Fans were understandably furious following our 2-1 defeat in the North London derby this past weekend, and took to social media to vent their frustrations over both the manager and the players.
There was plenty of blame to go around, and the performance of the team as a whole certainly warranted some judgement. Certain players always appear to get the brunt of the criticism however, whether it is deserved or not.
But why do we expect more from some and less from others? Why are there different standards for different players? And why are some able to escape relatively unscathed?
The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Per Mertesacker, Olivier Giroud, and in particular, Mesut Özil regularly come under fire, and admittedly the criticism is sometimes fair. Players such as these are often used as scapegoats, however, and seem harshly judged no matter the quality of their performances.
When we are winning comfortably you rarely hear a bad word spoken, regardless of whether anyone has a disappointing game. As soon as we lose an important game though, the team start taking flak, and it always seems to be the same faces in the firing line.
The trend that you notice among the players who receive the most criticism, is somewhat bizarrely that they are the ones who produce the most on a regular occasion.
While he divides opinions among Arsenal fans, Giroud has an extremely respectable eight goals in 14 appearances so far this season. He was also our top scorer last season, and brings a number of other qualities to the side. The Frenchman is one of the first names on the hit-list when we lose however, and rarely gets the credit he deserves.
Similarly, Özil has accrued a not terrible 9 goals and 14 assists since joining the club, yet he is regularly berated for his performances.
Whether the German should be scoring and assisting more is debatable, but his numbers are certainly far more impressive than the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky; who, as fan favourites, seem almost immune to criticism at times.
I am a huge fan of both the Ox and the Little Mozart, and I am in no way saying they deserve to be criticised. I am just curious why they aren’t judged the same way a number of others are.
So do we expect more from the likes of Walcott, Ramsey, Özil, and Giroud because they are capable of more? Or is it something else?
When you compare Özil and Walcott to Rosicky and the Ox, you might argue that it’s about work-rate. The latter pair leave everything on the pitch every single game, while the former tend to shine in sporadic bursts. But the same cannot be said for Giroud and Ramsey, who give 100% every time they step on the pitch.
Is it about form then? Aaron Ramsey has certainly witnessed erratic fluctuations in form over the last couple of years. Again it seems unlikely, as both Rosicky and Chamberlain have endured dips in their form without receiving such harsh criticism.
I am by no means innocent in this regard, as I rarely find myself apportioning blame to the likes of Chamberlain; regardless of his performance.
The reasoning behind this, I believe, is that we as fans do not yet expect consistent displays from the 21-year-old, nor do we expect regular goals.
If Chamberlain had somehow managed to score ten or more goals last season with the limited opportunities handed to him, then we would be far less impressed with his return of just two in 32 this campaign. The fact that he hasn’t yet reached that stage however, despite the fact that he is clearly putting a huge amount of effort in, means we are less likely to jump on his back when things aren’t going our way.
If Walcott went ten games without a single goal or assist, serious questions would be asked and he would no doubt take some heavy criticism. Chamberlain on the other hand, might escape with little more than slight disappointment directed his way from the fans.
‘Of course he would,’ I hear you say. ‘He’s four years younger and still developing.’
Fair enough, but can the same be said for Tomas Rosicky?
Some might say it’s fair to expect more from those who are capable of more, but is the level of criticism so often handed out really fair?
Regardless of the answer to any and all of these questions, the important thing now is to get behind the team for the remainder of the season. Blasting the players and the manager at this point is not going to see us into the top four, nor is it going to see us retain the FA Cup.
We have a great chance to get back to winning ways against Leicester City this Tuesday night, and hopefully we can find some semblance of the form we showed in January.