Arsenal were inexcusably poor.
People will talk about the significance of the international break, but it didn’t seem to trouble Chelsea, United or City. This was comfortably our worst performance of the season. Vito Mannone’s poor parry and Andre Santos’ bizarre positioning (single-handedly playing Holt onside) put us behind in the game, but at that stage there was still plenty of time to play ourselves back in to contention. Sadly, we completely failed to do that.
It’s rare that you watch an Arsenal side and can say that they failed to create a single clear-cut chance. Yesterday, however, our attacking play was as bad as I can remember. We looked entirely devoid of ideas, and Norwich won’t have been able to believe their luck. Around the 84th minute we finally managed to build some semblance of pressure, though an equaliser would have been far more than we deserved.
There’s a temptation to write this off as a ‘one-off’.
The performance was anomalous in its awfulness. Even in the dreary 0-0 with Sunderland, we created a couple of chances that one could describe as decent. Arsene’s relatively relaxed demeanour throughout suggested a man who had decided relatively early on that this was just ‘one of those days’. I hope, for all our sakes, that he’s right.
Yesterday’s shambles was made even more painful by events at White Hart Lane.
Earlier in the afternoon I watched a Chelsea side play with all the flair and fluency that Arsene aspires to. Their attacking play was superb: mobile, intelligent, and truly collective. At the present time, the two sides are miles apart.
The weekend could have been a lot worse.
Yes: City, United and Chelsea all won. That will happen a lot this season. It doesn’t surprise me, and nor am I sure it’ll be particularly relevant to us for much longer. We’re already ten points behind the leaders, and I find it hard to envisage this squad sustaining a title challenge. The good news for Arsenal is that Spurs and Newcastle both failed to win. At the present time, Everton are down to ten men and drawing with QPR. I’d suggest that as the season wears on it will become clear that these are the teams we’re competing with, and the top three may pull away leaving us to fight it out to be ‘best of the rest’ and secure the final Champions League spot.
Spare a thought for young Serge Gnabry.
It wasn’t an ideal situation in which to make your debut, but desperation can occasionally be the father of opportunity. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joining Theo Walcott on the sidelines, Gnabry is likely to be involved with the first-team again next week. He didn’t get much of a chance to show it yesterday, but he’s an enormous talent, and one we’ll see more of as the campaign goes on.
Arsenal face a real challenge to get things back on track in midweek.
Their opponents, Schalke, come in to the tie off the back of a 2-1 win away to Dortmund. The Dutch pair of Affelay and Huntelaar are a real threat, and this promises to be far trickier than our usual group stage stroll.