Don't blame the ref - Arsenal are simply not good enough anymore

By Avenell Dave

It would be easy and convenient to blame Mike Dean for Sunday's defeat against Manchester City.

I've long believed that for a simple foul in the box, unless it is violent, a caution and a penalty are punishment enough, but the letter of the law says that a player must be sent off if they are the last man and deny a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Dean is an unpleasant figure, a referee who basks in the limelight, who wants to be the main man when he should be anonymous. I read reports in The Times that he was impeccable but when so many decisions are inconsistent, it becomes a huge source of frustration.

We were being overrun way before Laurent Koscielny was sent off and I don't think we'd have even scraped a draw with 11v11.

We've shown too often this season that we can be pedestrian, that we don't pick up runners and for a sloth like James Milner to ghost in and have a free shot at goal was unforgiveable.

Our shape seems all wrong and while I'd love us to revert to 4-4-2, as someone said to me this morning, how do we accommodate Jack and Cazorla in that formation if we also have a ball winner?

It's a worry.

More of a worry, though, is how frustrated everyone is getting and how few of the team seem ready to fight.

If I was having a bad day and I had a colleague like Jack working his butt off, I'd want to follow suit.

It says much about the character of those around him that he shone so brightly. We know Jack is a star and we know he is supremely talented.

But how must he feel seeing others not showing the same fighting spirit? Much as he loves Arsenal, we can't take him for granted - look where that has got us in the past.

Typical of the malaise is Theo Walcott.

There's a lot of animosity twoards him because of the time it's taken for him to sign a new deal, the rumours that his latest deal is only for three years and that there are demands that he must play in the centre.

Virtually everyone around me wants him gone and while I think selling him or losing him would send out the wrong signals, there's a fine balance between retaining your best players and being held to ransom.

Can you imagine Thierry Henry or Ian Wright wandering around aimlessly as Theo did?

They'd have been chasing hard, running themselves into the ground to put the City defence under pressure and making a nuisance of themselves. Theo had fewer touches than Olivier Giroud had in a third of the time and that says it all.

Apart from against the very weakest teams, Walcott is simply not adept at playing as a single striker - he needs someone like Giroud beside him to feed off and if it was good enough for Henry to score most of his goals from out wide, why isn't that good enough for Theo?

But the malaise runs deeper than one player.

We're going backwards and while we have some decent players, we probably only have two world class performers (Jack and Santi) and regardless of Arsene Wenger saying that we will only buy special players, the sd truth is that too few of the current squad would be tapped up by our rivals and that says it all.

There is no sign of investment. We seem to limp from rehabilitating Abou Diaby to losing him and then being told he is like a new signing again and again. He is not a bad player but we simply cannot rely on him.

Yes, we made a bit of a stab at things in the second half on Sunday and if Giroud's header had gone in with a few minutes left, it would have been interesting to see how City coped.

For the first time I don't believe we will get a top four finish.

The squad is stretched and exhausted and we don't have good enough personnel to come in and rotate.

I'd love to see wholesale changes for the Swansea game because defeat against the Ch*vs at the weekend is unthinkable.

But can we afford to let the FA Cup go with so much rpessure on the team and indeed the club?

Even the optimists are now fed up. We've been patient for so long.

We can all see what's wrong.

If those in charge at the club cannot see that we need improvements and take the necessary action, move aside and let those who can make a difference have a chance to save the club before it limps into permanent mediocrity.