TERRACE TALK: Reality bites for Arsenal in Naples and Manchester

I was very disappointed with the Gunners Groundhog day performance in Naples, but then I always suspected the fact we went there, knowing we could afford to lose, was bound to have a negative impact upon proceedings.

TERRACE TALK: Reality bites for Arsenal in Naples and Manchester

Mercifully I was able to watch the fascinating Keane and Vieira documentary back in our hotel room, where revelling in the glory days proved to be the perfect tonic before hitting the sack after such a poor showing.

I usually avoid official travel arrangements like the plague, preferring not to be herded like sheep by hostile carabinieri. But all the apocryphal tales of the Neapolitans taste for violence left us so paranoid that, not fancying being stabbed in the posterior, we ended up at the mercy of the outrageous local organisation that left us missing the first 10 minutes of the match, after the coaches took us round the houses, taking an eternity to make the short four-mile hop from the port to the ground.

Despite the disaster of the footie itself, it was a marvellous outing worth making just for a gorgeous dinner on the seafront, wallowing in the winter sunshine, watching the sun set over the Bay of Naples, with Vesuvius as the backdrop.

Returning from Italy on Thursday, I just had time to enjoy an evening with Rona’s two sisters who were over from Dublin, before heading off to Manchester on Friday night, rather than a crack-of-dawn departure for Saturday’s early KO.

Obviously I would’ve loved to see Arsenal break the fortress Etihad hoodoo, but I would’ve bitten your hand off for a draw and after such an exhausting week, in truth, I would’ve settled for a respectable result.

I wanted to be able to depart Manchester with our confidence still sufficiently intact, to be able to take all thee points off Chelsea next Monday night.

I don’t doubt that at our best, this Arsenal side is capable of beating Man City, but sadly this wasn’t the case on Saturday. To triumph against Pellegrini’s daunting array of talent, we needed everyone on the park to be attuned to the job at hand, fully focused and committed to their task.

We definitely couldn’t afford to carry a couple of tired and jaded passengers, who appeared far too willing to leave all the donkeywork to their team-mates.

Although it was frustrating that Giroud failed to make anything of his couple of very decent opportunities, the Frenchman gave everything by way of his tireless graft.

However in midfield, only Flamini and Ramsey showed the necessary desire, appetite and intensity that was to be demanded in achieving any sort of result from this high-noon showdown.

From our vantage point, high-up in the Etihad, it was patently obvious that as these two were forced to press the opposition higher up the park, or out on the flanks, as the game passed some of their less willing colleagues by, that the likes of Silva and Aguero would find space in behind them to be able do some real damage.

There was a moment when Flamini simply bounced off the brick outhouse that is Yaya Toure, which pretty much encapsulated Saturday’s contest.

Despite Walcott instilling us with some hope with each of his goals, you sensed as if we were merely pulling the tail of the tiger, teasing City into exerting their authority anew with another goal.

Most disturbing was the sight of Wilshere being relieved of the ball at one end of the park and sitting there whinging, before ambling leisurely back towards his own goal, without a care for the fact that we were struggling to thwart yet another goalmouth threat. Jack urgently needs to rediscover his romance with the ball, to the exclusion of all his other high-profile distractions.

And while it was great to see Mertesacker assuming leadership responsibilities by giving Ozil a mouthful, our playmaker needs to learn some respect for mug punters who pay his obscene wages and to understand that, for all his ability, Premier League football just can’t afford any passengers.

Perhaps the worst result of the day was the sight of Koscielny stretchered off. In the absence of his commitment, it’s down to Vermaelen now to maintain the defensive composure that might ensure that the illusory bubble of the past few months doesn’t disappear with the Christmas decorations.

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