M Salut’s preference for leaving the momentous decision until we’ve completed our October AND November games was already controversially kind. One down after 28 seconds, without a forward on the pitch, it was looking almost irresponsibly benevolent. Pete Sixsmith, hardly a kneejerk Bruce Out man, is rapidly losing faith …
As I placed my well upholstered bottom on my well upholstered Ashburton Grove seat, I sat back in anticipation of a battling performance against an out of sorts Arsenal side.
Rather less than 60 seconds later, bottom was out of seat as Mignolet picked ball out of the net after Les Gunners had carved us open down the flank and the imperious van bloody Persie swept home a goal of breathtaking quality. Not quite the start we had hoped for, was it?
No marking whatsoever for this one. Brown completely lost van bloody Persie who revelled in the amount of space he had. For the second game in succession, we were a goal down before we had got our bums settled.
For the next 20 minutes we were tortured. Arteta and van bloody Persie pulled us around all over the place. Bruce’s controversial team selection (of which more later) meant there was no outlet for us and the ball just kept coming back as Arsenal ran at us with confidence and, it has to be said, some style.
And then, after a couple of scares, we began to clamber back into the game, and Larsson’s free kick levelled the scores after Arteta had handled on the edge of the box.
It was a wonderful free kick, beautifully curled around the wall and it quelled the chants of “Bruce Out” from the infants sat (or stood) behind me.
For the next quarter of an hour, we were the better side and Cattermole and Colback both missed good opportunities to put us into a surprise lead and to start a mutiny among the Montys and Ruperts who inhabit Ashburton Grove – although it looked like a fair number of season ticket holders had passed on this one.
Notice that I have not mentioned a forward so far.
Hardly surprising as the only man left up front was Sessegnon against the twin giants of Koscielny and Mertrsacker. I thought the little fella did well and he bought a good number of free kicks by turning away from the lumbering German, but that is not his role.
Without Bendtner, we have nothing. I have yet to see anything to suggest that Ji or Wickham can cut it in the Premier League. Ji came on in the second half and was told to play wide left. He followed instructions, but he ain’t no Dennis Tueart.
Wickham got the last 10 minutes as an exhausted Sessegnon went off, but looked as uncoordinated as Colin West did when Alan Durban pushed him into the first team at the same age. His body language does not look good.
The second half was constant Arsenal pressure and they scored a deserved winner with eight minutes left when we gave away yet another unnecessary foul on the edge of the box and van bloody Persie did what Larsson did and curled home a beauty.
Mignolet could have built a better wall, but it was a good goal and was conceded because, as we had no outlet up front, the ball kept coming back at us and defenders were under pressure.
They had sent Arshavin on for the tiring Gervinho and he ran at us, causing a number of problems which Turner and Brown appeared to be dealing with until the goal came. Once that went in, our hopes went, and although Ji put the ball in the net, he was well offside.
We are now sitting one place above the drop zone. The manager appears to be, in football speak, ”beleaguered”.
He will come in for a lot of criticism for the team he picked. I think he got it right under the circumstances, ie no Bendtner. However, I also think that he got his substitutions wrong. Once again, he took Larsson off. Is he carrying an injury that we know nothing about, because he is taken off regularly? If he is going off, and Ji is coming on, why not push Ji up front rather than wide left?
Why was Elmohamady not withdrawn? He spent most of the game giving the ball away and failing to make tackles. But he stays on. We have had a winger on the bench for the last four games, but he (McClean) is not used. In fact, the bench looks weak, with three youngsters there today, plus a lad straight out of the League of Ireland.
Colback and Cattermole did OK, but both missed good chances. Neither has scored for us and quite frankly, they look as if they never will. Both are predictable and lack imagination. Gardner came on with 1 +5 minutes to go – far too late to influence the game.
We never bothered Szczesny in the second half and most of the action took place away from the Tourist End. We should be thankful that Walcott and Arshavin seem to be happy to walk the ball into the net – had they been as clinical as van bloody Persie, we could have been on the end of a hammering.
The manager will probably survive this, but I am losing confidence in his ability to “turn things round”. To do that you have to be able to tweak the style of play, introduce new ideas and choose sides that are unpredictable. I have seen nothing to suggest that the management team can do any one of those, yet alone all three.
Bolton now becomes a crucial game, as does the home game with Villa. We need a minimum of four points out of these two. Should we lose both (not inconceivable), Bruce’s position becomes untenable. And that is when the owner has to make the biggest two decision of his footballing life.
Our sanity rests on you, Ellis.