As Robin Van Persie slotted home an immensely late penalty and the Emirates erupted I had a headline all ready to go for today’s blog; ‘Still Alive, But So, So Lucky’. And lucky is exactly what we would have been had a ridiculous set of circumstances not unfolded three minutes later. Anybody who still finds Emmanuel Eboue funny deserves a clobbering with a large bat covered in glass shards.
Excruciating stupidity. Not, as the manager would have you believe, the fault of the referee, Lucas, Kenny Dalglish’s dog or the quality of the air on offer in North London. Part of me couldn’t believe it was given, but that was the part of me completely ignoring Eboue running straight into the back of Lucas with mere seconds left. Forget the excuses, Arsene. You’d think a man so well educated would remember that the words ‘8 minutes stoppage time’ are preceded by ‘a minimum of’. I managed to narrowly avoid being that prat on TV trying to decapitate Eboue from the Upper Tier using nothing but a season ticket.
It would be nice, just for a change to hear an honest assessment from Arsene. No excuses, just an acknowledgment that we were rubbish and an apology for fans paying through the roof for tickets. It’s shit like this that makes us into a figure of ridicule. That and games like yesterday, Newcastle and Spurs. Plastic Mancs all over the country are rofling into their keyboards as we donate them the title.
Honesty would be nice because it was clear from where I was sitting that we deserved little more than we got. Perhaps it’s a stretch to say we were actually bad, we just never looked like scoring. After a promising start culminating in the surprisingly threatening Laurent Koscielny hitting the bar we produced nothing of note, aside from one admittedly excellent chance for Robin Van Persie that he would usually have buried.
With your season on the line, that simply isn’t good enough. There was no verve, no spark, our passing was sluggish and our movement static, non-existent. This against a team with two kids at fullback, their stand-in captain knocked out, their actual captain out for the season and their monstrous centre forward coming off with a knee injury. A glance at the giant Emirates scoreboard showed a side we should really have had the beating of.
Certain players were especially culpable, for most of the game not actually Eboue, but our best players. Cesc Fabregas has had rare off days before, but never have I seen him so despondent. His chin seemed strapped to his chest, his shoulders slumped and it seemed to affect others. Samir Nasri, so often our spark this year looked frustrated, there was no drive, no iron will to drag us through. Van Persie seemed to want either one touch too many or couldn’t bring it down at all.
You could forgive a draw against Liverpool, a side on the up who despite a bunch of absentees, can clearly defend. Yet this performance was not a one-off, but the season in microcosm. We’ve looked this sluggish repeatedly at home. A last ditch penalty was our first home goal in more than 300 minutes of football. Cast your minds back to home fixtures against Blackburn, Sunderland, Man City; all stolid draws, devoid of flowing football. That’s not to mention the disasters against Newcastle (twice), Spurs, Braga (remember why we had to play Barca), Leeds, Ipswich (!) and oh yes, the Carling Cup final.
Somehow we overcame a lot of this to be a superb position just two months ago; the league title in our hands, the Carling Cup up for grabs and real hope in the Champions League and the F.A Cup. Yet the reasons why we squandered the lot are obvious. We’re predictable and we lack the will to win. I’ve deliberately avoided all media today, but if I hear any mention of ‘mental strength’ from Arsene or any of the players I’ll spontaneously combust in disbelief. Do we have talent? Indubitably. Mental strength? You must be having a laugh.
Despite the tone of this post I wasn’t as angry as at other times this season, because despite Liverpool equalising being utterly ridiculous it didn’t surprise me that much. I’m sad to report I predicted a depressing 1-1 draw before the game. We’re predictable and in part living off our own reputation, which we justify now only in flashes, like the win over Chelsea or second half of the first leg against Barcelona.
If we’re predictable and carrying deadwood, the only logical conclusion is that we need change. I wish to God that Arsene could, but history suggests he won’t. But he’s as unlikely to be forcibly removed as he is to buy Lionel Messi and for that I’m glad. It would be an inglorious end to a glorious reign. The question is whether or not he will crack, lose the faith. It’s taken quite a lot for someone as positive as me to be so bitter, it will take a whole lot more to shatter Arsene’s resolve, but if we lose to Tottenham on Wednesday he’s going to be under more pressure than ever.
If United have any decency they’ll finish this season off and stop conning us into thinking we have a chance. We need time to refresh, reboot and hopefully remodel.
Wednesday’s game remains massive, bizzarely it now feels more so despite the fact that the result probably won’t make a great deal of difference. If Tottenham do the double over us the outright despondency felt en masse on Sunday will break into outright fury.
No pressure then.