All Guns Blazing: Gunners lack fighting spirit of past Arsenal teams

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny (left) reacts to a challenge from West Ham United's Andy Carroll during

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny (left) reacts to a challenge from West Ham United's Andy Carroll during the 3-3 draw at Upton Park - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

My first trip to Upton Park was in October 1985.

There was fighting in Green Street beforehand. A pre-match pitch invasion delayed kick-off. There was even a tube ‘special’ taking Arsenal fans from Upton Park to King’s Cross without stopping anywhere else.

The Hammers were to finish third with arguably the best team in their history. But a mediocre Arsenal team containing Chris Whyte still held on to gain a creditable 0-0 draw.

My point is Arsenal used to be renowned for their battling qualities. Their refusal to give up. Their desire to fight to the end. Their bravery and courage in never accepting defeat – even when the odds were stacked against them.

The esprit de corps which runs through the club’s DNA is nothing new.

Reports from the late 19th century regularly spoke of the determination of the players who turned out at the Manor Ground in Plumstead.

This continued through the glorious 1930s, while the double team of 1971 were tough and talented – and you can bet your life there would have been no joking about Jordan Spieth ‘Arsenal-ing’ it up on the back nine at the Masters this week under Glorious George.

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Nor would Arsene Wenger’s teams from 1996 to 2006 have raised the white flag.

So why did we show a complete lack of character in throwing away a two-goal lead seconds before half-time? Why did we singularly fail to deal with the most basic of tactics – the ball into the centre? And why have we blown the league when it was ours to win?

Because we lack character? Because we don’t concentrate? Because we are complacent? Because we have players who are not mentally strong enough to show the necessary combative qualities in English football?

Because players don’t respond to the manager any more? Because although we play some of the most eye-catching football on the planet we lack cojones when the going gets tough?

After our defeat by an impressive West Ham side in the first game of this season back in August I wrote in this column: “They provided the crushing revelation we simply don’t have what it takes to win the Premier League. Again. And that – more than anything – is what hurts.”

Almost nine months on, nothing has changed.

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