By Michael Clements
I love comic books because it's always the good guys who triumph over evil. Even when they get knocked out cold there always seems to be a twist where the good guy slowly opens his eyes, climbs up a cliff, fights off a million foot soldiers to finally surprise the bad guy by stabbing him with his own sword. True drama and satisfaction at the end.
Stoke City Vs Arsenal was not anywhere close to this.
The scene was set, however, in Middle Earth (Stoke) where the Orcs run rampant with rabid, misdirected rage. Middle Earth might even be too rich of a compliment to the potters, as the Britannia more closely resembles a Burger King toilet after by-one-get-one free burger day. In fact, Stoke itself is the literal definition of a 'shit hole'.
We sat in a lovely pub across the Detroit River in Windsor, Canada, but after 26 seconds it already began to feel uncomfortable. Midway through the first half it felt like sitting through a Yoko Ono gig - painful, unbearable, but you just couldn't give up on it, thinking something might change. Surely something had to change? Half time came and Arsenal were 3-0 down. Deservedly so.
You wouldn't be wrong for assuming Wenger would stick with his starting 11, but he surprised us all and did the only thing he could do really - make a substitute. On came Welbeck for the destitute Hector Bellarin. An instant improvement on our lackadaisical performance so far, but the lads still didn't have any backbone. It was a strange game to watch, as we just couldn't put a single thing together, no matter how hard it seemed like we were trying. It's easy to say it was just one of those games, but there's so much more to it than that.
We got the penalty and Rambo got a lovely goal immediately after, and the momentum really did seem to be swinging in our favor but it was just truly not meant to be our day. You can't blame the ref (although he seemed to be watching something completely different - Charlie Adams? Seriously?), you might be able to say Stoke played well and certainly deserved the win, but it all comes down to the manager, the players he picked and the overall preparation and performance. It was weak.
The boss had this to say after the match;
"When you look at the last two weeks for what this team has given, you have to respect the level of energy we put into the game. We were too fragile (at the back). We missed Koscielny and it was too much."
Incredible, really because Arsene is essentially admitting to his own faults. Our squad is too thin and any injury is an injury too much for this team. We missed Koscielny because we didn't have anyone else close to his calibre to step up in his absence. It was too much because our players (especially Sanchez and BFG) have been run ragged so far this season and, due to lack of options to rotate, have to play in pretty much every single game.
I defended Wenger, and I still stand behind the fact that he will not be fired (he just won't), but it's the same old shit every single season - The squads too thin. Players are tired/jaded. We need to sign big in the January window. Deja Vu.
There's a saying for our beloved (yet flawlessly terrible) Detroit Lions Football team - "Same Old Lions", as they continue to disappoint in the same areas every single season. Same Old Arsenal.
It was a great second half to watch, and credit to Arsenal for at least giving us that glimmer of hope and a reason to sing, but I think we all knew it wasn't going to happen.
A trip to Turkey to play Galatasaray this week has been dubbed a 'meaningless game', but I beg to differ. If we can pull off a win with a rotated team (Ha!) and Dortmund (currently sitting bottom of the Bundesleiga) lose against Anderlecht we can top the group. Granted, it's unlikely, but finishing second in the group over the last few years hasn't particularly worked in our favor, so for me this is a big game. However, I also expect the manager to rotate heavily due to fixture congestion, the fact that we've already technically qualified and because of all the other crap I just talked about our injury shopping list. My head hurts.
We sit 6th in the Premiership (as I type this), and all is not completely lost, but it still feels like absolute shit. However, we can take a couple of positives from this the 6th day of December: Chelski lost to Newcastle and Shawcross is still an absolute knob end.
Come On Arsenal!