Mental strength? I beg to differ

WE might’ve been better off if Arsene had been banned from the dugout instead of Fergie?

Perhaps he’d benefit from an enforced change of perspective, because with each passing game it becomes increasingly hard to fathom why le Gaffer continues to place his faith in our gormless Brazilian galoot.

From our point of view on the terraces, it’s become as plain as the hooter on ol’ Red Nose’s mush that Denilson and some of his equally diffident colleagues are absolutely bereft of the necessary quality, drive and determination to ever win the Premiership marathon.

It’s all the more galling with the recent levelling of the competitive playing field where, despite punctuating matches with all too brief moments of brilliance, no one challenger has managed to rise above the relentless grind of relative mediocrity. I’ve rarely ever felt that the title was more there for the taking. What’s more, I fear that such pedestrian form won’t put us in with a sniff of the title in future, with so many other clubs looking to kick on.

Thus with Arsene constantly reaffirming the Solvite-like strength of the bond between his young charges and their dogged desire to shake off their tag of perennial under-achievers, I keep expecting them to produce the sort of statement of intent which might convince the non-believers amongst us that there’s a possibility we might not bottle it again.

However, for all that le Prof might prattle on about the Gunners proving their resilience by clawing back a two-goal deficit to earn a draw against the Baggies, quite frankly I’m afraid that he has missed the point of the two we dropped at The Hawthorns on Saturday.

One-nil down at the break, after enduring 45 all too predictable minutes of relentlessly prodding the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, there was a palpable mood of frustration in our corner of the ground.

I can’t recall the last time Fat Sam’s Bolton failed to roll over for his pal Fergie but with Owen Coyle’s Trotters still holding their own at half-time, I would’ve liked to grab hold of the Gunners individually and physically shake some sense into them. Or at least be reassured that there was someone in the Arsenal dressing room with the sort of presence and stature to remind his team-mates they remain within touching distance of greatness.

I don’t enjoy singling out scapegoats in what is, after all, a team effort. I’m sure that in defence of Denilson’s contribution, le Prof would quote prolific pass statistics and completion rates (albeit these don’t reveal that 90 per cent are played sideways and backwards over a distance of less than five yards!). But I’m afraid that after doing my best to give the bland Brazilian the benefit of my doubts thus far, my patience has run its course.

It’s not ineptitude that aggravates me anywhere near as much as an apparent lackadaisical attitude.

I know Arshavin is one of the few players capable of producing the sort of quality strike that got us back into this game but in an awkward away, that demanded we set about the opposition with a warrior-like desire, the Arsenal simply can’t afford such nonchalant passengers.

Another calamitous goalkeeping/centre-back gaffe is more grist to the mill of all those who point to our manager’s failure to address our defensive frailties but to my mind, the absence of zest and vigour in our displays of late highlights quite how dependent we are on the “make do and mend” presence of Alex Song in a holding midfield role, protecting our flaky rearguard.

Ancelotti’s mob appear to have a far more formidable propensity for ramping up the heat in the run-in than we do and I’ve rarely ever been more grateful for an international break.

Aside from the hope of some of our players recovering (both pride and fitness) in the interim, it gives me time to kid myself anew that instead of being infected by the air of insouciance around them, the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey can inspire the sort of fortitude that might enable us to make a real fight of it.

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