“If you eat caviar every day it’s difficult to return to sausages”
Arsene was forced to defend his champions after a frustrating 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough in 1998 and the words he chose resonate even more today. In the short term he had a point then, and one could argue it is valid today. Three consecutive wins have been followed by an incredibly poor performance at Southampton. There is a danger of over-reaction to one disappointing display when set in that context, but this is a trend that is repeating too often.
This one disappointing display comes three weeks after the one disappointing display at Bradford. Ten days before that we had the one disappointing display at home to Swansea. Villa Park, Old Trafford, Norwich, home to Chelsea. Need I go on? Yes I am fully aware that in between times we have put six past the team who should have beaten us this evening. I was as thrilled as anyone by the seven goals at Reading, the five against the little lot up the road, five more at Reading, and seven against Newcastle.
The truth is though that for every good performance there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is football, I hear some say. To an extent they have a point. My life has gone full circle. This is the Arsenal side I grew up with in the sixties, and I have only just made the glaringly obvious connection. When we get our attacking game going we can dismantle any opponents, but a lack of belief and determination when the going gets tough display themselves all too often. I’ve got MY Arsenal back.
In 1963/4 we scored 90 goals, just two less than champions Liverpool. We put four past Bolton, Fulham, Tottenham, Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, and Birmingham (twice), five past Blackpool, and six past both Ipswich and Everton. Joe Baker and Geoff Strong both scored 31 League and Cup goals in the season. So we must have been top four, right? No, we finished eighth, having lost fourteen games, including fixtures against sides that finished below us in the table. Wolves, Leicester, Aston Villa, Forest and Sheffield United all finished in the bottom half of the table but defeated us at least once.
That Arsenal side could enthral one week, and stink the place out the next. Did I say full circle? Where does the desire and application go in between the weekend demolition of Newcastle, and the lifeless display we witnessed earlier? How can a midfield so effective against sides of the quality of Newcastle and Tottenham be completely overrun by Southampton, Swansea, and Norwich. Admirable though these opponents were they should not all be able to embarrass a club with the resources available to us. After all, is it not a question of resources that prevents us from competing with the oil barons? You can’t have it both ways, surely?
This morning we had nine points from the last nine, and a clean bill of health aside from our second choice goalkeeper. We were going into the new year with spirits rightfully raised. Then came that complete no-show. The one positive to come from St Mary’s is the affirmation that this is a squad that needs supplementing, and as luck would have it the transfer window is opening. I won’t drag over all of the arguments about what we may or may not spend, and who may or may not be available, for that just creates further division.
I think there would be a significant groundswell of opinion though that would concur if I suggested we spent the next thirty days offloading some of our sausages and stocking up on just a little bit more caviar.
What say you?
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