Monday 18 April 2011

Believably bad

Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1
Words: 396. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 25 secs.
Conceding an equaliser in the 101st minute of a 90th minute game, 240 seconds after taking the lead, would usually be labelled as ‘unbelievable’. But for this current set of Arsenal players, who specialise in giving away bizarre last minute goals, it is just plain believable.

In the same vein as Eboue’s push on Lucas yesterday, the losing Carling Cup goal and Birmingham’s equaliser in the league last season are examples that spring to mind most readily. But if I cared to plunge further into my pool of miserable memories, I’m sure I could recall a dozen failed clearances, missed headers, deflected punches and general ineptitude that have cost us valuable points over the last few years.

Since the errors are committed by a variety of players, the problems lies less with individuals’ ability (and, of course, lack of ability) and more to do with the system they operate in and the attitude they enter the pitch with. The players change, the outcome doesn’t and responsibility for that surely rests with the manager and coaching staff.

Familiar defensive frailties should not overshadow the general paucity of our attacking play. There was one piece of one-touch football shared by Nasri, Fabregas and Van Persie that was genuinely exciting but the rest was pedestrian and largely predictable.

Take Theo Walcott’s display. With Aurelio off injured, he was matched up with raw teenage full-back Robinson who you would expect he could soften up and then slice apart. But as soon as Theo discovered he couldn’t out-sprint him, his threat was all but extinguished and he barely touched the ball again.

It reflected the total loss of confidence the team has suffered over the past few weeks and the inability for Wenger’s men to adjust their approach to find goals and pick up points even when things are not flowing perfectly. It is a trait we have seen in even the best of Wenger’s teams – think back to how the Invincibles looked like quivering wrecks after losing the 49th game – and there is no sign that this one can overcome it any quicker than them.

If only we could look inside the mind of Stan Kroenke, watching his first match since effectively becoming owner of the club. Does have enough of a ‘football brain’, or the desire, to truly reflect on how demoralising and tiresome our performances have become?

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