10 August 2015

Don't blame Arsène or Čech. This one was my fault, lads.

Our 2015-16 campaign, the one that's been touted as the best since the Invincibles, has gotten off to a shocking start. After a preseason full of vim, vigor, and victory, we barely showed up to offer West Ham any resistance as they waltzed to an 0-2 win in our own stadium. It would be all too easy to blame Arsène, Čech, or anyone else who was on the pitch on Sunday, but the cold, hard reality is that it's my fault. I dropped the ball. For the first time in ages, I didn't wear my lucky shirt. Forget tactics, formations, set-piece defending, and all the rest. One fan's failure opened the floodgates.

We were visiting family, and I forgot to put it in my suitcase. Simple as that. "My kingdom for a kit!" and all that rot. Ignore everything else you'll read about our cakewalk of a preseason and the confidence it inspired or finally slaying the Mourinho hoodoo. Sunday's result had nothing to do with West Ham having played six intense Europa League qualifiers or with us playing Cazorla wide, resulting in a congested midfield as everyone but Oxlade-Chamberlain tried to play through the middle.  It had nothing to do with our players setting a very high line on a free kick, allowing Kouyaté to slip through and nod home while Čech charged too late off his line. Nothing to do with us repeatedly letting West Ham players dribble into the box or Oxlade-Chamberlain all but passing the ball to Zarate while everyone else watched as if the ball had already gone out of bounds.

It's still my fault for not wearing that lucky shirt.

If I had worn it, maybe Ramsey wouldn't have taken every single shot on offer. Maybe Giroud would have put a few shtos on-frame. Maybe someone would have been in the middle for Giroud's cross (why was Giroud the one trying to get crosses in?). Maybe the squad as a whole could have strung together a few more passes before lumping it out of bound or directly to a Hammer's feet.  If I had worn my lucky shirt, maybe the squad as a whole would have played with greater determination, focus, and grit. There were long stretches during which it looked like players couldn't be bothered to make a crisp pass, to move off the ball, to get back and defend.  As Arsène said after the match, "I think our performance was not convincing. On the two aspects of our game, going forward and defending." Other than those two areas, then, we did pretty—Oh. That's like saying "I think our performance was not convincing. On the two aspects of our breathing, exhaling carbon dioxide and inhaling oxygen."

After a result like this, it's easy to get pessimistic or worse. The Benzema hypetrain will gather momentum. Maybe Arsène, realising that we're a concussion or other injury to Giroud away from playing—wait, who's our backup to Giroud, the proven one—will make that deal happen. More than likely, though, the result will force the players we do actually have to do a little bit of soul-searching in preparation for next week at Selhurst Park and beyond. No one result has the power to make or break a season, certainly not the very first one of 38. There's too much talent and pride in those who are wearing the full Arsenal kit to let this setback define the season. I'm not saying we'll reel off eight wins in our next nine as we did after losing to Aston Villa, but I expect to see us bounce back in similar style.

I'll do my part to make it happen by making sure I wear that shirt.