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A Swan song for Arsenal

SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
1.64K   //    15 May 2015, 10:16 IST
Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez has been a stand out performer for the Gunners with 23 goals in all competitions

After setting our hearts aflutter with visions of a proud runners-up spot, a squandered first half and a deja-vu moment, administered fittingly by a Frenchman, we are once again flirting with the familiar (and dreaded) 4th place finish.

A loss this weekend would put us there, at least temporarily. Along the way, Gomis suddenly transformed from a Dunkirk disaster to a “can’t miss” striker, Flappy Handski was hanging onto any object passing within miles of his goal and Gary Monk became Jose Mourinho Jr. Lest I forget, the goal decision system probably got its best endorsement, unfortunately at Arsenal’s expense.

One already has to listen to commentators referring each week to some goal – spectacular, freak, crucial, first minute, last minute, last week, a decade ago – scored by some player on the field that day, all with one common factor, it was against Arsenal.

We will now have to listen till the end of time to the day the goal decision system became a fact of life – that goal against Arsenal.

There are some “tea leaves” that are fairly reliable indicators of how a football game will turn out. Dominating possession over most of a half and failing to generate shots on goal is one (greater than 80% with 0 shots on goal in this case).

Having a spell where the ball is almost exclusively in the opponents’ box, peppering shots and doing everything right except for putting the ball in the back of the net is another. The Gunners ended up with 26 shots, at least a dozen of which were on target, all in about 20 min in the middle of the second half.

Getting to about the 70th minute with the parked bus still having the upper hand and then seeing the opposing manager inject a striker is the final nail in the coffin. I guess “Read ‘em and weep” doesn’t just apply to poker.

Some observations on the game itself

  • We haven’t found anyone who can stop Monteiro. He made mincemeat of Calum Chambers in the first meeting and Chambers has scarcely been sighted since then.
  • Bellerin made a somewhat better fist of it, being better matched in speed, but Montero bested him on at least four occasions, including a good shot on target at the end of the first half and getting free to set up the goal itself.
  • Gary Monk came with a very clear plan and the Gunners executed it to perfection with that pathetic first half performance. OK, he did get lucky that every shot on target went straight into Fabianski’s grasp. However, the timing of his introduction of Gomis was perfect.
  • Looking at Wenger’s substitutions, I can only think he was looking past Swansea to the Manchester United game. Mistake 1 – Removing Coquelin in a close game. He is the one guy who might keep his defensive head while all about him are losing theirs. Mistake 2 – Removing Giroud when we faced the prospect of having to go long ball to score. We were left with diminutive Walcott and Sanchez as targets.
  • Montero to Gomis for the winner – déjà vu all over again.
Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger has led Arsenal to a second consecutive FA Cup final this year to defend their trophy

Looking ahead to Sunday’s big game, I definitely hope the “tea leaves” will turn out to be wrong. If one discounts the FA Cup tie, the Gunners haven’t beaten United in dog years. We couldn’t even beat them during David Moyes’ troubled reign.

Indeed, if he only had to play the Gunners, Moyes might not only still be at Old Trafford, he might be contending for the crown. It has been pretty much a given that we will cough up a goal to van Persie or Rooney, quite possibly to both.

The loss to Swansea has shattered any belief one might have invested in “the run”. Even during “the run” goals have been scarce away from home and they finally ran dry altogether. Where can we get the two or three goals we might need to offset the van Persie and Rooney strikes?

Theoretically, we just need 5 to seal automatic qualification into the CL rounds (the 7-goal advantage over Man U is too precarious for 4 points to suffice). I have to ask myself, “Why am I having to do all this math at the end of each season instead of just enjoying the game?”.

For us die-hards, we are already looking at our prospects in the transfer market. That second spot would show transfer prospects that we are finally becoming contenders again.

Oh, and looking at our history, perhaps the thoroughbreds in our stable won’t be charging for the exits a-la-Nasri or van Persie. Given Silent Stan’s tight fist and Parsimonious Wenger at the helm, each extra million can make a difference in landing the right transfer target, instead of settling for third or fourth best.

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SENIOR ANALYST
Die hard Arsenal fan since I read Bob Wilson's book to help me with my goalkeeping as a 13-year-old.
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