Arsenal Got It All Wrong
They say time is a great healer and maybe 40-ish hours isn’t enough to heal the wound Arsenal inflicted upon me as a supporter on Saturday but it’s enough to dissipate my anger and look at things as objectively as I can.
It was a total and utter shambles, there is no denying that. Everything from the get go was wrong but pointing fingers would be wrong – mostly because the average human doesn’t enough fingers to point at 11 players, 1 manager, 10+ backroom staff and certain members of the board.
I’m often accused of being deluded, too positive or an AKB so this post may shock a few who expect a serene take on the game. I’ve always maintained that I am in the majority of fans who don’t go to extremes in their opinions of the manager or certain playing staff.
The manager got this one wrong. He was once again out-thought, tactically, by Jose Mourinho and it cost him – and us – dearly on a day that should have been about celebrating his wonderful achievement of 1000 games with Arsenal.
Not having a Plan B is often levelled at Wenger as a reason for our losses but I don’t always agree with that. Our more conservative approach to the game this season shows that he does have a Plan B but sadly it is never one that is played on an ad-hoc basis. It usually becomes modus operandi.
In many ways it is admirable to “play your own game” no matter what but I believe it often relies on the personnel. Bayern and Barca can do it because aside from one or two players they have the quality in their backup to do so.
Arsenal certainly has quality in their squad players but the quality is often of a different kind so it is hard to play the same way. For example, Aaron Ramsey. Who in the Arsenal team has stepped up and played that box-to-box role he played?
Against Chelsea, with our best players, we played out a draw which suggests Mourinho’s best tactical efforts is equal to our best team but we only play Chelsea twice a year and 50 times out of 100 we would have won the game in December. Against a weakened Arsenal he knew he could go for the jugular. Our team selection played into that.
Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain are two of our most talented and “make-something-happen” players but also two of our worst for giving the ball away. Cazorla’s delightful jinking turns and close ball control is usually extremely effective but against team who press hard it exposes us. It exposes us even more so when he is played through the middle (I will jot something down this week about my views on him in the middle).
Oxlade-Chamberlain also gives the ball away far too much. His future does lie in the centre of midfield but against the likes of Chelsea his value would have been greater out wide, using his pace to test fullbacks. Having Alex and Santi both in the middle of the park creates a lot of loose balls and you need someone who is equal to his opposition at getting hold of those balls and sadly, Arteta doesn’t have the legs for it. Or at least not on his own and not on his own up against the Chelsea midfield.
Arteta and Flamini together would have had a much better chance of picking up those loose balls than either on his own. With 9 yellow cards to his name and the next enforcing a 2 match ban it is understandable the manager wanted to be careful with him but for me that was the big mistake by Wenger on Saturday.
Did that decision alone lose us the match and in such horrendous fashion? No it did not, that honour belongs to the players.
I’m only going to look at the first 15 minutes because the game was lost by then. In fact, it was probably lost after 7 minutes. I’m not going to go on about how Szczesny is falling back into his cocky ways and needs another good kick up the backside – which is becoming a far too regularly required feature for my liking – or how the midfield relinquished possession again and again. I’m not even going to get into Giroud too much because it’s utterly pointless. His detractors won’t accept the fact he had no service after we went down to 10 men or the fact the midfield wasted a couple of chances to put him in or the fact his one good chance was actually a decent save by the Chelsea keeper who actually made an effort to dive for it.
No. All of those things will be ignored because in their mind he is just s**t. I’m not going to deny he had yet another shocker but you have to accept the mitigating circumstances. After Gibbs went off the team conceded another three. I cannot blame them for that because they were at a man disadvantage, if you’re looking for positives you could say 11 men conceded three in 15 minutes (technically, as the penalty incident occurred whilst there were 11 men on the pitch) and 10 men conceded three in 75 minutes.
I’ve said many times before, I refuse to condemn Giroud when he has no support but accept we can improve on him. We can improve in many areas but that doesn’t make X player s**t.
My biggest gripe about Saturday is the players just didn’t look up for it at all. It’s their manager’s 1000th game in charge and they looked like they couldn’t give a f**k. If you can’t gee yourself up for your manager’s 1000th game then no man management or team talk is going to do that for you. Wenger shouldn’t have even needed to give a team talk. He should have just gone into the dressing room and showed them a picture of himself with the words “1000 games as Arsenal manager” underneath it. That’s all it should have taken.
The backroom staff need to take their lumps too because every season we have an injury crisis and every season it costs us dearly.
Everything about Saturday was a total crock and was probably my worst ever day as an Arsenal supporter.
On the positive side there is still much to play for but I would say the title is probably a target to far to stretch for now. Maybe a lack of pressure for the title will help the players and maybe winning the FA Cup will break that mental block for challenging for the title. I have a few more positive thoughts to jot down about why this season is actually quite a good one but I’ll save that for another post.
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