Mourinho’s propaganda, Arsenal’s form & a happy week

I usually avoid any kind of football topics that aren’t Arsenal related, but after seeing Jose Mourinho’s less than subtle attempt to have more air time to push through his own personal agenda through the medium of Sky Sports’ Goals on Sunday, I feel compelled to say something through my own soapbox platform, which is this here blog.

I’m presuming of course that the whole world recognised his whole purpose of going on that show was to perpetuate his own lines of malcontent, but the brazen way in which he tried to use Sky whilst also denouncing the treatment of his own team by the media, was rather rich I have to say. For somebody who uses all forms of media to try and carry his own propaganda so vehemently, you’d think he would be a little bit more accepting of how the British media companies work? Actually, scratch that, because he clearly does. After all, that’s why he probably patched a call directly to Sky Sports bigwigs on Saturday evening, to which both parties would have been more than happy. Jose gets to spout his rubbish on a well known show, Sky Sports get the big names on their sofa.

It all feels very dirty. Mourinho is essentially a slightly tanned ‘Arry Redknapp. Only he’s probably the next rung up the ladder because he’s done it abroad and won a few more trophies. He’s got as much class as a fake tanned, Essex based hairdresser with a brilliant white Bentley.

Anyway, I should probably stop there, because not only does that do a disservice to fake tanned, Essex-based hairdressers, but also the fact I’m even talking about the most horrendous football club in the history of the world in Chelski – and yes, I include even the Spuds in that – means that I’m giving up time away from the greatest club in the world.

All-in-all, for what we’re looking at for the remainder of our season, this weekend didn’t really go too badly, did it? We rode our luck but ultimately had the points secured on Saturday, whilst Tiny Totts, Southampton and Man United all dropped points. With Liverpool at home to Man City next weekend, if we can pick up another win against Everton on Sunday at lunchtime, I fancy we’ll be in poll position for third and certainly a heavy favourite for Champions League qualification in one form or another.

We’re hitting form at exactly the right time. People can say that so are Liverpool and Totteringham are too, but with my admittedly completely biased specs on, we’re the better of all of the teams in that Champions League race and I think we’re playing the better football too. Perhaps this last weekend wasn’t a perfect example of us at our sparkling best, but that being the case, we went 89 minutes without being massively troubled against a Crystal Palace side that Alan Pardew had said had played their best football since he arrived. Let’s not forget that Pardew has managed his team against both the Spuds and Liverpool at home.

So we have reasons to be cheerful today. We have a big game against Monaco on Wednesday, followed by big matches against Everton, QPR and Man United in the next two weeks. Four wins out of four and we’ll find ourselves looking up rather than down in all competitions.

I’m liking the form of Özil and Giroud in particular at the moment. It was yet another goal for Ollie on Saturday and as I said in a previous blog last week, I think he can hit 20 goals come the season end, a phenomenal achievement by the end of the season given his broken leg. Has the arrival of Welbeck and Alexis to challenge his role as a central striker worked magic in making him ultra competitive to keep his place? I think undoubtedly that must be the case. He’s a classic confidence player. He’s said so himself in not-so-many words, so it’s natural that when you give him your belief as Arsène has, as well as allow him to do what he does best as a target man, the result is goals. Goals then beget goals and you have yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy, because he’ll have more confidence, score more goals, get more confident, etc, etc. the trick will be for him to keep on playing and playing well.

As for Özil, he’s clearly used his time away from the pitch to great effect. I saw one moment on Saturday in which Mesut was up against a Palace player (Puncheon I think), inside our own box, where he used his strength to shepherd the ball out of play for a goal kick. A year ago he’d have been bundled over by the physicality of the opponent he was up against. Not so in Mesut Özil Arsenal version 2.0. He is stronger and a year wiser to this league. He still has superb vision and is showing signs of the form when he first signed for the club, but he’s also regaining his confidence, a prime example of that being the superb flick over the defenders head and perfectly weighted pass to set Alexis away for what should have been goal number three.

Arsène may still be tinkering and rotating his team to find the best blend at the moment, but he’s got a number of players who are making very public ‘well, you can’t drop me’ statements to him based on performances at the moment. Long may that continue.

It’s a happy Monday for us Gooners. Let’s embrace it.

When a ‘dive’ becomes ‘evasive’, plus the worst possible draw

I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet this morning and no, it isn’t because we’re away to United (although that is severe Sucksville, but more on that in a bit) in the FA Cup, but it’s about media narrative and rhetoric around diving and English players.

In August 2009 a penalty awarded to Arsenal after Eduardo went down inside the box was greeted with a campaign from the media with almost universal disdain. Calls for Eduardo to be banned for going down too easily after anticipated contact were heard and Eduardo was initially banned from European competition. That was until an appeal was successful and the ban lifted because it could not be conclusively proven that Boruc – the Celtic ‘keeper at the time – had not touched him.

The debate raged as to whether ‘anticipating contact’ was part of this elaborate con that Eduardo had embarked upon, with most of what I read falling completely in favour of chastising the Crozillian as a cheat.

Now let’s fast forward to 16th February 2015. Man United play Preston and Wayne Rooney – not for the first time in his life – goes down ‘anticipating contact’ that was not there. Cue the dismay of commentary at the time? Post-match dismay at an English player going down when he was clearly not touched by the German ‘keeper? Heck no. We even had the ‘experts’ trying to justify the decision, calling it ‘evasive action’.

These two examples I’ve given aren’t design to outline that Arsenal get pilloried whilst United (and more notably Liverpool) get heralded, but more to highlight this perpetual myth that never seems to die that English players are honest.

They are not. They are the same as the foreign players. The only difference is the rough ride they seem to avoid from the press. Steven Gerrard has a history of going down easily, yet nobody ever seems to recall it. Paul Scholes would make reckless challenges that sometimes looked like they could do severe damage, yet his actions were dismissed with a chuckle and a ‘oh look, Paul Scholes has scythed down someone again *chortle chortle*’.

It’s farcical and I should probably just forget about it too, because nothing will ever change. Foreigners will always be divers and English players will always take ‘evasive action’.

Anyway, moving on to more pressing Arsenal matters and as expected, we face off away from home against Man United. You knew that was going to happen, right? I mean, this FA Cup has been rigged to give Liverpool the safest possible passage to the cup final, so the media can build ‘Stevie Me’ as this god-like creature that deserves a fitting send off. You know that, right?

We had a 12.5% chance of getting an away tie to Liverpool or United, so of course we were drawn against United away in the sixth round, it was fate. What it means is that if we are to retain our trophy, we’ll need to do it the hard way, the REALLY hard way. Because let’s face it, we haven’t exactly got the most amazing record at Old Trafford, have we? It’s probably one of the worst in the division actually, where you have to go back to a controversial Emmanuel Adebayor handballed goal to see a game in which we vanquished the Red Devils. So if we are going to see Wembley again, we’re going to need to do it by unpicking the form of the last nine years and setting it on fire, with napalm.

It’s not that we’ve got an inferior team that has wound me up with this draw, it’s actually quite the opposite, because we have a better and more balanced squad than United’s. But they have the benefit of no European football, plus some very fortunate results this season, that is leading me to believe that we’re going to get skan-diddly-anked when we go up there. Like, royally. Like, 25 shots for us, two for United and we lose 2-0 through a Phil Jones ball-smashed-in-his-face goal and an Antony Taylor penalty against us when the ball is being stroked around on the centre spot.

It feels like no matter how much better we play, they seem to be able to scab a result.

But that has to change some time, right? RIGHT? RIGHT???

I mean, we have to go up there and win at some stage, so why can’t it be now, why can’t it be in the FA Cup? So what if we’ve lost the last three cup games against them, they’ve had better teams than this in the past and having looked how they’ve struggled all season against teams, surely this is as good a time as any to win up there?

Are you buying this? I’m not sure I am, and I’m the one writing it!

Perhaps I should just stop for the day and leave you all in peace so I can save everyone from my self-imposed morose bubble that I’ve cocooned myself in after the draw. Maybe you could tell me reasons to be cheerful in the comments or on Twitter?

Catch Ya laters.

Spuds: we were the dope on a rope

I don’t really feel like writing today’s blog. I’m almost doing it this Sunday morning, purely out of habit rather than desire, because I feel like just forgetting yesterday’s match even happened.

The second that Harry Kane second goal went in, I got up from the heavily weighted Spud pub that I was in, walked out the door and headed home. We hadn’t played well enough all day to deserve anything from the game and I knew that it would be another defeat against that ‘orrible lot away from home, our recent record against them on their patch continuing to be a poor one.

So I walked home, made a few Tweets, sent a few Whatsapp messages to some Gooner mates, then dropped my phone off next to my bed, with the intention of not looking at my phone for the following 24 hours. Thankfully I have to go up two flights of stairs to get to my phone, so I didn’t have to worry too much about hearing or seeing it flash with new messages.

That’s what defeat in a North London Derby does to us though. It cuts us deep. It cuts deep because let’s face it, when you look at the two sides there’s no way we should have been losing to that lot up the road. Yes they’re in form, yes they have a good home record, but they’ve been scanning themselves late goals and victories against the run of play many times this season, so I genuinely look at their team and think that we should have enough to win or at least draw against them.

But the one thing that I always think about that lot compared to ours – and I have done over the years – is that they always seem to be more up for these games than us. When we win against the Spuds, it’s usually because our clearly better players have just played better, they’ve just played how they should play. The Spuds will have given their all, but they won’t have had sufficient quality to overcome us, so we pick up three points and move on. But I always see that they have put the effort in.

I don’t feel like you get that with The Arsenal team in this kind of game. It feels like we’re the kid on the playground who is clearly the best player in the school (or one of the best), so he doesn’t feel like he needs to try as hard.

The start of the game couldn’t have gone more perfect though. The Spuds pressed, we held them at arms length, Ospina made a good save or two, then we hit them with the old ‘rope-a-dope’ with a fine finish from Özil after a Giroud mishit. Good stuff fellas. Now, hold on to that lead but build on it.

And in the first half we did. In fact, until Kane popped up at the back post to hit home the equaliser (not sure who was marking him to be honest), we looked like we were playing our City tactic of sitting deep and letting the opposition have the ball.

The only problem with that though, was that we were not performing anywhere near the same level as we did against City, as the stats (which I haven’t looked at and probably won’t) will show. We have the ball away too cheaply in midfield and there were countless times where at City, we used the counter to relieve our defence but yesterday, we just allowed them to come back at us time and time again.

So perhaps it was inevitable that Spurs would score in the last five minutes. It was certainly preventable. Bellerin giving Rose all the time in the world to cross, Kane to jump and beat both centre halves, it was a catalogue of poor defending at the end of a game of very poor performances.

If players weren’t poor, they were anonymous, so Santi showed. Özil got a fine goal but then disappeared. Welbeck contributed to the first goal with a great run, but then spent most of the game giving the ball away. Coquelin was also quiet too I felt. Over the last half a dozen games you know he’s out there, because he’s winning tackles and distributing, but I didn’t hear him very often yesterday. Ramsey too, had a poor game, but not as poor as some of the others in the team I felt, despite what many on Twitter seem to think.

The only players who seem to have come out of yesterday with any credit were Monreal and Ospina. That says a lot about the performance.

Perhaps we scored too early? We certainly tried to replicate the ‘score first and hold what we have’ mentality. But you have to have players step up. You have to have players with enough desire to win the game and yesterday it just didn’t feel like it was there.

Now, here’s the good news, because nobody wants me to piss them off even more on a Sunday: we have an opportunity for an instant repostè. On Tuesday we play Leicester at home and the Spuds play Liverpool away. If Liverpool win, or even draw, then we need to win to recapture the points difference we’ve had over them lot. Also, as the BT Sport morons pointed out in commentary, nine of the remaining teams that we play for the rest of the season are in the bottom half of the table. The Spuds have to play Southampton and United away, City at home, Everton away. We have Chelski and Liverpool at home and United away and crucially, have played two home games less than them. We have any opportunity to instantly recapture our form by winning against Leicester, Middlesborough in the cup, Monaco at home and Crystal Palace away. If we pick up maximum points, then we’ll be back on track. But we need to not let yesterday’s game get to the team.

Forget about it boys and girls, and let’s hope the players do too.

Traditions? Not where TV is concerned

Isn’t it sad that the FA Cup fixture scheduling brings more of a sigh of relief when it’s actually a weekend game, as opposed to a ridiculous midweek game like Everton and West Ham had to go through on Tuesday evening?

I really hate those types of games. So when we were announced to be one of the television companies’ choice for live football, my first reaction was to roll my eyes at the thought of having to wait until 12am on a Wednesday night so that the TV companies get as bigger global audience, then when I’d stepped down off my hyperbole horse and found out that it’s a Sunday 4pm kick off for our lads away to Brighton.

Of course, there’s still the mind-numbingly dull Michael Owen and the tiresome Ray Stubbs to deal with (I think he still presents?), but at least it’s at a weekend. Isn’t it funny – because the Sunday 4pm kick offs have been a mainstay of Premier League life since the leagues inception in 1992, it’s almost become as acceptable in my eyes as the Saturday 3pm kick off? We humans are creatures of habit and, with repetition of those Sunday kick offs I don’t feel as aggrieved that the FA Cup is being played on a Sunday.

It could be worse. Remember last year when we played Coventry on a Friday? Sure, it was great to end the working week with The Arsenal, but it made for an incredibly long weekend without the weekend journey/experience of going to the game that particular weekend. That’s probably why I haven’t taken to Monday night football as much as you’d think I would have. After all, Monday night football was standard fare for the early days of the Premier League and despite a brief hiatus until relatively recently, it has by-and-large been a common sight for Premier League football fans.

But it’s not been a comfortable one for me, mainly because it takes away my football watching during the weekend, forcing me to do other things, because the last thing I want to see is all of our ‘rivals’ picking up points without the possibility of us responding. Plus, I always end up having to do both household chores AND shopping expeditions to places that I would never usually choose to frequent.

TV scheduling eh? Ruining the average Joe’s weekend since….I can’t even remember any more. I want to say since BT Sport stepped on the scene, but we had ESPN and Setanta before that, so it’s hardly a new thing to find out that your away trip to Manchester or Newcastle has been changed to 12pm on a Sunday afternoon; “Enjoy the journey up there people, you’ll get nee compensation for your train fare from us footballing authorities”.

I guess you could argue that it’s the price you pay for ‘progress’, by which I mean a better ‘product’, watched by billions globally, served up by the best footballers in the game. I love my football club and of course I want to see us with the best players that can entertain us as regularly as possible, but there has to be a balance, right? Are we to see the gradual diminishing of standard Saturday football games in favour of seven days a week Premier League action that sees us play any potential day of the week?

I saw a discussion on my Twitter timeline from Block 5 Gooner, Tim Stillman and one other (sorry, I forget who) where Michael (B5G) talked about the fact that the reason 3pm games weren’t allowed to be shown – the reason that originally came into effect that is – was because the football authorities wanted to protected attendances at grounds to make sure the atmosphere remains in the grounds. Surely that is no longer a relevant argument, is it? After all, attendances have remained for most other games and I am pretty sure that if 3pm games were shown on the telly, The Emirates would still be packed to capacity, no? After all, on Sunday for the Stoke game (which is at 1.30pm) we’ll most likely see a nearly full stadium of 60,000 people. Yet it’s televised live on TV and it’s an annoying time. So the whole argument of 3pm kick offs is negated and I think that pretty soon we’ll see the gradual death of them.

I do find a slightly humourus (not really) irony about the fact that the powers that be talk about keeping the essence of the game and the traditions of the game, yet when it comes to impacting revenue through televised coverage, the traditions are thrown out like a slightly green piece of wholemeal Hovis.

But then again I am as guilty for perpetuating this situation, as are all of us who regular watch (and demand to watch) football on the telly with our bloodthirsty need to be entertained. I pay my subscription fees and so am part of the problem and not the solution.

But what can I do? I am just a simple person who loves his football, but loves his Arsenal more and would do anything (legal) to watch them.

Answers on a postcard on how to solve this people.

Ta

C

Heartless display that the manager must take responsibility for

Where do you even start with a performance like yesterday? How do you dissect something that was so turgid, it doesn’t matter which way you look at it, you’re not going to like what you see?

What I saw yesterday, the first day of 2015, was an old familiar sight that I’d hoped could be banished with the heralding of the new year. In my pre-match thoughts before the game is spoken about how good 2013 was from a league perspective, but how horrible it 2014 was in consequence. I had hoped that we’d start 2015 as we mean to go on by beating a Southampton team that haven’t yet tasted defeat to us at St Mary’s.

Blimey, got that one wrong, didn’t I?

I got it very wrong indeed, because what we were subjected to yesterday was one of the most gutless performances of the season, and I’m not just basing this on the result I hasten to add. It was gutless because the whole game was played at a walking pace and we showed absolutely no conviction to try and outdo a pretty average Southampton side. From the first few minutes we had a warning as Pelle headed just wide, but we never really looked like that bothered us. Far be it for us to take heed to warning signals, because teams never ever punish us when we give them even the slightest sniff of a chance, do they?

But we’re Arsenal, so we can’t be content to let teams think they have a chance, oh no, we have to wrap it up, tie a bow on it and wait patiently for them to open their presents, don’t we?

Step forward Wojciech Szczesny, who decided that he would be in a generous mood by having a hand in both Southampton goals. The first was a standard crazy venture to the edge of his box on the left, whilst the second was a bit of hesitation and misunderstanding and a beauty that Tadic probably couldn’t believe had fallen at his feet. We make dreams come true at Arsenal. For opponents.

There was still half an hour to mount a comeback though, even after two atrocious bits of defending, but do you think we could muster any kind of spirited resolve? Could we heck. Lots of possession, very little penetration, a team that looked like it couldn’t really be arsed. Maybe they all had late nights. I know I did. I played ‘Million Pound Drop: The Board game’ until 4am. But then again, I didn’t have to work the next day and my work certainly don’t pay me the types of cash that these players get paid.

I can handle a bad day at the office you see. It happens. I can understand if things don’t click and we lose. I’ve seen it plenty of times. But what I can’t stomach, what really yanks my chain, is when I see some players not really looking like they are trying. Because I felt like I saw plenty of that yesterday. Players just not wanting to win the ball as much as Southampton players. Players bottling challenges, or not chasing back misplaced passes. That has nothing to do with technical ability, but everything to do with effort and application.

And I’m afraid, that is where all attention needs to be pointed towards Arsène Wenger, because he is the man charged with ensuring his players are up for a fight. Yesterday it didn’t look like it. In the good old days of Wenger’s reign, even after the first couple of years of trophies drying up, Arsène’s teams would come out fighting in the second half if we were behind. We were behind and terrible in the first half, so the last thing you’d expect to see is a mirror image in the second half yesterday. Yet that is exactly what we got.

We are unfortunate with injuries, we all know that, to which you cannot really blame the manager with at the moment, certainly not some of them. But when the team is not mentally prepared, or doesn’t look like it really wants to fight for the points, you have to look at the manager and question his ability to motivate the team. Yes, you can look at fatigue as an excuse if you want, but every team is fatigued at this point in the year. You can also look at the fact that Koscienly and Debuchy have not played that much football recently, nor Coquelin, so that argument is negated for those players. Players with a legitimate excuse to be tired, like Alexis, are still running their guts out. So what’s the excuse for the rest of the team?

I don’t know. I do know that it feels like we are the very definition of the phrase “two steps forward, one step back” and it feels like we’re as likely to string three league wins together as I am of starring in a Broadway Musical right now.

I spoke to my brother yesterday about top four chances. He’s a West Ham fan and doesn’t think they are anywhere near, but did agree with me that the only way we are getting into those hallowed positions that Wenger loves, is by having other teams around us implode. Notice how I use the term ‘Wenger loves’, because do you and I really care about it much any more? Aside from the fact that not being in the Champions League will potentially harm our chances of attracting big players (ha!), I find an increasing amount of apathy when it comes to playing out this particular dance. It’s the same song and the same moves, so what difference would sitting one out be? I don’t know.

What a cheery way to start the year, eh?

‘Pariah-of-the-moment’ gets a savaging

With Christmas now practically on my doorstep and my final day at work this year now upon me, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’d be an overly happy chappy on this Tuesday morning, but alas Arsenal have somewhat scuppered my ability to be too ‘giddy aunt’ in the run up to this Christmas Day.

That last minute Liverpool goal is still giving me nightmares, particularly given how tantalisingly close we were to some precious away points that would have set us up nicely for the festive period, so to have it snatched away was all the more galling. I know it’s what we deserved given our performance, but when has that ever stopped other teams smashing and grabbing points against us, hey?

I have my West Ham supporting brother and father heading over tomorrow for the Christmas period too. Oh how I am not looking forward to the inevitable crowing. The worst thing is, they’ll probably fancy their chances against us on the 28th, and who can blame them?

Anyway, there’s more football to be played before then and specifically, a home game against QPR on Boxing Day. I’m not even going to utter sentences that have ‘on paper’ included within them. Not with this team. Not with our defensive fragilities. I simply couldn’t watch Stoke versus Chelski yesterday, but apparently the savaging Neville gave Arsenal and particularly Flamini by the sounds of it, were a bit of a bloodbath. I don’t really want to repeat some of my scathing words for the Frenchman that I said yesterday, but suffice to say that when I read on the official site yesterday that Flamini had explained “we’ll get better” my immediate retort was to say to myself “yeah, when injured players come back and take you out of the first team”.

He’s the pariah-of-the-moment I know, but it does feel as though the wool has been lifted over a number of Arsenal fans’ eyes, because there seems to be a general consensus that he simply isn’t good enough for what we want to achieve. I had a discussion with a Spud yesterday (well, I had to interpret his grunts first) who disagreed that it is easy to play a deeper lying ball-winning midfield position, talking about the speed of movement in the Premier League and the way teams can easily pull players across the pitch. To an extent I can see his point and perhaps that’s something I need to reconsider along with many Arsenal fans. Because let’s face it, Flamini should have all the attributes needed to be a good defensive midfielder, if all you need to do is cover ground, win tackles and release the ball. In a sense, that’s pretty much what Lee Cattermole does at Sunderland and the only reason he’s seen as a good player for the Black Cats, is because he’s in a poorer team.

So do we need a more intelligent defensive midfielder? I think the answer is unequivocally ‘yes’. We need somebody who can play as a more forward lying central defender. One thing you need to have as a central defender is a good sense of positioning. It’s kind of drilled into you from an early age. So what is the answer? Schneiderlin? Possibly. He is a deeper lying midfielder and I’m sure I’ve seen him operate at centre half too. Or perhaps we give Chambers a crack at it? That could work in the short term and would certainly not leave our young defender exposed like he has been of late.

But the only problem with that is that because of Arsène’s own inactivity, we find ourselves unable to tinker due to sheer lack of bodies. So, barring any additional injuries that have been picked up, we will see the same team take to the field on Boxing Day and probably two days later as well.

I just hope Arsène has some good news on returning midfielders when he delivers his “who’s fit?” Address to the official site. If anybody has seen Koscienly, could they just direct him towards either London Colney or The Emirates, because he seems to have disappeared off the radar. Maybe he’s broken up from work already too. Actually, I probably shouldn’t even use the word ‘broken’ when referring to any Arsenal player, because the mere mention of it would probably twang a hammy somewhere in North London.

Hey, shall I offer a day of hope? Three wins out of three over this Christmas period would see us in fourth and chasing down the coat-tails of the worst Man United team of the Premier League era. How about that for positivity?

Anyway, I should probably go before I do any more damage to your day, so have a good one and I’ll see thee tomorrow.

Belief lacking, game plan found wanting

Well we didn’t get spanked like last year, did we? So that’s a plus point. Am I right?

That’s all I’ve got today, because yesterday you like I, will have sat through a performance that was both ‘un-Arsenal’ like and ‘very Arsenal’ like. In the way that we contented ourselves to have the least amount of possession and passing stats it was not like The Arsenal that we’re used to seeing. But the way in which we capitulated at the end of the match with a man advantage was so like modern day Arsenal it’s crippling beyond belief.

Heh, ‘belief’, feels wrong even saying that word today because, let’s face it, this team doesn’t look like it believes in itself. Yesterday was a classic case of a superior Arsenal team on paper, being outplayed by one of the most beatable Liverpool teams in a generation. Heck, we scored two goals with our first two chances on target, but that was more to do with a shocking Liverpool defence than anything else.

In November we ripped apart a United team and lost. Yesterday Liverpool ripped us apart yet, for all of Wenger’s assertions on the belief of this squad and their mental strength, we have once again showed that we are incapable of seeing out a game. Let’s also not forget that this was a Liverpool team so profligate up top that they missed guilt edge chance after guilt edge chance yesterday. They were playing with Sterling up top and until he was moved out wide later in the game, it looked like the same as when we were forced to play Arshavin up top because there was nobody else available. Yet we still managed to gift Liverpool two goals.

The first was a neat finish from Coutinho, but the fact it game because Giroud was trying to be too clever with a first touch in our half is hardly surprising. We all know the pro-Liverpool commentary in this country seem to get mesmerised by the ‘history’ of that club, but when Martin Tyler said they deserved their goal, I doubt there was a Gooner alive that couldn’t disagree.

Thankfully our response was swift and, for as shocking a game Flamini had (I’ll come to that in a second), it was a good leap and head back into a dangerous position for Debuchy to equalise on the stroke of half time.

So, to Flamini, who has deteriorated quicker than I’d ever thought possible. We’ve always known his limitations, but the guy looks like the epitome of a headless chicken in football terms. Gary Neville had called it in commentary, but the amount of times he was out of position and leaving an acre of space in front of our back four, that was really criminal. He’s supposed to be our man protecting our back four, yet he looks increasingly like a player who has no idea what his primary role is in the team. Yesterday I tweeted that I thought defensive midfielder was one of the easiest roles to perform if you have a few basic ingredients. 1) Be able to win a tackle, 2) be disciplined in your positioning, and 3) be ready to distribute the ball instantly to a nearby teammate. It really isn’t rocket science. Yet Flamini seems to be struggling. I have no idea why. Is he operating differently because of instructions from the bench? Which leads me to my next gripe I’m afraid…

Arsène Wenger. I am finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile his actions with any kind of logic I’m afraid. He is a great man. He has given us great highs. He should be respected and appreciated. But what we have seen this season has the hallmarks of a star whose brightness is fading. Yesterday morning I wrote about how Liverpool will look to exploit us by getting players like Sterling and Coutinho on the ball and feed in to Lambert up top. I got the personnel wrong, but the game plan was not and we saw time and time again, Coutinho and Markovic pick the ball up deep and run at our defence. I have never managed a game in my life, I am nowhere near as qualified as Arsène to lead a football team, but if I can see what Liverpool are going to do, why can’t he?

Because he is incapable? I don’t know, but what I do know is we saw a team that were outplayed, out thought and out fought. And it was painful at times. I don’t know if The Ox was too injured to play, but he was terrible, given the ball away, travelling with it too long without passing it (I call it ‘non-injured Diaby syndrome’) before losing it and generally looking out of sorts. Santi faired slightly better, but he was too quiet to be really affective for any length of time. I’ve mentioned Flamini, so all in all that makes a three man midfield that at times, might as well not have been there.

Why do we have these problems in midfield? Is it the managers fault that we have so many injuries? Of course not, but he is the one that should be setting those up who are available, in a way that negates the opposition and plays to our strengths. Did any of us see that yesterday? I certainly didn’t. For that, you have to look at the manager and I’m afraid not for the first time this season, he was found wanting.

Defensively too, we were terrible, with poor old Calum Chambers looking like he was running through treacle at times. He had a torrid afternoon at right back and, whilst I can see Arsène’s logic playing the quicker Debuchy at centre half with Sterling up top, it meant Chambers suffered in a position that looks like it is increasingly more difficult for him to be a success at. Let’s not forget we’ve got Carl Jenkinson out on loan to fourth placed West Ham right now. Hopefully that decision to play Debuchy as a centre half and Chambers on the right is a short term issue and we’ll see the two swap for QPR at home on Boxing Day. But again, we go back to the fact that a lack of depth in the squad – bought on by the managers own inaction in the summer – is forcing square pegs into round holes and we look like we are suffering as a result.

I can’t believe we’re not actually beyond sight of the top four spots. For that we can at least be grateful and look, if we win all of our games over the Christmas and New Year period, we’ll be sat in a good position coming in to 2015. But despite this, does anybody really feel confident we can go into games – especially away games – and get a result? Yesterday I used the word ‘cowards’ to describe the Arsenal players. It’s an extreme word and I did think to myself whether I would regret using it come the next morning. I am a passionate fan and prone to ‘heat of the moment’ style outbursts like we all are, but I’d like to think that my friends recognise I’m not a person who can’t consider any football situation with a bit of reflective logic. So do I still think my phrase ‘cowards’ is relevant? Yes. I saw a group of players yesterday who ‘wanted it’ more and they played in red. That annoys me. It annoys me because it seems to happen too much with Arsenal. Too often we are the technically gifted side who feel we need to turn up to win games, too often we come out of these games with egg on our faces, yesterday was no exception.

I haven’t even mentioned our front three. Probably that’s because we saw little of any of them all afternoon, although I must acknowledge a fine goal from Giroud which should have seen us pick up all of the points. It’s because of that though, and the manner of the last minute goal, that this feels like a defeat and not a draw. Had it been the reverse, that we’d have scored in injury time, I certainly would have more relief this morning, but I would not be able to take any comfort in the performance.

What also really cheeses me off too, is that yesterday we could have gone some way to remove this weight around our necks of not being able to win ‘big’ games away from home. Not only are we failing to do that, again, but we haven’t even been winning at home this season.

Oh, let’s also through some petrol on this sh*t bonfire by finding out The Ox will be out until the New Year too, shouldn’t we?

What a way to start a week of Christmas over indulgence. Still, at least I’ve got enough booze to drown my sorrows over the next few days, I recommend drinking to forget. Then we can pretend we’re not in dire straights right now.