QPR.
We as fans can make them replicate this feat again. We just have to believe.
We’ve already lost to Bradford and Blackburn, but the world as I know it won’t come to an end if we lose to Bayern.
The expectations of everyone connected with Arsenal this season has been shattered to pieces. Let’s pick up what’s left and move on, as we always do.
Victoria Concordia Crescit.
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