A little sunshine broke through the gloom that has enveloped Arsenal in recent weeks in the emphatic 5-2 victory over Reading, a team whose defensive display a Guardian reporter says would be an insult on statues were it to be described as statuesque.
To call the defending statuesque would be an insult to statues.
David Hytner, The Guardian
The victory has eased pressure from Arsene Wenger, whom a section of Arsenal fans and the media want sacked, a terrible mistake (I should hazard to say) should that happen.
But what was different here?
In the first place, responsibility for the current situation was shouldered by the right people for once.
It is customary to blame managers when things turn south at a club. Isn't it the reason why there is now a long list of managerial victims at Stamford Bridge, a result of the owner's belief that all solutions or problems begin and end with the football manager?
Thus it is that if there is a problem at Arsenal, a slump in form, a situation where the club is grossly underachieving, the manager must be responsible for this, hence the calls for his sack. But is this really the case?
How about lack of squad consolidation over the last six years. Is this really the manager's fault? Are we saying that had the manager had the same resources as his closest rivals at the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea things wouldn't be different at Arsenal?
I believe they would.
Those who have given themselves over to complaints like to disregard or gloss over the factors that have caused the current problem. Only a scapegoat could ease their anger and disappointment, and who best should this scapegoat be but the foreigner from France?
In their anger fans forget others, like the players or the owner, who are very culpable too in this current situation.
The owner, for example, could show more passion and more intention.
As to the players...
It appears as though a number of Arsenal players are only interested in their paychecks. Putting in the extra effort that makes a person rise beyond the minimal requirement of a given task appears to be a lost virtue at Arsenal.
You see lackadaisical display from players in matches that team must absolutely win. You see the same attitude when the team is leading by a slim margin. Hence the reason many leads are surrendered and many points squandered. You see the same attitude when the team is losing by a salvageable margin.
Gervinho, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Vermaelen, all have underachieved in recent times.
AOC, Arsenal's beacon of promise as recently as last season, seems to have settled down on his laurels, content with the new contract he has secured.
Gervinho, who could be a great player, does not seem to see the need to push for that higher bar. Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski have been disappointing in spades.
Collectively, one notices abrogation of responsibility in the team.
"...Oh that one can win that second ball, I need not strain myself."
"...and what if I lose the ball upfront or in the midfield, somebody else can chase it down..."
"...oh what a miss....at least I tried...looking good too!"
"...pass, pass, pass...who said I need to take the shot...he should take it...'no, you should take it'...NO YOU SHOULD TAKE IT...no, you...."
The fact is, a great many of the players have refused to take responsibility on the field.
Take Aaron Ramsey, for example, a gifted player, undoubtedly, but how often do you get excited at his inclusion in the lineup or at his introduction as a substitute?
Back to AOC: how often have you been excited lately at his introduction into a match?
Collectively, underachievement and mediocrity has been the hallmark of the players in recent times. It is the very reason the team has slumped in form.
And so when these same players put in a little more effort in the match against Reading, it is little wonder that a marked difference is seen.
True, Reading were a mediocre opposition, but so were Bradford, who humiliated a full-strength Arsenal side just about a week ago.
Should these same players belt up on Saturday, put their hearts into the match, be hundred-percent committed to the task of winning the match, there's no reason why Arsenal shouldn't beat Wigan Athletic away.
We should not be carried away therefore by this result against Reading. The only way such a result could be sustained would be if the players should finally but their hearts and souls into the task of turning around this campaign.
Otherwise, there's nothing stopping the gloom from returning to the club and for many a fan shouting for Arsene Wenger's head.
What is heartening and worth celebrating are the recent utterances Jack Wilshere has made about the players themselves taking responsibility for the team's poor run of form.
A lot of people are criticising the manager at the moment, but there will be a time when they look at the players and ask questions of us. We don't want that, so we have to step up and be counted.
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal.com
To this I'd say he's absolutely correct.
By the way, in case the reader is wondering, this is the third of my five things that could be done to turn Arsenal's season around, viz: players should take responsibility for the situation.
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