By David Swaden
I’ve been wondering when I was going to have to write my first scathing piece about the team this season.
Whilst I was gutted by Chelsea, I felt it was unfair to empty both barrels after a game that could have gone either way. But after a weak, ineffective, complacent, lazy, spineless performance in Norfolk (the list could go on but I’m sure you all have your favourites), now is the time to have a good old sound off about Wenger’s woefuls.
It really had it all didnt it? Uncertain defending, goalkeeping howlers, blind dribbling, air shots, Andrei Arshavin. This was a game that will no doubt live short in the memory, but should be retained by the coaching staff as a reminder of quite how bad we can be when we put our minds to it.
If we’re honest with ourselves, this has been coming. As I mentioned in my last iteration, there has been a worrying lack of intensity about the team for a few weeks now. We were found out against Chelsea in a game that could have gone either way, we struggled past Olympiakos and then, no doubt with international fatigue playing a part, we succumbed to a resolute Norwich team in the most infuriating fashion.
The way we seemed to accept our fate was surely the most worrying and disheartening thing about it. It isn’t like we could even rue missed chances which would have made it all so different. Where was a player to seize the game by the scruff of the neck? Why were there no shots of the manager on the edge of his technical area screaming at the players to up the tempo? Why was Vermaelen not talking more as the captain? There was, quite simply, no X factor whatsoever.
Even our most mercurial of talents struggled to find their feet. An important observation from the match was that as good as Cazorla is, he is only one man. Time and time again, his great work was let down by others. Gervinho has probably just played himself onto the bench for a period, such was his wastefulness and hesitation, Santos looked shaky and Giroud, whilst I am determined to like him and see the positives, isn’t half making it difficult!
On the keeper, that is the difference between a top international and his understudies I’m afraid, and perhaps this is a timely reality check for those who had already written off Sir Ches. I’ve nothing against Mannone, but last year our Pole in Goal was immense.
The one thing I would do is question the wisdom of risking Szczesny against Southampton and putting him out for over a month, but you know what they say about hindsight. But fear not medical team, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt on the Ox and just put that injury to bad luck, not poor preparation.
So all in all a desperately disappointing day for the Gunners. Credit must go to Norwich who fought like warriors, just as they said they would in midweek, so we had been warned. For us, on a day where any chance of the title possibly ended, I want to end with my title. Despite all the poor performances out there, a real X factor contribution may have swung the tide in our favour. Chelsea found theirs yesterday in Juan Mata, who took a 50-50 game by the horns and tamed it majestically.
If the Santi Cazorla of Upton Park fame had fared similar against the Blues or yesterday, we could have been looking at very different results. But the same player cant always be the “Special One”. That is what overwhelmed the Saints earlier in the season, there were just too many star turns to cope with. Yesterday, once Cazorla was shut down, there was no-one to take the reins. Maybe, just maybe, another potential match-winner was sitting on our bench yesterday after more than a year out.
After that 2/3 out of 10 display, he cannot return too soon.