Arsenal set about picking up the pieces in the wake of last week’s horror show by battling to a win over a much-improved Hull City side at the Emirates, on Saturday.
Though the 2-0 victory suggests a degree of comfort, it was a performance, in truth, typical of a side that is bereft of confidence and lacking any real sense of direction.
It was scrappy, constipated, and, frankly, pretty ugly.
The Gunners were as tight and apprehensive as Hull were gutsy, and the uncomfortable nature of the performance owed a lot to the creeping sense of disappointment that has enveloped the club of late.
All the talk in the build up to the game was of thousands of fans staying away from the ground and so it proved, with plenty of empty seats visible in the stands as a mixture of apathy and anger meant many supporters simply failed to turn up.
The combination of a lacklustre atmosphere, fan frustration, and our lousy home form made for a crappy blend and it translated into an equally crappy effort from the home side. Clearly, the shit-storm that is swirling mightily around the club at the moment is having an impact on the team, tangibly so.
The passing and movement wasn’t quite as sharp as it is at our beast, while the finishing was rushed and lacking the sort of efficiency that made us contenders in the first half of the campaign.
It was obvious the visitors sensed an opportunity given Arsenal’s recent woes and they may well be upset they didn’t make more of the threat they carried, albeit without really creating a clear-cut, must-score sort of chance.
Thankfully, the Gunners still had enough about them to get the much-needed victory that keeps them in the mix at the top of the table and, who knows, the win may just give them a little boost ahead of their Champions League tie at Bayern Munich, on Wednesday.
It’s going to be a difficult job to win back the fans who are currently staying away from the ground and, in reality, the only way to do that is to win matches. Three points against Hull City was a start.
But, if they are to get anything in Germany and, indeed, anything from their upcoming league and cup fixtures, they will have to show a great deal more than they did against Hull. They are going to have to come together as a team and really show how much they want it.
They have to put all the anger and frustration to one side and pile all their efforts into getting as much from what remains of the season as they can. They can’t rely on the fans to spur them on at the moment, they have to motivate and push themselves to produce the sort of performances a squad of this calibre is capable of.
That job begins again in midweek and it’s crucial we give ourselves the best chance possible.
The bright side
Honourable mentions must go to Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez. Their powerful running and work rate were exemplary against Hull and Arsenal’s win owed a lot to their tenacity and adventure.
Chamberlain, in particular, has really seized the opportunity afforded to him in the centre of the park and, at the moment, his is one of the first names on the team sheet. But he must not stop now, he must continue to burst forward and carry the ball between the lines in a way that defenders hate and in a manner that opens up opportunities for clever runners like Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil to exploit.
I said in pre-season that this was shaping up to be a crucial season for Walcott and Chamberlain both and, thus far, the Southampton academy graduates are showing the sort of form that has long been expected of them.
As to Sanchez, he is seldom happier than when scoring goals and it’s nice to see a smile back on his face, though even he was a little subdued against Hull, perhaps aware of the amount of frustration simmering in the stands.