Going up North in the dark and cold nights of December in order to secure a win has seldom or never been something Arsenal have been good at; and last night was another painful exhibition of our lack of balls.
Arsene surprised everybody with putting out a very strong line-up and it became clear that he wanted to win this game at all cost. But putting eleven professional and highly paid players on the pitch does not seem to be enough anymore these days. Except for Vermaelen, Szczesny and Jack, our players did not put in the sort of performance needed to overcome a stubborn and hard working second division team.
I could single out players, but I have no doubt this will be done over the entire Arsenal blogosphere today. Other than Podolski, I don’t think the players can be accused much of a lack of work-rate last night. But where almost all players let us down is in the application of their skills, and their focus and concentration. And that is just as unforgiveable.
Bradford City scored a good goal and Thompson showed all our players how to take an opportunity. In 105 subsequent footballing minutes, our attackers never reached a level of technical finishing required for any team; let alone a PL team that has ambition to win silverware any time soon.
Arsenal had 28 shots, and only 12 of those were ‘on target’: we only scored a single goal in 120 minutes of football against a second division team. Gervinho and Cazorla were the worst culprits of wasting opportunities, but there were many others who showed a very poor technical ability last night. Simply not good enough: a total embarrassment.
The other main concern that came from this game is the lack of shape and game-plan last night. Jack tried desperately to give shape and focus to the team but the rest were not on the same wavelength. The wings were ineffective and Podolski was nowhere near the attacking pivot needed in such a game. Lucas Podholeski was an enormous disappointment last night for me.
Once again, it looked like we could not cope without Arteta playing as our anchor in front of the defence. As a result, we were reduced to a bunch of individuals rather than a team with a plan, a shape, a menacing threat, and the ability to soak up pressure from a hard working site, in order to kill them off if and when opportunities arise. In short, we were amateurs tonight.
It is gallant of Wenger to defend his players, and of course he has no other choice to do so publicly. But last night, an incredible amount of damage was done to the reputation of our club, and the patience of our supporters.
It is up to the players and the manager now to use this humiliating result as a blood line drawn in the sand.
If they don’t turn it round now, the ensuing winter months will become the coldest and darkest we Gooners have had to experience in modern times.