Welp. When the Blogfather is right, he's right.
1. Pound for pound, this may be the worst result of the season. That might be the case not only in terms of effort level in conjunction to how fast a top-four spot is slipping away, but in terms of chances created, determination and fight, etc. As a whole, it was a performance more impotent than the Before half of a Viagra ad. Wayne Hennessey made one top-class diving save in the first half, and was never troubled again.
I mean, it's been a while since we were well and truly Allardyce'd, which I guess has some kind of poetic symmetry since we just got Pulis'd again a few weeks back. It's like a Late Stage Wenger Greatest Hits album. Those two, Bayern Munich, the inability to beat the worst Manchester United team in living memory, etc etc etc. It's astonishing.
This board is going to give him another contract, too. More on that in Thought 10.
2. I'm told that the last two Arsenal losses to Crystal Palace in the league were in 1994 and 1979. Let that sink in for a second.
3. The first half was as incompetent a 45 minutes as I've seen from Arsenal in the last 20 years. This has all of the hallmarks of a group of players that have comprehensively given up the ghost. I mean, Arsene should have binned that "a team of leaders" nonsense ages ago, especially because it assumes facts not in evidence. There was literally no one on the pitch or in the dugout who had it in them to motivate their peers to reverse course and start fighting. Talent matters but it's not the only ingredient of a winning team.
As I said in the pub (I did go today!), Steve Bould would have never let this happen before he got assimilated by the Borg.
4. Related to that, assigning most of the blame to the players badly misses the point.
Matter of fact, I'll do it for you. This is the Chelsea team that won away to Bournemouth this week...may I remind you, the rampant champions-elect version of their lot:
Courtois - Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Alonso, Moses, Matic, Kante, Pedro, Costa, Hazard. Subs: Begovic, Fabregas, Willian, Zouma, Batshuyai, Terry, Chalobah
And, this is the Chelsea team - the abject 10th place version - that drew miserably 0-0 away to Watford:
Courtois - Ivanovic, Terry, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Matic, Willian, Fabregas, Oscar, Costa. Subs: Begovic, Baba, Hazard, Traore, Kenedy, Cahill, Loftus-Cheek.
Really bloody similar, isn't it? That's my point. If I were arsed/didn't have a match of my own to play in a little over an hour, I could find one even more similar, I'm sure. The players deserve some share of the blame to be sure, but leadership counts in this sport and it's telling how almost the same personnel (with some minor tweaks and a few good buys) can go from 10th to champions basically overnight, albeit with a new manager.
(Insert "thinking guy" emoji here).
5. Another thing to keep in mind - if Christian Benteke were any good at this game, this'd have been 6-0 instead of 3-0.
6. I've already seen the backlash on Emi Martinez for giving away the penalty today, and honestly, we Arsenal supporters are just the fucking worst. It took one week to go from "He's better than Cech and Ospina combined, play him every game!" to "He's no different than Almunia, RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE". Y'all are wailing to bring back Wojciech Szczesny, and y'all were the same damn ones who ran him out of town on a rail to begin with.
I watch Roma matches, guys, he's the same damn guy he was when he left. Million-dollar talent, ten-cent head. He just plays for a better manager with better tactics and much more solid defending in front of him. He also gets to play teams like Crotone, Sassuolo and Empoli - you know, places with about the population of Bushwick or Woodside. Calm down.
I'm going to say this nice and slow for you: Goalkeeping. Has. Been. The. Least. Of. Our. Problems. This. Season. For. Fuck's. Fucking. Sake. You. Muppets.
7. Sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, give the ball away.
Repeat ad infinitum.
8. I mean, we were getting ole'd, away to Crystal Palace, who are a Sam Allardyce team. We really are bravely going from nadir to nadir this season.
9. I have to say, though, Yohan Cabaye's goal was a beauty. He hit the shit out of that, clean into the upper 90. Let me repeat: The beautiful football today was provided by a Sam Allardyce team.
10. Look, here's the crux of the whole thing - Arsene has to go. In a sane world, with a sane club, he'd have been gone eons ago. On one hand, there's something nice to see about this much loyalty in a world where chairmen have gone insane, and the top two levels of the English game have turned into Serie A on amphetamines when it comes to managerial sackings. However, loyalty can be misplaced, and it can be folly when reality is staring you in the face and you refuse to admit what is happening.
We've been mediocre for years. That's the truth. Much like Sunderland have survived the last few seasons mainly on the strength of other teams somehow pratfalling worse than they did, we've maintained our top-four status more often due to the failings of other clubs than anything positive that we've contributed to our own efforts. That's just facts.
That's also what the outside world - pundits, other supporters, etc don't seem to get about this situation. Yes, we could be Millwall or Leeds. Yes, other clubs like West Brom exist to make up the numbers in a skull-crushingly tedious march to 40 points every season. Yes, Arsene's teams did good things 15 years ago.
All of that - ALL of that - misses the point though. What you have to consider is the delta between potential and output...season after season for a decade or more now, we have been significantly less than the sum of our parts. I have been sports-obsessed for 30 years, and I can't think of any decent analog in any sport, in any year. There have been teams who have underachieved, but not at this level, and not for this long.
You have to consider the manner in which it's happening, as well. We are poor at set piece defending, and we have been for years. We allow crosses to come in too easily with fullbacks too far inside, all the time, and we have done for years. There is always at least one gaping hole in the squad, sometimes in more than one position, and there has been for years. Especially if one or two key men are out, there is headless-chicken defending in our own penalty area, like Palace's first goal today, and there has been for years. There is no leadership in this team, and there hasn't been since Gilberto Silva left.
I could go on for days, but the point is that Arsene has consistently shown an inability to get anything close to the best out of his players, and he hasn't done since the Invincibles were broken up. Every season is another round of diminishing returns, inexorably heading towards where we are now - very much the 6th-best team in England, despite having players good enough to win the league.
And, we DO have those players. I keep saying it every week, and it hasn't stopped being true. These are some of the best players in the world. Some of them - Alexis, Ozil, Koscielny - literally world-class. Giroud has one of the best scoring rates on the continent. Cech and Ospina are no worse than what some other top, top clubs have (Cheatalona won everything with Victor Valdes and Claudio Bravo). Mustafi, the same guy who was a million miles off of Cabaye when he scored the second, is a World Cup winner. Many of the pieces are already here, though of course we can upgrade on the decent options we have now at LB, GK and CM. Oh and probably another striker too if we're feeling cheeky.
But, you could have Puskas up top, with Zidane in the midfield, Baresi in the back and Yashin in goal. If you put them in a situation with a black hole void of leadership, even they will fail - you only have to look at the various Real Madrid "galacticos" teams for a recent real-life example. Literally everything that is befalling this club begins and ends with the man in the dugout. ALL. OF. IT.
That said, be prepared for none of this to change. Whether it's incompetence, stubbornness, spinelesness, lack of football nous, paralysis or a combination of all of it, the men running our club have got it in their heads that Arsene Wenger is the only man who can manage this team. Despite the overwhelming evidence that that is no longer the case, I'm telling you now that they will be unmoved by it all. The gates from the highest ticket prices in the world will keep rolling in. The TV money from the deals all around the world is going nowhere. Sure, Mesut and Alexis will go, because honestly, why would they stay? Hector is probably off to Cheatalona, and man THAT one is gonna hurt. We'll probably keep most of the second-tier guys around because the pay is a lot better than they'd get somewhere like Dortmund or Atletico Madrid. It's also quite the comfortable situation when you can turn up every week, half-ass around, derp your way to enough wins to eke out 6th or 7th place and maybe, if the draw is kind, a deep run in the Europa League. And, despite the anger and rage and all the rest of it, people are still going to pay their money and come to the Emirates to watch.
Lessons could be learned, if anyone around the club was smart enough to heed them, of Liverpool's last decade and change in the wilderness. It's literally the same thing. The club of the 70s, who flipped heads on the coin and kept doing so for all of those years, started flipping tails and then kept doing so. Robbie Fowler wasn't quite Ian Rush. They stuck by David James in goal for years. All of a sudden, that one step down the ladder turned into a slide, and they couldn't climb back up. That's going to be us, mark my words. We better start getting used to it now. We are not, and have not been, an elite club for some time now, and the emperor's clothes have finally fallen away to show that there was never anything there, and hasn't been for the last decade.
Still, I suppose we'll see who the real supporters are now.
Man of the Match: Yohan Cabaye