So the topline assessment is that once again, Arsenal weren’t good enough. The… erm… second from topline is that despite us not being good enough, I really enjoyed the second half. Once again, Arsenal seem to have slipped into an irritating pattern we can’t shake. We’ve had them all, conceding early, conceding late, great first halves, great second halves… the trend at the moment is weak first halves and p*ss poor defensive performances.#
Last night saw us drop points because we can’t cut out the individual mistakes. No one seems keen on taking a leading role at the back. The first goal conceded last night started with a slip from Sagna, the ball was cut across the box, Vermaelen got no where near it, Sturridge had his shot blocked by Szeceney, the ball rolled out, it looked like Ramsey tried to back heel it away, then Suarez rolled up to smash it in and Mertesacker turned his back on the shot. A calamity. I’d like to put it all on Sagna but the issue was more down to the poor reactions after the save.
We didn’t roll over and die. Walcott went down the other and and had a powerful shot turned wide. Giroud shanked a shot on the edge of the box dreadfully wide of the post… things weren’t great up top. You really did feel yourself praying for a Villa.
Our keeper showed himself up with some daft 6 yard box shenanigans. He tried to Cruyff turn Sturridge in his area, found himself tackled which put us under pressure. A few minutes later, he made a seriously poor attempt at punching the ball clear from a corner. His positional sense and confidence for high balls into the box has taken a battering. Arsene Wenger should be out there right now brokering a deal for Steklenburg who is on the radar for Fulham. Our keeper has no pressure and his performances are being negatively impacted as a result. He’s arrogant. There’s no consequence for playing terribly.
The first half started to go stale, I remember one moment where Johnson was down injured for a few minutes. Steven Gerrard took time out to speak to 6 of his players. He was barking orders out, trying to raise their game. What was Vermaelen doing? Nothing. Hand on hips, staring blankly into space looking totally shell shocked. Really poor. The lack of leadership qualities in our squad is appalling.
Things went from bad to sour when Kieran Gibbs picked up his customary injury. Santos warmed up to the dread of the whole stadium. He’s like a worse less funny version of Eboue. It’s not his fault though, which is why the booing is really shameful. There are too many people at the ground who seem to be there just for the bad times. Wenger really should be taken to task as to why, despite knowing Santos isn’t up to the job, has not looked to bolster behind Gibbs… who is an injury disaster.
The second half started off with a bit more intent. Podolski was clattered after a surging run into the box, we thought it was a penalty, goes without saying really. Theo nearly put us ahead after the German put a perfect ball into the back post… the header from 3 yards was a bit of a mess, even for a short man.
Disaster then struck when Jordan Henderson, a player so average even his own mother struggles to watch him, waltzed through our defence, hit a shot that Ramsey did well to block, Santos was in the way so it bounced back into Henderson’s path and he slipped it in. What a joke…
We really kicked into life after that, Podolski had a powerful shot that went just wide. The team started moving for each other and the chances rolled in. Our goal came from a Jack Wilshere freekick. Giroud managed to get his head on the end of it and turn it in. Finally… he’d scored. It didn’t take long for goal number two to arrive, this time Theo picked up a cross from Podolski at the back post and smashed it low from an acute angle to make it two.
Giroud and Theo had numerous chances to close out the game, but the finish just wasn’t there from either of them. Someone with a clinical edge could have had four goals last night, but it wasn’t to be. We were still conceding posession down the other end, so the game didn’t feel closed off until the whistle went…
At the end of the day, a point isn’t good enough. It may have come from being two goals down, but that doesn’t really disguise anything. We’re not good enough in defence and that starts and finishes with the manager. Like a friend said to me last night, Arsene Wenger is managing decline. People say he’s overworked, but what is he actually doing? He’s controlling the club, but he’s not working on defence. He’s not working on a game plan. He’s clearly not working hard to bring players in. He’s just managing the team like he was 10 years ago without the bells and whistles of success. No man in the modern game is capable of managing every aspect of the club, why someone hasn’t pointed this out to Arsene is beyond me.
There’s this theory that your wage bill is reflective of your final position in the league. It generally works out that way. Some use this to justify how we do every year. Why don’t we turn that theory on its head? Should the highest paid manager in the league not be performing to a higher level than his peers? In the same way you pay the best players the best money on the expectation they’ll over achieve… shouldn’t the same be true of the manager?
If yesterday’s post match acceptance that his squad is good enough didn’t convince you he’s dead as a manager in the top echelons of the game, I don’t know what will. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not sure it’s a player thing. Our defence has been the same regardless of who we put into it. Many of them leave and go onto better things. Vermaelen and Mertesacker aren’t bad players, but they’re not being given any instruction or support. Play on… and sort out the mess yourself seems to be the strategy. It’s killing us…
I was told last night that the mess hasn’t gone unnoticed at the top. Apparently Ivan Gazidis is also under pressure as well. If I owned a football club, I think I’d be asking questions of him. I know he can’t over rule the manager on the playing front, but when the manager you’re working with starts to affect commercial income because he’s so unbelievably rigid, you have to step in. If Arsenal finish outside the top 4 this season… who is going to spend out for a club level ticket? Who is going to want to fork out £500 a ticket for a box (that has 16 seats)? Blind loyalty to a manager who is lost in his own arrogance isn’t good CEOing. The fans are unhappy, the team looks unhappy, the pundits are all stating the obvious… so everyone in world football is wrong about this team bar Wenger who has once again said he can’t find anyone in world football good enough to improve his squad?
Utter drivel… it’s almost like he’s behaving the way he is to spite the fans… and in the process, he’s actually doing far worse, he’s spiting his legacy.
Leaving this post on a high note… I though Aaron Ramsey had a really good game last night. He reminds me of Flamini in the middle of the park. He likes getting stuck in and he seems to relish the pressing game. I also thought Theo was excellent. His control has come on leaps and bounds as has his footballing brain. 18 goals, not a bad return.
It’s transfer D-Day… let’s hope for a miracle.