The car crash season I predicted well over a month and a half ago is well and truly underway. Arsene Wenger has seen the adverts for Christmas have started early and he’s more than happy to jump into the spirit of good will and giving in September.
Yesterday was an odd game. One of the oddest I can remember in a while. On the one hand, I was there feeling vindicated by the addition of experience. Though we let in a dopey goal in the first half, I felt our football had found an element of fluidity to some degree. Alex Song slipped Gervinho in for the opener inside the first ten minutes, I’d barely pulled up a seat in the Trafford Centre’s Namco Arcade, then I was up screaming like a Southern lunatic when Gervinho latched onto the defence splitting ball and lashed it back across Paul Robinson’s goal with precision and power.
Our passing was far more precise than it had been for months. We’d decomplexified our game, instead of using 15 passes to move 4 yards up the pitch, we were using 4 to move 40 years
It didn’t take long for us to concede our lead though. Yakubu managed to slip in behind Mertesacker to pick up an excellent through ball. Behind Mertesacker, Santo and Koscielny were playing the big Nigerian onside, he broke free and one touch finished past Chezzer. Dopey defending by all, characteristic of a Wenger defence. Characteristic of a unit that were playing their first game together.
We were still taking pot shots at goal. Arshavin looked really up for the game, tucking out wide in place of Theo. Arteta and Santos were ingratiating themselves with the away fans making some crunching tackles all over the park.
Our keeper wasn’t having the best day, he was dithering with the long balls into the box and his play was very indecisive.
We managed to take the lead again when Song played a nicely weighted pass out wide to Ramsey, the Welshman jinked into the box, cut back patiently for Arteta who cooly slotted into the roof of the net from about 10 yards.
Gervinho had a great chance close to half time, he cut into the box, instead of laying off to Robin who was in plenty of space, he elected to go for glory. At the time, I enjoyed the selfishness. How many times has selfless play cost us? At the back of my mind though, I did wonder if we’d pay for that act.
The second half opened with a calamity. Arshavin conceded an unlucky freekick just outside the area. The dead ball was chipped into the box, Song didn’t follow his runner which for me was his first mistake, his second mistake came when the ball was glanced back across goal and he stayed rooted to the ground and casually allowed the ball to slip into goal off his leg. People can blame zonal marking, or like me, can blame a lack of accountability in our side. Attack the ball, follow the runner and always, always be on your toes.
2 leads conceded in one game against a team who’d scored one goal up until that point.
Sagna went off crippled and on came Johann Djourrou. He immediately had a role to play in allowing Blackburn in on goal, only a super save from Chezzer stopped us going down instantly. Song and JD showed us that orange hair isn’t a performance enhancer.
We then conceded from a corner, Koscielny missed the over hit cross, the ball was slipped back across the face of our goal where an onside Yak was at hand to tap home an N’Zonzi cross. Shocking defending again.
We’d just conceded our third against bottom of the table Blackburn. A team so poor, their supporters protested against the manager prior to the game were now beating us.
The game wasn’t over though.
Blackburn broke from a corner, JD flew in wildly and missed the ball and Olsson, Alex Song failed to do anything to put him off as he waltzed into out box, then Koscielny took the time to finish the cross from him. At this point in the bar I was in I went all Sammy Kuffour on the table…
‘No No NO NO NO NO NO ARSENE! What the have you done to us!’
Fear not though, the solution to most problems nowadays can be found in a striker more renowned for being a fire hazard at office parties. Chamakh came on and in fairness, he did ok. He scored a header within minutes from a Robin cross and the Arsenal boys did rally, chance after chance went begging but it was too little too late. The ref blew up in 94 mintues. We hadn’t been bullied out of a game, we’d been out fought, out defended and out scored.
Truly one of the worst results for a while.
The positives are going to be in very little supply, but what I will say is firstly if your boys in attack score 3 goals and you have any aspirations to be a top club domestically and in Europe, there is no way you should be celebrating anything other than a spanking victory. We were playing Blackburn out there yesterday, a team so poor, their fans have protested against their manager. That team now sits above us in the Premier league with a goal difference +5 better than ours. How disgraceful is that?
Let’s put this in perspective.
We’re 5 games into the season, we’ve lost 3 and we’ve conceded 14 goals. That’s an average of 2.8 goals a game we’re shipping. Weighted over a season, that’s 106 goals. That my friends is relegation form. Right at the start of the season, I spoke to someone at the club who said that we could find ourselves in a relegation battle. Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but look at the facts. We’re not talking about 5 games here, we’re talking about our form since February. We are talking about tangible evidence to support that scary thought.
I picked up some data (above) from one of the tweeters last night and did some sums around it. In the last 26 games we’ve picked up 33 points out of a possible 78. If you looked at George Graham’s last 26 games in charge, he picked up 27 points out of a possible 76. He was a manager who didn’t have a £120million wage bill at his disposal, a manager who had won a trophy within the previous 6 seasons and he certainly hadn’t left £50million sitting in the TPA fund.
Arsene Wenger is some how, still sitting in a job after overseeing our worst run of form I can remember. We’ve conceded 33% of last seasons total conceded goals inside the first 5 games. This from a manager who was charged with improving the defence in the summer. This is a problem he’s been trying to sort out for 5 years and he’s systematically failed to improve year on year.
When are we going to accept that this problem is actually beyond him? He doesn’t want to address the issue. He has Tony Adams sitting in Azerbaijan twiddling his thumbs, he has Steve Bould, an opinionated intelligent defender training kids and he has a budget that would allow him to bring in anyone as a defensive coach to sort out these problems. What sort of top class manager would allow this shambolic embarrassment continue to happen into its 6th season? What sort of manager would openly admit that he wouldn’t have signed another centre back had the injury not occurred to Thomas Vermaelen?
Previously, I’d have said that sacking the manager now would be a disaster. It would be unfair to bring in a coach now who couldn’t purchase his own players and bed in his own techniques. Now however, it’s starting to look like this bad form is here to stay. It’s starting to look like keeping him at the club is going to be damaging to our long-term success. Remember, if we don’t make the Champions League this year, we’re £25million down on our transfer budget next year. We’ll lose 4 of our first team squad because they’ll have 1 year on their deal and we won’t have the attraction to replace those players.
After this weekend, we could be 11 points off the leaders of the league, an up hill battle when you don’t have world class players to catch the chasing pack. Every team in the league now sees us as a very real 3 points opportunity. Our players are on their knees confidence wise and what makes it worse is that the manager was so negligent, he didn’t even afford the new boys a bedding in period.
There isn’t a saving grace here, there are no mitigating circumstances. Everything that has happened over the past 3 years lays firmly at the doorstep of Arsene Wenger. He’s plateaued, he’s no longer the dynamic thought leader he once was and his petty war on modern day football looks flat and embarrassingly nostalgic and Granddad like. He’s even taken to baiting fan expectation which I’d imagine would only fuel fan dissatisfaction.
Power corrupted Arsene Wenger, becoming and invincible led him to believe he was invincible. The big question I’ll pose today is how long can Ivan Gazidis allow this car crash to go on? How long can he continue to support a manager whose bad decisions have led to fielding a team that has conceded 14 goals in 5 games? How many more games to we have to lose before enough is enough. The other question is fan related, someone said recently that Wenger’s position is only safe until it’s not. When will that point come with the board and with the fans? We’ll have to make a stand at some point because this is getting out of hand.
The club are being punished right now for settling for 4th as a trophy. I’ve said numerous times over the year, if you set 4th as your trophy, one day, you’ll miss that target and finish 5th, 6th or 7th. Wenger pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, thinking that he could systematically lower fan expectation by championing top club mediocrity as success because we had good young players and fat profits. Well, the players gave up on that premise first by leaving us in a hole this summer, now the chickens have come home to roost, the fans will be next.
2011-12 is the beginning of the worst car crash since George Graham signed Chris Kiwomya and co. My prediction was that Wenger wouldn’t last the season, at this rate, he’d be lucky to last October. Wenger, like the players has been unaccountable to anyone for years, now we’re suffering for the over indulgence of his ‘genius’.
Put your affinity for the mans history to one side, if we don’t make top 4 this season, we are in a world of trouble next summer.
Think about that…
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