Well, what started as a very encouraging performance quickly turned into a nightmare afternoon. Who else was feeling confident at half time? I had this unexplained fuzzy feeling in my stomach I haven’t felt in a while. Apparently it’s related to enjoying watching your team play football and attacking the other team. I’ll just put that one to the back of my mind again and write it off as a strange day.
Bruce named a decent looking side on paper, with Lazaro and Rose making their full debuts. There was a lot to feel positive about other than the lack of striking options on the bench because as we’ve been spoon fed, there aren’t any better options out there than no fit forwards at all.
After a slow start conceding possession we really started to get into the game with Rose and Lazaro pushing forward much more than we’ve seen from our wingbacks in recent months. After 14 minutes we nearly took the lead from a smart corner when Lazaro dinked it to Longstaff on the edge of the area. Longstaff struck his volley into the ground but a wicked deflection wrong footed Leno and he did well to get across and save it. Then from the resulting corner Arsenal failed to clean their lines, Saint Maximin drove into the area but Joelinton hit the cut back onto his standing leg and the ball went out for a goal kick.
What then followed was a crazy open game that was much more enjoyable than watching our usual turgid, non-possession approach.
Joelinton’s hold up play was brilliant at times and as a team, our transition from attack to defence was much more cohesive and dynamic, although the decision making from Almiron and ASM was frustrating at times.
However whatever both managers said at half time had a profound effect that saw normal service resume, and Arsenal went ahead on 54 minutes.
A deep cross to the back post saw a horrible aerial mismatch between Aubameyang and Lazaro, although our on-loan Austrian international resembled me trying to tackle the biggest kid at school during interform rugby , (ie not really trying), and the Gabon international powered home a great header.
It was then 2-0 just three minutes later, with Lazaro again culpable as he was skinned by Saka, but there must also be questions asked as to why Pepe had so much time to finish from about 10 yards out.
It then became all to familiar with no real shape or purpose to the play, and after such a promising first half Joelinton looking completely isolated and demoralised.
Lazaro was mercifully withdrawn along with Fernandez for Hayden and Ritchie on 73 minutes (formation answers on a postcard please). Clark missed a big chance and, just seconds later, ASM crashed a brilliant effort off the post after a wonderful run.
There was still time for two very late Arsenal goals from Ozil, thanks to an uncharacteristic error from Dubravka, and a late Lacazette strike to give the score line a slightly flattering look from Arsenal’s point of view.
Despite this the capitulation and lack of answers was concerning in the second half.
It’s always the hope that kills you with this football club, I’ll admit that my excitement level to watch this match was about the same as it is for taking my bins out in the morning, and Arsenal away is never one that you’d back us to get anything from, it’s essentially a free hit of a game.
However, the first half gave hope and a sprinkling of enjoyment in the style of play. Arsenal were there for the taking, which makes a 4-0 defeat mainly due to poor decision making and individual errors a kick in the teeth.
Palace away next, and a defeat there puts us right back in the relegation mix.
This team usually gives us a reaction and need to again.