Wood; Hollins, O’Leary, Whyte, Sansom; Talbot, Davis, Nicholas, Rix; Sunderland, Vaessen
February 1982. I sat in the East Lower and watched a very talented Swansea team beat a very ordinary Arsenal 2-0. Who doesn’t believe in Groundhog Day? Yesterday I relived the experience in the West Lower.
The mid eighties, like the mid seventies, remain in the memory of those who supported the Arsenal back then as barren spells. As I sat watching yesterday those feelings returned, vivid recollections of knowing we’re not as good as we could be, given the talent at our disposal.
I say that more in resignation than criticism. I decided to turn the clock back when I got home after the match. The computer stayed off, and as was my wont back in the day. Match of the Day remained unwatched. There is a lot to be said for sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “la la la, I can’t hear you”. Back in 1982 we would have dissected the game in the Gunners, or the Bank, or the Tavern afterwards and gone home to forget it for another week. In the coming days further rounds of divisive debate on social media platforms will rage on. It’s the way things are. Get used to it, old man.
I have read elsewhere that Swansea came and played the football we play. I beg to differ. They came to play the football we used to play. They knocked it around purposefully, made themselves available for each other. In contrast I lost count of the times an Arsenal midfielder would put his foot on the ball and literally beg for those ahead of him to show themselves, to make that incisive run.
By now you will all have seen the game so further description is unnecessary, and will only add to the level of noise. Those of us ‘lucky’ enough to have endured watching football as occasionally poor as we are currently producing know it won’t last. The remaining fixtures in December all look as though they should yield points, and indeed Arsene needs those points to keep us within range of the challengers for a top four berth before he can actually address the obvious weaknesses in this squad.
In the coming month though he does need his ‘jaded’ players to start living up to their reputations. Those who spent yesterday cowering in the shadows need to make themselves available so that forward passes can be completed rather than surrendered cheaply to determined opponents. Tomas Rosicky returning may help our pass completion but only if he can find his targets. Olivier Giroud returning to the starting eleven would mean at least we have some power up top until we can buy someone to provide competition or support for him.
The solutions are easy to type, but obviously harder to put into practice. Shortly after losing to Swansea thirty years ago we faced West Brom at home and drew 2-2. Next week we are at home to them again. Another Groundhog Day would increase the pressure on the manager. We can only hope those chosen to start will put on a performance to lift the spirits both inside and outside the changing room.
I am just seeing reports that the chairman suffered a heart attack on Friday. I am pleased to see he is making a good recovery, and hope that recovery is both full and quick.
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