PESSIMIST that I am, it seemed obvious to me that the Gunners would blow a rare opportunity to capitalise on a Chelsea defeat.
Mind you, Saturday’s failure to reel in the league leaders might only prove significant, if the Arsenal are capable of mounting a credible challenge for the title. Sadly I can’t envisage our current squad winning the Premier League, not unless it’s gifted to us by the inconsistency, or the complacency of the competition.
All credit to the Baggies for giving the Gunners a taste of our own footballing medicine, but it was an equally lethargic and uninspired Arsenal performance that allowed West Brom to grow in confidence as the game wore on.
It’s very rare to hear our esteemed manager criticising his team and perhaps Arsene’s beginning to feel the heat.
The pressure for him to lead us to a trophy-laden promised land might’ve been reflected in the line-up for the midweek Mickey Mouse Cup encounter at White Hart Lane. He included a good deal more experience than we’ve grown accustomed to in previous seasons.
Arsene might be used to the task of managing the Arsenal’s resources, but I don’t imagine anyone expected these to be stretched to the limit quite so soon.
His team selection on Saturday hardly inspired me with confidence. Aside from the increasing clamour over le Gaffer’s failure to address the goalkeeping issue, one other recurring criticism concerns his tendency to focus solely on the Arsenal, rather than targeting his team selection, according to the respective strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
Similarly, Arsene’s apparent reluctance to make ‘on the hoof’ tactical changes is equally frustrating.
Instead of tearing out of the starting blocks, like a side fired up by the opportunity to prise open the door left ajar by the Blues, they plodded out, reminiscent of far too many of last season’s performances, where victory was just a matter of waiting until the Baggies began to flag and their defence parted like the Red Sea.
Even if I was a fan of this tactic, it’s dependent on the sort of precise passing which leaves the opposition chasing shadows, not the sort of slipshod, casual play witnessed at the weekend. But more importantly, the lack of any real intent on our part allows our opponents time to relax, to the point where they begin to believe themselves capable of upsetting the odds.
Almunia’s penalty save before the break should’ve been the turning point, but the fact that no one on the pitch responded to the roar of the crowd, is just further evidence of the crucial lack of leadership in our squad.
It was no surprise we were 0-2 down before Wenger eventually rang the changes. Although Samir Nasri made a valiant effort to rescue us at the death this only left me bemoaning the Gunners’ failure to pull their collective fingers out early on.
Here’s hoping we’ve bounced back in Belgrade, so we can travel to Sunday’s clash with heads held high, as we certainly don’t want to be turning up at Stamford Bridge with our tails between our legs!
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