Well, it seems that you cannot paper over the cracks of a truly awful Premiership away record by having a good run in the Champions League.
Despite playing reasonably well in the first half at Old Trafford on Sunday, we were beaten 2-0 by a better side in the end. United wanted the ball more, and they wanted to win more than we did, and it showed. The determination of Rooney and Giggs was not matched by anyone in an Arsenal shirt and we went down 2-0. Hleb and Pires, in particular, were poor and contributed little to the game.
But I think tonight’s performance just about summed our domestic season up for me.
Up against a Portsmouth side desperate to avoid relegation, we managed to gain control of the game and went in 1-0 up at the break. It should have been more after half-time but Adebayor misssed several golden opportunities, including 2 open goals. Once again, we were beaten in the air at the back and the game petered out to a 1-1 draw.
So, 1 point from a possible 6 leaves us 4 points behind 4th place with 5 games remaining. We are now relying on Tottenham slipping up AND us beating them at Highbury.
Our away record this season is utterly miserable. We have managed a measly 16 points from 17 games, scoring only 14 goals. If our home record was as bad as our away record then we would have 31 points – 2 points clear of relegation. And this from the team that set the record for the longest unbeaten run away from home not 2 years ago.
This is simply not good enough, and I blame the lack of effort combined with a lack of adaptability. On Sunday, we couldn’t adapt to the way that United changed the way they played as the game went on. This has been the case all season, and was to blame for many of our losses (11 of them so far), particularly against teams like Bolton – for whom we have no answer. It also got us knocked out of the cup.
Tonight, the lack of desire let us down too, as we failed to create more than a handful of shooting chances on the Portsmouth goal as the game died a death.
What is Mister Wenger going to do about this in the summer?
Its clear that we need some steel in the midfield – someone to drive us forward when the chips are down. When you desperately need a goal to beat a relegation-threatened side away from home, bringing on Alexander Hleb is not going to do it for you.
In my opinion, godlike though he is, Thierry Henry is no captain – I hardly heard his name mentioned tonight. I believe we have missed Patrick Vieira’s captaincy more than we have missed his footballing ability.
But, more than the need to buy individuals with a certain type of skill, I think we need to produce a more never-say-die attitude at the club. We have gradually increased the quality of the football we play in the last 7 or 8 years, but it has been to the detriment of the club’s hunger and togetherness this last season or two. In the last 20 minutes of tonight’s game, I can honestly say that I didn’t have any confidence whatsoever that we would lay siege to the opposition goal and get the winner.
I’m just a little worried that Wenger hasn’t got it in him to try and instill this kind of feeling in the team.
I have doubted him on occasions in the past, and he has consistently proved me wrong.
Please do it again, Arsene.