Arsenal Needed A Wake Up Call - Bradford City Obliged
No desire. No application. No leadership. No nothing. Last night against Bradford City, Arsenal were poor. They weren’t stifled, they weren’t kicked off the pitch, they were at full strength playing against a side who set out not to close them off, but to take them on, and they didn’t even register a shot on target until the 70th minute. Not good enough.
The biggest thing I noticed emanating from the majority of Arsenal players was this: arrogance. With the exception of Jack Wilshere, and maybe Gibbs and Sagna, Arsenal’s players looked like they were entitled to the victory by virtue of their loftier status. Unfortunately the worst offender was the man who wears the captain’s armband, Thomas Vermaelen. Lazy in possession, clumsy in the tackle, and looking for all the world like he couldn’t give a s**t.
Gervinho too is fast becoming the new Nicklas Bendter in terms of the ire he receives from supporters, but on tonight’s performance who can blame them? No vision, terrible off the ball and, as we have come to expect from him, just awful in front of goal. Not just the sitter he missed, but whenever he had a site of goal, he elected to get his head up and see if he had better options. He doesn’t have that killer instinct a goalscorer needs. Say what you will for Giroud’s finishing at points this season, at least he’s always shown that predatory nature and tried to test goalkeepers. The fact that we didn’t get a shot on target until the 70th minute shows not that we didn’t have opportunities, but that nobody was game enough to have a go.
I almost sighed when Vermaelen nodded in the equaliser, purely because we didn’t deserve anything out of the game. Towards the end we did look the more likely to score, but only because our fitness levels showed. At no point during the game did we play anything close to good team football, despite flashes of occasional individual brilliance, almost always from Wilshere.
And therein lies the problem. We’re not a team anymore. In days gone by Arsenal had a distinct identity which new signings could seamlessly fit into. It was lethal, direct and at times unplayable. Now, the players don’t seem to know how they should be playing. Too many times wayward passes were followed by arms thrown into the air. Too many times crosses were aimed at nobody in particular. Too many times we would get into the box, and then struggle to know exactly what to do next.
So, where do we go from here? I’m a big supporter of Mr. Wenger. I’m not going to sit here and deride his signings, which this season I’ve been very happy with, and I’m not going to sit here and lament the sale of Robin Van Persie. However, this is the first time I’ve felt that a change may be good for the sake of the team. In flashes this season we’ve been superb, we were devastating at Anfield and we were unfortunate not to break Manchester City’s home record, but these have been isolated incidents, and the longer the season goes on, the more I wonder where that next run of form is going to come from.
I would like to think that defeat to Bradford City will be a wake up call, that such an appalling result will be the catalyst for our season, that Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould will kick the players up the arse and remind them that, by and large, they’re all pretty f**king good players, players definitely capable of turning teams over and winning trophies. However, I feel that after seven years of not-so-near-misses, maybe it’d be best to slunk off, regroup, and come back as a different beast, maybe with someone different at the helm, because with every performance like tonight Arsene Wenger is damaging his legacy, and that’s worse than suffering any cup upset.