“These are the sort of games that simply must be won to harbor any sort of hope of challenging for the title.”
That was a quote from yesterday’s match preview. Gah.
What an atrocity of a football match. We were woeful. Short of ideas, short of intensity and short of desire. It was horrendous. Embarrassing. Infuriating.
Full credit to Norwich for getting their first win of the season but from an Arsenal perspective, this was unacceptable. Vito Mannone was culpable for the goal but fingers should be pointed at each and every member of the starting eleven — barring Mikel Arteta and perhaps Olivier Giroud — for a team performance that lacked anything near the sort of effort that was required.
There were parallels to the West Ham game in the way we started here: passing the ball nicely but not putting enough pressure on the opposition defence. When Grant Holt scored after Mannone failed to push a long-range strike away from goal, it felt like a minor bump in what would be a two or three goal victory. Forgive me for my arrogance, but that is how I felt.
But the response never came and in fact it was Norwich who looked more likely to score, particularly as the game wore on.
A play-by-play analysis seems pointless for such a poor team performance. On a general level I was infuriated by our lack of intensity and ability to turn things up a notch, an obvious consequence of the international break but still unacceptable.
What was worse was a complete inability to alter the manner in which we played. It was pass-pass-pass which is fine, but when you have a striker like Olivier Giroud in the mix, an attempt at a more direct pass every five minutes or so couldn’t be a bad thing.
It seems like a complete waste to use a player of his stature and strength and not utilise his best attributes. I’m not suggesting we compromise our philosophy or approach to the game but a longer pass from Thomas Vermaelen or Per Mertesacker here or there would surely have given Norwich something more to think about.
The only player showing initiative was Arteta, who marauded forward on a couple of occasions to provoke some attacking play. What a player he is turning out to be for us and what a shame he was given almost no support from the players around him.
The big question is: where we go from here? A full 10 points separates us from Chelsea, who confidently dispatched Tottenham to secure their title credentials. Two weeks ago I was full of confidence about this team. Now…
Schalke at home in the Champions League will be a good opportunity to raise the intensity and quickly leave behind the disappointment of this terrible effort. I’ll be in Dublin for that game and will be hoping for a celebratory, rather than consolatory, Guinness.