Arsenal blew it again – and nobody is surprised

Pathetic. Totally and utterly pathetic.

When Yannick Bolasie, a man who hasn’t scored for about 20 years, fired a shot past Petr Cech to equalise, in a game in which Crystal Palace managed barely a shot on target, nobody was surprised.

And that tells you everything you need to know about this team, this season, and this manager.

The same old mistakes, in the same old way. It’s a dish we’ve been served time and again these last few years and everybody is sick of it. Even the staunchest of Arsene Wenger’s supporters must surely be wavering now.

We started the afternoon with a real chance to cement our position in the top three, and put some pressure on Tottenham above us. We ended it thoroughly demoralised and with every chance of being dragged into a battle merely to remain in the top four.

Much of the opening 45 minutes was spent in the Palace half, with plenty of positive intent from Arsenal. But there was little in the way of penetration, particularly against a defence that was sat very, very deep.

What concerns me in situations like those, when we face an almost training ground-style attack versus defence situation, is that the players are content to be patient, almost to the point of frustration.

There should be an alternative, a willingness to shoot when there is nothing else on, a desire to work a yard of space in which to put in a cross. In truth, it took until the 18th minute for a player to take a chance and have a shot from range – Mohamed Elneny obliging.

At one point, Arsenal had 86 per cent possession but there simply wasn’t enough intensity to see that converted into chances.

It is hard to play against a team that sits deep and offers nothing, I understand that, but it is nothing new. Teams have been doing it to Arsenal for years.

The way to combat that deep-lying defence, unless you happen upon a stroke of good fortune, is with pace and movement. Arsenal, though, have too often been ponderous and too reliant on a situation to present itself rather than forcing a mistake or trying something different.

And that was almost the story of the first half, until just such a mistake occurred in the last minute of the 45.

Scott Dann was caught in possession by Danny Welbeck, who fed a lofted ball into Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean leaping perfectly to pop the ball over the onrushing Palace goalkeeper.

There was muted acknowledgment from the home fans – perhaps through frustration at a difficult first half, or perhaps through weariness from a season lost.

The second half was a little better from the hosts – perhaps benefiting from the extra space left by a Palace side showing something approaching ambition. But the movement was better and there was more urgency about the short passing.

Ozil saw a free-kick slip just wide and Alex Iwobi squirted a header past the post early in the piece, before Alexis Sanchez also nodded wide from a quickly taken set piece.

The chances really did mount up the more the half went on, and we at last saw the sort of incisiveness that was lacking in the first 45, if not the goals that the effort deserved.

And that’s when it came – as it always does. Time-after-time the pattern is repeated. Palace forged one chance, players were allowed to run into space when they really should have been dealt with, and a goal resulted from nothing, absolutely nothing.

Arsenal were never going to get back in front, the players were just as weary as the fans by that point and, if anything, the goal brought Palace to life.

It was just a long, painful slog to the final whistle, when the inevitable chorus of boos rang out from those left in the stadium. And who can blame them?

Fans can accept being beaten by a better side, or by a moment or two of genius, but nobody can continue to stomach dropping points like this.

Who knows where we go from here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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