Stop, Hammers time + Ozil, individuals, and other weekend waffle


Yesterday I played golf. Let me tell you, nothing eases your frustration at 11 pampered millionaires not being able to control a football than being out in the fresh air and the sunshine being unable to hit a tiny ball with a stick into a hole hundreds of yards away into a gale blowing in off a lake (which was like the siren’s song for many of my shots).

Still, a little distance between life and Arsenal is no bad thing every now and again. I didn’t even realise there was Premier League football last night. I didn’t even realise Sp*rs had the chance to cut the gap on Chelsea to 1 point, heaping pressure on Antonio Conte’s team. I didn’t even realise until the game had finished that they lost 1-0 to a West Ham side that had won just one of their previous 11 games.

Chelsea don’t even play until Monday night. They’d have had a whole weekend of ‘Oooh, the pressure’s on now’, and ‘This Sp*rs is a different Sp*rs’ but I think we saw last night that while they’re certainly a better Sp*rs than they used to be, the Sp*rs runs deep within them.

And look, I’m fully aware of our own problems, I know we’re basically brutal and the issues we have run deeper than just what’s happening on the pitch. We all know. Blindy McDeafington, who hasn’t left his house in a decade, and who exists in a life-support chair which is inside an iron lung which is inside a plastic bubble because he’s afraid of germs like Howard Hughes and Eddie McGoldrick, knows all about our problems.

But if your focus on that means you can’t find it amusing when you see a result like last night’s, you’re dead inside. So much of football is taking pleasure from the misery of others. A player you can’t stand misses a chance or a penalty; a goalkeeper who has mouthed off in the past let’s a trickler run through his legs like a common Massimo Taibi; an underdog beats a moneyed behemoth in a cup final; a rival team loses a big, important game that you didn’t even know they were playing – get in there.

What it means is that if Chelsea beat Boro on Monday evening, they’ll have a seven point lead with three games to go. They then have to go to West Brom on Friday where they could clinch the title. Sure, there’s not much to like about Chelsea winning the league from an Arsenal fan’s point of view, but there definitely is about that lot not winning it, and here we are.

There’s not a lot going on this morning, other than Arsene Wenger talking a little bit about Mesut Ozil and recent criticism of his performances. He says:

I believe to just criticise Mesut Ozil’s performance does not reflect exactly what happened. Recently he has put a lot of effort in. He was a bit, like the rest of the team, not physically at his best.

His style is more fluid, less ­aggressive, but it doesn’t mean you want it less than others.

I know that statement in itself will cause plenty of debate, but I don’t feel like getting into the ins and outs of it this morning. I understand criticism of Ozil, a £42m superstar who is a long, long way from his best but it would be worth remembering just a few months ago he was scoring a ludicrously beautiful goal against Ludogorets in the Champions League, Arsenal were winning games, and most people were very keen for him to sign a new as soon as possible.

What has happened over the last few months isn’t just down to Ozil. There has been a malaise of the collective, and it has affected almost every single player. Think back over what we’ve seen since January and think about which players have played anywhere near their best. I can’t think of many, to be perfectly honest.

We’re grasping at an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shaped straw after he had a few nice moments but basically won player of the month by being the least worst Arsenal player in April. Even Alexis Sanchez, who has contributed with goals and assists, has coupled those with some of the most wasteful play you’ll ever see, giving the ball away an extraordinary amount.

What’s that saying about a rising tide lifting all boats? Well, we hit an iceberg in February and we’re going down with the ship while Kate Winslet paddles to safety on a wooden board. Or something. Point is, while criticism of individual players is normal, especially when expectations of them are high, it feels pretty redundant when it comes to Arsenal right now.

Right, that’s just about your lot for this Saturday morning. I will point you in the direction of this post which gives you all the details about the Arsecast Extra live, taking place on Thursday May 25th at Union Chapel. Hopefully lots of FA Cup memories and chat to get us in the mood for Wembley, and because it’s upstairs in the bar area and not in the main arena (hey, we’re no Natalia Imbruglia) tickets are limited so get in there fast.

Finally for today, check out this week’s Arsecast featuring Europa League chat with East Lower and racism, footballers and mental health and more with Musa Okwonga. You can also win a mug – what more do you need? Listen below, more from me with a full Man Utd preview etc tomorrow.


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