Sitting here in my gloomy chambers,suffering a loss of confidence in Wenger and the Gunners, while ruminating on another painful Arsenal defeat to a lesser team, I am reminded of Arnold’s famous poetic elegy to despair, Dover Beach. He ends his poem with among the most melancholic poetic phrases one can find in English literature: ¨And we are here as on a darkling plain,swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,where ignorant armies clash by night. ¨
This somber stanza perfectly sums up my current state of mind. To have watched a vibrant first half be then transmuted into an abysmal, error-ridden and uninspiring capitulation in the second, remains, to me, an incomprehensibly complete mystery. Therefore the question I have to ask of Arsenal and Arsene is the following;
Are we looking at a team that is still a work in progress OR have we seen the precursor of a total capitulation and collapse, that promises to become a recurring season nightmare from which we will not wake up?
I am then reminded of Fuller’s famous injunction, apparently taken from traditional Irish folk wisdom, that advises; ¨It is always darkest before the dawn.¨ So which one are we to believe? Are both two sides of the same coin or is there a 3rd , more obscure option for a Gooner to cling to?
As I reviewed the game on late-night TV, I noticed that, despite the losing score, Arsenal tried to win it right to the bitter end. That was a very positive sign that they were not capitulating. Had Mertesacker or Chamakh been slightly more accurate in their last minute attempts, we might be chanting the praises of a great Arsenal comeback. I also noticed that players who had been towers of strength against Dortmund, had less than inspiring performances against Blackburn. Song was off his game, as was Ramsey and Walcott (again). Santos needs to lose a few kilos and gain match sharpness. Szcesny had, for him, an average game although he couldn’t do much on the own goals. Our midfield was invisible in the 2nd half and our tackling was non-committal as well. Djourou was out of his depth as a fullback and there seemed to be a general confusion, poor communication and disorganization in the back 4 as the 2nd half wore on.
So where do we go from here? Those morons baying for Wenger’s blood need only look at the players’ overall performances since the OT debacle to realize that we are dealing with a very delicate psychological and attitudinal balance at AFC which would be fatally damaged if AW left . The club is in a crisis of confidence and cohesiveness and needs a steadying hand, guidance and patience. The new lads are doing their best to fit in and help AFC but the combination of injuries to key players, team misunderstandings and poor communications, sheer bad luck, as well as serious morale issues is proving to be a harder nut to crack than Wenger anticipated. What we are seeing is a club that can perform well above expectations (Dortmund) and then crash and burn (Blackburn) in the same week. This implies that the confidence, cohesiveness and teamwork needed to steady the ship and grind out the wins we need is fragile and frangible at best. It hints at the performance imbalance and tactical imperfections Wenger must work on to get his best 11 to gel. Once Wilshere, Diaby and Vermaelen return in late October, I forsee a significant improvement in our defensive stability and midfield domination and a return to the Arsenal way of playing, which seems to have deserted us since pre-season. Which vision do I subscribe to? Being the eternal optimist, I quote a proverb from Francois De La Rochefoucauld, which maintains that;¨The last thing to die in man is hope!¨
Written by Don McMahon