If the Gunners’ pale imitation of genuine Premier League contenders over the past few months left me doubting our ability to go on and win the title, it felt as if yesterday’s defeat at Old Trafford was the kicker, writes Bernard Azulay
We travelled to Manchester with plenty of trepidation at the prospect of a potential hangover from Tuesday night’s disappointment. Not that I was actually expecting an out-of-sorts Arsenal side to beat possibly the best team on the planet, but I was left seriously dejected following our defeat to Barca, with Messi’s second goal demolishing my faint hopes of us travelling to Catalonia in three weeks time with the tie still in the balance.
Sadly, the team seemed equally deflated, as the Gunners simply weren’t at the races on Sunday. It was so depressing that they couldn’t pack a little more heart for the journey northwest.
When I looked at LVG’s line-up prior to kick-off, with Martial joining United’s long list of walking wounded and with Carrick and Blind as makeshift centre-backs, I thought that if ever there was an opportunity for us to break our decade-long league duck at Old Trafford, this was it.
However, instead of seizing a prime opportunity to impose our superior ability and put United’s wounded lion out of its misery, the Arsenal seemed to arrogantly expect our hosts to stand and watch us walk the ball into the back of the net.
Aside from Monreal lacking a finisher’s composure to make the most of a golden opportunity in the opening moments and United going to sleep for Ozil’s set-piece and gifting us a route back into this game at the end of the first half, De Gea barely had anything to do for the first 45 minutes.
The game, our title challenge, our season.
Pathetic. #afc— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 28, 2016
Listening to the commentary of events at White Hart Lane on my radio earpiece, it was of some slight consolation that Spurs were also losing. Yet unlike us, it sounded as if they were positively pummeling the Swans goal, in their efforts to turn the game around and we only had the goalkeeping feats of Flappy-handski to thank for Swansea thwarting the old enemy.
By contrast, even the shock of conceding two quick goals couldn’t stir us from our insipid, lacklustre, failure to put United’s goal under any real pressure.
With Giroud suffering an eight-game goal drought, I can understand Arsène wanting to shake things up. Yet while Welbeck and Alexis ran around a lot, none of our intricate passing moves were coming off and the thoroughly useless appendage of Theo Walcott was so anonymous, I almost forgot he was out there.
In spite of the glimmer of hope offered by Welbeck’s goal just before the break, I remained pessimistic. I sat there at half-time knowing full well that this Arsenal side lacks character, and someone with the sort of leadership and personality to stand up in the dressing room and demand “this ain’t gonna happen”.
Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/PZLrT9HuXb— Footbilly (@footbilly) February 28, 2016
So while Spurs continued to demonstrate their credentials, by dragging themselves back in front against Swansea and maintaining the pressure upon Leicester, even with the introduction of Giroud, the Gunners never really looked capable of turning up the heat sufficiently to rescue all three points. In fact, as the game wore on, we looked more in danger of being hit by another sucker punch, and Herrera duly obliged.
With the Premier League’s penchant for late drama, in the past I’d never quite have given up the ghost. Yet even after Ozil snatched a second, there was never any sense of the Gunners having the cojones to get the three points.
Unless we can pick ourselves off the floor in time to repeat Spurs’ feat of beating Swansea on Wednesday, I certainly won’t be optimistic about our trip to the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road next weekend.
By then, the limit of our ambitions might simply be scuppering Tottenham’s challenge.
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