The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Middlesbrough 1-1 Arsenal

This game wasn’t televised here and Sean, probably for the first time in years, wasn’t able to get out to Navada’s to see it, so no great comments on the performance. The result, however, highlights this: by resting everyone he could for the largely meaningless Porto game, the manager made it very clear that this was the truly important match, a must-win if all of the talk of renewed title hopes was to have any substance behind it. And points were once again dropped to a lower-half-of-the-table side. This wasn’t a loss and judging from match reports it wasn’t an awful performance, and it is Middlesbrough who have driven the Arse crazy in recent years, but there’s just no way to spin that turn of events as a positive. This team can’t get momentum going to any sustained period of time; they’re being kept relatively close to the top by either the weakness of the other top sides or the strength of the league depending on how you see it, but they can’t create the sustained run of form to close any ground. It’s one step forward, two steps back, and as I type this Villa are thumping Bolton and will jump back up to 4th in the league. Liverpool are drawing Hull, but both United and Chelsea are still to play later today and tomorrow against weak opposition. It’s hard to not see this as another weekend where ground is lost as we march through the last month before help can be on the way.

But will it? Arsene’s been chatting to the website again, and you can read his contempt between the lines- “it is difficult to get any rationality into the analysis that we face at the moment” is a hell of a statement given the way this season’s gone. I won’t belabor you by going over the performances or the record or the holes in the team which are there for anyone with eyes to see, but I will say this: with each negative result and bad performance, more pressure is heaped on Wenger and on the young players he puts so much of his faith in. More and more people become convinced that these kids aren’t going to reach their perceived potential, certainly not this year and maybe not ever. What does that do to the team’s negotiating position? Buying when you’re in the top 4 and can always claim with some truth to it that you’re willing to play a Niklas Bendtner or a Denilson instead of overpaying for your target is one thing; buying from 5th when those players have been exposed as they have been this season is another. And with each of those players who ends up over-exposed before his time, another hole opens. Many people were excited about Bendtner, Denilson, Vela and others before the season as I recall; where is that excitement now? Transferred to Jack Wilshire and Aaron Ramsey, the players we’ve seen less of, while people busily debate with some justification who should replace the first lot. And now, each negative result is magnified by the situation- Porto was essentially a dead rubber, but the performance was so bad it scared people for the next game; and an away draw with Middlesbrough isn’t awful in isolation, but it’s points dropped that can barely be afforded and will be part of a day of results which drops the team into 5th, a point behind Villa and now even on goal differential.

For all the talk of spoiled fans and where were you when we were shit, the fact is that Arsenal have the resources and stature as a club to be better than this. The whole Emirates project and the current prices were put forward explicitly in order to be a club of that stature and to continue to compete at the world-class level. Wenger is right that buying isn’t always an answer, but when there are specific and obvious issues in a given team which cannot be addressed from within and which are causing damage to the team and to the development of other players, buying is the answer. First team players for Arsenal are expected to perform like first team players for Arsenal, in attitude and performance; if some of them can’t, youth isn’t an excuse for long, it’s an open question as to why they were put in that position before their time. If Wenger doesn’t get the kids the help and the veterans the competition they deserve in January, what happened to Eboue is probably only the beginning and while I can’t endorse that, I do understand it. A lot of fans have reached the conclusion that this club could be more, should be more, and what’s standing in the way is pure stubborness; if Arsene stands pat through this transfer window things could get very ugly indeed, on the pitch and off it.

Personally, at this point I’m just sad about the way things are going.

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December 13, 2008 - Posted by | The Arsenal |

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