Prior to the game up on the AFC Blog Facebook wall I posted the video of Cesc’s goal last time we played Milan, and after mentioning Henry in 2003 and Cesc in 2008 I asked who our San Siro hero would be tonight. I meant it in earnest; the San Siro has been a welcoming venue for Arsenal and after some positive games as of late this could have been a night where we really showed some mental strength and threw away that ridiculous handbrake metaphor for good.
But that didn’t happen. In fact–from an Arsenal point of view–nothing happened, and Roy Keane summed it during the half time pundit chat as he said, “Arsenal haven’t turned up tonight.”
It was a dreadful collecive performance. It’s not an irregular occurrence for us to have a worse bark than our bite, holding more possession but not doing much with it. Tonight we didn’t even have any bark. We looked more like a stray mutt wondering around aimlessly looking for a spot to defecate. Our passing was laboured, wide of the mark, our movement didn’t involve any moving; we were guilty of all the things our critics have accused us of being.
But instead of dwelling on the game tonight–because that’s tantamount to an emo kid self-harming plus we all know what happened–it might be better to look at the factors that have culminated in that utterly shambolic performance.
It’s well documented that many former players after leaving the club still feel a strong affinity with the Arsenal. You just have to look at Henry’s behaviour since coming back to see that and even Samir Nasri curiously wished us well for the Milan game and tweeted today “once a Gunner, always a Gunner”.
After the final whistle another former Gunner who still feels that bond, Patrick Vieira, offered his thoughts on what went wrong, tweeting “Really sorry for the result for Arsenal – there was a lack of leadership.”
When van Persie rifled a low volley into the corner after Henry cleverly found him with a flick, the Milan ‘keeper celebrated his save like he’d stopped a penalty in a World Cup final, not prevented his team from conceding while they’re three goals to the good and cruising. We never looked so animated even after the fourth goal went in.
This is also something Dennis Bergkamp touched upon today in an English newspaper when discussing our chances against Milan.
“You need a few strong characters who can get the team going, in training as well as matches.
“Sometimes you need more of a winning mentality than a passing mentailty.”
It’s extremely difficult not to agree with these formers players, especially as they know what they’re talking about, their trophy cabinets will attest to that.
In a few hours it will have been exactly one year since that wonderful game at the Emirates where Arsenal triumphed over Barcelona. In midfield that night were Jack Wilshere, Fabregas and an in-form Nasri. Since then, one decided a sub’s bench made of 50 pound notes was better than playing for us, one went to play for his childhood club, and one has suffered a season-long injury.
They are three players with the determination to change a game single handedly and we haven’t found similar replacements for them. And so tonight we witnessed a midfield that took part in one of the worst Arsenal performances I’ve witnessed.
What makes it all sadder is that was Henry’s last game for the club. What a way to bid bon voyage to a club hero. It’s almost shameful.
Traumatised by that game? Get it off your chest by leaving a comment.