Here we go again. Have we been here before?
I’m having a horrible sensation of déjà-vu after this latest bout of anti-climax bordering on depressive realisation that another season is going to end with empty handed disappointment. It can’t keep happening like this...can it?
This Sunday at Blackpool has now taken on greater significance than we thought could be possible just a few weeks ago. Not only are the three points essential but a confident performance will be required.
It may be a criminal underestimation of Blackpool and how low the squad’s confidence is, but the Lancashire side’s style may provide some welcome respite. We know they will play openly, with lots of players attacking and will leave gaps to exploit on the counter attack – as they did when they were beaten 6-0 at the Emirates in August.
What we don’t know is how Arsene Wenger's team will react when Blackpool have their inevitable period of pressure; Arsenal’s squad is showing signs of a serious dearth in belief and a hectic barrage from Ian Holloway’s side could prove to be more uncomfortable than you would normally anticipate.
This fixture is going to go one way or the other, and the other way means another season without a trophy. At least it will be a change from what is usually put in front of north London’s finest.
Blackburn Rovers came to the Emirates Stadium with a familiar stance and a predictable stall set out. This must be getting boring for Wenger’s men – it certainly was for the rest of us – they have to continually probe and attempt to unlock defences that stand resolute, unperturbed by any want for attack.
The best Blackburn gave at the other end was with the impressive Junior Hoilett, who caused Arsenal’s defence trouble on more than one occasion while running with the ball at a great pace.
The Rovers’ game plan was as effective as it was predictable and so should not have posed the Gunners with any new problems that they have not overcome in the past. Arsene Wenger spoke of his side lacking energy but this explanation seems for too simplistic; there was no problem with energy when Jack Wilshere was presented with only Paul Robinson as an obstacle in front of taking the lead – granted, Robinson could conceivably be described as a significant obstacle.
A series of missed opportunities and a lack of steely-minded-at-the-death finishing were crushingly and depressingly familiar. One of the few hopes we have is that, for once, our best players are beginning to return from the physio’s table rather than systematically crumpling towards it – as is common at this point in the season.
This critical moment in Arsenal’s season brings a moment form history to mind; it was Franklin D Roosevelt who said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Ok, he was addressing the American nation in the grips of a severe economic depression in the 1930s, but the point still stands.
This Arsenal team have proved their quality many times but it is their own crippling self doubt which has held them back from true success – as soon as they realise it’s all in the mind, they will realise victory. It’s all or nothing time.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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