No matter how long we endured the barren run, we always had a weapon primed for severe cases of Banteritis. Under rigorous negative focus, the majestic steed we rode into battle atop was always our flowing play. We could unlock a packed defence with our masterful artisans. We had passes up our sleeves that would flummox even the most astute defender.
Wengerball. It has been our most prized asset for some time. Even during seasons past when our squad was being pilliaged by the tyrannical might of Manchester and the Orcs from Fulham-way, the way we set up on the pitch drew admiring glances not only from begrudging journalists – but from the footballing elite.
No matter that the finest of our lockpickers had either left our bereft nest or had been lured by promises of filthy lucre. We could always test a backline with our triangular passing and Action Man Eagle-Eye Vision.
You’ve just won the Champions League? It matters not, for the finest football in the land is played by us! You sit their adorned in silverware yet the manner in which you obtained these treasures was forged deep in the bowels of the worst hell you can imagine.
You have just obtained another League Title I hear you cry? Hush your flapping gums and watch as we carve open yet another opponent with movement and passing that entices dribble from your gaping mouths! For we are The Arsenal! Victoria Concordia Crescit!
This season however, we have played football more akin to pig colonoscopy. Replace our sure-footed pass and move fatalities and replace it with a fat dollop of tentative presence around the box. Whereas before we had attackers that were fleet of foot and would bust their sac to get into the box – we now have three or four players who take up more or less the same position just outside the box and attempt in vain to pull of a pass that requires the ball to go through more obstacles than a game of Mousetrap.
Sure, we have legitimate excuses. With an injury list that puts an NHS waiting list to shame and world class players missing from our line-up, we can point to this and shift blame. In my humble opinion though, even last season we showed signs that Wengerball was struggling to shine through. On more than one occasion we had to grind our teeth and duke it out with opponents rather than take them out Bruce Lee style.
This season has been woeful if you concentrate solely on our style of play. We not only have had the 4-1-4-1 debacle – the stark reality is that aside from ten minutes versus Aston Villa and the match against Galatasaray we have stuttered through games. Dithering, hesitant passes – hovering expectantly just outside the 18yd box for someone, anyone, to lay it on a plate with an Ozil through ball. How many times have you screamed/shouted/gesticulated at our team to make a run? It would seem that crab-football for the first 60 minutes is the only thing on the menu at Cafe a la Arsenal lately.
The most infuriating thing about us though? If our opponent scores against us – then we throw on the afterburners. We start to cook.
Why? Why can’t we start games like we used to? Straight from kick-off, use our undeniable pace to frighten a disorientated opposition? My good friend @JamesRaulStokes makes an unpopular but wholly true point – We used to start games just like Liverpool started them last season.
Is it simply urgency that is lacking from our game? Do we need a few pubes ripped out in order to pique our curiosity? Is arrogance to blame? Do our players reserve 10% as they think that our play will be too strong no matter who we are playing? Am I asking too many questions?
The game Vs Anderlecht was the most alarming performance since THAT game Vs United. You know the one – I’m never mentioning the scoreline so don’t ask me to. I think it was more listless than the game Vs Chelsea last season. Ditto the Liverpool game. I am of the thinking that we didn’t take the game seriously because it was Anderlecht who hadn’t won a Champions League game in ten ( now 11 ) attempts. I think my numbers are correct but please do let me know! We made them look electric. I shudder just thinking about how languid we were. So removed from what we are famed for.
I – along with most it would seem – have the highest of hopes for Theo. I have written about him previously so there is no need to wax lyrical about his stats as they speak for themselves. High hopes don’t really do it justice actually. I have set up a shrine to Theo and speak to him daily through the art of meditation. Either that or I’m just sitting cross-legged in front of a hastily-formed effigy and as a consequence my wife has just left me. I digress.
Are we placing to much reliance on the much-heralded return of Theo? Quite simply, no. Much like when Aaron returned from injury last season, he will offer us something we so vitally need. Runs.
We still wait anxiously for the moment Theo and Ozil forge a bond so strong it can only be broken in the fires of Mount Doom. Theo has improved his finishing. His runs are no longer of the headless chicken variety. He is intelligent and fitness permitting – will link up seamlessly with his colleagues. Two seasons ago was the last time he got anywhere near a full season and he bagged 21 goals from 43 appearances. He is older now and infinitely wiser.
So, to surmise, we need to shape up. We need to inject our play with a bit of urgency and utilise the primary weapons we have to offer – namely speed of thought and body. Theo and his return will no doubt aid us. Hopefully Gloria Estefan was right – the rhythm will get us.