Usually, after a bad loss like the one Arsenal suffered at home to Olympiacos, the reaction that fans have is a mixture of rage, frustration and a little bit of despair.
This time though, something far more troubling occurred.
The reaction wasn’t more rage-full, it wasn’t a lashing out, it wasn’t even the usual expletive-laden tirade that fills YouTube and Twitter.
The reaction was troubling, because there wasn’t a reaction at all.
As soon as Olympiacos’ third goal went in, the whole of Arsenal’s fan base just shook their head and wearily sighed. Once again, they had seen their team put themselves in a position to lose a very winnable game, and once again there was no easy way to explain why they had done so.
For all the dismay at the selection of David Ospina over Petr Cech, it’s a lot easier to be distressed after seeing the Colombian treat catching corner kick as if he was catching a grenade.
If Ospina had played well, no-one would have criticised the decision to pick him.
If Cech had aggravated an injury, everyone would have criticised the decision not to play Ospina.
There’s always an element of playing the result when we second-guess decisions like that, and this is no different.
But whilst a plausible explanation for not playing Cech can at least be formulated, the same can’t be said for the goal that put Olympiacos ahead for the third time. Why? It wasn’t because the manner in which it was conceded was so unusual, but the opposite.
Olympiacos’s third goal was no different to Monaco’s third in February, which in turn was no different to Anderlecht’s third goal a few months before, all of them coming as a direct result of Arsenal committing too many players high up the pitch in a desperate attempt to score a goal during a time when desperate measures weren’t needed.
Goals like that are THE most frustrating to see Arsenal concede, only because of the minute changes needed to prevent them.
It’s not hard for a manager to tell his players to sit back for a couple of minutes. It’s not difficult to for a player to realise that there’s still plenty of time to get a goal and not panic. Even if it was tricky to do either of those things, the experience of not doing it twice in quick succession should have been more than enough motivation to ensure that it didn’t happen a third time.
But it did happen. Again.
The very least that fans expect from their club, is that if something isn’t working, something else will be tried.
Yet at Arsenal, how many times has this happened?
The last time a major change in formation was made was in 2008, to accommodate Cesc Fabregas. Since then, the only tweaks have been to play an attacking midfielder a bit deeper when playing a big club away from home.
With all our options at centre midfield, the decision not to experiment, even briefly, with either 4-1-2-1-2 or 3-5-2 are baffling. Never mind that Bayern Munich and Juventus can regularly switch formations at the drop of a hat, the fact that Brendan Rodgers has enabled Liverpool to be able to do the same more than enough reasoning to believe that Arsene Wenger can do the same.
What about the players?
How many of them are in genuine danger of being dropped?
How many bad games in a row would Santi Cazorla need to have, hypothetically, in order for him to be moved back out wide? Trusting someone to find form is one thing, but give them too long and the fear of not being picked goes away.
As for the way we play, again, very little tends to change.
We’re either in all-out attack mode or all-our defend mode, with nothing in between.
You’d have thought that Arsenal’s inability to put a string of consistent performances together would have prompted an attempt to find a middle-ground, yet it hasn’t happened.
It’s like buying a new puppy, being upset when it poops in the middle of the carpet for the first time, and then expecting the puppy to learn by itself not to do it again. It just doesn’t work like that.
At some point you either put the puppy outside and let him do his business there, or you sell the puppy because you don’t want to spend half your life picking up poop.
Right now, it appears as if Arsenal are treating mistakes like the one against Olympiacos as necessary evils, as if they have to be tolerated in order to achieve their goals.
As long as this apathy towards our problems continue, then it’s almost impossible to see us winning a Premier League or Champions League title.
Something has to change, and soon.
If not, then it’s only inevitable that fans will reciprocate in kind.
If that happens, then no amount of change will bring them back.