Yesterday’s performance was as poor as I have seen from Arsenal since we lost at Old Trafford last season, and one of the most embarrassing and frustrating games that I have ever had the displeasure of watching.
The argument that the international break was to blame for our dreadful performance simply does not hold up; why would the international break affect Arsenal so much more than Chelsea or the two clubs in Manchester? Chelsea won 4-2 away at Spurs, and United and City overcame deficits against Stoke and West Brom respectively. It’s not as though horrible refereeing decisions were to blame either, while blaming the performance on injuries is quite pathetic when you compare the squads.
In my opinion, one of the ESPN commentators (I can’t remember if it was Jon Champion or Chris Waddle) summed it up pretty nicely; Arsenal lost to a team whose Director of Football (Delia Smith) is more famous than many of their first-team players. Regardless of the team that Arsenal were forced to field due to injuries (which was actually quite a strong team!!), we were still playing against Norwich – a team that was in 19th place in the league, having conceded 9 goals in their previous two games. Anything less than a win would be embarrassing.
These sort of poor performances have been going on at Arsenal for a long time. This was not just a one-off bad performance – I can think of plenty of abismal games from last season. Away losses to Blackburn (4-3), Swansea (3-2) and Fulham (2-1) come to mind, as well as a 2-1 home loss to Wigan and, of course, the 8-2 to United. Losses to smaller teams are a little easier to take if you know that Arsenal hit the post a few times, had some goals disallowed or were particularly hard-done-by. However, this game sticks out in particular because there was a lack of interest, lack of effort, and very little to suggest that any of the Arsenal players (apart from Cazorla and Arteta) have any hunger or desire to even challenge for the Premier League. If anything, the scoreline was rather flattering; if not for some poor finishing from Grant Holt, Norwich could have had a few more.
The fact of the matter is that we are only 8 games into the season and already 10 points behind Chelsea. Based on this performance, I am not overly confident ahead of QPR and there was very little about today’s performance to make me think that we stand even the smallest chance at Old Trafford in two weeks time. The second-half performance against West Ham seems a long way away and only further highlights Arsenal’s incredible level of inconsistency.
When asked in one of his post-match interviews whether injuries and fatigue following the international break had an effect on the Arsenal performance, Wenger replied:
“It is not an excuse. We have to deal with that. You could say we have better players but there is only one way to show that – on the football pitch.”
I expect to see a much improved performance against Schalke in midweek. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out with a hip injury and Walcott is also missing, but this is the season where Wenger swears that we have the squad to cope with a few injuries. Well I think it’s about time that he proves it. If playing Gervinho on the wing again is the answer then I really do despair! The last thing that we want is to end up finishing second in our Champions League group.