While I realise Arsenal have a Europa League match against Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night, my brain has already checked that one off the list.
I’ve not written the trip to Serbia off because I’m certain Arsenal will lose (or win) – I just don’t care that much. As long as our players come back in one piece, I’m not bothered.
The Premier League, however, is a different kettle of fish and Everton are the Gunners’ next opponents. At Goodison Park.
On paper, Arsenal’s record away to the Toffees isn’t terrible. In fact, we’ve won 50% (5/10) of the matches we’ve played there since January 2009. However, in more recent years, it’s felt like a fortress.
Wenger v Koeman
W3 D5 L5
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) October 17, 2017
That 3-0 loss in April 2014 when Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku and our very own ex-Toffee Mikel Arteta all found the back of the net was pretty horrific. It was the icing on top of the turd cake that was the 2013/14 season – obviously ignoring the FA Cup win at the end.
Arsenal had already lost 6-3 to Manchester City, 5-1 to Liverpool and 6-0 to Chelsea. 3-0 to Everton was just taking the p**s, surely?
We then traveled to Goodison at the start of the new season. We went 2-0 down in the first half before coming back to draw in the final seven minutes through Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud.
Last season, however, turned out to be the worst in terms of the knock-on effect it had.
It was only 2-1 to the Toffees. Alexis Sanchez put the Gunners ahead in the 20th minute before Seamus Coleman and Ashley Williams won it for Koeman’s side.
It was a terrible performance and a bit gutting but Arsenal were currently within six points of Chelsea at the top of the table. It was only December and it was our second loss of the season. We could ‘bounce back’.
But we didn’t. That Everton defeat changed something. We then lost on the road to Manchester City before grinding out unconvincing wins against West Brom, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Burnley. We drew at Bournemouth after going 3-0 down.
The swagger the team had boasted until that point had disappeared.
From January onward Arsenal played some of the worst football I’ve ever seen. We lost to West Brom and Palace away from home and teams like Liverpool and Chelsea hardly broke a sweat while dismantling us.
And we’ve not recovered. Even when results have gone our way, apart from perhaps the Chelsea draw (and the win over Antonie Conte’s side at the Emirates), has there been one game this season – or even last – where you genuinely felt proud of the way we were playing?
Some believe that losing Santi Cazorla was the problem and it definitely had it’s effect. However, we lost him in October 2016 – a good few months before the wheels really came off.
The trip to Goodison, for me, was the turning point. We’d played so poorly that something shifted. Whether we were just feeling sorry for ourselves or we’d actually lost some faith in the manager, the way we play or all of the above, I don’t know.
All I know, is that’s when we began to suck.
So, as you can imagine, I can’t wait for Sunday…