Look, we’ve all been there. You go out, you’re feeling yourself, and the drinks start flowing.
You get the beers in; you get the whiskey in; you got your mates all around you; and you’re sitting on top. Invincible. Unbeatable. The vibes are unlike you’ve felt in a long time (or maybe last weekend).
You know you can put back anything that’s put in front of you. And so you do. But at some point, it catches up with you. The days of being able to do that catch up to you and what follows is that head splitting hangover that waylays you comatose.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve reached that age where a hangover trickles from one slow day to two painful days and someday — god have mercy —it may become three. The horror. Inevitably, the higher you fly, the deeper the valley seems to be.
When asked about a ‘hangover’ from Anfield, “it can happen”, Arteta said, “but again, what goes through every mind is probably different.”
“At half-time we all knew what we had to do and what we had to do better.”
With the season’s run-in under way and Arsenal showing signs of breaking and inexperience for the first time this season, everyone is scrambling to try and diagnose this team’s issue.
Is it pressure, complacency, the ol’ ‘bottling’? All asked in an attempt to try and both understand the change and catch a glimpse of what’s to come from this team. Could Arsenal, a team that’s been devastatingly effective this seaso, grabbing 23 wins, collapse at the very end? Has the loss at Anfield begun their unraveling? Was it one drink too many?
Personally, I don’t think so.
“If I see a team from the beginning playing like that, when I see a team playing with that flow? And at two-nil, that’s certainly not the pressure,” posited Arteta in his post-match.
And I think I agree on that fact. This team didn’t walk into the match with their head in the ground, hungover from a devastating draw with Liverpool. They stormed the gates, they streamed ahead, they played with the confidence of a team that hasn’t felt the sting of failure. They looked untouchable.
They looked like a young, thriving side that’s too young to get hangovers; too young to have beaten up livers and slow metabolism… metaphorically speaking.
It seems far more likely that their issues against West Ham were less like the ones faced at Anfield and more about their growing development in controlling games and killing them off, something I wrote about earlier this week. Different from their issue at Anfield, a place where they simply succumbed on opposition soil to a capable team, as Arteta alluded to in his comparison of the matches.
“In terms of what’s happened, it was very different. But you have to accept that. That’s the last thing we want in our brains – to not have the confidence after having the possibility to kill the game and not doing it.”
Whether Arsenal were hungover, or not, might not matter on the table where the result is two more dropped points. But it stands to matter when it comes to Friday’s match with Southampton. A hungover team, on the back of two defeating draws, feels more likely to return to their home and lie down against a Saints team they already drew with in October.
Fortunately, I think this team is moving with the flow of the season’s challenges with a bit of young naivety, for better and worse. As Ramsdale said, “It’s an enjoyment and because not a lot of us have been here before, we don’t really know how to handle it. So we’re just going in and playing the games as if we were 10th, 12th, with our group of teammates and trying to win as many games as possible.”
As with all ‘hangovers’ they go away. Whether this Arsenal side were suffering from on or simply got caught out trying to control the game instead of kill it, Friday is their time to resurface to the world. Back at home, ready to party, versus bottom-of-the-league Southampton, and in need of a statement.
“My biggest task is, go again and train really well,” stated Arteta, “and on Friday play at the same level that we played the first 30, 35 minutes against a team that is fighting for their lives, or against a Liverpool team but do it for a longer period and kill it.”
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