ALREADY, even before Match of the Day kicked off, I knew.
I successfully avoided the score all day, having missed our FA Cup ‘performance’ due to family walk times with my partner and dog. Honestly I wasn’t too fussed at all, and it turned out I had the better of it.
All the signs were there: the trending of ‘Willian’ on Twitter, the trending of ‘Pepe’ on Twitter, the trending of ‘Arsenal’ on Twitter. Either some serious magical flourishes were going on, or – the more likely – we weren’t shooting, scoring, or doing much of…well, everything.
It’s clear that we have a problem.
When you don’t play young players and struggle, as we have so far this season, it seems bizarre that Arteta even picked a team he must have known lacked bite and energy to cause problems. And not just to any team, but to a competent if somewhat erratic Southampton – in a game which they would be all up for dumping the holders and their table neighbours out of.
I understand the disappointment of the team selection, for all of the above. But it’s clear to me the priority is the league and ‘giving players the chance they deserve in the FA Cup’, to paraphrase the manager, also rests those we need for the crucial league fight.
I’ll admit it, that we can’t depend on experience professionals to even create one chance in a whole half of football is bewildering. Willian (with his two shots on goal this season so far) is bewildering: his performances currently have all the dynamism of a Sunday boules friendly after the break for Derek’s birthday cake.
Quite what Arteta can do to lift Willian and the others who struggle without young pups nipping at heels I’ve not a clue. I suppose we just hope Arteta recognises the importance this season of Saka, ESR, Martinelli and AMN and strategises a way for us to see more of them than not.
I’ll be honest, I’ve not really been following transfer new this January. Frankly, I’ve taken all the topical news my news brain can healthily handle. But my hope would be this:
Better players. With enthusiasm. Even with the enthusiasm of a Sunday boules friendly pre cake for Derek;s birthday, with the looking forward to said cake providing some zip. That would be a step up. The level doesn’t seem to be too high to beat at the moment, so Mikel over to you. You do of course have my sympathy that players who should know and should do better aren’t doing so.
Still, hopefully us being dazedly dumped out of the cup is a wake-up call to some. Or maybe they’ll think they’re still asleep and dreaming when we face Southampton again on Tuesday. Here’s hoping the alarm call is for those who can manage more than two shots on target in a game of football.