Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Wake up, time to fight

A few weeks ago our schedule was bemoaned because we played weekend – midweek – weekend – midweek. Now, I’m sure I’m not alone in bemoaning the fact that we have to wait until Sunday lunchtime before our next game, away at Blackpool.

In some ways it might be good, refocus, re-energise etc, but then we just had a two week Interlull to do that and it didn’t exactly work out as well as we would like. However, I suspect this will be a week of introspection and relative silence from within the club. It seems to be the done thing now. When we suffer a bad day like Saturday, where the repercussions go beyond the pitch itself, we tend to keep things as quiet as possible.

Understandable, I know, but it’s just going to make the week ahead a long one. A very long one. It’s obvious from viewing stats that a considerable number of people have just switched off. They don’t want to read or talk about Arsenal at the moment and that’s understandable too. Perhaps they’re of the ‘If you have nothing good to say, say nothing’ school.

There have been whispers of a post-Blackburn dressing room inquest, fingers being pointed, accusations made, and whether or not that turns out to be a good thing remains to be seen. If some of those involved have the fight to prove they weren’t worthy of that attention then it might well be. If they feel they’ve been unfairly picked-on it’s not going to do much for their motivation levels. Arsene says:

The players have to think about their performance – and me too. Together we have to think about our performance and come back with something better than that.

I’m happy he included himself in that because as dull as the performance was on Saturday I felt the manager had a poor day too. I’ve spoken already about his substitutions and how odd they were so perhaps there’s some recognition on his part that he got things a bit wrong.

I just get the sense that Arsene is a bit bewildered. Of course these are his players, he’s brought through/developed most them, purchased the rest, and has steadfastly and very publicly retained his belief in them, in their talent and application. And it was missing on Saturday. That must sting a bit. If he’s lashing out it’s because he probably feels let down. And if the fans are lashing out it’s because they feel let down too. And it’s a great big, uncomfortable, circle of life.

Yet regardless of how miserable things seem at this moment in time there are some facts to consider:

– We’re second in the league, not fighting relegation

– There are eight games left to play, and United and Chelsea still have to face each other, and we have to play United

– Our last league defeat was against Man United on December

– Even if we don’t finish top we’ve got pick ourselves up, quickly, and find a bit of the Arsenal spirit again

Sure, you can counter those all you want with ‘We should be top’, ‘If we can’t beat Blackburn or Sunderland we can’t beat United’, ‘We’ve drawn too many of those games’ and ‘We have about as much spirit as a miniature poltergeist’, but it all seems a bit defeatist to me.

I can’t say I’m exactly filled with belief or confidence but the players and the manager need to look at the reality of the situation and do something about it. They’re the only ones who can turn things around. They need to dig deep, remember that this is the Arsenal and battle to get some form back.

And here’s the thing – I’ve always said fans will back the team, regardless of results, if they see the requisite effort. I don’t buy the whole ‘The players didn’t want to win’ thing but we didn’t look like a team that really wanted to win on Saturday. The one moment of extra effort came when Andrei Arshavin chased back 70 yards to block a cross. That moment had the stadium on its feet, in applause and appreciation.

And we need more of that. Not just defensively but offensively too. We need to see them go for it. We need to see the manager to tell the team to go for it. Don’t put an effective centre-forward out on the wing to put in the kind of crosses he’d love to be on the end of and then say you did everything to win the game. Don’t take off a mercurial talent, however frustrating he might be, when you desperately need the goal from nothing that he’s capable of providing.

Arsene called the performance ‘flat’ and ‘one paced’. It was. Bar one or two players it was another cause of frustration. Nobody was busting a gut, nobody putting in that extra effort that can make the difference. This Arsenal side are at their best when they work hard, when they press and harry, yet they never seem capable of doing it on a consistent basis. They know they need to hassle Chelsea but think it’s not necessary because they’re better than Blackburn.

Better footballers, sure. A better team? Not by Saturday’s display. Every single game now needs to be a fight. When is the last time you heard the word ‘snarling’ in relation to an Arsenal performance? Beats me. I don’t mean dirty either, but I want to see Arsenal players really want to win games. You don’t win things without working hard, you have to scrap, to fight, to battle, to make tackles, to compete for headers, to take the odd risk.

With our form in the toilet, and confidence low, it seems to me that the only way they have of turning things around is to compete better. Every single one of them. Less ambling, more running. No hanging a leg out to make a tackle, get stuck in. Talk to each other, encourage each other, get more out of each other. Otherwise it’s going to be more of the same until the end of the season and that doesn’t bear thinking about.

It’s not as if they’re not capable. We’ve seen the impressive displays this season. It wasn’t so long ago that we all felt on top of the world having just beaten Barcelona. Events since have quashed that good feeling almost entirely but you can’t ignore the fact it was there, at least for a time. As I said, however, only the players and the manager can turn this around and restore some faith in the team and themselves.

Robin van Persie says:

It’s up to us. Everyone stays positive and speaks to each other and says ‘Come on, we’ve eight games to play for, give it your all’. We will do that.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some who are playing for their futures, as Martin Keown says in the Sun, but between now and the season, if there’s any pride left in that dressing room we need to see it. Starting Sunday. If we’re going down, at least let’s go down fighting.

In other news, the Mirror reports Emmanuel Eboue could go to Spurs. He’s definitely one whose future at the club looks more than uncertain. Just 6 starts in the league this season, and only because Sagna was unavailable, illustrates the issue perfectly. How much truth their is in the Sp*rs rumour I don’t know but if he were to go this summer I don’t think it would be a surprise.

Beyond that, not a great deal going on. Check back later on for your chance to win a 71 ‘keepers shirt, signed by Bob Wilson, a new post around lunchtime will have details of that competition which ties in with his upcoming cycle. Follow Bob on Twitter to keep up with the details.

And also, remember any purchase from Arseblog Store between now and April 14th gets put into a draw to win this signed shirt.

Right, that’s yer lot. Have a good one.

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