Exorcising Daemons

At 3.26pm on last Saturday you could not have convinced me, no matter how hard you tried, that it would be through choice that I wouldn’t get round to watching Match Of The Day until a whole 6 days had gone by.

I’m sure we all have moments when we blame ourselves for our chosen football team’s defeat but my message to my brother saying that “it doesn’t get much better than this” around that time does seem slightly misplaced now I look back. We’re all idiots.

However, after a week of trying to avoid discussing the issue and pretending that football is just a game and all that crud, I finally bit the bullet today and sat through the horror.

As it turns out, 6 days is just about enough and the humiliation of Saturday did not, thankfully, return as I sat and watched what will sadly be a much-repeated 7 or 8 minutes of highlights.

One thing I haven’t managed to avoid during the last 6 days, however, are websites and blogs and as such I have read more than enough of other opinions about what went wrong. My conclusion is two-fold and will be covered under the following two headings – Squillaci and Leadership.


Just not good enough.

You can blame Diaby for his reaction to the painful challenge that Barton inflicted as much as you like but to me, having to replace Djourou with Squillaci had a much more damaging effect. As soon as he came on, I feared for what might happen and, sadly, I was proved right.

I wasn’t in the country for the latter half of last season so I missed the Mikael Silvestre Show – can anyone tell me whether my gut feeling that Sebastien is a worse centre back than Mikael is correct or not? Like Silvestre, Cygan and Stepanovs before him, Squillaci fills me with dread whenever he’s on the pitch.

What a back four they would have made, had they all played together. All of them were signed by M. Wenger and, whilst I’m not saying that it’s all his fault (and it’s hard to ignore the quality of Vermaelen) it’s clear the boss has a blind spot when it comes to that particular position.

Unbelievably, Squillaci has been involved in every single game which we have lost this season, home and away in every competition bar the away defeat at Ipswich. He was also present in the poor drawn games away at Sunderland and Wigan as well as the home draw against Leeds.

Whereas the only games that Arsenal have lost this season with Djourou at centre back have been away at Braga and Shakhtar Donetsk and the Ipswich game. He hasn’t been involved in a single league defeat this season.

I know which of them I’d prefer to be standing next to Laurent Koscielny on the 16th February and it sure as hell isn’t the Frenchman.


It’s been talked about before so let’s not go on and on about it. We know Cesc is a great player but, as with TH14, he’s not a leader on the pitch. But it’s not just down to him.

When the tide began to turn around 4 o’clock on Saturday, not a single player in red and white stepped up and took control of the situation. If any of the Newcastle players had even suspected that we might carry a threat at the other end then they might not have felt so emboldened to continue coming forward in the way that they did until we inevitably buckled under the pressure.

In situations like this, we are weak and powerless and opposition players, coaching staff and supporters know it. It is beginning to become our achilles heel.

We have been humiliated twice this season and without proper leadership, I fear we will go through this kind of pain again.

Arsene Wenger often talks about ‘mental toughness’ but this really is the time to demonstrate whether we have it or not.

I have exorcised my own daemons from last weekend – now it is time for the team to exorcise their’s tomorrow against the United-Slayers of Wolves.

This week, I want to be watching Match Of The Day as it is broadcast, please – not the following Friday afternoon.