If there’s anything worse than having to write blogs like today’s it’s waking up, with a hangover the size of Yaya Toure’s arse, letting your elderly dog out the back for a piss, going back to sleep and then dreaming you’ve already written it.
Painful. Obviously not as painful as yesterday but painful nonetheless. It would be easy this morning to sit and pass judgement, and blame, on many Arsenal players and the manager, which is precisely why I’m going to do that. All the same I think we should acknowledge a very good West Brom performance. Arsenal have played badly before, rarely that badly I know, and gotten away with it. We’ve scraped a win or come out of the game with something we really didn’t deserve but yesterday we got precisely what we deserved. Nothing.
West Brom were sharper, hungrier, quicker, tacklier, winningtheballier, more committed and when they got their chances in the second half they took them. They played very, very well, all credit to them for that. They took advantage of what was a frustratingly familiar Arsenal performance. It’s not uncommon for a ‘smaller’ team to catch a more illustrious opponent on an off day, it’s another thing entirely to make the most of that opportunity and they did just that. Fair play.
Changes were made to the starting XI. Diaby and Eboue came in. It’s just a shame nobody told them this was an important Premier League game because the lack of effort was startling. Nearly as startling as the team’s inability to keep possession. Almost to a man the passing was sloppy and careless. We’d give it away, get it back and give it away almost straight away. With each misplaced pass you could see West Brom grow in confidence.
The fact that it was 0-0 at half-time was a positive. Manuel Almunia had given us a taste of things to come when he gave away a penalty. The save from the subsequent spot kick made you think ‘Ok, we’ve gotten out of jail here. Time to buck things up’. The half-time dressing room should have been a horrible, uncomfortable place for the Arsenal players. I’m positive they got a dressing down about the way they were playing and the expectation, to me at least, was that it was a 45 minutes that wouldn’t be repeated. I was wrong. As wrong as coming home to find Phil Collins sucking off your dad.
The careless passing continued right from the start of the half and it was that which brought about West Brom’s first goal. Jerome Thomas took advantage, skinned Sagna and crossed for Odemwingie to sidefoot home. The defending was woeful. And it didn’t get much better for the second. Clichy was tight to his man but Song was caught ball watching as a backheel sent Jara through. With it all open in front of him he had no option but to have a shot and was was aided and abetted by yet another hapless piece of near post cuntery by Almunia.
In the week when Arsenal announced record profits the question has to be asked why Arsene Wenger didn’t spend any of that money on a keeper. It’s an entirely legitimate question because yet again a goalkeeping howler has let a game get away from us. The frustration of not signing someone this summer means there’s no patience left for the Spaniard, one mistake and it’s like picking the scab off an old wound. It’s easy to point fingers at Almunia, he should have saved it and it was costly error, but ultimately he’s the wrong target. It’s the manager’s fault. He knew he had two error prone goalkeepers, he chose to stick with them. For all the good things about Arsene Wenger this continued refusal to acknowledge that Arsenal have a very big problem with their goalkeepers threatens to undermine him in a big, big way.
Almunia hardly covered himself in glory for the third goal either but he had to come out when the Brunt too easily evaded a Clichy tackle on the edge of the box. Arsenal’s performance and attitude was summed up when nobody tracked Jerome Thomas until it was way too late, the former Arsenal man had the easiest finish of his life to make it 3-0 to West Brom. And at that the scoreline was flattering Arsenal.
We had made changes, Roscicky and Wilshere for Eboue and Diaby were the right ones to make, but they probably should have been made at half-time. Samir Nasri did his best to drag Arsenal back into it. The Frenchman about the only Arsenal player to emerge with any credit as he scored two goals of real quality which on a different day we’d be creaming ourselves over.
It was too little too late, however. West Brom hung on and I won’t patronise them by saying it was a famous victory. On the day the best team won. They thoroughly deserved it and taught us a lesson I didn’t think we needed to be taught again. There were shades of Hull a couple of seasons ago in that Arsenal performance. Players who went through the motions thinking they just had to turn up to win the game.
I’ve always said defeat is easy to accept when you know your team has done its best but that was a performance so casual, so hubristic, that it’s impossible to not to feel hugely frustrated. Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
I didn’t recognise my team today and we have to sit down together to analyse what happened. Something is unexplanable in such a poor performance. Something was not right and it is unusual to see a team as flat as we were today.
I don’t consider myself any kind of expert but I don’t think it needs a great deal of analysis. A team, over-confident after a midweek win, with some players clearly not giving 100% got found out by their more organised, harder working opponents who exploited those weaknesses when they became apparent.
Defensively we were shambolic. The full backs were both dreadful and the lack of protection offered by the midfield was appalling. Even after half-time, when things should have been said and problems sorted out, nothing changed. If anything we got worse which is unforgiveable. Then you have the goalkeeping issue and while I’m still of the opinion Wojscez©® should have kept his counsel and said what he had to say in private his frustration is more understandable.
As the Mugsmasher said to me last night ‘Who wouldn’t say that when you have two spastics in front of you who keep getting picked?’. I had no answer to that one.
There are some Arsenal players who need to take a long, hard look at themselves this morning because lack of effort is not something that should be tolerated. It doesn’t matter if you’re just coming back from an injury or if you’re some kind of ironic cult hero who gets people onside by giving away your shirt after each game, there are no excuses.
On a day when Chelsea lost we should have taken full advantage. Instead the team let the club and the fans down. And the manager has paid the price for not doing more to address what was a fundamental flaw in his squad. I refuse to blame Almunia for just being Almunia. The bottom line is that the world and his mother knew Arsenal needed a new keeper this summer. Arsene’s efforts to bring one in appeared to have been as half-arsed as yesterday’s performance. What he does now is for another blog but if he doesn’t give serious consideration to change and to Wojscez©® then he’d be very foolish indeed.
We have a lot of work to do, and a Champions League game, before next Sunday’s game against Chelsea. A win yesterday would have taken a lot of the pressure off that fixture, now it becomes a game in which we need a result simply to keep pace.
On the basis of yesterday’s performance that seems a lot to ask.