Don’t you just love mediocracy? Get used to it. Embrace it and wear it with honour. We have now official become an average, mid-table, mediocre team. Now rather than worry about the top 4 we can focus on our rightful place somewhere between 5th and 7th.
The prior games against Southampton and Brighton were merely a warm up for today. We had one shot that Flapianski had to save in the first half but not a single shot for him to save in the second. How is that possible? We have found a way to dissipate away all the good will we generated post the Sp*rs league victory over the last month or so. Maybe that early season run was overly deceptive and false set our expectations. If so, then I think we’ve truly found our level. It’s one thing to capitulate against Liverpool but another thing entirely to lose against WH (after the other losses). Since Sp*rs I believe we found relegation form.
How did we get here? Well it helps to have (taking a deep breath) a manager who could well turn out to be mediocre. The best teams reflect the personality of the manager. Look at ManCity and Liverpool. And for more evidence look at any team DarthVader has managed. Look at ManU with DarthVader and compare that to the personality of that team – with basically the same players – now they have the Norwegian 2 year-old managing them. As for Arsenal, we used to be managed by a literary artist but now we’re managed by a shop keeper. Our manager has the personality of a bank manager. He has all the charisma of John Terrys backside. Does this matter to how the team plays? After performances like today you have to wonder. Earlier in the season you’d see Emery running up and down the touchline. Over the last 5 or 6 matches that’s disappeared and been replaced by a dour looking little man wrapped up in his little nice suit just prior to him going out to do the shopping for his wife and two kids.
It’s more interesting for me to write this review than it was to watch the game today. We had no energy and no passion. Even when we were 1-0 we only picked up the pace (from a stroll to a jog) when he removed Xhaka and Mustafa. How did OneEye Memory no select Torreira? How does that make sense? The balance between Gendouzi and Xhaka – as we saw earlier in the season – does not work. Neither of them drop to pick up the ball from our back three so there is no momentum in our game. And it puts pressure on the back three and their distribution. The only outlet we had was down the left with Kolinsac and Ob1.
On the right hand side Maitland-Niles had a shocker. Every touch was heavy and every pass was misplaced. Fortunately, the ball never came down the right hand side. At one point in the first half Ob1 was moved over to the left and that meant there was no outlet. Ob1 was our best player yet again. How can that be? Cigarette worked very hard and was more visible on the first half but alongside him Aubamyang was crap. He was barely involved in the game. And then the one chance (though difficult) in the second half that came his way he missed. Great goal scorer that he is, he’s been shit for the last month.
With Ramsey and Torreira there was a better balance. Both dropped to pick up the ball from the back four and their first movement was forward after that. But again, we were unable to link up the play with our front-line. We were missing our number 10. Who is happens is missing full stop. He can’t be found on the bench. Nor on the team bus. He’s deemed unnecessary for this team? How can that be? Only a shop keeper would consider Ozil to be unworthy in the first 18. A world cup winner and one of the most creative players in Europe and OneEye can’t find a way to deploy him for Arsenal. Today it cried out for his presence and ingenuity. The fact that Ob1 was the only one to who could thread the needle today is testament to our problem. It caused Aubameyang to drop deep where he proceeded to give the ball away. Guendouza attempted multiple forward passes that were all overhit – to be fair against Burnley these passes worked for him (and us). We even had to witness yet more absurdly poor long field balls from Mustafa. But when no midfielder is dropping deep to initiate the play from the defenders and there’s no midfielder able to create then this is what you get. Mediocrity.
As shitty as we were though I don’t know that we deserved to lose. 0-0 would have been a fair reflection. However, we are incapable of keeping a clean sheet away from home. The defense was a little more solid today especially given that there was no Torreira in the starting eleven. Not dissimilar to us, they created few chances. Annoyingly the few they did came care of Nasri who was playing in their Ozil position. But they did not look like scoring. Until, that is, the second half commenced. When we were on our unbeaten run the team came out much improved in the second half; not today. Right from the restart there was hesitation. Prior to the corner Sokrasti and Koscielny let the ball bound, we also saw Maitland Niles fail to pass the ball to our own player. And then from the corner Aubameyang made a half-hearted attempt to block a pass, and then Xhaka decided to head the ensuing cross, on the edge of his six yard area right to the feet of Nasri. How does a professional player manage that? In prior years this would be yet another classic Xhaka defensive howler. But this season, it had seemed these mental mistakes had been eliminated. This year Xhaka has been much improved. But now we’re seeing him revert back to the player we disliked so much. Throughout this game he was surprisingly ineffective. But that’s because you took away his defensive helper. If you take Robing away from Batman how would Batman feel? If you took Watson away from Holmes how would crime solving function? And if you take Torreira away from Xhaka this is what happens. And then you compound that by also removing Ozil. A classic shopkeeper move. We’re just lucky Mickeytarrien is injured otherwise he’d be playing as well.
Across the team, aside from Ob1, no-one performed. As in our previous post-Sp*rs game there was no urgency or drive. That away performance at Fulham seems a season away now. How has this happened? This descent into medicoracy? I fear we have to look at our shop keeper and look for answers there. And that answer is we have to wait another season before we can conclude that he’s not only no AW but he’s not even as good as Pelligrino who has instilled something into WH. Maybe it’s just a mid-season slump from which we will resurect ourselves in stunning glory. Maybe we’ll find our mojo against the Fab-less Chelski. OneEye was making good personal decisions early in the season – making good selections and good substitutions. Maybe he’ll rediscover his touch. But I’m increasingly worried that he might be good enough a manager to keep us 6th in the league but no more. Sure, we should be more patient. Sure, he needs to bring players in. But he should be able to organize and motivate the players we do have. One barometer is whether he’s able to bring out the best in players – regardless of how inept (I’m looking at you Mustafa) they are. When I look at this team all I see is the progress Ob1 has made. Today he was the only creative force we had. He opened up their defense and displayed trickery on the ball. He even had shot that ended up in the same post-code as their goal. But beyond him, who else has grown and developed?
Half way into the season we’ve now reach an important checkpoint for OneEye. His first mini-crisis at the club. The first time, since he’s been here, that the momentum has shifted that the goodwill that accompanied him has begun to evaporate. The first time that he’ll now be under pressure. Not that AFC will fire him if we continue on this run. That would not happen until the end of next season; they will definitely let him see out this season. But, for the first time, the spot light will be on OneEye. Question will be asked and the focus will shift. The narrative will no longer be about how AFC have overachieved and that OneEye has caused people to forget about AW. Now the narrative will be about how does OneEye stop this team from going into free fall. The depressing news about our finances combined with the stream of losses changes that prior feel good factor. He’ll find himself working in a different environment now. Fear will creep in; fear of failure. Maybe by him but for sure with the fans. That will be tested this upcoming week. This Chelski game will be a bog test for his ability to motivate and organize the team. A Liverpool like performance could be psychologically damaging for him and the club. If we see a Sp*rs like performance will buy him some more time. But my fear is that he does not know what team he trusts. If he does not start Torreira he will loose the fans. As for Ozil, I think that’s a lost cause. Our shopkeeper does not see the value in shopping at Tiffanys (not that I ever do). In which case let’s get him out and liberate the money we so desperately need. It’s one thing to claim we’re planning and strategizing for the future and we should judge OneEye and the new management over the next few years but if you state you can only loan players and the one world class player – who could have clearly helped the team today – is in the doghouse, then give the keys to someone else so we can make changes that will help us now. Last January we brought out most expensive player – Aubameyang – and over the summer we brought in 4 more. But there’s no point in wasting the talent we have. Both that that’s in the dog houses and that that’s on the pitch. And both are the responsibility of our shopkeeper.
All eyes now turn to next week. This game could make or break the aura OneEye has at the club. It could allow him to maintain the calm and positive aura – as it’s been since his appointment – or it could turn into a painful, negative spiral that could spin out of control. Sure, one game does not make a season but now, we’ve been on a run for the last 6 weeks that must be arrested. It must be controlled by the manager. This is where he has to show his metal and his ability to manage this team. He has to stamp his personality on this team. I’m just not sure I like to personality of a shop keeper