After the euphoria of the Chelsea win and the recovery from a night's singing and dancing down Walton Road and County Road – not to mention the odd glass of the inebriating liquid – we gathered again in the Room of Nonsense looking forward to the continuation of our cup form. And with Besic for Barry being the only change we were confident that we could muster another home win.
The walk up was on the quiet side but the numbers making that journey seemed to suggest a full house from fans full of confidence and taking in the magic that is matchday down Goodison Way. We had Lukaku and Barkley starting and Stones and Deulofeu in reserve so what could go wrong?
Z Cars rang out. The handshake was completed and off we went. Now, for all the fine words from last week whether from Chairman, new owner, manager, fans or players we proceeded to produce a performance that was, quite frankly, second best. Arsenal were the better team from first to last and for the first time ever our present manager could offer no words other than to entirely agree.
As early as the first couple of minutes saw us gain a corner that was fired in low and Coleman got part of his foot to it and the ball clipped the outside of the post. A positive start that well interested the crowd but, alas, it was a touch downhill from there. Arsenal went up the other end and put a good joined-up one together that saw Welbeck come along the by-line and a desperate effort from Besic saw the ball fly from his foot, hit Welbeck and divert on to the outside of our post for a goal-kick so we are even in the hard luck stakes.
However Arsenal kicked on where we didn’t. They were sharp and incisive while we were hesitant and unsure. Just five minutes after us hitting their post they proved the point when an incisive move that jetted the ball across the green sward ended with Welbeck looking in an offside position (yet he wasn’t due to the speed of the move) leaving him with the simple task of rounding our keeper and slotting. It looked easy but I wished we could show that methodology and awareness and understanding from time to time. Wenger has been getting some stick of late which must show how high he has raised expectations down North London way.
This was to be the way of the first half where we had one shot on target from, I believe, Besic who along with Barkley and McCarthy had become the butt of the crowd’s ire yet I believed they were trying their best but today the function of the team helped no player.
Meanwhile Arsenal were playing a patient passing game that gave little away yet maintained a dangerous presence up front. We were looking a little desperate at times and were our own worst enemies by giving the ball away cheaply after playing it out. Just a few minutes to half time and with me praying to go in just one down to allow changes that were surely necessary disaster struck. A back-to-front move was constructed from our attack at pace and the debutant Iwobi was put in down our right and he outpaced Mori, drew Robles and slotted past him with ease. Not yet halftime but somehow even a diehard Blue just knew we lacked the wherewithal today to rescue even a point.
The half time chat was not for publication but we did have a live pop group that royally entertained us. It was a reincarnation of ‘The Drifters’, a quartet that topped our pop charts in 1960 with ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ followed by ‘Stand by Me’. While they were singing and harmonising the junior ‘Drifters’ quartet danced to the songs in some style. It’s a bit of a bugger when you come to follow your beloved team and a pop group steals the show.
The second half got under way and our present manager replaced Besic with Stones and changed our shape to three at the back with fullbacks roaring on. Trouble was not much changed except for the fuses of many a speccy, to such an extent that you can forget ‘get behind your team’ as individual players and manager were fair game as balls went astray.
Arsenal were comfortable now and were showing being more than capable of seeing the game out. Attacks for us are hard to find to report on. 30 minutes left and Jags headed just over from a corner. It was sad to hear fans yell for Barkley to be taken off. Yes, I agree he had not been at his best but to me he did look our only player who just might create something, but with fifteen to go the manager relented and swopped Ross for Deulofeu who never looked like creating anything.
John Stones was looking like he was not too bothered and produced a couple of fancy flicks in our defensive third which looked to me like no more than two fingers to the Park End. I really, really hope I am totally wrong with that observation.
The clock ticking down and if anything it was Arsenal having a last hurrah as a speedy counter set up their sub Giroud who netted, only to be called back for a foul on Jags. With the ground emptying like a giant sieve ,Giroud set a mighty roar from the travelling Gunners who thought he had scored but his shot had rippled the wrong side of the net. Such had been our performance todays ref one Clattenberg was able to leave the pitch with no verbal assault with all the boos being directed to our own.
MotM – Jags
Overall that was disappointing but if anything it shows how much we rely on a 35-year-old and that is just not good enough. Many a pundit ridicules us fans for having a go at our present manager but it needs bearing in mind that after many of us shelling out for a season ticket and to date be walking off the ground after our EIGHTH DEFEAT and just FOUR wins to celebrate, is it any wonder considering the same pundits tell us what great players we have? Something is wrong. Will the new owner notice we are going backwards with such talent and perhaps determine to find out why?
UP THE BLUES