December blip, or the start of annual Arsenal decline?

by & filed under News Review.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 5.43.09 AM

Hard to know where to take this post and I’ve polled opinion of friends to make sure I don’t go overboard. I think Arsenal fans are in the brace position, you’re in the car with granddad post Christmas, he’s been drinking and he’s just asked you to hold his beer as he attempts to drive in the ice. You kind of know where this is going, but you can’t be sure…

Will the weekend be the thud into the neighbours wall? Or will it be the tonic to a 2 game spree of which 3 points would be a pretty healthy return?

Who knows.

I don’t have time for a full-blown dissection, but some points that are worth bringing up here.

Top Teams Away

That was our second game away from home against a top half of the table team. The first we went to a dejected United and made them look like a cohesive modern team that could win things. Yesterday, we went to an Everton side that were; if not for the opening part of the season, been classified as ‘IN CRISIS’, we went there in incredible form and managed to lose to a team that had recorded 1 win in 10. That’s not good news. Once again, we’re the season page turner for a team playing badly.

Is our early season form a lie? Or more to the point, par the course because we were playing poor teams? Big question that’ll be answered this weekend when we’ll either wither and die at City, or we’ll blossom and everyone will be waving ‘SIGN DA TING’ Wenger flag.

Fatigue

Ok, ok, you knew I couldn’t resist mentioning this, but Arsene Wenger is not the master of keeping his players fresh for the vital games. He blew a huge opportunity to leave his star names at home last week for Basel. Instead he sent them to tank a shite team to go for an overly vicious win. Sure, we topped the group, but it wasn’t worth it in the end because we drew Bayern. More to the point here, we should have been able to win that game with a second string side. Or at least a hybrid that switched out key names that have played a lot of minutes.

Ramifications are you have two plane journeys, you have your players getting home at 3am, getting a poor nights sleep and an interrupted recovery… then we played Stoke on Saturday, again, the standard first team with no rested players. Then we play an Everton side, with a backline that’s been in pieces this season, ripe for a beasting with a high energy powerful attacking display and we don’t have the energy.

Same issue will likely be present for Sunday. Players sat on a coach for 4 hours last night, get home late, go to training today and tomorrow, probably get slammed, then they have to head up on a coach again (maybe it’s a plane), and Wenger will play exactly the same side again and we’ll likely be flat.

Ozil

I’ve been on Ozil’s back a little bit this season. As I pointed out, there’s been a sacrifice of his productivity this season. He’s taking more shots and creating 2.5 less chances per game. We’ve lost his main benefit for a slight increase in shots. Outside the loss of his assist game, he dropped another tepid performance in a big game. He missed some absolute sitters and watching him literally walk away from the ball for the Ashley Williams winner was unbelievable. He didn’t fancy it. Not the first time we’ve seen that.

Sure, there are arguments here that he shouldn’t be defending a corner, but look, this is a team game and you have to put a shift in at all times, regardless of how silly it is that you’re marking a beast of a centre back. This goes back to my point earlier in the week, he is a sublime talent, but that edge you need to be a dominant superstar just doesn’t seem to be there. He doesn’t have that nasty bite Bergkamp did, who is the most comparable as a ‘quiet’ player. You can say I don’t get it because I’m not enlightened by the Church of Oziltology, but look, once again, when we needed our superstar to show up, he slinked into a shallow puddle.

The difference between £180k a week £300k a week.

Defence

As I said in yesterday’s post, you can pretend things aren’t real when you’re winning. We kind of ignored the defensive fragility that’s crept into our game this season. We’ve conceded a lot of chances against some pretty average teams. Stoke and Ludogorets did well against us, factor in that we’ve not kept a clean sheet in 11 games, and well, the writing was on the wall that we’d be punished at some point. That happened yesterday when we were caught napping twice. We need to shape up for City, we don’t have the advantage of a fresh team, so battering them back with an agressive press is out of the question, so we’re going to have to hope we’re solid in the middle of the park and at the back. A tough ask when the gormless Gabriel is paired in there.

Progress

… but look, we’ve scored more goals by this point of the season, we were celebrating a deep squad just last week and there are certainly improvements to stay excited about. Let’s not throw the towel in a few days after Leicester spanked City 4-2. The league is hard, all the clubs have very good players nowadays and there are no easy games. We can still have a good season, we can still challenge, we just have to deal with this setback like adults and win back the points at the weekend.

My only worry is this is a familiar pattern and a predictable one. Running out of juice in December, not have that extra spark and not having enough tactically at the very highest level when you need it.

Let’s hope this was a blip, not a confirmation that Wenger isn’t cut out to win big trophies in a more sophisticated footballing world.

P.S. The Rams fired their coach because performance didn’t match expectations. I mean, he’s a terrible coach, but is this Stan delivering on his, ‘you know what, winning things is fun’, comment? Would be nice to know that if Wenger doesn’t perform this year, there will be a consequence of sorts. One can hope.

212 Responses to “December blip, or the start of annual Arsenal decline?”

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  1. Cesc Appeal

    Dream

    No excuse at all for us not beating that City side, if that is the one Guardiola goes with, that central midfield is so incredibly weak we should be able to cut through it and get at their weak CB pairing with speed and ease.

    Really is time for Arsenal to put big-boy trousers on now and step up to the plate on occasions like this when the conditions heavily favour us. Not a popular thing amongst the pro-Wenger fans who always want to paint a game as a struggle and that there is no shame in us struggling, that City side, playing the way it is, with Stones looking totally lost, defence a shambles, constantly being shifted around, no Fernandinho, no Gundogan and no Aguero, I make us favourites in all honesty.

    As many were quick to point out, Everton was a ‘blip’ and so Arsenal go into the game in much better form, Arsenal have the more complete squad, Arsenal will have the more balanced eleven, Arsenal are not missing as many key personnel, and Arsenal are one of the highest scoring teams in the league.

    Literally all City have in their favour is that the game is being played at the Etihad.

    I know that makes uncomfortable reading for pro-Wenger fans, just like they tried to say there was no reason to expect an Arsenal win at home to Spurs, or a good performance away at that United side, but in truth, we should be winning this weekend.

    Amazing to me the same people who are always so optimistic throughout the summer and point to league tables around December time will always try to dampen expectations and be as cautious as possible in any positive predictions before a game like this. I get accused of being over positive so that any form of bad result looks terrible, I would ask them, what are they doing exactly then?

    Not saying that is what you’re doing by the way. Just disagreeing about City being favourites.

  2. Red&White4ever

    “Also I think that Arsenal need to bring in a top quality Left Back like Alaba”

    You mean, in january ??
    Keep dreaming…

  3. Savage

    The problem with both the Everton and City games is that they’re coming off the back of bad losses and they’re having a kick-back effect.

    In a sense we’re unfortunate with the timing of these two games, except for having Aguero and Fernandinho missing.

    At the very least, we didn’t lose badly. A run of bad ref decisions leading up to the last goal, and some bad misses of our own. It was at least a close game.

  4. Bamford10

    “Daniel Sturridge will have to leave Liverpool in the upcoming January transfer window in order to find first-team football, according to former Rangers forward Kris Boyd.” – Sky Sports

  5. kenyangunner

    “Also I think that Arsenal need to bring in a top quality Left Back like Alaba”
    You mean, in january ??
    Keep dreaming…

    By the year 2030.

  6. Dream10

    Cesc

    Excellent comment. The reason I don’t make us favourites is based on last few.matches. We have tendency to sit back against better teams and play on the. counter. Because of our lack of structure, we are not able to control games either offensively or defensively. It’s why are performances are random. That’s why we can put away Chelsea with ease and struggle against Boro. The effort and commitment of the team has been very good so far. But AW can do a better job coaching.

  7. kenyangunner

    I could be wrong but Chelsea performance is not much different from ours.
    The only difference is they are winning games that they shouldn’t.
    Their conversion rate is out of
    this world

  8. Bamford10

    Cesc

    Given City’s issues, you are probably right that we should be favorites. Yet it remains very hard for me to think of us this way. One, we are not in good form. Two, it’s an away game, and a big game, and we haven’t been great in such games.

  9. Cesc Appeal

    Dream10

    Agreed.

    It would be one of the situations where in the abstract, you would look at the situation and say Arsenal are favourites, but if you know Arsenal, support them, as you say you can only worry about what we’re going to get, the Arsenal from the Chelsea game, or the Arsenal that turned up to play Spurs, PSG, United, Everton etc.

    I think if we play a counter game against City, and get it right, not, as you quite rightly say, this sort of counter game ‘by default’ almost because we cannot control the field etc, we can really do a number on City.

    Solid centre and breaking on them with lots of pace aiming straight at the goal could cause havoc amongst what will be a ramshackle City side low on form and a defence that is in total shambles.

    The very least I want to see, regardless of result, is the team fired up, because honestly, after embarrassing yourself midweek with your attitude, going to title contenders City who are wounded and there for the taking, if you cannot be up for it in that situation, then you have no business calling yourself an ambitious side.

  10. Emiratesstroller

    Red & White

    I used the word “like” in context of recruiting left back.

    Whilst it would be completely unrealistic to sign Alaba in January, because
    a] we are playing Bayern in Champions League and b] he is cup tied.

    However, Alaba was in his youth an Arsenal Supporter and as we know all
    major clubs in EPL have considerable financial clout.

    When we discuss Arsenal’s squad there is no need to make wholesale changes in next two transfer windows PROVIDING that we renew strategic
    contracts. Overall I think we have a very good squad.

    However, I do think that the left flank of team needs upgrading i.e. left back
    and left wing. That should be within our financial compass.

    Remember every footballer does have a price and that includes those at Bayern as well as at Arsenal.

  11. SuperSwede

    Özils main fault was neglecting his defensive duties when Everton scored the winner. All players will miss absolute sitters. Henry did it and Bergkamp did it.

    Educating players into becoming capable defensive enforces in order to destroy the opponents play is equally important to educate them into be creators producing the magic. But here lays Wengers biggest fault because he doesn’t agree. He neglect the defensive part of the game constantly. That’s why Walcott at 27 and ten years of Premier League football still doesn’t know how to close down a cross from a full back. It’s beyond a joke at this level of football really. And the center backs inability to count the opponents’ in is also based on neglect and stupidity from the man at charge. The entire squad should be shipped out to Italy for a year to learn to defend properly. If you don’t agree I have only one word for you – Chelsea!

    You can fault the individual players all you want but there’s a fundamental flaw in Wengers philosophy. Until he’s gone you have to live with games like this where great players look bang average. Yes, they make the mistakes but so do all players not given sufficient training in footballing fundamentals. Blame them if you like but the root cause is elsewhere to be found.

  12. Micheal

    The fundamental flaw with our club is the total and utter failure to learn from past mistakes. How many times have posters written on this site alone how it’s the same old story, why do we never learn, etc, etc.

    Maybe December is the new November.

  13. Confidentgoner

    Red, yes we overplayed just after we scored. Wenger’s teams all have problem with staying focussed throughout 90 mins, unless the opponent let’s them in or the opponents are poor.

    That’s why we don’t go far in CL

  14. naijagunner

    WOAH

    If any right thinking person needed proof that 70% of posters on here aren’t really Arsenal fans well you have it now

    First defeat in three months and we have the following :

    – Gambon coming out of the woods to bash our players and telling us how his beloved Chelsea is a bigger club

    – The pointless Ozil and eriksen comparison…the same Ozil we were told if allowed to leave the club should lead to Wenger being sacked

    – folks blatantly ignoring the fact that Chelsea struggled against Sunderland, if that had been Arsenal no one would care that we won, we would have been told we were “papering over the cracks”..but it’s Chelsea so it’s the “hallmark of champions”

    Arsenal fans my black backside ….Pfft!!!!

  15. Red&White4ever

    @naija : you’re a dick.
    But are you aware of that fact ??

    And are you also aware that, even if they “struggle” big time, the chavs are already 6 points ahead of us ??

  16. naijagunner

    @naija : you’re a dick.
    But are you aware of that fact ??

    And are you also aware that, even if they “struggle” big time, the chavs are already 6 points ahead of us ??

    Was that a fart or was someone actually addressing me ???

    Counting the points now are we ??…..In a league that has already had two “runaway” leaders this season ….Rubbish

  17. Cesc Appeal

    ‘– folks blatantly ignoring the fact that Chelsea struggled against Sunderland, if that had been Arsenal no one would care that we won, we would have been told we were “papering over the cracks”..but it’s Chelsea so it’s the “hallmark of champions”’

    Sort of disagree with this, and this is used a lot by some Arsenal fans, with regards to lots of sides,and it is a bit disingenuous, the difference being Chelsea have won the EPL a lot more recently than we have, I don’t think most people doubt that grinding results is important to winning a title, but what people do dispute is that when Arsenal do it it is, because its been over a decade since Arsenal actually won the EPL, and their repeat performance every season point to the fact Arsenal ‘grinding’ is ‘grinding’ to UCl qualification.

  18. naijagunner

    “Sort of disagree with this, and this is used a lot by some Arsenal fans, with regards to lots of sides,and it is a bit disingenuous, the difference being Chelsea have won the EPL a lot more recently than we have, I don’t think most people doubt that grinding results is important to winning a title, but what people do dispute is that when Arsenal do it it is, because its been over a decade since Arsenal actually won the EPL, and their repeat performance every season point to the fact Arsenal ‘grinding’ is ‘grinding’ to UCl qualification”

    So many words used to say absolutely nothing .

    We all know when last we won a title, that does not mask the fact that Chelsea struggled to score against West brom and Sunderland ( Swansea put three past Sunderland practically playing in second gear) .

    If you can react to the fact that Arsenal don’t blitz every team we play 4-0, and call it cracks appearing in the setup , then i see no reason why the same cannot be said for Chelsea. When last they won the title is irrelevant

  19. naijagunner

    And this UCL qualification you all make fun of is getting old. Even rival fans don’t use it as a weapon anymore cos everyone has realized it’s not as easy as it appears

  20. Cesc Appeal

    Naija

    You essentially said nothing in that response, you’re the type who would get angry at pundits etc not taking Arsenal seriously as a title threat, because they use logic and an analysis of the last decade of Arsenal Football Club and what the team is likely to do throughout the course of a season.

    Disregarding Arsenal as a title challenger is perfectly logical, Arsenal winning the league would be a shock.

    Your UCL point is just redundant and does not make sense at all, shock.

    Chelsea being described as a credible title threat, or City, what have you, is more credible than Arsenal, precisely because over the past decade they’ve proved they can win the league, on multiple occasions, so, then trying to say ‘it is not fair that people don’t say the same about Arsenal’ who have not done the same and have essentially followed a very similar pattern season in season out, is a little stupid.

    Did you understand it that time, or still struggling?

  21. naijagunner

    YAWN

    There is nothing to understand dude , you are not saying anything we have not heard for the past decade so quit typing like you are making some earth shattering discoveries.

    My point is simple …” Arsenal fans should not rush to an Arsenal blog to celebrate their team getting beat while in the same breath praising rival teams and players”

    End of

  22. naijagunner

    And what makes it all the more shameful is it was “their” teams first loss since the opening day of the season.

    You can pound away on your keyboard all you like but that is just silly, reactionary and shameful. The Arsenal fan base actually do not deserve a league title, just like those self entitled deluded fans over at Anfield

    I usually visited a Chelsea Blog ” we aint got no history” when Chelsea were at their lowest last season and i left with more respect for their fan base than i ever had for our pathetic excuse for a fan base

  23. Cesc Appeal

    Naija

    Well your point was not that at all, you are now trying to retreat.

    ‘naijagunnerDecember 15, 2016 16:09:43
    folks blatantly ignoring the fact that Chelsea struggled against Sunderland, if that had been Arsenal no one would care that we won, we would have been told we were “papering over the cracks”..but it’s Chelsea so it’s the “hallmark of champions”’

    Which I took exception to.

    ‘naijagunnerDecember 15, 2016 16:42:34
    There is nothing to understand dude , you are not saying anything we have not heard for the past decade so quit typing like you are making some earth shattering discoveries.’

    Which kind of contradicts your first point doesn’t it? If you’ve heard these things for the last decade, getting there now?

    So you’ve heard them for the last decade, Arsenal have not won the title in the last decade, therefore, those comments were correct, yet you’ve still taken exception to them and tried to claim that logic makes you somehow not an Arsenal fan.

    May not be ‘ground-breaking,’ do not profess to claim they are, what I am sort of suggesting is that I am amazed that you having ‘heard’ this stuff for the last decade seem sort of to fail to understand it and still get childishly angry over hearing it.

  24. Samesong

    I usually visited a Chelsea Blog ” we aint got no history” when Chelsea were at their lowest last season and i left with more respect for their fan base than i ever had for our pathetic excuse for a fan base

    Chelsea fans are the scum of the earth. More respect lol.

  25. Cesc Appeal

    ‘I usually visited a Chelsea Blog ” we aint got no history” when Chelsea were at their lowest last season and i left with more respect for their fan base than i ever had for our pathetic excuse for a fan base’

    Now I wonder, whether that might be to do with the fact Chelsea’s ‘lowest point’ last season came off the back of them winning the title the season before, and numerous times in recent years, and the UCL, so, the frustration of watching the same season unfold year after year is not present in the Chelsea fan base, is it, you don’t hear Chelsea claiming longterm that fourth place is a trophy, Chelsea don’t behave like ambition is dirty, might have something to do with it?

    That Chelsea have grown exponentially as a club in the last decade or so, that Chelsea don’t tend to sit in ruts, as shown over the last decade.

    Really are not helping yourself here.

  26. naijagunner

    “That Chelsea have grown exponentially as a club in the last decade or so, that Chelsea don’t tend to sit in ruts, as shown over the last decade.”

    What rut has Arsenal been sitting in the past decade might i ask? And why does everyone wet themselves ( this blog included) when Liverpool put three wins together when they have not won the title in two decades rapidly approaching three

    @ Samesong

    If you are not a simpleton you would have deduced that i meant Chelsea fans don’t biker and fight themselves nor do they send online abuse to their 20 year old players

    Besides Gambon and Steve are always here, haven’t seen you shown them the door anytime have i ?

  27. Cesc Appeal

    ‘What rut has Arsenal been sitting in the past decade might i ask?’

    You keep trying to shift away from the points you make, your little swipe there was about how much respect you had for Chelsea fans who were going through a low ebb and stoically remained behind their fan base unlike our ‘pathetic’ fan base , my point in reply was that Chelsea over the last decade have won numerous EPL titles and a UCL title, that during that low point Chelsea were reigning champions, than Chelsea had suffered a couple of low ebbs over the past decade but quickly shake themselves out of them and become a top level team winning titles again.

    Your reply, ‘what rut have we been stuck in.’ What does that have to do with anything? Chelsea fans lack of anger at their rut, is because they know it is temporary.

    You cannot compare levels of frustration in the Arsenal fan base to a fan base of a side hugely more successful.

  28. Pierre

    The league is easy to understand at the moment…..

    The teams that qualified for the champions league(city, Leicester, Spurs and Arsenal) are struggling with injuries, sharpness and general fitness due to heavy workload.

    The teams that did not qualify for Europe (Chelsea and Liverpool) look , fresh, full of running , fewer injuries and generally fitter.

    Simple really .

  29. naijagunner

    “You cannot compare levels of frustration in the Arsenal fan base to a fan base of a side hugely more successful.”

    Guess that justifies completely fan vitriol, online abuse and all manner of pig pigheadedness after two losses in sixteen games in the league ??

    keep telling yourself that ,

  30. Pierre

    After this weekend we have 6 very winable games (4 at home) so don’t press the panic buttons yet … Chelsea are looking pretty solid at the moment but as we know , that can change very quickly…….

  31. Cesc Appeal

    Naija

    Did I claim it justified anything?

    Again, stay on your own point, I’m saying that fact makes your point about ‘respect’ for the Chelsea fan base daft, because what are you respecting, Chelsea fans, the then reigning champions, all staying relatively together after about six months of poor football?

  32. naijagunner

    “Again, stay on your own point, I’m saying that fact makes your point about ‘respect’ for the Chelsea fan base daft, because what are you respecting, Chelsea fans, the then reigning champions, all staying relatively together after about six months of poor football?”

    Whatever dude

    I just find the glee and rejoicing on here when we lose a game silly and uncalled for, i do not find that level of name calling when i see fans of other clubs mingle

    Say what you will about being a fan but if all it entails is trophies then more than 95% of clubs in world football will play to empty stadiums but they don’t and why is that …simple…they love the club they choose to support regardless of success

    Liverpool have not won this league since it became the premier league, yet i hear more about Arsenal”s dozen years than i do about their three decades .

  33. Danny

    The teams that qualified for the champions league(city, Leicester, Spurs and Arsenal) are struggling with injuries, sharpness and general fitness due to heavy workload.
    The teams that did not qualify for Europe (Chelsea and Liverpool) look , fresh, full of running , fewer injuries and generally fitter.
    ————————————————-
    So you reckon if Arsenal weren’t in europe then we’d be playing better?
    Complete bollocks mate.
    Our problem is our manager.

  34. The backpass

    Fellani was booed at the weekend.
    I don’t know where you get this notion that arsenal “fans” are the only ones who does this. benteke against Leicester Last season was worse,depay and so on.
    The only difference is that none of them replied to it.

  35. Pierre

    Danny
    “So you reckon if Arsenal weren’t in europe then we’d be playing better?”

    You could ask the same question to pep, pochettino and Ranieri and what do you think their reply would be …….

  36. gonsterous

    Naija

    Sorry bro, want to stay positive and think we can win the league but it just seems impossible, the pressure is on now, so we will have to see how the team perform this month till February. If we don’t go out in all competitions in a week in Feb as we always do, I’ll be really positive that we can win the league !! But till then I’m not going to start partying !!

  37. Batistuta

    Think what naija is trying to say is the amount of abuse sometimes just goes overboard, imagine so called fans going to players social media page to rain abuses on them for missed chances during a game, now that’s just sad, you can get same here when we win this place is deserted but one defeat and the place is with comments, yea i know we haven’t won the league in ages and the manager and owner are cunts but that really doesn’t warrant all the abuse especially the ones dished out to the players, its becoming very common among Arsenal fans, someone racially going at Iwobi after the game on Tuesday and all that and you only need to come on here after a defeat to get a feel of how much hate people feel for Wenger has clouded any form of positivity, sad really

  38. Christian

    just a thought and I don’t mean trophies are not necessary but why do some fans laud the club when we don’t win trophies but call out players that jump ship for money?I consider both superficial.being a fan is all about the passion,trophies or not

  39. Pierre

    Danny, our problem is because of our continual failure to compete for the whole season year in year out , the fans have lost confidence in the team to last the pace. Of course the fault lies with Wenger , that’s obvious…… The fact is , this season is going pretty well and the squad looks pretty strong even with our usual 7/8 players out injured which I suppose is wengers fault ( might as well blame him). ….. I can see us very near the top at end of January and it would be good to go into the last 3months with a fully fit squad just to see if we can last the pace …….

  40. Pedro

    Naija, football clubs exist to win trophies. Sure, it’s not the only thing, but all fans want trophies.

    You think Liverpool fans don’t bitch about not winning the league?

    This blog comments is exactly the sort of chat you have around the stadium. Don’t pretend it’s unique to Arsenal or an anomaly in football. If you think this doesn’t go on, then you’ve not been to many games or mingled with many fans.

  41. naijagunner

    @ Batistuta

    Bless you …at least someone gets the gist of the argument

    I did not enjoy the defeat on Tuesday and it was avoidable, that does not mean i should don my party hat and hit Le grove to piss all over the club and recite the 12 year no league title mantra

  42. Pedro

    Complete rubbish. Clubs sole purpose to exist is to win trophies. When you’re a big club, expectations are higher. Fans want a party and when the manager squanders resources and opportunity, they’re going to moan.

  43. The backpass

    how to defend Ozil

    1. bring up some useless stat. if that doesn’t work then,

    2. tell us he is opening space for his teammate. If that doesn’t work

    3. we need to watch football well to truly see what Ozil is doing.

    Ozil is a good player but he is not a great player..