‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’.
Did you ever think it would reach a point where Arsenal fans would accuse their own players – in many cases their idols and heroes – of not giving their all for the team?
I must admit I didn’t but it is difficult to argue with that sentiment given just how atrociously this team is playing.
So bad are they that I am grateful they already have 40 points on the board because they are shipping goals with all the regularity and lack of competence you would expect from the league’s bottom side.
It turns out their fillip against West Ham last week was a freak result and not in any way reflective of a team that has turned a corner or improved. This team is going backwards in a big way and will, if we are honest, struggle to secure a Europa League place, such is its ineptitude.
From the outset of Monday night’s match at Crystal Palace they were second best – captain for the nigh Theo Walcott admitted as much after the game. ‘They wanted it more, you could sense it’ he said, which is as worrying a verdict as I have read.
The intensity of the home side far surpassed Arsenal’s and the pace with which the Eagles recovered the ball and broke on the Gunners caught them out time and again. Moves that took us 20 or 30 passes to create were broken down in one move and the ball found its way into our box less than 10 passes later.
It was like the Bayern Munich matches all over again. With every attack they looked vulnerable, while every foray forward was slow and predictable.
And it is not as though this was some extraordinary effort from the home side, this was simply the result of a tactical shift which allowed them to expose Arsenal all over the pitch. After the game, Sam Allardyce even let everyone in on his secret: “Their full backs play like wingers and they leave Mustafi and Gabriel exposed.” It was an incredible assessment and it turned out to be absolutely accurate.
Even a man as one-dimensional as Allardyce could see it a mile off.
Crystal Palace just wanted the points more than Arsenal did. They knew that if they put in a shift and cranked up the pressure, as has been done so often this season, than the Gunners would simply crumble. And, as sure as night follows day, Arsene Wenger’s side did just that.
It is so predictable now it has become a running joke for the opposition. They know how flimsy we are, and they revel in it. They openly demand that Wenger keeps his job, they delight in his humiliation, and that tells you everything you need to know.
All the hard work done and lessons learned in the match against the Hammers was cast into the wind in spectacular fashion as the Gunners did almost none of the things that helped them to victory at the Emirates.
They lacked incision, they were slow, ponderous in possession, were short of ideas, and were exposed all too easily on the break. Palace set up to frustrate and force Arsenal to play square and they did exactly that. It went exactly to plan for the home side. It was almost too good to be true.
Quite how or why we have experienced such a spectacular downturn in form eludes me, as it does most rational fans, but we are where we are. We can no longer trust this team to go out and get the job done. In every game they play, they tread a fine line between error and calamity and, more often than not, they veer into the latter.
Whether that is because the tactics are just too predictable and easy to fathom, or because the players just aren’t interested in playing for their manager anymore remains a mystery but one thing is certain above all else: Arsene Wenger has to go.
The sooner this season is done the better it will be for the club because, at the moment, we are suffering humiliation upon humiliation and I get the feeling long-term damage is starting to be done. If Arsene can’t see that, if it wasn’t obvious to him in yet another pathetic defeat away from home, then it must at last be impressed upon him.
Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis must act now. Nobody who watched the Palace game can retain confidence any longer in what this team is capable of doing, particularly when the only prize that seems to motivate Silent Stan – Champions League revenue – is almost certain to be lost this year.
We have reached the end of the road has fans, there must be change and it must be now.