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Sunday, 11 February 2018

It was all going quite well



I’m not sure what’s the worst thing about losing to that lot these days. There’s the annoyance and anger at being beaten. There’s the predictable gloating from a set of supporters whom live for Tottenham beating Arsenal occasionally, simply because they don’t know what it’s like to actually win trophies. Then there’s the lazy journalistic nonsense that seems to follow this fixture around when Spurs win it describing a “power shift” in the area - I’ve never seen this discussion around the Manchester clubs, yet City actually have silverware backing up a genuine on-field superiority over Manchester United. The media fawning over Tottenham this last couple of years is beyond embarrassing. It underlines an absolute bias towards them for a reason that is scarily unknown. It will ever be thus until the print media, in particular, is finally consigned to history. Journalists today have set themselves up as “experts” as they see the impending Armageddon on the horizon and appear of TV and radio to give commentary on the game. The fact is that none of the “football writers” know more about football than you or me as they’ve never played the game, just like us. Add in their smugness and contempt for Arsenal FC and you have a vicious cocktail to contend with. The sooner Arsenal realise that they don’t need to engage with newspapers outside of Islington, where they have a community responsibility, the better off we will all be. You might have guessed I’m not a happy bunny writing this morning. 
In the game yesterday I thought we were quietly impressive before half-time. Three or four times we should have done better on the break - criminally bad passes in to the final third when you have the pace of Aubameyang going beyond the defence is hard to accept from players like Ozil and Mkhitaryan. Watching the Armenian yesterday it was easy to see why his career at Manchester United wasn’t successful - compared to last week it was like seeing a different person in an Arsenal shirt. Ozil was wasted out on the right and only looked like doing anything when he drifted towards the centre - for once I won’t criticise him for a quiet(ish) display when he was ridiculousy moved away from where he does damage. Our key man was, yet again, Jack Wilshere and he created what would have been a goal when he put Aubameyang through on goal, only for the linesman to wrongly raise his flag. We were fairly comfortable elsewhere with Elneny and Xhaka doing a decent job in front of the defence, and Bellerin looking pretty solid at right-back. Half-time, 0-0, probably shading things, there were reasons to be content.
You have to wonder what happens in Arsneal’s dressing room at half-time these days. Within seconds of the restart yesterday you could see we weren’t on it as we had been before the break. Mustafi had to make a good block (and generally did well yesterday I felt) before Cech got stupid and took on Harry Kane in our penalty area. It all pointed to a casual approach. Less than a minuted after Cech’s Beckenbauer impression we were losing. Nobody closed down the cross which was perfect for Kane to attack. Koscielny is finished and never got off the ground - Monreal waving his arms for a foul was nonsense as Kane just got up first and stayed above the Arsenal defence. What came after, until the last five minutes, could have been embarrassing for Arsenal. Were it not for Cech (the save from the free-kick was superb) and Tottenham’s bad finishing we could have lost by 4 or 5 goals.
Wenger made his substitutions, rightly taking off Mkhitaryan and wrongly taking off Elneny (instead of Xhaka) to bring on Lacazette and Iwobi. Inexplicably Iwobi played through the centre and Ozil stayed on the right. Just as inexplicably our new £60m centre-forward (100 goals in 117 games) was sent to the left wing as Lacazette was left to play on his own up front. We’re 0-1 down to Tottenham and we stay with one man up front, a man with 1 goal in his last 12 games. It is beyond the wit of sane people to understand what goes on in Wenger’s mind. Eventually he introduced Welbeck (5 minutes from time) and we got on the front foot as Spurs started to panic about not being out of sight. We managed to create two chances, at last, but they both fell to Lacazette. The first wasn’t easy but he had time to bring it down rather than smash a difficult volley in to the crowd. The second was just terrible finishing after Iwobi’s pass found him through on Lloris. I’ve seen people saying Wenger has damaged his confidence in the way he has handled him this season, and I have some sympathy with that viewpoint, but the fact remains that a £50m striker should be scoring in that position - he certainly shouldn’t be missing the target. You have to feel that Aubameyang, with his extra pace, would have scored the goal as he’d have been there a yard quicker and would have had a choice in how he finished it. I’m not going to get at Lacazette as some have, but it’s hard to ignore that he hasn’t succeeded this season since arriving. I’m yet to be genuinely impressed by him at any point. He also got himself offside 3 times yesterday through sheer laziness and that is unacceptable.
So another defeat on the road. In this case it matters more because of who we were playing. It’s obvious how this must come to an end but we will have to wait until at least May before that happens. In the meantime we will continue to drift in the Premier League and must hope to win the League Cup and do something special in Europe - given Wenger’s comments about the Europa League on his BT Sport pre-match interview yesterday I won’t be holding my breath.