We’re almost 24 hours on from yesterday’s match but it still feels like supporters are coming to terms with the result, after another big portion of fans reached breaking point.
It’s obviously not the scoreline itself, the quality of the performance or heartbreak at seeing glory slip through our fingers that is to blame – it was seeing the Arsenal myth get exposed once too often that triggered the outpouring of fury.
We started well and deservedly held a lead after 20 minutes when Villa were awarded the first penalty. It came because a static Jack Wilshere (playing in an anchor role that doesn’t suit him) let Agbonlahor weave past him too easily, before Koscielny missed a straightforward tackle and Szczesny rushed out and took the striker down.
The referee, Anthony Taylor, appeared to let an advantage play out before deciding to award a penalty as well. What was a fairly minor quibble seemed to become a major injustice in Arsenal eyes – particular Jack’s – and they never recovered. They became frantic and ragged, reacting to every questionable decision by the referee as if it were part of a conspiracy. They lost what shape they had held at the start of the match and, like our manager who blamed the referee for much of what went wrong, looked for excuses in others rather doing something about their own shortcomings.
It was a petulant response and the problems were made worse when a tired or under-prepared Santi Cazorla twice lost possession easily, the first time leading to the second Villa penalty and the second Koscielny’s sending off.
Mikel Arteta’s absence played a major part in the lack of cohesion within the team and the lack of focus on the task at hand. But you have to wonder as well whether the players are even more frustrated than the fans at the lack of new arrivals over the summer – they know better than anyone that without reinforcements they have no chance of challenging for honours and another year of their career will slip by without silverware. As much as we think footballers are all mercenaries, they want to win things too.
It triggered more desperate pleas inside and outside the ground for money to be spent. Leaving aside the question whether new signings would actually make much of a difference when there are real tactical problems to be addressed, both the board and Wenger are being blamed for the lack of signings.
Surely even his strongest supporters will acknowledge that only when the manager is replaced will we truly know whether it is Wenger or the board’s intransigence that is the root cause.
Personally, I think it is Wenger’s but I hope the board stand up and show some leadership by deciding this really is his final season instead of hiding behind him. What that means for the remainder of the transfer window (would you really expect a board like ours to bankroll spending for a boss they may replace?) is anyone’s guess but I’m preparing for things to get worse before they get better.