By Avenell Dave
I heard it all last night.
Fans offering to sell their season tickets; threatening to slit their wrists; lamenting just how average we have become and how avoidable that should have been with a couple of decent signings and foresight.
Have faith, I said.
I sat there with my fellow Addict wondering, after five minutes, watching misplaced pass after misplaced pass, clumsy tackle after clumsy tackle and fuming at how badly we were playing, whether my confidence that we could beat a poor Liege side was misplaced.
Yes, the third goal was always going to be pivotal and once that went in, I was always confident we would get something from the game, but we should never have been chasing it in the first place.
Slow start? Yes. Arséne Wenger praising the team’s spirit afterwards? Yes. Fans unconvinced by lacklustre performance? Yes.
Why did we allow ourselves to go 2-0 down in the first place? Eduardo made a silly pass in a dangerous area and Willie Gallas was caught out, although contact was again debateable.
Could Vito Mannone have saved Liege’s first goal? Possibly, though Big Jens was beaten by a similar effort in Stuttgart and it was pretty far into the corner. As for the second, well penalties are always tricky to stop, aren’t they?
If you look at the side we put out, we had only one player – Alex Song – capable of shielding the defence and playing like a proper box-to-box midfielder and while I’m not sure Denilson is the answer to a second covering midfielder role, Abou Diaby simply cannot defend, but more of him later.
Tomas Rosicky again looked impressive and showed that when fit, he is a class player, but he alone stood out of the midfield/forward players to come out with any real credit.
Yes, Eduardo scored and atoned for his initial error and he should no doubt be first choice every week, while Nick Bendtner took one of his chances – and at a crucial time.
But remember, we are in one of the weakest Champions League groups and playing a team who we should have beaten without such drama. Can you imagine if we'd faced Inter or Barca last night??
Where was the drive, the guts, the determination.
There were some pretty average performances out there, with two players in particular showing that at the very least, they need a break to recharge and refocus.
First up, Gael Clichy. Such a promising and dynamic full-back when at his best, his form on occasion last season and for most of this year has simply not been good enough.
We have what Wenger describes as a future England left back. I expect Kieran Gibbs to start against Wigan and if he plays well, he deserves to keep his place until fitness or form desert him – he can’t be any worse than Clichy, can he?
As for Diaby, words escape me. I have lost all faith in the guy. He is simply not good enough. You just have to look at the guy to see he’s not the brightest star in the sky.
Yes, he went on a mazy run, beating a few players and setting up our first-half goal, but other than that?
The thing with Diaby is that you look for that moment of magic from him which, as we saw last night, can prove pivotal. But the guy lacks focus and concentration, always tries to beat one guy too many and simply does not have the class to be an Arsenal regular. And in a 4-3-3 he has to balance attack with defence and he simply did not do that enough
I feel for Aaron Ramsey who, when he came on, typified the drive and spirit we desperately need. He may be young, he may make mistakes, but if Wenger wants these boys to grow, he has to give them game time and with such a weak and feeble bench, Ramsey must wonder when he is going to get a decent run in the side.
As for Cesc Fabregas, well, it’s a tricky one. A world class player for sure, but he looks as if he wants to get this season out of the way so he can move back to Spain and a club who spend and compete at the very top level and not the also-rans that we currently threaten to be.
Maybe he too needs a rest, though as captain, he won’t get one.
Thank God it’s Wigan and not one of the big boys on Saturday.
Wenger has a lot of work to do, and some brave decisions to make if we are to get back on track before the autumn is out.