Hard to follow on from Friday for many reasons. Not the least is that the emotion of that announcement can’t actually change the ability – or lack of – on this team. The tributes have started – as they should. This is a momentous time in the history of Arsenal. And it helps amplify how influential AW has been. It’s easy to forget that given the onslaught he’s had to withstand lately. This game was a window in the dilemma that AFC have been facing for the past few years. The inconsistency that was shown in the first half versus the domination in the second. The ineptitude of Ob1 versus the ability of Cigarette.
As the era ends for AW so will the time we have to endure Ob1. He will be gone quicker than one of his many misplaced passes. Once he left the field today, to be replaced by Aubameyang the tempo and cohesion of the team picked up. I can’t honestly think of a more frustrating player that I’ve had to watch over the last ten years. Not that I would trade the loss of AW for Ob1 but it does highlight the weaknesses of AW. No other manager would play this guy. No other manager would persevere. And it’s that faith and inflexibility that AW invested in sub-standard players that has ultimately been his downfall.
We have seen this so often this season – that we, in each half, as two different teams. I can’t think of a game this season where we’ve played at our best for the entire game. Though I can think of ones where we’ve been awful through the entire game. Ramsey was strong today – it’s good to have him back. But I worry that when he walks round the pitch after the game it looks like he’s waving goodbye. They need to tie him down to a contract quickly.
In that first half Cigarette hardly touched the ball. It was all too sideways and aimless. But then we increased the tempo in the second half, we looked like a real time and destroyed a weak West Ham team. But come Thursday we’ll have to play a consistently good game. And, most importantly, we’ll have to have a defense and protection for the defense that can insulate us from our vulnerabilities at the back. Regardless of what AW has said, it’s hard to imagine that Mustafi is with us next year. Today we saw his split personality – some timely interceptions, his aggression in winning the talks and then those mistimed passes, the over-commitment that exposes the belly of our defense.
And we saw a classic Wellbeck performance. He works hard and gets into good positions and then will shank the ball or mis headers that should be on target. While he’s clearly superior to OB1 (though I think I am as well) he’s not quite at the level we require – but a reasonable squad player. He had a couple of good attempts on goal from outside the box but he has to take his chances – but, at this stage of his career, I don’t expect any further development in his game.
Bellerin seems to be developing though. Of course, he’s had to suffer Ob1 in front of him. And Xhaka was reasonably solid – as was Elneny. It’s a shame we’ll loose him for a couple of games. He was more creative than Xhaka. But it was clear how much we missed Ozil and MikeyTarrian today. Let’s hope at least one is back for Thursday.
While the second half was enjoyable, and the crowd were very supportive, all the focus was on AW. I really can’t stomach the media focus on what caused him to step down. You have to be retarded to not have figured it out. I suppose that’s the soulless job of the media though to ask painful questions to a man who’s been stripped of his life love as to why he’s resigned when anyone with half a brain cell would know he was pushed. As he should have been. But leave the guy alone. And the pundits seem to feel they have a right to know what happened? No, they don’t and nor do we (well, not yet anyway). But what’s to know? He was pushed out. Can we move beyond that into the celebration of his tenure and the growing focus on who should replace him? It feels like a Parliamentary investigation is going to transpire into who knew what when and who said what when. I suppose they feel the need to fill the airtime with something. But the journalists are also trying to develop some expose on what really happened. Spoiler alert – the man has just been essentially fired from a job he held for 22 years. You can see it on his face, in his body language and in his responses. And it’s also the right thing to have happened.
It’s been a perfect few days and thankfully the team did not ruin it today. Now we have to prepare for both Atlético and also figure out how we can complete the appropriate send off for the best Arsenal manager of all time. And one of the most honest, genuine, intelligent people to have ever held such a high stress, high profile role in any walk of life. He has always been a beacon of intelligence and vision for Arsenal Football Club. Once that statue is unveiled they should also consider naming one of the stands in his honour. And then once he’s had a few years at PSG or Madrid, they should bring him back in some advisory or ambassadorial role. His place is at Arsenal. And Arsenal owe it to him as well.
So, onto Thursday where the conversation will remain dominated by AW. It’s unrealistic to think anything else can occur. But at least today we saw some cohesion in the second half and some hope that we won’t be embarrassed on Thursday. I suspect that might happen when we play the reserve team up at Old Trafford on Sunday. But before then let’s hope Elneny recovers along with Ozil. And that Ob1 does not make the bench.