Arsenal: A day to remember, a day to forget

For the Gunners, a tale of two halves. Or more to the point, a tale of two Arsenals. Unstoppable in the first and scoring at will to take a four to nothing lead. The game signed and sealed. Walcott after 47 seconds, Van Persie with two goals, and Johan Djourou with his maiden goal. Or so anyone sane would think. But this is Arsenal. We can go off the reservation at any time.
No club has as much talent at hand to shoot themselves in the foot so well. The second half devolved into a spineless display of utterly bereft defending as Newcastle found another lever to muscle Arsenal into submission. The price: Four goals going the other way. The result rendered more painful on a day when Wolves, the bottom dwellers stopped the unbeaten run of United with a stirring display of opportunistic scoring and priceless defending.
Much is made of Abou Diaby’s departure, reacting badly to a very, very robust challenge by Joey Barton. Wind the clock back five years ago when Dan Smith’s foul broke and dislocated Diaby’s ankle ending his season and we might be able to see the context of that outburst. Phil Dowd was right giving him the red card but this should have never been the turning point. We made it that way. Slice and dice it any which way but there is no way a 10 man squad would concede a four goal lead. Any description to what transpired beggars belief. How many times are we going to play the blame the referee game?
This match again exposes Wenger’s unwillingness to go to a plan B. To be fair who knew they would fold so miserably? Arsenal works on a tight script and when adhered to there is no better team. But there is no team that unravels faster when it has to deviate from the norm. Unsurprisingly, there are those who have successfully exploited this to their advantage. Float set pieces and see the Arsenal defense tie themselves into knots while sneaking one in. Then crowd the middle and watch Arsenal exhaust themselves passing one too many times. Its the rope a dope applied to football.
This however is completely different. Wenger’s legacy of spotlighting bright talent is being seriously undermined with his defensive blind spot. One can argue that Johan Djorou going off with an injury and replaced by Sebastien Squillaci was as much of a factor. A Mikael Silvestre clone joining an error prone Koscielny, already sent off twice this season is a recipe for disaster. The duo were already involved in a comedy of errors leading to a Koscielny concussion and a goal by Diomansy Kamara. And this transfer period went without providing decent cover for Thomas Vermelen. It is already proving costly.
I have long said this but Arsenal has no on field leadership. Fabregas is an off and on inspirational presence but lacks the vocal leadership to pull up the collective socks on a consistent basis. The other point is Wenger’s built this midfield on ball possession. Ever wonder when that does not work who gets to do ball retrieval? Jack Wilshere. Not Walcott, not Arshavin, not Nasri, not Fabregas, not Rosicky, not Eboue. They just don’t have it in them.
Every Arsenal fan should celebrate Wolves pulling off an incredible win over Man Utd because teams like these are breathing life into the title race. We need help because we cannot trust our own team to do it.

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