So grim up north for rudderless Gunners

AFTER clocking up close on 1,000 miles schlepping all over the country the previous week, I don’t mind admitting that I was struggling to find the enthusiasm for an arduous trek to the North-West.

In truth, in the absence of so many significant players, I half expected us to struggle against Man City and this defeat wouldn’t have been nearly such a body blow, if we’d gone down with all guns blazing, following a display that demonstrated our appetite for the battle. But to go out with a whimper, giving fuel to William Gallas’ disparaging comments with yet another flaccid performance, was seriously depressing.

Having often pondered the absence of non-white faces amongst the crowds at many clubs, I guess the answer lies in the story I heard from one Man City fan I met on the train north. He revealed that Leeds was his local team but that as an Asian, he wouldn’t dream of subjecting his kids to the sort of racism prevalent at Elland Road. When I enquired about the newly promoted Hull, he said “you must be joking, they’re even worse!”

As for the Arsenal’s comparatively trivial troubles, if I’m honest in the long run the William Gallas saga might prove a blessing in disguise. It wasn’t as if Wenger wasn’t warned about Willie’s somewhat abrasive, shoot-from-the-hip tendencies. I’ve always suspected that without any obvious leaders, he decided to take a gamble on Gallas, on the basis that he might rise to the challenge of responsibility, rather than to risk having him on the outside, criticising a younger choice. Although it’s true, certainly on the evidence of Saturday’s utterly vapid display, that there are youngsters in the Arsenal squad who might benefit from a good kick up the backside, reminding them that at the very least, we require some fire in their bellies, in return for their Bentley boy status, the “omerta” of the dressing room remains sacrosanct.

Without this code of silence, I’m sure we’d all astonished by the number of serious spats that occur, when such huge egos spend so much time in such close proximity.

However it’s the ability to set any differences aside when they step onto the pitch that’s important. If Gallas was any kind of proper “guv’nor”, he would’ve made his admonishments in private, rather than detailing them in the French media, whilst drumming up publicity for his book.

Considering Arsene’s non-confrontational customs (other than when rutting with Alan Pardew!), I couldn’t see him relieving Gallas of the captaincy, if it wasn’t for the influential likes of Fabregas knocking on his door to complain. Many Gooners are in agreement with Le Prof’s decision to hand Cesc the armband but Fab’s own form hasn’t been great of late. Perhaps in contrast to the example of cricket, the responsibility of the captaincy would prove just what’s needed to reinvigorate our little Franco?

For my money, a goalie needs a massive personality to sufficiently influence the outfield players and this rules out our inoffensive keeper. What’s more, judging by the way in which Wenger spent the entire first-half on Saturday, prowling the very limits of his technical area, as if trying to captain his side from the touchline, his body language hardly affirmed his confidence in Almunia’s ability to galvanise the Gunners.

We can but hope that Arsene gets it right, as Saturday’s defeat was a perfect example of quite how much our young squad is crying out for someone capable of rallying our dejected troops.

Perhaps more worrying was the evidence of how quickly this Gunners side grinds to a halt, in the absence of a couple of crucial cogs. In the past we’ve always been able to compensate for our deficiencies but we were woefully short on quality against City. Richard Dunne usually saves his best performances for playing the Arsenal, but he and the rest of his defence didn’t need to be anywhere near their best against our positively impotent attack. Like the majority of us present, the local radio pundit wondered what on earth Wenger sees in Bendtner and with Kompany keeping Van Persie in his pocket, it was only the late introduction of Ramsey that resulted in us producing some real attacking intent.

Moreover it’s hard to believe I was singing Denilson’s praises the other day. Could this really be the same player who was dangling his leg out as a feeble excuse for a tackle on Saturday and who, along with Song, was guilty of failing to track City’s midfield. As far as their clueless forays forward, they could do far worse than learning from the commitment and hunger for the ball shown by the likes of Stephen Ireland.

It would’ve been in keeping with the rest of my miserable outing, if I’d ended up stuck up North. Mercifully I eventually made it home, just in time to suffer a repeat showing on MOTD! Personally I’m glad to be facing Chelsea on Sunday, as it’s the sort of occasion that will at least guarantee we give a good account of ourselves.

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