It’s in our hands

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
May 7th, 2012

This is going to be quite a long post so please bear with me. It will also be the first part of a 2 part trilogy (Stolen phrase from Poznan In My Pants (@PoznanInMyPants) the funniest Arsenal blog around).

Thankfully the cockerels choked again and Newcastle were unable to overcome Citeh (I was hoping for a draw as I don’t want City to win the premier league. I don’t care about Na$ri, I just don’t want players like him to be able to justify their money motivated moves with trophies). Going in to the final game of the season 3rd place is again in Arsenal’s hands but that is not what this post is about.

No. This post is about we the fans. Maybe some fans do not comprehend the level of influence we have over our club. There are many things that we do not like about the club that we can change if the majority of us spoke in unison and in some cases that is exactly what we are doing but in all the wrong ways.

I had some interesting twitter conversations over the weekend and the general themes are: Wenger doesn’t know what he is doing, our tactics were shit/we should be playing 4-4-2/We should sell Ramsey/Ramsey should never play for the club again/The Ox should start/Song is rubbish/Vermaelen is rubbish/Szczesny is rubbish/We need M’Vila/We need Hazard/We need Gotze/We need Vertonghen.

The one thing I haven’t heard enough of is what this post is about. We need to get rid of our fans.

We don’t need to replace the fans. Just convert them and make them supporters. The comebacks to me saying this at the weekend were all very predictable “We haven’t won anything in 8 years (7 but will be 8)” “We pay the highest price for our season tickets”.

I’m going to dissect all of this and hopefully appeal to the better nature of my fellow Arsenal fans and hopefully soon to be supporters.

Wenger doesn’t know what he is doing, our tactics were shit
This always amazes me. The man is our most successful manager ever, could lose the next 100 games and still have a better win % than any other Arsenal manager. He has brought a style of play and sophistication that Arsenal supporters of the pre-Wenger years would never have dreamed of. Has also qualified us for Champions League football for 15 years in a row having spent very little (net) and has given our club the lowest spend per trophy (£2.1m, the next is Utd with £8m) since 1992.

Wenger does know what he is doing but he did make a mistake yesterday and in every game since Arteta has been injured. His mistake has been playing Ramsey and there are two reasons behind that. Firstly, we have played all season with two deep-lying midfielders, Ramsey is not used to playing Arteta’s role however credit must be given to him for trying and actually making more tackles than Song in most of those games. Coquelin should have been playing in those games when fit. Secondly, Ramsey is completely off form and the fans are on his back every time he touches a blade of grass. Wenger should have removed him from selection for the rest of the season, let him get his head together away from the negativity of the fans (who would have forgotten to give him grief as he would have been out of sight) and start fresh in pre-season where he could pick up some form away from high pressure matches where the fans are constantly on a knife-edge.

Tactically that is his only mistake (I disagree with other things but wouldn’t call them mistakes) and I touch more on that over the next few points.

We should be playing 4-4-2
I do not necessarily disagree with this as this formation won us the most trophies but I do disagree that it is as easy as some would think. We cannot play a conventional 4-4-2 because we have no natural wingers. Not one player at the club is a natural winger except say for Ryo who is actually on loan. Theo and Gervinho are strikers who play wide or at the very least wide forwards. Arshavin, Benayoun and Oxlade-Chamberlain are not natural wingers either. Would you have played Pires and Ljungberg in central midfield and put Vieira on the right wing and Bergkamp on the left wing? I think not.

Wenger changed the system to suit Cesc and then he built a team around him and as a result when Cesc left the players that remained we’re best suited to a system that was missing its vital piece. Wenger did what he could to remould the team without changing the formation too much and we’ve done okay this season considering. The summer may herald a change in system but remember, if we go 4-4-2 we can only play 2 of Song, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ox and Coquelin not to mention Frimpong, Eisfield or the signings of M’Vila, Hazard and Gotze that many want so badly.

I think that a two striker system would be a great plan b or against certain teams and that is one of very few tactical issues I have with Wenger. We have no plan b but if we did have one we certainly have the players to play our old formation of 4-1-3-2 which looks similar but is quite different to a conventional 4-4-2 with counter-attacking wing-play.

We should sell Ramsey/Ramsey should never play for the club again
This I feel is harsh. He is just out of form. Every player in the world, good, bad, terrible and the exceptional all have runs of bad form. Ramsey is unlucky that his run of bad form has come at a time when the squad is a little thin, we are desperately hanging on to our league position and the fans nerves are in tatters because of the topsy-turvy season we’ve had. Every time he makes a mistake the entire stadium boos him and every keyboard warrior and armchair supporters are screaming along with them. He may get paid a lot of money but he is still a person and not one of us would be able to perform to the best of our ability at our jobs if we had 60000 people screaming at us every time we stapled the wrong papers, sent the wrong email, laid the wrong brick or took a wrong turning. This is the power of the fans at its worst. We are just as much to blame for the poor performance of the team at home as the team are themselves but more of that later.

The Ox should start
This one always makes me smile. The kid is good, very very good but he is still just a teenager. I remember a 19-year-old kid looking like the real deal and showing everyone why Wenger bought him at such a young age. That kid is now called “Aaron Fucking Ramsey” to some fans.

Alex is a great little prospect, exciting and direct but we should not put too much expectation on him and just assume that he is the answer to any problem we face on the pitch. At the moment he is at his best when coming on late in the game, 60m+, not always from the start. He had a blinder against Milan but he only started because we were so short. At 18 years of age, with his body still developing it would be a mistake to try to get him to sustain that over a season. Wenger has been shrewd with him this year and I am glad because I wouldn’t want to lose him for a year like we have with Jack who incidentally also had to sustain a full season whilst still physically developing.

Song is rubbish/Vermaelen is rubbish/Szczesny is rubbish
Every player that has a bad game is rubbish to some fans and there are those that will claim to have said they were rubbish all along.

Song is not rubbish but he has fallen foul to the power of the fans. He is a player that did his defensive duties very well for a few years despite his roams forward that had many fans, including me, screaming “Song you muppet you’re supposed to be a fucking DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER, track back you cock”. This season he has played some delightful balls to Van Persie and the fans have been excited by this new found understanding. Song has picked up on this and now fancies himself going forward because the fans don’t scream at him as much. We’ve given him the idea that he can attack when his job is to defend. This is as much our fault as it is Songs.

Vermaelen is rubbish? If Vertonghen is so much better why is he 4th choice in the national team and Vermaelen is 1st? Vermaelen is a quality player, he has just had a few bad games. Have all Arsenal fans forgotten about this thing called form?

Szczesny is rubbish? This is total bollocks and 99% of the fans know it. Yes he made a howler against Norwich and it was very Almunia-esque but I put this down to two things. Firstly, he has become comfortable as no.1. Despite him saying he hasn’t I believe he has and I think we need an older keeper to come in to challenge him but also to help enhance his abilities. Schwarzer for me is an obvious choice. Secondly I blame Gerry Peyton. Every one of our keepers since he took over as GK coach has made similar handling errors as Szczesny did at the weekend. Coincidence? I think not. We need a new GK coach and a specialist defensive coach whilst we are at it.

We need M’Vila/We need Hazard/We need Gotze/We need Vertonghen:
Dave Seagar of (@goonerdave66) did a great piece a while back about the repercussions of signing M’Vila. I am still not convinced about Yann. Yes I know he has a lot of hype from ex-France Internationals and French Journalists but he still doesn’t dominate an inferior league the way Vieira dominated the premier league. Yes he has played well at international level but anyone who thinks they know anything about football knows that international football cannot be compared to league football. A few good international games does not mean you can sustain that for 38 games at varying intensity and at a much greater pace and against different styles. If we sign M’Vila we have to sell Song and probably Coquelin or Arteta. At £20m+ M’Vila is a big no for me.

We need Hazard/Gotze. No we don’t. Wenger would only play them on the wings and would that fit in with the 4-4-2 we all so badly want? I don’t think so. Should we spend £30m on Hazard only for him to force through a move to City a season or two later? No we should not. The guy is talented but he is a mercenary and we’ve had enough of them using Arsenal as a stepping stone to bigger contracts elsewhere. Gotze I would love to have because he is a quality player but I don’t think we need him and especially not for the £30-40m it would take for us to buy him. We need to think inside our price range. We cannot compete with City, Chelsea, United, Madrid and Barca on monetary levels and I will expand on this in another post.

Vertonghen is an option and someone I have changed my mind on recently. I didn’t think he had the versatility I believe we need from our next defensive signing but another excellent piece from Dave Seagar swayed my mind. What the fans have to understand though is that he will again be yet another player that will take 6-12 months to settle into the league. Vermaelen for me is suffering from 2nd season syndrome having missed his actual 2nd season. Koscielny was not great in his first year and Mertesacker has had his share of critics this year too. Vertonghen isn’t going to be an immediate answer. Someone like Jagielka would be because he is used to the league but he wouldn’t be a popular choice I don’t think.

The comebacks (“We haven’t won anything in 8 years (7 but will be 8)” “We pay the highest price for our season tickets”) I will expand on along with our ability to compete financially in part 2.

We have one game left to ‘save our season’ (a term used too much) and I am glad that it is away from the Emirates because too many times this season I think our fans have been more hindrance than help.

On Saturday the Norwich fans were louder than us. How can 3000-4000 be easily heard over 55000 Gooners? It’s a total disgrace and we should be ashamed of ourselves. I’m sure some of the 20000+ people on the ST waiting list would love to take your ticket and make more noise that you. Highbury was called a library for a reason. Let’s not give the Emirates the same reputation. Even when we have been loud it has been for the wrong reasons (5pur2 aside). Our fan power has been used far too negatively recently and it is affecting our players.

I’m confident that we will do the business this Sunday and am hoping that QPR can get a draw with Citeh and that Newcastle can beat Spurs to 4th and as with my last post I am already looking forward to next season.

Next year we can create a vocal fortress at the Emirates, we can carry our players through periods of bad form, we can intimidate opposition players into making mistakes, we can be the clichéd 12th man or we can continue to boo our players, goad them into prolonged periods of bad form, pressure them into making mistakes late in the game or give our opposition hope by turning on our own team.

We can be fans or we can be supporters. It’s in our hands.

Until next time! Thanks for reading. Please comment on this post, share with friends and follow me on twitter (@thedanielcowan)


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About "" - 509 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

18 Responses to “It’s in our hands”

  1. Madge says:

    Another very comprehensive & enlightning piece.
    Really enjoyed reading it.

  2. Madge says:

    Another very comprehensive & enlightening piece.
    I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks Daniel

  3. Joel says:

    Well said, I do not agree with a couple of points made, but well said.

    Couldn’t agree more on the ideas of a new GK coach and a defensive specialist. Schz has played very well this season. If you ask a sampling of opposing fans he is thought of as a top 3 keeper in the league. Fans (not supporters) should remember that he is still very very young for a GK… Most GK do not show their best form until they are in their late 20s-mid 30’s. If that holds true and the recent boos of a couple mistakes do not rock the ever confident schz, I think we will be telling our grandchildren of the legendary keeper who played for us for years. As far as a defensive specialist goes, we need it and need it bad. But it will and would only work if Wegner would buy into his ideas for the defense… I love PR but if this is his last year on the sidelines we should think of a defensive minded replacement. Someone who has the credibility and balls to speak and Wegner listen.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Which is why we should avoid Steve Bould. Too close to the club. We need fresh eyes. I don’t want Keown or Adams as no.2 but as a specialist DF coach that’d be great

  4. Joaquim says:

    Your article has been an excellent eye opener for countless Arsenal lovers like me.
    Looking forward to your Part-2

  5. Kunle says:

    Really 3rd place is in our hands to take,unless wenger picks a squad nt good enough.he needs to get d selection right.we can play 4 3 3 similar to d ac milan game,all out attack.wenger should be able to push d defence back when they are out of should be instructed to coverup 4 d central backs.wenger shouldnt start wit ramsey,we need ball fighter in d midfield.rosicky,yossi and song should be in d midfield,while ger,cham or walcot if is fit to play should be on d wings.d keeper should stand is ground on d line,nt to come out unnessarily and to call on d defenders to position themselves.

  6. Gooner10 says:

    An excellent peice by daniel. Has every1 forgotten that it was arsene took us frm 17 to 3rd. Song has been an inspiration, robin’s form speaks fr itself, vermaelan and koscielny have been tremendous in our chase fr champions league qualification. And please, back off of aaron ramsey. He had his leg broken fr GOD’S sake. If u think that he shud start playing like messi or inniesta after tht then u guys are bonkers. Scezsny has been our gigi buffon fr us this season. Some mistakes are justified as he like every1 is human. The team is magnificent but comments posted by many are bringing the morale down of the players as well as the manager, not to mention of most of the fans as well.

  7. Pablo says:

    Good piece. I live in Spain and can no longer watch my beloved Arsenal live. I wouldn’t be shouting abuse at Ramsey, but it is one stumbling block for me in your piece. Players do go through bad patches, but you can normally see the wood for the trees. Ramsey rarely manages to take people on successfully. He is relatively slow with no turn of pace, panics in front of goal, slows our game down and his successful passes are often sideways or backwards. His main attribute is tackling in which is often clumsy. Our latest dip in form coincides with the departure of Arteta and the arrival of Ramsey. Agree with looking after the Ox with gentle integration but lets start the other way around Sunday with the Ox running at their defence giving us two midfielders driving forward. For the first half, making sure that Song is mindful of his defensive duties and not ambling back into defence when we lose the ball with forwards running past him.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I would say our form is more to do with missing Arteta than Aaron coming in. When Cesc was his age he also panicked in front of goal. Rambo is off form and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel because every time a fan boos him he makes the tunnel a little longer

  8. Matt says:

    I’m not sure I agree with a lot of what’s said here.

    Wenger clearly does not have a ‘Plan B’. It is arguable that he doesn’t have a ‘Plan A’.

    I really like the pre-match interviews with the managers on Sky and when you see Fergie and Mancini interviewed they talk about their set-up and how certain players and formations/tactics have been introduced to counter the opposition.

    When Wenger’s interviewed he talks about playing ‘our own game’ and ‘not worrying about the opposition’. That approach is backed up by players saying that there is never any opposition analysis done before a match. A quite incredible and disrespectful approach to a lot of sophisticated Premier League and CL teams. It would explain some of our woeful performances this season (10 losses and counting).

    As for a ‘Plan B’ – that is non-existent. Why aren’t players like Vermaelen and Song told to hang back at 3-2 with 10 minutes to go instead of bombing forward? Let alone making a tactical substitution.

    Suggesting that Wenger should be allowed to ‘carry on regardless’ because of his past success is foolhardy. Wenger has changed the English game for the better, but while others around him have learned, improved and moved on from Wenger’s style, Wenger himself has sat still. For years people have been saying that ‘project youth’ needs to be supplemented with experience and players like RVP, Arteta and Rosicky have this season shown, in glimpses, exactly why.

    And that brings me on to the squad. Ramsey shouldn’t be playing at the moment. He needs to find form (which he hasn’t had this season at all). Did you know we’ve won nothing as a team with him on the pitch this year? He’s only playing because of a lack of depth in the squad and injuries.

    I also don’t agree that buying M’Vila means we need to sell Song, or Coquelin or Arteta. Song is being asked to play in a defensive midfield role. Arteta is not. Song has no competition as a DM. Frimpong and Coquelin are in line to compete, but are not even close yet. M’Vila brings quality competition. It also allows for some competition for Arteta if Song moves into the more central midfield role that Arteta currently occupies.

    With regards to formation how can you argue that on the one hand we don’t have the squad experience to play a 4-4-2 because we don’t have any natural wingers and then say, as a result, that all those players you mention – Hazard, Goetze, M’Vila and Vertonghen, would be redundant recruits when they would all fit naturally into our 4-3-3 formation which, as you correctly point out, isn’t currently working at its best because we’re missing that creative midfield maestro role that was filled by Cesc? If Wenger wants to persist with the 4-3-3 then they’re potentially great. Yes, if we want to move to a 4-4-2 then they might not be so great, but there’s no indication that that’s what Wenger wants to do!

    Still a good read!!

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Good rant Matt! I’ll try my best to respond to all of your points. I disagree that we don’t do work on the opposition, we do. I just think that Wenger tries too hard to keep his cards close to his chest and he instructs his players to do so. Arsenal players rarely are allowed to give interviews and when they do it must be pre-approved by Wenger and even then he will claim any comment that he has not authorised or agrees with is painted as “taken out of context” or “mistranslated”. Even in post match interviews the players are accompanied by a member of the Arsenal media relations team. Even if Arsenal worked on opposition tactics for weeks on end the players would be instructed not to talk about it. When Wenger says play our game he just means try to be true to our style. Fergie does the same thing and has admitted on more than one occasion that he rarely changes tactics except when playing Arsenal because he knows how to combat our style. We clearly have a plan A but clearly plan B is taboo at London Colney.

      I mentioned in a post earlier this year that I think Wenger does learn but maybe not as quickly as he should and this is because he is an extraordinarily stubborn man and the one person who would challenge him to cast aside his stubbornness and attempt to reflect and possibly change was David Dein. The departure of Dein I feel has stagnated the team more than lack of transfer funds, big debts, more competition, Wenger himself or his youth policy have.

      I think that Song is more likely to be sold as a result of M’Vila joining (if he does that is, until it is on I won’t believe it) purely because we’d get the most value from him. That is just a personal opinion though. Arteta does play a defensive role and it is his defensive work that has masked the fact that Song has in fact played as a CM rather than a DM for most of the season. I personally think the fans excitement when Song goes forward and makes assists etc has played a big part in him thinking it is okay to neglect his defensive duties.

      I never said that they (M’Vila, Vertonghen, Goetze, Hazard) wouldn’t fit in with our system but I do feel that Goetze and Hazard would be overlooked for the Cesc role as Nasri was and would be pumped out on the wings. M’Vila I am mostly unsure of because of the reported price tag and his inability to dominate what I consider to be an inferior league. He is certainly one of the better midfielders in that league and has played well for France but that doesn’t mean he is going to be sensational or even above average in the premier league for 38 games a year. For €22m+ I expect at the very least a clear improvement on what we have already. If we spend that much I expect them to be first choice which means they need to be so good that they can justify the player they are replacing being on the bench for 90% of the season. I’m not convinced that he is. I’m happy to be proved wrong and to see him at the club but I would prefer it if he was much cheaper. Just a personal opinion and observation.

      I don’t think Wenger will move to a 4-4-2 but many of my fellow Gooners believe that this is our best formation. I personally would like to see it as our plan b.

    • David M says:

      Would like to speak a little about M’Vila as actually his performances in the French League has been pretty strong. If you look at his average pass completion last season it was the highest in the league. He break up play very effectively and has a reading of the game that is comparable to Arteta. You are looking at a playerr that breaks up play but cycles the ball very quickly indeed with accuracy favouring short distribution. He would (in my opinion) be competing with Arteta fr a starting berth at home and playing with him away. If you have seen the 1-2 French victory against England at Wembley or the recent game against Germany he was in my view the central cog to the French performances in both instances. Very rarely would I agree with the hype around a player but I honestly feel this guy has the makings to be the strongest DM in the PL.

    • David M says:

      Just noticed the typos……… Hope this doesn’t invalidate my comments!

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Not at all 🙂 thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Please do follow me on twitter if you aren’t already

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      His performances for France have been good but I don’t think international performances really represent a players ability to do it for 38 games in the worlds most punishing league.

      M’Vila is a good player and he does well for Rennes but I’m not convinced by the hype and still don’t think he dominates the midfield the way Vieira did. Not yet anyway. Having said that I’m not against him joining

    • David M says:

      Veira only became the player we know in the PL. Also in terms of dominating the French league the plaudits have come largely from those within the French league itself. The issue with Yann would more likely be mindset as he is the fulcrum of Rennes and some of the off the field issues may be a reflection of this. Think in terms of purchasing a DM think he is the best available right now!

  9. David M says:

    But hey! we may never know….. Like your article btw. Intelligently written and well thought out. Only disagree on the M’Vila front.

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