A couple of weeks ago, Man Utd took to the field against Bolton and found themselves a man down when Jonny Evans was sent off for a poorly timed tackle. Somehow they found it in themselves to score a goal with a little help from Jussi Jaskailanen.
That same weekend, Arsenal through two self inflicted goals against West Brom managed to salvage a draw. Arsene Wenger thereafter went to extra-ordinary lengths to praise the Gunners fighting spirit. The draw kept them in the title hunt and with the international break coming up at an opportune moment giving time to Walcott, Song, and Fabregas to recuperate, there was a sense of optimism with regards to the Premiership. After all what else did we have left to focus our energies on?
Blackburn came visiting, a prime opportunity to score three points and with a game in hand put tremendous pressure on Man Utd before the Emirates meeting. It would not come out of left field that Blackburn was angling for a draw and would put up a defensive crunch.
The onus would be on Arsenal to be successful with their scoring chances. And they created many but in a by now familiar theme, they were wasteful yet again. Walcott was a spark but his continual use as a winger is wasteful when his instincts as a striker need to be developed.
Jack Wilshere and Marouane Chamakh, a shadow of his former bright self, provided two of the most grievous examples. The rest of it was taken care of by a doughty defense and Paul Robinson. With each missed opportunity, the level of anxiety heightened. Not even Steve N’Zonzi’s 76th minute sending off made a difference.
At the other end Blackburn found an ally in Manuel Almunia resurrecting his usual role of Calamity John, coming very close on two occasions. Jens Lehman did a poor job of hiding a smirk on the sidelines. Despite his Wigan waffles, the German must really be relishing his chances.
Samir Nasri had to exit nursing an egg shaped lump brought on by a clash of heads with Ryan Nelsen. The sight of him sitting on the sideline his head covered in crepe looking woozy sums up Arsenal’s season.
It was left to Wenger to administer a barely adequate rap on the knuckles:
“It was a frustrating performance,” Wenger said. “There was a lack of energy and sharpness in our game. It is a big concern to see what we have seen. It is difficult to identify [why Arsenal underperformed]. We started OK, but the players didn’t have the resources to keep the pace in their game.”
His dispassionate statement is a tacit admission of why this team essentially appears enervated. Wenger’s dislike of getting down and dirty quells any fighting spirit or a chance of Arsenal waking up from their slumber party. No hair singeing rant. No fire or brimstone. No throwing the kitchen sink which Sir Alex must have done to put the fear of God into Man Utd after being two goals down to West Ham. Rooney woke up to his goalscoring ways and Chicharito found himself unmolested. Now that is what desire looks like. Hook up the Man Utd players to a brain imaging MRI and you will find overdeveloped amygdalas and hippocampuses. They can smell another title.
Arsenal top the four clubs with points dropped at home with fifteen. An unacceptable statistic. This was their third draw against teams like Sunderland, WBA, and Blackburn all flirting with relegation. No wonder the team was booed. This invariably leads to some sociological revelation that Gunner fans are fair weather as opposed to others but they have every right to do be if Wenger himself seems incapable of coming up with answers to their predicament.
“It is difficult to identify [why Arsenal underperformed]”.
This is not emblematic of one match. And it is unflattering to someone who goes by the honorific “The Professor” to come up with such a lazy throwaway. Frankly, Wenger sounds more comfortable as a football administrator/ pundit with his pronouncements on the state of the sport than a manager concerned about the dwindling prospects of his club ever lifting a title and trying to reverse it. If the fans appear visibly dissatisfied it is because they’re trying to convey their impatience with a manager who routinely rationalizes Arsenal securing a Champions League spot as a successful benchmark. Unlike Ancelotti who knows his buffer of goodwill bought by his debut success is limited to a season. It will not be the fans who will show him the door.