A group of players lacking in something important
Well that was a seriously good opportunity to drive home our advantage missed, wasn't it? Playing at home against a team, albeit one in fine form, from the bottom end of the table it is important to do the basics right. On Monday evening this Arsenal team once again failed in that area. How many times do they have to lose games to the also-rans before they understand the need to be at 100% in every single game? For the third home game in recent weeks we gave the opposition a two goal head start. This time, however, the comeback lacked the pace and ideas that saw wins over Aston Villa and Tottenham.
The "defending" that gave Wigan their goals was criminal in its lack of application. There is, still, no organisation in this Arsenal team. Nobody took responsibility when Mikel Arteta was clearly injured, so Wigan were left with the freedom of the pitch to counter-attack after we gave the ball away. The second goal was, perhaps, even worse. I don't know what Bacary Sagna was doing as Moses faced him up. Had that been Djourou (who seemed to have to play on his own at the back for large periods the other night, and performed pretty well it should be said) the crowd would have been going absolutely mental at him. Similarly, Szczesny's attempt to get to the ball would have seen Almunia or Fabianski met with the howling that is now seemingly reserved for Aaron Ramsey's every touch of the ball. It was rank bad play and it effectively ended the match after ten minutes.
We made one or two chances in the remainder of the first-half, and could have gone in level but for decent goalkeeping and a glaring miss from Rosicky. The second-half, however, was an utter disgrace of an attacking performance. There were no ideas, no pace and no penetration. The one time we did get in behind the defenceTheo Walcott was clearly fouled, from my view in the stands, but Andre Marriner (more on his performance below) kept up his career record of giving us just about nothing. The substitutions didn't help matters with Oxlade-Chamberlain finding himself stood on the touchline watching Gervinho be as ineffective a replacement as it's possible to be. Since he came back from the Africa Cup of Nations he has had the same look about him as Marouane Chamakh, and some are now questioning whether he should be moved on immediately. I have seen some saying that Chamberlain tried to be too much of an individual when he eventually came on, but at least he was trying to make something happen, rather than watching the ball get passed back and forth in front of an organised opposition.
Wigan were well worth their win, and it could have been more than 2-1. They outplayed Arsenal whenever they had possession of the ball and I thought James McCarthy, sitting in front of their defence, was outstanding. I have seen today that Gary Caldwell has criticised Van Persie for not shaking hands after the game. I can't understand why RVP would be like that. As far as I'm concerned it's his own fault that he allowed himself to be put in the pocket of a second-rate player like Caldwell. Sadly the Captain's performance was typical of the team the other night. It lacked pace, application and imagination. The fact is that if Van Persie had put in the necessary effort the other night then he would have destroyed Wigan's poor defence, and Caldwell in particular. Not shaking the mans hand after the game is more than a little bit childish. If you've been kicked all over the pitch by someone I can understand not shaking hands, but not simply because you've allowed yourself to be dominated by someone who shouldn't be playing at the same level as you.
One other thing I want to comment on, yet again, is the performance of the referee. In particular I want to refer to the whole time-wasting business. I notice that Arsene Wenger has called it "cheating." He is not wrong, but all the time the referee allows it to go unpunished it is a legitimate "tactic." I don't blame any opposition for doing it. It is up to the clown with the whistle to enforce the laws of the game and be brave enough to do so. Al Habsi was time-wasting at the very first goal-kick of the game, when the score was 0-0. The referee then summarily failed to deal with it for the whole game. His addition of only 3 minutes at the end of the first-half was quite disgraceful, and the 5 minutes in the second barely much better. That Mr Marriner chose to finally book the Wigan goalkeeper in the 93rd minute was an insult to the paying spectator, especially as it merely wasted a further 50 seconds that were not added on. Referees seem determined to make themselves the centre of attention and Marriner was no different on Monday. Anyone who has such a ridiculous spray-tan is clearly extremely vain, so we should not be surprised that he craves such attention during the game.
Having said all of that, the end result was more down to the Arsenal players, and their poor attitude, than to anybody else. I'm sick of hearing about wake-up calls and similar soundbites from players about concentration etc. This group of players is simply incapable of putting it in week after week, no matter who the opposition are. There is something fundamental missing from their make-up. I cringe whenever I hear quotes from Theo Walcott. His latest was to say that the stadium had become "a fortress" but the other night it seemed the drawbridge had been left open to invaders yet again. This team has lost ten matches in the Premier League this season. That they are third in the table says more about the state of the Premier League than it does about any perceived quality in Arsenal's current squad of players. They could have cemented their top four position the other night simply by applying themselves appropriately. As it is now they must beat Chelsea on Saturday, otherwise they face the prospect of going to Stoke City with three teams breathing down their necks, just waiting for another Arsenal mistake. It's simply unacceptable to lose games because you don't concentrate and don't try hard enough. It must stop.