Beaten by Swansea in possession, points and budget | Wenger mess deepens at Arsenal

by & filed under Match report.

No excuses‘ formed the last part of yesterday’s post and here we are today trying to scramble around for a bag of them. Look no further than a weak squad and a manager whose lack of imagination with his tactics and total contempt for ruthlessness in his selection yet again leaves us banging our heads against the proverbial brick wall.

Swansea know how to play possession football, Wenger arrogantly quipped ‘in their own half’ before the game, sadly they showed us how wrong he was. At times they commanded 63% and the bulk of it was in our third. They looked more inventive than us, they were certainly more daring and ultimately, they proved too good for us. Once again, we’re waking up to another defeat, our 7th, against the back drop of taking the lead. That’s 8 points thrown in 4 games and 0 points so far this year.

How did this all happen? Well, it wasn’t because of a bad start. Robin Van Persie opened the scoring after 4 minutes when Arshavin picked him out perfectly with a through ball, the Dutchman looked like he’d taken too long over his decision, he faked, then slipped his snap shot inside Vorm’s post. A fabulous finish.

Swansea didn’t falter though. This wasn’t your usual newly promoted side. This was a team that played like a classic Italian team. They kept possession in the middle of the park and slowed the tempo of the game to suit them, when they saw a chance to slip a winger in, they’d jump on it.

Sadly it wasn’t a lovely piece of possession play that resulted in their goal. Miquel made a hash of a clearance which lead to a Swansea attack, as Dyer was looking to manoeuver in the box, he sensed Ramsey behind him and dropped when it looked like the Welshman had brushed him. It looked soft to start with, on replay, it was a blatant dive. Terrible reffing. A decision we’d never get in reverse. It’s a shame I have to criticise Ramsey for standing behind a player in the box, but that’s the way of the game these days. Sinclair took the penalty and beat the keeper to his left. 1-1.

Ramsey went close soon after we’d kicked off, he latched onto a duff Robin shot, took the ball round Vorm but had no one in a red shirt in the box. Yossi found Robin moments later, the Captain only had the keeper to beat but blasted his shot right at him.

Theo Walcott was looking abject at best. His decision making in the final third was not of the highest order and he didn’t look particularly interested. How long does the boss persist with him? ‘Swansea 63% possession’ flashed up on the screen, they we controlling the game and playing very well.

Our cumbersome full backs were causing us problems. They’d bomb forward without the pace to return. Their lack of mobility in the final third made you wonder why they kept marauding forward like a pack of Bendtners.

The second half opened with a bit more of a bang, Robin fed in Theo, sadly, he could only fire over the bar. Arshavin did the same when Rambo teed him up minute later. Swansea weren’t deterred, fizzing two shots just wide from the edge of our box. We needed to get tighter.

The Welsh took the lead after Aaron Ramsey gave the ball away twice with a poor pass firstly, then a shoddy bit of control, Joe Allen picked up the pieces, played in an unmarked Nathan Dyer with a well weighted pass and let him bury his shot across Chesney. Where was Miquel? About a mile up the pitch… that’s where. Two very weak mistakes by Aaron as well. He really wasn’t doing his Aaron ambassadors any favours…

Wenger changed up the side pretty sharpish. He brought on Thierry Henry for Arshavin (who was dead) and he oddly opted to bring on Rosicky for Benayoun. Why oh why when you’re chasing a game would you bring on a player who hardly ever makes an impact (2 years since his last goal), especially when taking off a player who has always seemed far more dangerous.

My gripes could be put on hold for a moment, Theo Walcott levelled things up when JD threaded him through on goal from right back. Sure it was a nice finish, but it didn’t disguise his woeful performance. Or the fact it was his first contribution to the goal tally since October. He really is out of his depth at Arsenal.

Barely having enough time to sit back down, Miquel was again caught out of position by Siggurdson, he was rumbled, Thierry then lost it on the half way line trying to recover the mistake, Swansea split the defence, Danny Graham beat Koscielny and fired a shot across goal. Chesney was well out of position and they scored. What a debacle.

We were losing by a goal against a team with the lowest transfer spend out of everyone who had a wage bill equal to 3 Diaby’s last season. What a joke. We didn’t really make much of an effort to level things up. AOC was brought on for Mertesacker and he looked bright. Trouble was that no one really gave him the ball. Thierry had a glancing header that whistled past the post and Koscielny nearly acrobatically turned in a spilled Rosicky shot, but bar that, it was frustration all around.

We’d lost. Beaten by Swansea. Call ourselves a top 4 team? Not on this evidence.

Conclusion

What can you say that hasn’t already been rehashed a million times on here? We don’t have the squad to handle injuries to key players. Arteta picked up a calf strain before the game and we lost our maestro. Our passing wasn’t accurate for most of the match and we really struggled to penetrate Swansea in their own half. We had hardly any shots and we certainly didn’t seem to be able to match the fight on show from the minnows.

The team selection gets tougher and tougher to digest every week. We know certain players aren’t good enough, yet we persist. Arshavin did level in with an assist and I thought he did ok in the first half, but his fitness really is questionable. AOC looked far more lively and interested than Theo has for the last few games, yet he’s still only considered for cameo appearances. If a player isn’t in good form, whatever happened to dropping them? We never do… Wenger doesn’t look at a passport when he selects, he looks at how much of his ego he’s invested in a player before he does. He’s certainly wagered a big chunk on Theo after saying he had more than Messi at 19…

What really gets me is our system. 4-3-3 works when we’ve got all our best players available, but when the bulk of them are missing, shouldn’t we change things up. If we really do value intelligence in players, then adapting to a new set up shouldn’t be a problem. Things to consider yesterday…

1. Our full backs were both carthorses.

2. Andrey is the only creative outlet of class

3. Pace is an issue

Why don’t we opt for a more defensive 4-5-1, with Arteta and Song anchoring, Theo and AOC wide with Andrey in the hole… or try something über classic… yep, I’m talking a 4-4-2. We could again have two anchors, like the classic Paddy and Petit with two zippy wingers in AOC and Theo with Andrey playing second striker to Robin. We could switch Arshavin with Thierry when chasing the game.

I’m not saying the above systems are the answer, then again, I’m not going to sit here and tell you flogging the same system regardless of personnel is the future of Arsenal’s football. When we get into ruts like we’re in at the moment, Wenger doesn’t have a way out. He’s incapable of motivating the players and the best we can hope for to change things up is a return from injury.

Typically, the manager was ‘surprised’ at what happened.

‘There were some other turning points. When we came back to 2-2, straight away, a defensive mistake. It looked similar to me to Fulham. Lack of appreciation of the ball. Our defensive performance was not good enough and that’s why we lost the game.

“We made defensive mistakes that you should not make. In the last two games we made mistakes that, at that level, are difficult to explain. It is unbelievable. For a team of that experience, for a team of that ambition, it is difficult to explain.”

He also went on to lambast our attacking play. How can the manager of a team who have conceded 31 goals in little over half a season and been largely dependent on one man in attack claim ‘surprise’ at results like that?

Wenger for me is lost at the moment. He’s struggling to get the best out of players he banked on being legends, he’s despondent about the transfer market (hence why he’s still living in 2002 with transfer fees) and his tactics are too rigid for the quality of squad. We’re in a right old mess that I fear he won’t be able to rectify until the summer.

It’s also worth noting Thierry got into an altercation with a fan. I don’t know the ins and outs… but it doesn’t look good after being back all of 6 minutes does it? Apparently Thierry had to force some of the players to thank the away support, which resulted in a fan accusing the team of lacking passion. A fair accusation. I’d be saying they lack appreciation of what an arse ache it is to get to Swansea and have yourself presented with that dross. Things have changed since Thierry upped sticks and left a few years ago, much like revisiting an old relationship… things are rarely the same again.

On the injury front, don’t get your hopes up. Jack will be back mid-February at the earliest. Most likely the end of. We’ll find out today when Arteta is back later on today I’d imagine, but my gut feel is that if Wenger said he was rested (which he wasn’t), then the injury must be very minor. Still, Santos should be back in the country soon and Vermaelen and Sagna are close. Those two will be an absolute god send to get back in the side.

Oh, and on the transfer front, I’ve heard this new left back we’re trialling is a midget. Smaller than Gael Clichy and built like my nan after her annual bikini crash diet. Superb… can you believe we’re stooping this low?

Anyway, United up next. Brilliant.

P.S. You might want check out this stadium review of Highbury. I’m so depressed today, that feels like something I could do and enjoy.

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Arsenal go to Wales! | Arteta possibly injured | 1 Million comments this week

by & filed under News Review.

Bore da gyfeillion Le Grove.

That’s a big fat welcome in the good language of Welsh. Why? Because Swansea is in Wales and I want to celebrate diversity.

I’m looking forward to this afternoons game because we know Swansea will play an open game. They’ll try and hit us on the wings with their pace and they’ll certainly leave gaps. According to the stats, Swansea are more efficient at the passing game than United, Liverpool and Spurs. They might not be as adventurous, but a super stat all the same, top 4 stuff from a newly promoted team is testament to the excellent vision of career manager Brendan Rodgers. Another interesting stat for all the muppets that slag of the Premier League and its technical ability is that the Premier League is more effiecient than La Liga with accurate passing in the final third according to Rafa Benitez and his data analysts.

Today is a prime game for Theo to showcase why he’s the best player in the universe and it might even be a good game to unleash the raw talents of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

My gut feeling says that Wenger will go for experience over the folly of youth. So I’m expecting him to start Theo and Arshavin out wide… and possibly Thierry through the middle. It feels like the sort of game we should be resting Robin, trouble is, outside Thierry, all we have is risk. That said, he did take Park Chu Young off in midweek, so maybe we’ll get to see the explosive marketing talents of the Asian dream. We know he can finish because we’ve seen him score before. Question is, will he be able to handle the rough and tumble of the Welsh?

In defence, things are still looking about as promising as the French credit rating, so the midfield will have to muck in at the back. The wingers will also have to offer as much cover as they can. JD returns to the side, he certainly doesn’t need an invitation to play like a rusty nail. At left back, I’m guessing we’ll opt for Miquel, who looks like Pires, Benny and Rosicky all rolled into one. Let’s be honest… he’d make a marvellous Gooner paternity special on the Jeremy Kyle Show… my money would be on Bobby, the man oozes reproduction.

The centre backs will be Koscielny and Mertesacker. I’m pretty sure those two will deal with Swansea. In midfield, Ramsey, Song and Arteta will probably start again. I’m not sure when Arteta is going to land a rest… maybe when Diaby comes back? Which will be next season. Let’s hope he powers his way through another game… his experience in the middle is hugely underplayed at the moment.

Word has it that Arteta may have picked up an injury, so he’s rumoured to be out the line up. Who we slip into the middle now is a mystery. Kind of an ideal game for Frimpong. As he’s not there, things really do look precarious. Do we move JD from right back into the holding role and move Song forward. Do we move JD into the centre of defence, bring Yennaris in and play Koscielny in the middle of the park. Or do we slip Rosicky or Benyaoun into the middle and hope they give us the same stability Arteta does. I know our injuries are bad at the moment, but it’s not like we don’t have these same issues every year… we should have more players to call upon to deal with it. Instead, we’ll have to patch up the midfield with a damp, soggy plaster.

Wenger always tries to work through with the bare minimum and invariably, it always bites him on the arse. I’m reading the Alex Fynn book on making Arsenal a superclub. Great book, but reading the last 5 season back you end up bashing your head against whatever is nearest.  It’s ground hog day over and over again with the same pitiful excuses. It kind of worked at the start, apparently Wenger couldn’t play Theo for the first year we signed him because we couldn’t afford the initial first appearance fee. We also had to defer Robin Van Persie’s transfer when we first went in for him because we were skint. However, from January 2008, we’ve been caked in cash for him to spend. We had £18million to go into market with in 2008… and it’s roughly been the same or higher since.

The manager is complaining about the transfer window again and the pressure it brings…

“Everybody becomes nervous in November until January. Then players maybe think, ‘If I don’t play then I will leave in January’. They are already less committed to the cause, it gives them an opening.

“We have gone from a period where we knew if we didn’t play we had to be committed to the club, had no other option but to fight for the place.

This is true, but it’s not something we haven’t been aware of since 2002. Moaning on about how hard it is just feels like deflection tactics again, because interestingly enough, we can’t find players in the summer either. Now, we’ve either got a manager who has totally lost the ability to identify players or we have a broken scouting network. We could blame the board, but they seemed to pull it together quite nicely when Wenger was under pressure. Remember as well, the board when it comes to transfers is Gazidis. The rest are obsolete or figure heads.

Either way, it’s looking bleak for January action. As for Saad Al Mukhaini… what the hell is that all about? Wenger now seems to be going to comical lengths to be seen as the wizard of value… You’d have better chance of finding a good left back over Hackney Marshes.

I think the key today is our finishing. The team isn’t performing in front of goal at the moment and confidence is shot to pieces. The longer missed chance go begging, the less likely we are to break the deadlock… especially with players like Gervinho and Chamakh (oh I jest) missing. I’m confident it won’t come to that, I’m hoping that the Leeds game will spark a bit of inspiration in the rest of the side and I’d like to think we’ve been working on finishing over the last week.

We have a chance to push further ahead of Liverpool after another draw from them and we have the chance to catch two points on Spurs (well played Frimpong). Tomorrow isn’t about excuses and bitching about the conspiracy of referees, complimenting Swansea on being a major force in the Premiership or blaming injuries for our woes. It’s time to take the season by the scruff of the neck and kick it up the Arsenal. At the end of the season, only one thing matters… that’s points. How you get them or lose them is totally irrelevant. So let’s push on and make sure we seize the day.

Just to keep you up to date… we’re on schedule to have a new site up and running by the end of the month. I think it’s looking smart, and hopefully you will too when I let you loose on the BETA version in a couple of weeks time. A nice touch is that next week, it looks like we’ll break a million approved comments before we leave this home. We’re 2400 away from the magic number! If the millionth comment is from a London based Grover who goes to the game, I’ll buy you a Peroni before a pre match. If you’re based abroad, I’ll give you a lovely cyber high five! A million in a little over 4 years… very exciting, so a big thanks to everyone who has contributed to that number!

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Right, enjoy your day, let’s be having those three points lads!

P.S. Take a look at Rambo’s appeal in the press for a missing man.

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Arsenal season ticket price hike rumblings | No left back… no signings?

by & filed under News Review.

Happy Saturday to you all! Arsene Wenger has gone on an all out attack on the television companies for their unfair scheduling practices. I think he’s specifically citing the issues surrounding the Villa game at the moment and he makes a fair point.

‘You cannot have decisive games with one team playing on Friday and then again on Tuesday and another team on Sunday and then Tuesday. That does not work. You can try and convince me that it is right but I can tell you working in football for 30 years, it is not right because it is not fair.’

I agree with what the man is saying here. TV schedules aren’t fair on the fans either. No consideration is given to the people who have to pay out to buy tickets, then have to stomach the cost of switching them over. No one cares that some of us have to work early on the Monday morning… and would prefer not to be messing about at a football ground until 20:00.

What can you do though? You can whine on that football has sold out, but the simple fact is, it’s not the fans who are a benefitting, it’s people like Arsene Wenger and his players who have. Those monster contracts aren’t dished out on the back of a good summer of selling Arsene Wenger flags… they come from the TV companies spending obscene amounts of money to do what they like with the schedule. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if the rumours about Apple buying the rights to football. I wonder if the league will have more bartering power if two power houses are going for the contract?

The manager also took some more time out to praise the efficiency of Andrey Arshavin. Apparently he has stats that he can’t share that are surprising. Now, I’ve always like Andrey, but efficient he ain’t… well, at least this year. I do agree that his game is based on confidence and we’re starting to see a bit of that creep back into his game, but the manager is kidding himself if he thinks anyone is going to tow the line that Arshavin is the wing equivalent of Gilberto (Invisible wall). I’d like to see him start tomorrow. Swansea will give us plenty of space to roam, so it should be a good game for Andrey to rediscover his form.

The manager also took time out to praise the progress of Aaron Ramsey. He’s accepting that people get frustrated with him, but he justifies this by saying it’s his first season due to the injury issues. He’s a year behind where he should be.

“What I think people forget about Ramsey is it is his first full season really. For me, he is growing month to month and people are a bit impatient with him.

I think what Wenger actually meant to say there was this…

‘What I think people forget about Ramsey is Denilson. Remember that useless clogger falling over, playing side ways passes and being beaten in sprints by players 15 years older? Yeah, I know you all do because you  moaned constantly, some muppet even put him on eBay. So how about you give the Welsh lad some time or I’ll start dishing out punishment, you know, like I do to those water bottles.’

He’s played about 70 competitive games across the board. Compare where he is now to where Denilson was after 200 and I think you’ll agree that we have a very handy player on our books. Jack will be back soon, so I’d guess Rambo will compete with Arteta for a starting position.

Arsene went out of his way to quash dreams of Ravel Morrison, Mathias Suarez and Salomon Kalou… they sound like a crap boy band and they look like a really bad player unveiling nightmare. I’m not really fussed about any of them. Especially Suarez. We all saw what a unit Lukaku looked in the Belgian league last year and he can’t get a look in over at pensioner united in front of the lost Spaniard.

The only slight murmurings that may have had a hope are the ones about a left back. To be honest, we’re scrapping the barrel here so badly, I think I’d rather not. Bringing in a player from the Oman second division tells you all you need to know about Wenger and his intentions.

“It is very simple in a situation like that. You might take a player who doesn’t play at all somewhere, who is not necessarily fit quicker than a player who is injured. Or you take a young, potential player who has not made it somewhere.”

Sounds a bit like Wenger telling us there won’t be a left back coming in.

He also confirmed that he wouldn’t sell Chamakh and there was also the upsetting news that Zaragoza couldn’t afford to take on Squillaci. DAMN OUR GENEROUS CONTRACTS!

On the rumour front, there’s a nasty one doing the rounds that the club are looking to up the season ticket prices again this year. I haven’t had it on any good authority, but I don’t think anyone is going to tolerate an increase after the sh*t sandwich of a summer the club served up to us and the rumoured £75million profit we could unveil if we sell off that last bit of property before the results. If the club want more revenue, take it out of the TPA account you never use.

Anyway, I’ll be doing to digging on that front, hopefully it’s just a seriously distasteful rumour.

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That’s your lot until tomorrow! Have a great day!

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