Whatever you can prove on paper about the relative strengths of the two squads, on the day, on the pitch we were out played, outfought, out thought and exposed as mere pretenders to the higher reaches of the league. We were not in the same league as Arsenal. Actually that is the problem: we are.
Now let's not get carried away. This was not one of those must win games on the points chart on the back of the kitchen door. That was last week against Stoke. We have two winnable games at home coming up and six points would put us very much back on track with 25pts from 13 games, only one off the magic 2pts per game tally. As I write we are still in the top four although Man. City could overtake us this afternoon. I said that last week when once again results went our way. But the pack is bunching up behind us.
But the manner of the defeat was disheartening. We came for a point and hoped to do a Stoke. We played O.K for 42 minutes and then led by Ledley King auditioning early for pantomime villain didn't just shoot ourselves in the foot but performed ritual hari kari. I'm not sure what Panto that is. We didn't get a shot on target in open play during the whole game and but for an early Gomes save from Fabregas and poor finishing from Eduardo it could have been much worse.
Fabregas was absolutely fabulous and ran the show. He scored an inspired solo goal when gifted the ball by Palacios, nipping between Jenas and Huddlestone, evading a trademark Palacios lunge and tempting Ledley into a uncharacteristic wild, last ditch tackle 30yds out to leave Gomes helpless. All this within 11 seconds of our own kick-off from the first goal, another tale of slack defending; no Bassong in place to cut out the cross and Ledley slow to respond to the near post ball that Van Persie converted.
We played the ball too often hopefully towards Crouch who only managed to lay the ball off twice and nothing came of anything we did. In midfield we were slow of thought and movement but with little signs of life up front there were only limited possibilities. The full backs were rarely able to make progress down the wings and crossed from too deep towards Crouch who was always marked by two or three strong defenders. Bentley forgot that he was our new saviour, again.
The third goal was the result of our defenders disobeying the first rule of football: ' Play to the whistle' and Gomes and King confused each other and gifted the ball to Van Persie. A catalogue of horrors right on cue for Halloween. Just as the lads were anticipating hot mugs of cocoa and warm words from Harry at half time the Nightmare on Ashburton Grove began. The villain is usually some extra terrestrial or malignant force but in this new age of computers this was more like an internal virus.
Blame who you like; Ledley, Gomes, Huddlestone, Bentley, Harry or pencil in your favourite scapegoat. We were without Modric our most inventive player and Defoe and Lennon our quickest and most threatening forwards. Draw what comfort you can from this but against the Top Four in four games we have lost three and scored three goals against ten.
'Are we nearly there yet?' Three errors do not a crisis make. Our season will be defined by the results against the teams beneath and around us but our performances against the top teams used to give us reasons to dream and hope. We will probably get into Europe this season which will be a sufficient sign of progress for me but Top Four is clearly revealed as a fantasy too far too soon.
Are we nearly there yet?'
We've clearly packed the car and filled up with petrol; we are heading for the motorway. But the SatNav is on the blink, the traffic is building up and according to that last signpost we have further to go than we thought.