It’s a hard life, and it doesn’t look like getting any easier. Remember those games where Thierry Henry used to rip us to bits, usually with a couple of goals before you’d got sat down? Well, this was as bad, if not worse, than any of them. When we forced ourselves level, there looked to be a genuine chance we could do even better, but the appearance of Giroud upped their game and undermined what there was of ours, and 1-4 was as good as we could expect out of what ended up with heads down all over the field.
Since the defeat at Southampton, there’d been talk from the manager of an improvement in the last few games, or there being real hope of getting out of the more. Mebbe he’s employed a PR man (or woman) who has told him to sound more positive, or mebbe he’s popped into hospital to have a dourness bypass operation. Whatever it was, it didn’t do us much good on the field.
Jones O’Shea Kone PVA
Pienaar N’Dong Rodwell
We kicked South, or rather Arsenal kicked off North, and after the usual period of weighing each other up, we had a couple of breaks that had the crowd thinking (dreaming) that perhaps, in our bizarre way, we could do something that we hardly ever do. After all, it was the last game in October, when we traditionally win our first league game of the season. Sanchez tried to block a Pickford clearance, but gave away a free as he took it on the hand, and for the first of many times today, had a little cry.
Jones, back in because, at last, Moyes has realised that Manquillo is only here to keep fit and dream of a return to the sunshine, was winning headers and making a bit if a nuisance of himself pushing forward. We know it’s not his natural game, but he was obviously under instructions and at least he gave it a go, and it helped us fight our way into the game and sort of give it a go. Pickford and Rodwell got into a bit of a tangle and the ball was cleared by the latter off the chest of the former. A few hefty challenges gave us something to cheer, but then Arsenal, who’d been aiming for Sanchez at every opportunity, were allowed space down our left to get the ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain, His cross was over O’Shea, but for some reason Kone, who’d looked poised to nut it clear, just didn’t get off the ground and Sanchez won the header under no pressure. 0-1 on 19 minutes, and once again with no chance of Pickford doing anything other than clag Kone’s lugs – which he didn’t.
We did go upfield and get the ball in the net on about 22 minutes, but we were given offside on the right before Defoe hooked the ball in. Just our luck, but it got worse, as the bookings started going against us, usually when Sanchez went down as of poked in the reproductive department with a pointed stick. A shame such a talented player has to be such a whiner, but I wish we had a few that good. Then O’Shea’s hamstring went again, and on came Bodge for the final few minutes of the half. There were two added minutes, but we went for our cuppas quite glad to be within touching distance of the visitors, mostly down to them not shooting very well.
Anyway, a few of us had expected Khazri, who’d not had the best of afternoons and earned a strange yellow by standing up near an Arsenal player who fell onto him, to make way for the returning Januzaj, but no. Ndong had a brief bright spell to help us go forward, then Bodge fell victim to the Sanchez tears and was booked. Haway man ref, give us a break. Which he did. Sanchez went to ground in our box, causing the crowd to scream for a yellow for diving, but we broke quickly and Watmore burst into the box. He left Cech grounded, and the keeper’s outstretched arm did enough to knock Duncy off balance. Penalty, no problem.
Up stepped Defoe, bang, 1-1, we were back in it. 65 minutes gone, which was either plenty of time to get a second, or a long time to hang on for a point, depending on your outlook. 70 minutes gone, and we brought on Januzaj for Pienaar, and they brought on Giroud. When the former didn’t chase back to help Jones, our fullback was left isolated and the cross came in a yard off the ground, with Giroud volleying in with his first touch after two minutes on the field. He was at it again five minutes later, this time winning a header at the near post and watching it loop over Pickford. All turning to rubbish for us.
Two minutes after that, Ozil hit the post and Olzil tapped it in as we simply lost any grasp on the game that we’d had. We brought on Gooch for Watmore and a ten minute cameo of chasing people and the ball, but we were down and out by then. Arsenal, had they been more efficient in front of goal, could have had a hat-full (a very big hat, mind) and we were reduced to looking despondent all over the field. There was even an altercation of some sort in the West Stand (the West Stand!) as tempers frayed and the ends of tethers were reached all around the ground. The fire drill had taken place, and you can hardly blame people for leaving to save themselves the torture of watching their team be pulled apart in such a fashion, with the players making mistakes and bad decisions all over the place. Cards for Ndong, Pienaar, Bodge, and Khazri didn’t help things either.
It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. What can the players at our disposal do to change things sufficiently to make a positive difference? I can’t see what. Catts and Kirchoff are needed desperately, and the however many million the Ruskies wanted for the remainder of Mvila’s contract seems like chickenfeed now.
Man of the Match? Honestly, it’s hard to say. Jones had a good first half, and Watmore kept running. OK, despite that one where he passed instead of shooting, he did win the penalty so I’ll give it to him, but not with any great conviction.
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