19 October 2014

A battle-cry: could the Hull result be just what Arsenal needs?

Call it a shock to the system. For as frustrating and as maddening as our performances have been to date, the draw with Hull seems like the first truly unacceptable one. Hear me out. For each previous draw (or loss), there has been some kind of extenuating circumstance to put the result in context, if only to rationalize if not justify it. The same just can't be said for the Hull result. If anything, it's more than we deserve while still being a shocker. We somehow kept a point—barely—thereby reducing the damage to our campaign while still suffering the kind of result that should jolt the squad from its torpor. Instead of lamenting our woeful state, there's a chance—however slim—to seize and run with.

First, let's take those other less-than-scintillating results and offer the rationalizations/justifications:
  • Everton 2-2 Arsenal: a tough away-match against a top-four rival. Yes, Everton have gotten off to a dire start, but they lost only three times at home last season, and we were bedding in Alexis, Chambers, and Debuchy. Nice fightback after going down 2-0, scoring two goals in the final ten minutes...
  • Leicester 1-1 Arsenal: Deprived of Giroud and just a few days removed from an intense second leg Champions League playoff against Beşiktaş, we looked ragged against a grimly determined side. For those guffawing at the Giroud reference, we fielded Sanogo, subbed off by Podolski.
  • Arsenal 2-2 Man City: A regrettable one, to be honest, but tolerable considering the opponent. Welbeck's Arsenal debut very nearly got off to a glorious start, but he hit the post. Pity that Demichelis snuck in for that late equaliser.
  • Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham: First off, all bets are off in an NLD. The intensity of the clash overrides form or table. Were it not for Flamini's error or Lloris being just a split-second slower, we might have won it.
  • Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal: Stamford Bridge. Mourinho. That there says about enough. Throw in Abramovich, Fabregas, and Costa, and you have your recipe. That said, it took one moment of industry from Hazard to change the complexion of the game.
Four draws and one loss. When you consider that four of those five results came against squads with legitimate if not irrefutable designs on winning the Prem, it doesn't seem so bad. Chelsea and City, of course, came into the season knowing that they'd lock horns (of which demons are said to have two...). Everton and Tottenham might be cut from somewhat less pricey-cloth, but each of them could look to some stability after seasons of transition to boost their aspirations. Only Leicester, who have still not lost at home, boasting of draws with Everton and Arsenal and a stirring 5-3 win over Man United, could possibly be pointed to as a potential blot on our record. If we're bartering points, we traded two to Leicester to deny three to United. Not bad.

And that brings us to Hull. As I decried here, we should have won. We were at home. We took the early lead and were dominating. Then, the wheels came off, and we were lucky to come away with our fourth stoppage-time goal of the season (fifth, if you add in Alexis's goal against Beşiktaş). Hull, like Chelsea and so many others before, offered us a script that we followed all to willingly and, perhaps, unwittingly: concede possession, defend in numbers, and hit on counters. We played our role to the hilt, passing endlessly around the edges of the box, hoping in vain for another pornogol di Wilshere that never came.

We could point to our maksehift backline as a convenient excuse for what ailed us, but that belies the fact that we still had as many as ten first-choice players on the pitch (only Bellerin stands out as novice). Yes, Monreal was asked to play CB, but againt Hull, that should not have been a tremendous issue. However, I'm not here to pick apart the details around a dispiriting draw. It's been done. "Life," as Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, "can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."

In other words, yes, we should assess what happened, but we cannot dwell on it. We must look to the horizon. On the near-horizon, we have already enjoyed, if only briefly, the return of Ramsey. Walcott and Gnabry played well with the u21-squad on Friday. Even Diaby is fit, if not fully. Without making too much of it, I can almost imagine one of them uttering words to the effect of "look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east."

Yes, we might feel as we're already up against it, what with our feeble returns to this point, but there's still some fight in us, and there are reinforcements on the horizon. So this first light of the fifth day didn't quite shine as brightly as we had hoped. There lies still ahead Sunderland, against whom Southampton scored eight goals, after whom we face winless Burnley, they of the -5 goal-differential away from Turf Moor.

It's always darkest before the dawn, as the hoary, old saying goes. A loss to a hated foe two weeks ago may have felt like that darkest moment, coming as it did against the darkest of foes. A draw against a more determined if less diabolical one would be darker. We shall rise. Summon up you courage, your determination, your fervor. No, none of us will take to the pitch on Wednesday against Anderlecht or on Saturday against Sunderland, but, at some level the squad does feed off of us. Collectively, we have the will to win. Set aside the doldrums and depression that say otherwise!

Victoria concordia crescit.


  1. You Arsenal boys are full of yourself. Monreal shouldn't have had an issue playing out of position against Hull? How very patronising. Perhaps this is the issue Arsenal need to resolve. There is a huge lack of respect for opposition from the lower reaches of the premier league by fans and manager a like. There is a lot of money now in the premier league even for the bottom clubs and it shows in the quality of their squad.

  2. Yes!
    Beaten cry "oo"""""
    Locker rooms and Board office inundated....

  3. Leicester beat Man Utd, not Man City

  4. G. Michael VaseyMonday, 20 October, 2014

    Everyone knows how to play Arsenal these days you just have to have the squad to pull it off. The only meaningful stat is 2 goals from 4 shots on goal. Check City's stats and you will see this year the Tigers have teeth.

  5. the fact that we've lost only one match in the Prem doesn't hide the fact that we are playing poorly. This has to be the worst start we've had under Arsene. Yes, we've had injuries to slow us down and we have had a difficult string of fixtures, but this only highlights his lack of imagination and assertiveness. We stubbornly play the same way regardless of opponent or location, we have too many of the same kind of player and no one to turn to even when everyone's fit who can change the dynamic of the game.

    At the rate we're going we'll be lucky to get out of the group stage, but that might be a good thing because it would force us to focus on the Prem and FA Cup. I'm ready to pencil in Chelsea and Man City for 1-2 in the Prem but it's still realistic to me to think we can finish third IF we get this ship in order.

  6. A sensible article, finally. Now if only someone with a facebook account can drag poor, old M Hunt away from the comments' section on Soccernet. The man is alone in defending the Arsenal against a bunch of vile idiots. He should be here sharing in an objective discussion.
    Leicester, Spurs and Hull are 6pts dropped. And did Arsene screw up by not signing an experienced CB? Yes. But, how long can we harp on about this? This is the team we have until January, and knowing Arsene, might remain the same until next season. The team is also adapting to two new starters up front versus last season's Giroud-knockdown-Sagna-outlet system. Let the guys figure it out and soon enough we will look better than average.
    Criticism is warranted, but other than the Dortmund and Leicester games, I cannot point out another poor game. Why so serious?

  7. Derrick MansfieldMonday, 20 October, 2014

    I think you mean "for the lower reaches of the prem" but whatever. Speaking just for myself, I don't feel like it's patronising to expect Arsenal to win at home over Hull.

  8. Rather than Soren Kierkegaard (wow, impressive) let's go to the other extremes, e.g., Yogi Berra: "It's deja vu all over again" or Brandon Marshall of the Bears yesterday: "It's unacceptable (he used the word 17 times in less than 4 minutes).

    Each of these draws might well have been a victory, but each could also have been a loss. It makes no difference whether the glass is half empty or half full. Either way, you only have four ounces of liquid. Either way Arsenal only captured one point from those matches. That should have been unacceptable to both the team and the manager.

    We can look back at those matches and bemoan the shots off the post and the brilliant saves that denied a winning goal. However, can't the other sides point to where they were denied a win, as well.

    For every poor call by the match official that we decry a neutral party (are there any?), the others see one that saved or aided Arsenal. Those things tend to even out.

    What can't be overlooked is a defense that lacks experience, concentration, determination and physical and mental strength. What can't be overlooked is a midfield that can get the ball to forwards aching for the chance to shoot and not just to pass it back. What can't be overlooked are players out of position, whether by design, personal tendencies, or physical talent. What can't be overlooked is a team that is so predictable the opponents can game plan in mid-summer and be assured that for 65% of the match they can relax on defense while watching a passing display that presents no scoring threat. What can't be overlooked is a manager that seems unable to recognize the weaknesses on his bench, the lack of players for critical positions, the changes that have occurred in the marketplace, the need to be flexible and to devise new game tactics to counter the skill-sets of the opponents, the need to jettison players whose time has passed or whose time may never come. What can't be overlooked is ownership and upper management that feels a full stadium and 4th place is acceptable and that winning championships only means a bit more money earned but also the need to spend more

    I quoted Yogi because we have seen this before and may hear it again. What is different this year? Higher expectations because of the FA cup and the signing of Alexis that were dashed by a failure to fortify and add to the defense, bring in a striker (someone noted Danny was a fluke that would not have happened had MU not bought Falcao), bring in a CM, and (one of my pet peeves) not allow the opposition to strengthen itself at your own expense (RVP and now Cesc).

    By the second or third match, some of the writing was already on the wall (mene, mene, ........), but everyone seems to have looked at that glass and still saw "half full" and not willing to believe that once again Arsene was promising g change

  9. Not just Hull at home, but several of those other draws, as well. How many became draws because of poor tactics, poor player selection and positioning, and lack of a fully-staffed team at all critical positions, as opposed to inspired play or brilliant players on the part of the other side?


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