Yes, I know. Horrible pun.
Saturday afternoon was a painful one for Arsenal fans. The blow was softened somewhat for me as I was watching my brother get married at the time, surrounded by Spurs fans who laughed hysterically when I informed them of the score only for their expressions to reverse when I pointed out that Spurs were also behind.
And that is exactly the point – fortunate results elsewhere meant that while it was an absolute shocker of a performance and result, we’re not a lot worse off for it. One the one hand, that is a huge relief, but on the other it was the most enormous opportunity missed. Chelsea had already lost, we could have closed within a point having played a far more difficult set of fixtures, and elsewhere Liverpool, United and Spurs managed to pick up just two points between them. It could have been a wonderful weekend, but all that is left is relief that it wasn’t a whole lot worse.
Let’s not mince our words – we were dreadful. Utterly lethargic and seemingly complacent, West Brom taught us a lesson we should have learned long ago – give anything less than 100% and a supposedly weaker team will find you out. There are individuals to name and shame – Diaby being most culpable, Almunia most popular to blame – but in truth from front to back the performance was abject.
It is easy to dwell on the many negatives, but this is simply too big a week to be looking backwards. Tonight sees our first away trip of the Champions League, to the tricky Partizan Belgrade, who were unlucky to lose their opening match in the Ukraine, and then of course we have Sunday’s trip to Chelsea, which all of a sudden people are fearing.
There is a reason to be concerned tonight though – our goalkeeping situation. Almunia is out with another injury, suspiciously timed after a poor performance (although with Fabianski as backup, he might genuinely be injured), while Diaby has been left at home. Many believe the latter has been unceremoniously dropped, but I tend to err towards him simply being rested for Sunday. Don’t read too much into it.
But while I’ve been a staunch supporter of Fabianski for a long time, even my patience with him is wearing thin on the ground. He used to be prone to gaffes, now they are becoming a ritual of every match. Lest we forget, his last appearance in Europe was that hideous display in Porto.
Nevertheless, this is another opportunity to put those issues behind him. He may have been given more chances than we would like, but he is our goalkeeper and wishing ill on him tonight is counter-productive. We need him to repay the mountain of faith Wenger has shown in him.
Me? I’d settle for a draw. Enjoy the game.