View From The North Bank: Bolton 0 Arsenal 0

It’s becoming a familiar theme; rival for spot in the top four drops points – Arsenal dominate game – Arsenal miss chances –  Arsenal drop points. Frustration hardly seems a strong enough word.

I go into every game thinking we can win it but quite often you have to realise that a point here and a point there isn’t so bad, especially in the North West. We can draw no such comfort from last night’s game. We should be beating Bolton and failure to do so is a disappointment.

We’ve had good reason to blame refs for many of the results this season but not last night. Don’t get me wrong, Chris Foy isn’t a good official – he lets tackles that should be punished go and then blows up for something innocuous – but it wasn’t him who missed several very good chances in the first 20 minutes alone.

Talk will inevitably turn to our failure to significantly strengthen in the transfer window. I don’t disagree that we need more players but I’m tired of justifying why we didn’t do any significant business. I’ve read people acknowledge the restricting factors – lack of available quality, extortionate wage demands, resistance of top players to move ahead of a major international tournament – but still argue “Yeah, but, there must be someone”. When you look around and see that United didn’t add to their midfield and that even City only got an ageing midfielder on loan it stands to reason that there weren’t all that many top deals to be done.

I think it’s generally recognised that we have a few quid in the bank but spending guarantees nothing. Chelsea spent £50m on Torres and £20m plus on David Luiz last January to facilitate a late title push. Liverpool spent £35m on Carroll when faced with an uphill task to make the top four. We all know how those deals panned out. It might be a laboured point to poke fun at the investments made by Chelsea and Liverpool but it doesn’t make it any less of a cautionary tale.

I’m not just making excuses for what we did or didn’t do in January I just think we could all do with being a little less fixated on money and transfers, especially as it’s water under the bridge now, until the summer at least.

An accomplished striker might sort out the number of missed chances but hoping for that shouldn’t excuse the need for drastic improvement in finishing from those already there. It seems a bit strange to me that we would look at players missing good chances every week and assume that the only way to improve that is to spend money on new ones. What about the training ground? I seem to remember players before not being great in front of goal and turning that round.

Whether Wenger needs to take the PE teacher approach and demand extra shooting  practice or whether some of the players need to take it on themselves to work on this potentially decisive skill I don’t know but it’s clear that something is amiss – if you’ll excuse the pun.

There was a lot of ranting on Twitter last night – frustration does that. Many Gooners saying we’re just a bit rubbish, or we don’t have technically quality players, but I don’t buy into that. We have a lot of players out of form – a huge consequence in that is fatigue as a lot of the squad players aren’t of the level you’d expect at Arsenal. We know this and we also know that Wenger is trying to move them on. Next summer will be another exodus.

People will also say ‘well why offer lucrative contracts to very average players?’ Well, the likes of Denilson, Bentner, Vela showed great promise but lack of application meant they never fulfilled that. The club were anxious to tie these players down with rewarding contracts (too rewarding obviously) after what happened to the likes of Edu and Flamini in the past – leaving the club for free. Squilacci was a big mistake, but so was Kaba Diawara, Igor Stepanovs – all managers make mistakes. Even Fergie – Bebe anyone? Diouff? Djemba-Djemba, Taibi…  Mourinho too; Kezman!

It’s frustrating, it has been since we dismantled the Invincibles and upped sticks across the road, but there have been many variables in the changing face of English football during this period alone. The goalposts have moved. Keyboard Warriors calling those who are supporting their club ‘deluded’. ‘Open your eyes’ is a favourite. No. You open your eyes and think of the bigger picture.

A change of Board in the summer is required, not a change of manager in February! Stop the booing and support your club. Or stop going.

On the plus side last night, Bacary Sagna started in the back four for the first time since October – his inclusion meant last night’s was the 16th different back four we’ve started a game with in 23 league games. Bac looked pretty good considering the length of the layoff. With him back and Gibbs returning we should at least have a more settled unit to build on in coming weeks.

I suppose the other plus is that we didn’t actually play that badly last night, creating multiple chances, yet again, and we’re left thinking what might have been. But for the fine margins that dictate success at this level, we might be sat here reflecting on a 3-0 win.

We’re not going to get anywhere by sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, fans or players, so all we can do is look ahead to the three points on offer on Saturday. I just hope the game doesn’t descend into a festival of disgruntlement between the home and away support.

Keep The Faith.