May 5th – Arsenal 1 Brighton 1

This used to be a labour of love. Now it’s just a labour. What a waste today. In fact, the last month in the league has been such a waste. We’ve had so many chances to wrap up a place in the top 4 but have chosen to waste every opportunity. Of course, we know this team is not good enough. But when the chance is there you have to take it. In the exact same way Liverpool found a way to win against Newcastle by getting goals from someone we found the way to do the exact opposite. We managed not to score when we should and then gift them a goal when we shouldn’t. That’s gulf in class we have to bridge. We don’t have a winning mentality. It’s not clear we even have a mentality.

How else can you explain losing to Crystal Palace, Everton, Wolves and Leicester? Yet we can win away at Naples? We’ll surely look back on this period, as we did after Leicester won the EPL, and wonder how did we not managed to automatically qualify when the teams around us were so weak? This was our chance to really damage Sp*rs; to deny them CL qualification and cause them financial trauma. Chelski are different, because they’ll always have a bankrolled team. They will come back stronger. As will Manure. They can’t be this poor next year.

How do you give up a goal to BHA like that? First off you need to have Xhaka be as moronic as Mustafa usually is. Classic Arsenal. Get beaten on the counter-attack. Just like the days of AW. Shows how little we’ve learned over the years. Today we can’t blame Mustafa. He was not so bad today. But others were. Monreal has lost the plot. Ozil was unnervingly quiet. Mikeytarrien remains a light weight player. Even Cigarette, as impressive as he was today, made too many mistakes. Our best palyer across the 90 minutes was Aubameyang. Yet he wasted too many clear cut chances. As we will in for the rest of our lives, we missed Ramsey today. He might have found a way to score. Once they equalized we stepped up the pressure. But then, with the 3 substitutions, we lost our impetus. Just as we were creating chances we reorganized and starting playing through Ob1. It took another 10 minutes before we mustered a clear chance. In this entire time there was so much languid passing and lack of responsibility. It was not clear who was responsible for driving the team forward.  But let’s circle back to Xhaka. His first pass today went to BHA and his second went right out of play. He’s too casual and too slow. Today just proved again that he’s a liability. Not at the level of Mustafa but pretty close. And you can be sure he’ll be in the team next year.

As they say, the position in the league does not lie. We are just not good enough. We’ve seen that too often this year. Aside from Cigarette and Aubameyang we are bereft of world class players. I’ve finally excluded Ozil from this list because his contributions can be world class but the frequency of them is too inconsistent. Today was another chance for him to stamp his authority on the game.

Our defense has been crap nearly the entire year. There were periods today in the second half when it was shambles. From Monreal panicing in the box to Leno passing to their players. BHA could have easily scored a second. We were a shambles. One commentator observed that the starting 3 today would not be part of our future. It goes beyond that though. As Xhaka demonstrated, he’s too slow to defend and too casual. That penalty was just careless. The odds were that BHA would have missed any shot anyway. Immediately after conceding their penalty, BHA could have grabbed a second. The entire defense was in disarray. It was both scary, embarrassing and yet wonderfully symptomatic of our entire year. We have this innate ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is not a team ready to be in the CL.

It’s been unappealing to review the previous Arsenal games. Not that the reviews could be any more painful than suffering through watching those games. The last run of games have been such a groundhog day experience.

The irony is that in previous years we would not even be involved at this stage in the season. By now we should be far off the pace. Unfortunately, though we have replaced Wenger with a manager who is destined to tease us with the promise of a better future. We should have read the footnotes. Better yes, but just by an inch or two. Not sufficient to actually make a fundamental shift in the club. We also have to recognize that one manager can’t change the club for the better. For the worse, for sure. We also need a management team that finds a Technical Director in a timely manner so that we can set up our summer targets. And yet, many months after our shaggy haired German has departed we’re still no further along in replacing him.

Before the season started it was clear we were not ready to compete for the league nor the top 4. As the season developed and we recovered form the first two losses, this team showed signs of development and accumulated points. But for the most part we languished in 5th or 6th. But then at the start of the year the teams around us decided to emulate Arsenal and throw away managers and or points. Now are expectations were raised. We even managed to beat a few of these teams and touch 3rd place. Now we started to expect. Now we believed we were worthy of Champions League football. And this from a team that regularly included Mustafa, Mickeytarrien, Ob1 and, latterly, Elneny. By the time Emery figured out his preferred eleven we’d started to pick up the predictable injuries. The loss of Ramsey for even a few games – let alone the rest of his career, destabilized our delicate midfield balance. So after touching the un lofty heights of 3rd place and after the dusting off from the storage area conversations regarding St. Totteringham day, this team completely reverted to type. It managed to rediscover it’s complete lack of belief and backbone. Along with Chelski and ManManure. Even Sp*rs are jealous of our ineptness. The top two can’t stop winning and the rest of us are playing like we are all teams destined for relegation – though they might be better than any of us.

How does this happen? How do Manure implode like this? How do we perform so ably against Napoli and implode against Crystal Palace? Some part of our troubles do lay at the feet of Emery. He selected Mustafa. And also Elneny. But the club bought these players. You can be sure none of these would have gotten into the teams of the top 6. Look at Theo. He barely plays for Everton. Every team has their weaknesses but ours just seem more egregious. But it’s not just these two or three players. It does not explain our last 4 league performances. That lies at the feet of the players. We fielded strong teams. But decided to put up a weak performance. Minus Ramsey there is little driving force in this team. There is no leadership. We’ve seen this for many years now. Some (cough cough) will go back 15 years to Viera. Or even to Gilberto. Torreira might grow into that. But Xhaka never will. And Kosclieny is not like that. But we need someone to take charge on the pitch and wake up players. All season long we’ve seen change at half-time that have lived up our performance. How can that be? When and why can’t we play the full 90 minutes? This all leads back to mentality. And that lay at the footsteps of all the players. It’s a cultural issue. These players require on-field leadership.. And until then we’re like some emotionally delicate species that, depending on the perfect alignment of the sun, temperature and wind conditions might deem to apply themselves. At this level of the game nearly all the players have the talent required but it’s those that apply themselves and use that talent that succeed. Likewise, the margins between teams are so fine that the collective will of a team; the mentality of the team can be that 0.05% that makes all the difference. And the lack of it will consign us to being the bridesmaid not the bride.

Today was the culmination of the entire season. Wasted chances, poor application and desperately weak defending. Maybe we should take comfort from watching Liverpool. They acquired one defender, Van Dyke, and their entire team solidified. I fear though that there is not the management acumen at Arsenal to be smart enough to go out and identify and acquire that person. Instead we’ll have many B+ players (Xhaka, Mkeytarrien, Ob1) that will never elevate the team but will always have us close by.

Of course we still have Valencia to by-pass and then, hopefully the final in some country none of us could find on a map. Maybe we’ll get lucky but I would not hold your breath. We have three remaining away games and we must won the right two. Beyond that though, we can take comfort from not being as fucked up as Manure but also be aware that we don’t have the money available to compete with them. They surely can’t be as bad next year. And Wolves and Everton will improve. And we will have an unproven manager, a weak squad and a lack of a winning mentality. Not exactly how you’d like to start off a new campaign.

I remain depressed and lacking in optimism for our future. Make some radical changes – dump Mustafa by the side of the road. Sell Mickeytarrien. Buy a world class center half and a holding mid-field player and grab Zaha from Crystal Palace. Then, maybe, would I start to believe. In the meantime, we’ll have to pray that we the restoration and rebuilt Koscielny available for Thursdays game. In the meantime, I’m left to brood over the wasted season we’ve just gone through. It’s just like that Leicester season, we’ll look back and wonder how we were incapable of directly qualifying for the CL with all the other teams fucking up.

– LB7

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