Fan or fanatic? – There’s more to football than the attitudes of players.

What follows is a long, but personally important post:

Yesterday football returned to the Premier League. And, as with every season, a sort of renewal took place: New supporters, some in new seats, supporting new players in new kits as part of new lineups. New managers on the sidelines supported by new backroom staff, and new club employees doing their jobs at new places of work. New match officials. New programme sellers…All of this for a sport many love.

In some ways, new seasons are refreshing. I attended the Emirates yesterday with two good gooner mates, and en route were joined by a true newcomer. A very amiable American gent, and huge Arsenal fan, in the country just six days and up at 4AM Nebraska time just to by a ticket. He introduced himself at King’s Cross, joined us for our pre-game drinks, bought a shirt, enjoyed his first experience of the Emirates and rejoined us for our after game dissection.

Now, lots has been made, post Olympic wonderment – and hopefully more to come – of the state of the game we love. Gary Neville has today written a fine piece on that particular topic, although reading it does mean visiting the Daily Mail. In it he writes:

I’m delighted that the Olympics were so successful and proud of the sportsmen and women who worked so hard to achieve their goals to win medals for Team GB. But it’s just lazy to use their success as a stick to beat football.

He does well to consider things; looking at the effect on players of media coverage, agents and hangers-on, but it’s not just football or footballers’ attitudes that should be questioned. There’s something a lot of people are missing here, and that’s the attitudes of the fans themselves.

After finishing our pints outside the ground, our posse of four made for London Bridge to watch the remainder of the Newcastle vs Spurs match. There’s a Belushi’s on Borough High St and – with a taste for good burgers and a screen-laden venue in mind – we headed there for the second half.

Upon entering it was obvious there were Spurs fans eager for their team to do well. Only me and our new American friend were in Arsenal shirts, but we got a few looks, and a bit of friendly, tongue-in-cheek chat from one guy standing at the bar. He was obviously out to enjoy the day, drinking but level-headed.

He offered his hand in respect and was nothing but playful in manner.

We ordered our food, got some drinks and sat in the corner. By the bar was a young Liverpool supporter, probably all of 17 and absolutely crestfallen at the 3-0 loss to WBA. Across from us were a couple in their 60s and either their son or daughter with boy or girlfriend.

We watched for a while and then Newcastle scored.

Three of us four, including myself and the American (in Arsenal shirts), gave no reaction except to compliment Ba on a fantastic goal. One of us cheered. Not at anyone, not even provocatively, but cheered. I don’t know exactly why. It was a great goal and goal against against Spurs is never bad – it was in the jokey manner the chap at the bar had welcomed us in.

The middle-aged couple looked over.

Our food arrived.

Spurs fans, of whom their were probably twelve in Belushi’s were urging their team on. We sat quietly, talking about football while taking in the game. Jermaine Defoe equalised and the sequence of events that followed are blurred somewhat both by yesterday’s heat (and possibly alcohol), but also by the intensity.

The bar celebrated, but the gent in his 60s, who up until this point seemed rather respectable, stood up and (aimed directly at the four of us) raised his arms, making offensive gestures and shouting something to the effect of:

Guy: YES! GET IN THERE! HAVE THAT YOU GODDAM F*CKING GOONER C*NTS!

Well over the top and aggressively meant. I was stunned to silence (plus my burger was pretty good). So, obviously, was the American and one of my friends. But the other wasn’t and retorted in a considerably lower volume:

F*ck off mate, what was that for?

No answer came and the situation stalled for a while. We chomped more food and looked at each other disbelieving. Newcastle were in the ascendancy, and I had a thought:

Guys, if Newcastle score again I’m not even going to react. I think we should all just do nothing.

Why did I say that? Partly because I’m not one for confrontations and provokingly stoking a fire, but also because I didn’t want the guy to think his ridiculous display worth reacting to. If Newcastle scored again the goal alone would be a blow enough for him.

To be a frank his was a small-minded reaction to my mate’s cheering of a Newcastle goal. But my mate wasn’t being offensive or over the top, and he wasn’t even wearing an Arsenal shirt.

Regardless, I think the football gods must have been looking down on us at that point, and so spurred Hatem Ben Arfa between the flailing feet of Aaron Lennon and Rafael Van der Vaart for a sure fire penalty. We couldn’t help but smile at the guy’s reaction to a rather obvious penalty. We stopped eating and watched the screen.

A great pen, coolly taken, but then:

Guy: YOU F*CKING CHEATING DIVING C*NT!

Shouted the shouter, and it was too much for my mate who’d earlier retorted. He collapsed laughing at the guy and we couldn’t help but laugh at our mate. Not at the guy but at our mate’s reaction. The shouter said something about “f*cking gooner c*nts” and his (I guess) wife – quite rightfully upset by her man’s self-combustion into an expletive mess – stormed over.

What are you doing in here?! You come in here wearing your Arsenal shirts just to make trouble and stir it up!

Stir what up? Jeez. We drew to Sunderland, this is the first game of the season, we’ve come from the game and we’re watching football (because we like to) with a guy just into the country. And we wanted good burgers! This wasn’t a Spurs pub, but a chain restaurant with helpful staff and a jokey Spurs fan at the bar.

My eyes meet those of the daughter (or son’s girlfriend) and I shake my head and shrug shoulders in disbelief. None of us ‘reacted’.

What are you even doing cheering Newcastle goals?!

She demanded. I replied.

Err *pointing to our dumbstruck American friend* me and him are only two in Arsenal shirts and we’ve not cheered anything.

Lady: *Pointing to Mate A* No, but he has!

Mate A: Yes, I cheered a great goal and I’ll cheer any goal I want. I could be a Newcastle fan – how on earth do you know?

At this point the guy comes over to pull his wife away, and hopefully appreciate the embarrassment he’s more than helped cause. The four leave and me and my two mates are bemused by what’s happened as we attempt to assure our new pal that in our experience this is a very rare occurrence. It wasn’t as if we’d walked in a pub at Seven Sisters and started mouthing off. We were in Southwark, being quiet and appreciating a game.

We weren’t looking for trouble, just food, drink and to watch some football. One irate and incomprehensibly wound-up Spurs ‘fan’ made a mockery of all of that.

And I don’t dislike spurs fans. I don’t really dislike any fans. I don’t generalise my dislikes, nor do I  do anything other than, occasionally, play up to chat about rivalries and such. What Spurs, or any other club do or do not do is of no consequence to me apart from when it affects either the club I support or the game I enjoy.

And yet here was a gent who was sure we were intent on causing trouble and, probably because he thinks it’s how he should act,  was highly offensive to passive supporters of his clubs local rivals. We didn’t really react (“we’re not those kinds of people”), but can you imagine if we did.

So people can say that in the shadow of  the Olympics footballers and football needs to cast relative gazes mirror-bound. But I think it’s safe to say some fans do as well.

Because at the start of a new season, a fresh beginning, one thing we shouldn’t renew is the ugly side of support, and any accompanying belief that blanket dislike of other teams’ supporters is anything but damaging to our game.

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Na na na na – Giroud!

The season is almost upon us. A tour of Asia, has come and gone. Transfer sagas have, like a lingering parp, failed to dissipate quickly, and the worriers are readying their woe.

But while there’s been some bad news in regards to Jack Wilshere, and some trepidation in regards to the return of Abou Diaby (he’s 26…wow), let us not forget we’ve signed two very capable players.

And you know, every good player deserves a good chant or song. So while I ruminate on a Podolski-based version of Agadoo, there’s been some tuneful suggestions doing the rounds on twitter with regards to Olivier Giroud.

So I thought I’d share a Frankenstein’s monster of a version of that ditty with you. After all, what better way to carry on into the new season than with a spring in our collective Gooner steps and a song in our hearts?

Ladies and gentlemen then, here are two verses and the chorus of a much-improved* McCartney classic (also serving to soothe the pain of never being able to give life to my Wings-inspired JET chant).

Kudos to Briggsy (@AFCHymnSheet) for the first verse, and @KeithTheGooner for constant tweet-based renditions. Let’s hear it! Sing, tweet and RT. You know you like it.

Giroud, don’t be afraid. We take a good player and make ’em better. Remember to let uns into your heart, and then we can start to get better!

Na, na na nana na na. Na na na na Giroud!
Na, na na nana na na. Na na na na Giroud!

Giroud, don’t pass the ball. Have a shot and score a cracker. Remember, if you get into the box, you can outfox, ’cause you’re an attacker.

tacker, tacker, tacker, tacker…

Na, na na nana na na. Na na na na Giroud!

Na, na na nana na na. Na na na na Giroud!

COYG!

P.S: For those you of you following me on @alltheskill, thank you. This account will be made defunct in the new season though, and this the last post to tweeted there. To keep following me, you’ll need to head over to @KevinPocock

(*Arsenalising things makes them better).

The Benefit Of Older Heads

The glorious thing about last night’s 2-1 win over Villa is that Benayoun proved what some of us have thought for some time. Experience can deliver. After the Man City game, Yossi tweeted:

Very disappointing result today and also not to play at all but I’m sure better days will come soon..have a nice evening everyone

Now the thing about Yossi, the thing I’ve always admired about him (even in the Chelsea kit), and the thing I looked forward to when he joined us is his genuine desire to play well and help his team. He’s one of the most experienced players in this Arsenal squad, he’s a national captain, and he’s a bit of a player.

But he genuinely works, and keeps on working. He replaced a disappointing Aaron Ramsey, scored to grab the three points, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be giving Wenger something to think about in terms of team selection. “Should Benayoun start?” was the question on the lips of a few. Perhaps, Ramsey’s off days have been rare considering the amount of games he’s played this season, and after all he is still 21. He won’t play a blinder every game, his consistency is improving, and he’d surely be the first to admit his game last night was below par. But there might be a case.

Frimpong too played indifferently. As much as I love the young Ghanaian, he looked slow on the ball an somewhat indecisive. But again he’s 19. We shouldn’t expect too much of him, and while some people might think that the quality of Jack Wilshere at such a young age is something we should be getting used to from Arsenal’s youngsters, they’d be very wrong. Wilshere’s a standout talent – we’re talking “top, top quality” at a young age. Not quite world class just yet, but if he stays on course then he might just be.

Frimpong was replaced by Tomas Rosicky, who had an immediate impact in playing direct passes forward and between Villa players. The Czech captain looked alert and full of energy, at one point losing the ball and then sprinting back after his man and performing a quality sliding tackle to regain possession.

It had me thinking that it’s players like this we need to bring off the bench, but usually it would be the young upstarts replacing the experience, and eager to impress. Perhaps we’ve got it a bit back to front at Arsenal, but if that’s the case last night should have Arsene wondering if he needs to reverse the trend.

Of course if everyone is fit and firing it’s a tough question of who starts. Song would have played against Villa were it not for suspension, and we can think on  Wilshere challenging Ramsey, Rosicky and Benayoun in the near future, but at the moment Jack’s not available and the question of either Rosicky or Benayoun getting a run over the Welshman is something I think needs consideration.

Rather haphazardly, this talk of experience brings me to AA23, Shava, Sharky, Mr Arshavin. A player I rate very highly but a player who doesn’t look the £15m Russian dynamo it seemed we’d acquired. He actually won the corner from which Benayoun scored the winner, but he wasn’t brought to Arsenal to win corners. Although if he only did that and we always scored from them then I’d crown him a football wizard and have nothing to say.

Alas, I do. Perhaps it’s unfair of us to expect Arshavin to track back 40 yards and to win tackles, but he’s surely in the squad to provide drive and guile going forward. Composure on the ball, a bit of creativity, some assured play (he is, after all, another national captain). But he’s doing very little of that currently.

I’m right behind him like I am with any Arsenal player every time he takes to the field, but when his first touch is a mis-control and he then plays a blind pass straight to an opposition player it’s hard to be encouraged. When he does that regularly, even more so.

There’s talk that he might be off in January, but I can’t see it. What I can see is that he needs some of whatever is in Benayoun and Rosicky’s pre-game meals, and perhaps a little bit of support and encouragement from thefans as much as his teammates. I can also see that we’ve a decent amount of competition in midfield. Last night proved that, and Arshavin should be a bigger part of it. Well, hopefully Rosicky and – perhaps, particularly – Benayoun should inspire him to be just that.

We Need To Talk About Chamakh

Hands up if you’ve ever been involved in a football club where you know you’re good enough to help the team, but can’t really get a look in? Keep them up if you’ve played second fiddle to a world class player and you really understood why you were playing second fiddle to them? And leave them air-borne still if your playing stats suggest you can score one in every four games…at professional and international level?

I think I might have lost one or two of you, so this is my point and I’m saying it loud and clear:

Marouane Chamakh’s getting a rough deal.

Certainly not from the club; because when he signed almost 18 months ago and got a good run in the absence of an injured RVP, he knew he was fortunate. No, it’s the fans who are growing irritable. It’s obvious on Twitter during games when people suggest he should go in January. It’s obvious from the buffoon who sat behind me during the City Carling Cup tie and yelled “you Morroccan c**t!” (no fan is he, to me), and it’s obvious from the fact that he puts the work in even when things aren’t going for him. But many seemingly forget it all when he makes a mistake, mis-controls, makes an incomplete pass or goes an appearance without scoring.

Yes he makes mistakes – his confidence might be low – and he doesn’t score as frequently as we might like. But each time he pulls on the red and white he sticks to his game: he works his engine,  makes himself available, and still closes defenders down, regardless of the fact that he might struggle to find the net.

"A Thunderous Header!"

But it’s not as if he can’t do that too. Remember the goal against Blackburn earlier in the season? A “thunderous header” that clawed us back  to 4 – 3, and we hoped might help us push for a fourth? A header won in the middle of two Blackburn defenders, from an RVP cross. Name me another forward in the Arsenal squad who might be able to do that.

“But he  doesn’t score regularly…” you might say. Err, well:

  • 17 goals in 59 appearance for Morocco (a goal every 3.47 games)
  • 76 goals in 301 appearances for Bordeaux (a goal every 3.96 games)
  • 11 goals in 44 appearances for Arsenal in 2010/2011(a goal every 4 games)

Okay he’s not a 20 goal a season striker, but he’s a very effective forward and the distinction between the two roles needs to be clear.

So far this season he’s made six appearances and scored just once, but when he’s essentially Arsenal’s attacking Plan B (through injury or scoreline) is it any wonder that when our Plan A is working fine, he finds it hard not only to make appearances, but even then to score goals? I mean, I know I’ve quoted the statistics, but they don’t magic themselves up. Chamakh just being on the pitch doesn’t mean he’ll find a goal every four games.

After all for most forwards to score regularly, it stands to reason that they need to benefit from a regular service that will tend to play to their own advantages. We do that for Van Persie fairly naturally for sure, but if Chamakh replaces him in a game you really don’t need me to tell you that’s not a like for like substitution.

Here’s another interesting point: When a team is being – in the main – successful in executing its Van Persie-based Plan A, how easy is it really to switch when Plan B is a necessity? And how easy is it to effectively play both simultaneously when (like against Fulham) your Plan A and Plan B figureheads are both on the pitch…being that your forward line should directly influence your style of play towards them?

Perhaps how effective the Arsenal squad is at switching style is a whole other post. But what I’m really saying is, you can put Chamakh on the park but unless he’s getting the kind of service that plays to his strengths, then he’s not going to score regularly – and probably not at all. And if a forward isn’t scoring, it normally seems he’s not performing regardless of the fact he’s running himself silly.

Finally, in an acutely odd twist of logic, do you know who provided the cross for Chamakh’s only goal this season? Our Captain Vantastic – the very player he’s playing second fiddle to. Chamakh himself might see some unfortunate cruelty in that, because what chance has he to score when the man keeping him out is the only one to effectively assist him so far this season? But probably not. Because as he recently told Arsenal Player, he understands he needs to wait, and his focus looking forward is:

To play more, to score more goals, and to help Arsenal win something.

So, you know what, I’m going to keep on supporting him in all of that. Because even if he’s doing only two of the three, and he’s putting a shift in, then he’s alright by me.

The New Reality

First, a quick apology for my absence of late. Work, sleep and illness have all conspired against me. But I’m back, and I’m…<smart comment here>. Anyway to business, and it really does feel business-like such is the enormity of the matters in hand for a follower of The Arsenal these days.

You see during the mauling at Old Trafford (apologies for the memory), a good gooner mate said, although I thought it a little reactionary after, that “this is the new reality”. Having just witnessed and taken scant pleasure from a dominant City team beating Spurs, we ourselves got one hell of a shoeing. The sentiment was easily agreeable at the time. We’d be fighting for the top four if we were lucky, and we had an interlull and, hopefully, new players to come.

After that period we sort of regrouped, sort of got some results and a little bit of Russian luck, and were then unceremoniously body-slammed by a combination of poor refereeing, a lack of belief, and…well, Blackburn. Three wins on the spin were a welcome change, and then there was Spurs. I’ve not posted since the Spurs game for no other reason than I almost resorted to A Clockwork Orange-style eye tactics to actually watch the game. And because the week previously I was barely with it enough to feed myself (exaggerated for sympathy), the work I had to do after the result left me little time to post.

Still, now I am. And now I can say that it wasn’t very good. I suppose we knew that, but I can’t state otherwise. It’s a bit late for a full dissection of a disappointing result (although it’s arguably no worse a result than last season’s home fixture), but when you’re 2-1 down with 20 minutes left you expect far more than we saw. Mertesacker goes up top, and no balls are lofted to him, while a more experienced player going forward in Song, who let’s not forget set up the goal, sits back. It doesn’t make much sense. Injuries and all don’t help in such situations, and neither do decisions that go against you, but at WHL the players’ decisions seem wrong, the spirit seems lacking, the concentration looks absent and fight had gone AWOL. In short, it’s hard to argue we deserved the win.

But it’s bad isn’t it? It’s actually at the point where I look at our next three home games, in cup an league, around an away trip to Marseille and wonder whether we can win them all. Can we even get six points from Sunderland and Stoke? And if not from Sunderland, struggling with a poor start to the season, where does that leave us?

16 Sun Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League H Sunderland 13:30 SS1
19 Wed Add to Calendar UEFA Champions League A Marseille 19:45 Player
23 Sun Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League H Stoke City 13:30 Player
25 Tue Add to Calendar Carling Cup H Bolton Wanderers 19:45

The answer is with an away trip to Chelsea on the 29th Oct, and right now that’s scaring the hell out of me. And yet another answer seems to be doing the rounds on Twitter, coming to my attention via @DarrenArsenal1.

Blimey, eh?

I don’t think I can correctly construct any sentences to match my thoughts on this. No doubt it will be noddingly approved by some, and sicken furious others should it be unfurled at a game (I would sit solemnly fidgeting), but everyone is entitled to opinions on the club they love. I’ve mentioned before that I can’t think that refereeing decisions or injuries can really be the fault of Wenger. Yet he himself has agreed in the past that football is a results business, and it is managers who need to produce those results. If a decision goes against the team, you need to get them back up and going. If your team goes down you need to keep them believing. I think Wenger is still the man to do this, but clearly some do not.

So I don’t know where we are the moment. It’s like I’ve finally gotten some sleep and awoken from a rolling nightmare, only to find myself adrift upon the good ship Arsenal, which has mistakenly sunk a tribal village’s kayaks and has run out of both the necessary fuel to power out of a hostile situation, or the required dialectical knowledge to charm away the danger. Ah, talking ships. I think it’s time for me to call it a day. But not before I reveal my secret weeping over the Arsenal injury list at PhysioRoom. Hang on, Szczesny’s injured?

Well at least there’s the rugb…oh.

AllTheBest.

A Reactionary Error

I think I made an error over the weekend. Not in going to the Gooner friend’s flat from which I am now – hopefully jokingly – barred from watching those games I cannot get to at – and barred because we normally lose or occasionally draw.

My error wasn’t even the optimistic amounts of wine I ‘tasted’ on Saturday night, leading to a terrible headache combined with the recollection of a 4-3 defeat, both of which steadfastly accompanied me throughout  Sunday. The error wasn’t then going to a local bar to watch the Sp*rs vs Liverpool and then ManU vs Chelsea games, and to then wonder how The Arsenal will fare in the reckoning this season.

No, my error was in not keeping my head, my sense of footballing rationality, and bending under the weight of negativity experienced in the wake of a defeat.

I’ve mentioned before that I count myself fortunate to have been supporting Arsenal since a time before it was the norm to assume that we would challenge for anything. Indeed, one year in the not too distant memory we actually finished 10th. TENTH. To steal a line from an Arsenal glory day:

WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT?

Who remembers that first season in the Premier League? Here it is courtesy of ArseWeb:

                              P   W  D  L   F   A   W  D  L   F   A   Pt
Season 1992-93
 1. MANCHESTER UNITED        42  14  5  2  39  14  10  7  4  28  17   84
10. Arsenal                  42   8  6  7  25  20   7  5  9  15  18   56

No doubt the very thought of us finishing 10th this season would send shivers down some Gooner spines, but then there we’d ago again with the psychology of deserving fans, and it wouldn’t be the first time that happened for many of us. Of course we can raise questions as to how our beloved club has fallen in form in the last two, few, or several seasons – indeed as a football fan it is our place to question as well as support our clubs.

But we shouldn’t fail to forget that “Arsenal’s present lack of success is scarcely a drop in the ocean”, as mentioned in an excellent piece by Sam Wallace today for The Independent. Indeed, in terms of Wenger’s record, our current ‘success’ (and we might define that more by fourteen successive Champions League qualifications than the odds-against acquisition of four trophies we consider ourselves as having a shot at) isn’t suffering too badly either.

Those shots at trophies may have gotten longer of late, and our form in the here and now might suggest that some sort of disaster is occurring. Yet, if like me you find yourself uncharacteristically down in the dumps at the moment I’d urge you to re-assess things in terms of a longer perspective (and remember this and this for some light relief). Football seasons are long. Football histories are longer. We’re not in a good way, but let’s not forget that it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. That Arsenal is still here, and that it is so well regarded globally is something we should be thankful for.

We’ve survived and endured as a club, and recently shone thanks to the very man currently in control. If he does go in the not too distant future, and if that is what is ultimately needed to change our trajectory (although I don’t believe it is), let’s not make the error of forgetting the club’s past; the more recent as well as the almost forgotten. And some of the glory in between.

Blackburn 4 – 3 Arsenal – A Game of Moans

Highlights

Well that wasn’t very enjoyable was it? It’s easy to look back on yesterday and think that our club is embroiled in some sort of Shakesperian tragedy set in a tunnel of woe with few glimmers of hope. Rumours of Arsenal’s demise may well – to coin a phrase – be greatly exaggerated, but it’s not exactly happy-go-lucky right now.

When Gervinho scored in the tenth minute, I smelled goals. A smart pass in behind the Blackburn defence from Song saw Gervinho let the ball run behind him and swerve to get his angles right before rolling the ball beyond Robinson. We looked in the mood, we looked comfortable in possession and we (and he) looked a threat.

Yakubu popped up with a deft finish fifteen minutes later. He was certainly onside, with new boy Santos sitting too deep, and Koscielny appeared to flail an arm suggesting some defensive partner made of thin air should go with his man. The thin air cared not a jot, failed to listen, and it was 1-1.

A defensive lapse, but not disastrous. We went again, and with Rambo sent into the box a lovely cut-back found 94% pass accuracy man (working title), Mikel Arteta. BOOM! Chants of “Who are ya?” could be heard from the away end.

Except who Blackburn were yesterday were a team deservedly at the bottom of the table at the start of play, but who would then find themselves acquiring three goals without reply. Not before Gervinho had the chance to play in RVP for an odds-on goal, but opted to go himself and saw his effort blocked away for a corner. The captain’s glare said it all – 3-1 and you would have fancied we might go on from there.

Our chance of taking the game by the scruff of the neck gone, a combination of poor confidence, poor focus and an almost tangible otherworldly mischievous spirit decided to stick collective oars in and capsize us. Arshavin, having kicked last season’s habitual laziness actually chased back, covering for his left-back. But the game decided to play funny and punish him for such audacity. The free-kick he conceded was a clipped ball in that nobody attacked and got rid of and just bounced off a statuesque Song into the net.

Whether Song could do much about it is arguable, but from then on it was like watching a team familiarly bewitched. Sagna limped off struggling with an earlier curse/challenge, and Djourou came into RB and very quickly got himself booked. A second for Yakubu came as we failed to clear a deep corner, but he was plainly offside as he scored, something I’m stunned an official looking right across the line couldn’t see, but perhaps a decision made harder by Santos – again – being deeper than his defensive partners.

3-2 down, Walcott replaced Arshavin, and with Martin Olsson, a man actually capable of tripping over thin air (and once shamed by Sam Allardyce, such is his character) running down our left, you’d expect an in-form and confident Djourou to take everything into touch. If not, at least a passing ant could probably trip the Swede. But Djourou, whether anxious having already been booked, seemed to falter at the last and missed the ball completely. Once Olsson was in behind – miraculously mastering his centre of balance like a regular everyday person –  Song attempted a weak as you like flail of the leg, and it was the much-maligned Koscielny who then provided another OG, celebrated by Steve Kean like some part of his own master plan.

Horrible, horrible.

Chamakh was called upon, and with five minutes of normal time remaining the Moroccan scored a fine header from an RVP cross. A goal Chamakh and the team needed, and Kean decided not to celebrate this time. Mertesacker and Chamakh then both missed headed chances and RVP had a shot stopped by Robinson and a bizarre and painful game soon came to an end. And then more pain erupted. Twitter is a harsh place to be after a defeat like that.

Gooners claiming the club is now in “freefall”, or that they were “ashamed” to support Arsenal bewildered me. It’s not happy viewing at the moment granted, but yesterday I found myself somewhat taken aback by the outpouring and even more taken aback to be agreeing with Rio Ferdinand:

Talk of “Wenger Out” isn’t for me, but this morning even as someone who errs on the positive side of things I’ve staggered myself by thinking about Rio’s tweet. Some are so “eager to get rid of him…” but…but what?  “How do we change that?” is the question that comes to my mind, and it’s something that needs to be figured out by Wenger, by the players, by the coaching staff and – preferably – quickly. Whether we should separate the end of last season’s form from the start of this is debatable, and we might call this a transitional phase with the new players coming in, but however I package it to myself I have to admit that luck can only be blamed so much. Logically, luck alone won’t put us 15th with 4pts and a -8 goal difference after five games, and we have to admit some failings. Failure to not defend properly. Failure to not take chances to stretch leads. Failure to keep concentration.

Such failures will do more damage in the course of a season than occasional failings of luck, and so they’re failures we can’t afford to keep entertaining.