In the build-up to Arsenal’s loss at West Brom I made the following comment:
“West Brom is a team we should be beating in the league, but the attitude of the players is all-important. West Brom at The Emirates Saturday afternoon will not have the same charged atmosphere as Spurs away on Tuesday night in a knockout Carling Cup tie, but the boys must turn up with the same win-at-all-costs mentality to avoid any potential problems.”
I think it’s safe to say that we did not ‘turn up with the same win-at-all costs mentality’ as at White Hart Lane and it absolutely showed as West Brom secured a deserved 3-2 victory at The Emirates.
While this is an Arsenal blog and as such usually focuses on what our team has done, it is first important to recognise the excellent performance that Roberto Di Matteo’s side put in. They, not us, entered the game with the right attitude and played a terrific team game full of desire and technical quality. Despite our late onslaught I thought the score flattered us and it would have been harsh on West Brom if we had managed to ‘do and Everton’ and pulled it back to 3-3 in stoppage time.
Despite West Brom’s positivity I really think we made it easy for them. Too many players looked uncharacteristically lethargic, the passing and ball retention was in stark contrast to Tuesday night and bad individual errors were made in the defensive third. There was nothing wrong with the team selection: this was, on paper, a stronger team than the one that beat Spurs, but our attitude and desire was completely lacking until West Brom went 3-0 ahead, which is unforgivable.
I’m not the type of person who will write off an entire season (or hype one up, for that matter) on the basis of one performance, but there were some warning signs for the manager to contend with.
Alex Song’s new hairstyle appears to have brought with it an unwanted adventurous streak which exposed the back four here. Back to basics please, Alex.
Likewise the contrast in energy between Abou Diaby and the woefully ineffective Emmanuel Eboue and their replacements Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky was frustratingly large. Yes, they came on at a time when the entire team had lifted but I still thought Diaby and Eboue’s lack of intensity was excusable, particularly when compared with Samir Nasri, who was strong here despite playing 120 minutes on Tuesday night.
Then, of course, there is the situation with the goalkeeper.
When Wenger made the decision not to bring in a new goalkeeper it was always going to be interesting to see what sort of reaction followed Manuel Almunia’s first bad performance of the season. Well, I think that question has been well and truly answered as the Spaniard had a shocker here, at fault for two of the three goals and the concession of the penalty, and was sarcastically mocked by the crowd inside the stadium late in the game.
With Almunia’s confidence on a knife edge this was not the sort of disastrous performance he needed, but with Lukasz Fabianski hardly impressing and Wojciech Szczesny unwisely speaking out in the media the manager has no choice but to retain the Spaniard. In short, all is not well in Goalkeeper Land.
As I said earlier, I’m not one to write off our chances off the back of one bad performance and I’m certainly not going to do that here. I’ve seen enough change in this side – particularly at the back – to suggest that we will have a decent say in the destination of the Premier League this season.
This was a bad performance, a shockingly terrible performance, but one that can be forgiven if made in isolation and one that can be forgotten if the team can respond against Chelsea next weekend.
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