I have to put the excuses on the table right away. The refereeing decisions were unacceptable. Losing out to two offside decisions is pretty painful in a game of such importance, but until we start giving refs tech to work with we’re going to keep facing these issues in a game that pushes the boundaries of speed with players, but continues to hire old refs well into their late thirties and early forties. The solution is too simple and too available to work myself into a frenzy. I also believe we should rotate refs from Europe to remove the obvious localization bias that exists.
… but look, let’s not pretend we weren’t totally out maneuvered last night. Arsene Wenger, at the highest level, is dead. You know this, I know this, we all know this. Yesterday, we were out thought and fought by a team missing its core. Pep, and let’s be fair here, Arteta, saw us coming a million miles off. We offered nothing.
Firstly, the chickens came home to roost with our team selection. Arsene Wenger’s cut and paste team sheet ran out of steam hard. The manager firstly reverted to a Leicester City game plan, you sense not because of tactical reasons, but because the players didn’t have the energy to hit city with an aggressive press. We were embarrassingly dominated in the first half, but you sensed it might have been built that way with the hope of a fast counter. I mean, it looked good when Theo latched onto Sanchez’ reverse pass and slotted home after 4mins. However, as the City pass number racked up to absurd levels, you started to worry we were just not at the races.
We couldn’t pass our way out of their press, it looked planned, allow us to lose the ball in midfield, then release Sterling or Sane to beast our shapeless back line. The second half saw us pay the penalty, Sane picked up the remnants of a poor Petr Cech hoof, he ghosted through our defense and brushed his shot low into the corner. The second came from a KDB cross that Silva swiped at before Sterling rattled home near post. Completely interfering with play and very upsetting the officials missed it, but that’s football.
From there, we had nothing. The tank was empty. Our players were all dying. There was a visible lack of fight and leadership. We should have taken that early lead and pushed hard for a second and a third. Instead, we gave up and prayed we could hold on.
We have to admit that there’s a problem with Ozil, his level of interest in yesterday was low even for him. He is a half season player who at best has a fitness problem, at worse has an attitude problem. He’s been appalling two games in a row when we needed him to step up.
Coquelin once again showed that he’s totally not built for the highest level, he has no ability on the ball under pressure and he’s a real weakness in a midfield Wenger can’t leave him out of. Running about like a headless chicken doesn’t win you league titles these days. When the tactics of the opposition are geared around your players losing the ball under pressure, you have a serious issue.
Most of my irk goes the way of Wenger. For him to take a full side to Basel was negligent and stupid. For him not to rotate across Stoke or Everton was beyond the pale, but ever so predictable and we ran out of gas when it mattered. The Premier League requires a different level of fitness. Arsene Wenger can’t fathom it. The worst thing is he still doesn’t understand it when he has a squad to help. Why isn’t Perez playing games? Why isn’t Giroud being rotated in? Why is Rambo on the shitlist? These guys don’t get game time until Wenger destroys our star names or the team looks so heavy legged he has to. It’s not smart, and if I can call these problems, why can’t Wenger?
City were there for the taking. Wenger had a better squad of players. Pep out thought him and his team out fought Arsenal. We didn’t have a plan capable of taking down a weakened City. We lost major ground in the title race in the same way we always do. Underprepared and out strategized. It’s amazing to say that after berating Wenger for so many years for asking us to think big picture. But his biggest flaw is he doesn’t think strategically.
We don’t have a plan for fitness management. We don’t have a plan for managing players psychologically, and I don’t mean bringing in someone to talk about feelings, I mean managing player game time so they feel included. We also don’t have a plan for dealing with big teams. We don’t predict their style and counter it. We also don’t think about our squad. Ozil is good for half a season, we should have worked that out by now. Santi Cazorla was always going to get injured, we should have worked that out. Coquelin is no where near the level we need for that position in our system, why hasn’t Wenger solved for that? Why do Arsenal have a keeper who hoofs the ball? Only 20 out of his 43 passes found a man, that is unforgivable. How can a team built for style be out passed by over 200? The top 7 passers yesterday were City players! Coquelin only made 15 passes out 26 attempts. Absolute poverty.
No planning. This is the upshot. Bland on toast and a fight with Spurs for 4th. Very depressing. Pray to god Wenger hasn’t signed another deal because he needs to leave and let the club give a shot to a modern visionary who can reinvent the club, turf out the mercenary dross we’ve accumulated and bring back some pride.