Sunday, November 11, 2012

Berbatov's Cottaging Maxes Out Arsène's Credit?


Surrendering a single two-goal lead might be deemed careless but squandering a two-goal advantage twice in the same week is downright unpardonable, It is perhaps worryingly indicative of a disturbing malaise in the Arsenal camp, which is beginning to test the patience of even the most devout of Arsène Wenger’s Gooner disciples. 
Competing for trophies is the icing on the cake for any supporter and most Arsenal fans are rapidly having to come to terms with the fact that possibly THE most average looking squad during le Prof’s tenure, is now considered little more than an irritating flea with delusions of grandeur, desperately clinging to the coats of those clubs with genuine ambitions of challenging for the big baubles.
Yet if Gooners are whinging now about Wenger’s perception concerning the ‘also-ran’ prize of consistent Champions League qualification, this will be a mere murmur of misgivings, compared to the clamour of revolt that will result, if mid-table mediocrity should condemn us to conceding our precious seat at Europe’s top table, to any one of the half-dozen clubs that are currently performing like more viable Champions League contenders than the Gunners.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to win trophies as much as the next Gooner. Sadly the reality is that any such silverware fantasies are growing ever more fanciful. Nevertheless, all I really demand in return for the ever more extortionate expense of watching the Arsenal each week, is the pleasure of watching eleven players put in a sufficiently committed shift, to prove they’re not merely going through the motions; so I might naively continue to kid myself that they’re playing for the red & white shirt and not just for the reward of their obscene pay packets.
What is most disappointing, is that I would’ve happily accepted another season of under-achievement, if it was accompanied by the compensation of the sort of unity of purpose and the burgeoning team-spirit that we sensed from this squad in our opening few fixtures. But unfortunately, in the past few weeks the Arsenal’s pets seem to have acquired the same attributes of our owners, becoming far too complacent about our place in the Premiership pecking order.
In our current uninspiring guise, the Gunners are unlikely to intimidate the top teams, even on a bad day at the office for the Premiership’s real movers & shakers. Even more disconcerting, against the lesser lights of Norwich, QPR & Fulham, we’ve performed with the misguided belief that the points will be awarded on reputation alone.
Santi Cazorla might have a legitimate case if he chose to sue the Arsenal over the Trades Description Act. I very much doubt Santi was sold a package, where the diminutive Spaniard was made aware that he’d be shouldering the club’s entire creative burden. Against Fulham, Cazorla’s frustration with some of the failings of his team mates was patently evident in his body language.
Vermaelen’s inadequacies at full-back leave our defence looking no more secure than when Santos is on the pitch. But the Belgian is our captain and when the skipper ambles back towards his own goal with his arm up, praying in vain for an offside flag, instead of breaking his neck to catch up with play, this is hardly an example of the sort of commitment that’s likely to raise the game of those around him.
However I shouldn’t really be picking on individuals. To his credit, Giroud was a whisker away from crafting a goal of the season effort on Saturday and yet when ref, Phil Dowd gifted him with a last-gasp opportunity to grab his hat-trick, why didn’t the French striker stake his claim on the spot-kick? Perhaps Arteta was desperate to atone for his earlier gaff and when such a commendable workaholic like Miguel gets caught in possession in his own penalty area, it kind of sums up the lack of focus and concentration that’s afflicting the Arsenal across the board.
Don’t get me, or any other Gooner started on the blindingly obvious brittleness of our zonal defence. Exactly how many set-piece goals do we have to concede, before finally admitting that this system is the most brass-naked emperor anyone has ever seen?
I was truly envious of the atmosphere conjured up by Celtic’s commitment against Barca in midweek and where Villa were looking like early season relegation fodder, Lambert appears to have rejuvenated his side, with an influx of hungry youngsters. So why is Wenger still resorting to throwing the wantaway Arshavin into the fray, when we have players with still plenty to prove waiting in the wings, such as Gnabry and Eisfeld. I’ll take the enthusiasm of youth any day, over Shava’s indifference.
Modern football has become so capricious that suddenly Saturday’s North-London derby is looking like a watershed. Beat Spurs and Arsène will be straight back in the black. Lose against the auld enemy and our manager will have exceeded his overdraft limit and the mounting criticism is likely to result in more than just a few polite letters! 
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