By Avenell Dave
Call me a cynic but when I heard that the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Andrey Arshavin would miss last night's game against Shaktar Donetsk, I feared that maybe this was a game Arsene Wenger felt we could afford to lose.
Given our lamentable record in Ukraine and the lack of senior personnel, anything other than a defeat would have been a pleasant surprise.
In a doodling moment at my desk yesterday afternoon, I wrote down the team I expected to play. It included Craig Eastmond, Nick Bendtner and Manu Eboue at right back. I didn't expect Johann Djourou to start in place of Laurent Koscielny but that was the only surprise.
There was lots of criticism of Eastmond, who may not have featured if Emmanual Frimpong had not sustained a season-ending injury in the late summer. But while we can lament the way the game seemed to pass him by and how often he got caught out, it's worth remembering how few games he's played this season at any level.
The silver lining is that if Wenger rates him, he will learn from matches like this, but a loan spell at the likes of Blackpool or a promotion-chasing Championship side would probably be a logical move. The problem is, he played because of our lack of numbers, so can we afford to loan him out?
Wenger talked of complacency and a lack of focus and that may well be the case but you have to wonder why that's the case. Apart from the personal and professional pride that all Arsenal players should show, how many times do they have to suffer against teams they should not be losing to before the penny drops?
The worst feeling in the world is when we beat ourselves, failing to do the basics and gifting goals. It's a bad habit we seem unable to break.
And where are the leaders snarling and grabbing the game and their team-mates by the throat and dragging them through difficult spells?
Last night Tomas Rosicky was captain but as so often happens, he goes missing.
Samir Nasri may have had a quiet game but at least he tried to make things happen.
How Rosicky has been Czech captain beats me. A Tony Adams or Martin Keown, let alone a Patrick Vieira in his pomp Rosicky certainly is not and given the youthful nature of the team last night, it's up to him to lead by example and cajole performances out of his charges.
But Wenger must look at himself too and ask why his players switch motivation and focus on and off rather than have it flowing through their veins.
Gael Clichy's schoolboy mistake which led to Dudu's winner was as lamentable as it was predictable, but we had enough chances to get something from the game. Both Sebastien Squillaci and Jack Wilshere had openings from which they would score on another day.
And it's heartening to see Djourou play well and Lukasz Fabianski appear solid despite twice conceding.
Does last night's defeat matter in the big scheme of things? We will have to fall apart to unprecedented levels not to qualify from this group so last night may be just a blip. But any Arsenal defeat hurts like hell, especially when we contribute so much to our own demise.
You can go back two years or more to see the same sort of lack of determination and professionalism. It has to be stamped out.
Winning becomes a habit. We simply cannot pick and choose how much effort we will put into a game.
It's a lesson Le Boss needs to hammer home and which the team needs to learn collectively. And fast.