In 1989, a British Midland’s 737 attempted an emergency landing at Kegworth Airport. Cabin crew had alerted the pilot mid-flight that an engine was on fire. Normally this problem is resolved by shutting down the engine that is on fire and landing at the nearest airport using the other engine. On this fateful day, the Captain accidentally shut down the wrong engine. As the Pilots could not see the engines from their seats, they assumed everything was ok… However, cabin crew could still see the smoke billowing from the engine as could the passengers… but no one said anything until it was too late. They all assumed the Captain knew what he was doing. The plane crashed just before the runway and 47 people died.
An extreme story… but I am a football fan and I feel extreme emotions.
Arsene is our captain, he’s shut down the wrong engine and there is no one on the plane who is willing to tell him he’s made a mistake… Our plane seems to have been in free fall all season… but it’s getting to the point now where even if he does realise his mistakes… we’re still going to crash.
Aston Villa play today and if they win, we will be 8 points behind them with 11 games to go. Not insurmountable, but judging by today’s performance, and the previous 2 months… you’d say it’s going to be a big ask.
The starting 11 was the most exciting of the year. Finally we got to see Vela out wide, finally Wenger took a bit of a risk and lined up with a bit of flair… but when it came to the crunch, the players let their leader down.
Today felt like a backwards step… the whole day felt flat, devoid of any urgency… devoid of any realisation the we might be playing in something called the ‘Europa Cup’ next year.
The fact of the matter is that we were promised a team that would contend for the league this year and now we’re in a situation where we are struggling to gain entry to the Champions league. This could be a failure of catastrophic proportion… I am not exaggerating… if we are struggling for money now, imagine the ramifications of losing out on the gold mine that is the Champions league?
So what went wrong today? Well… I’ve got a few observations…
1. Leadership: A question you could only answer if you were there… or watching on an extremely good feed… Who is leading this team? Who is making sure all lost causes are chased down? Who is there to scream at players who aren’t giving 100%? No one… no one wants to take that sort of responsibility. The team spirit today wasn’t there today… the players don’t fight for each other.
2. Motivation: Motivating players to play in the big games is easy… but if you can’t motivate them to play in the minor games, then something is up. Those players today couldn’t have looked any more uninterested in the second half. The manager has to be questioned on this subject… why can’t you motivate your team? Is it because you can’t bullshit players… if all of us can see our weaknesses… I am pretty sure our players can as well. They know as well as we do why we’re failing and that must be pretty demotivating. It has been pointed out that the players looked unfit in the second half, I’d agree… but these are professional athletes… aren’t big players supposed to drive through that barrier?
3. Winning mentality: Where has it gone? I’m half expecting Wenger to come out in his next interview and tell us, ‘It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts’. A winning mentality should run through the club… but it doesn’t. Hillwood reckons 5th will be ok, Wenger cited Milan as missing out this year… so he thinks it’s ok… So where are we on this? When did we stop being a football club? If the coach and the chairman don’t believe in winning… why would the players?
Wenger said to judge the players at the end of the season. I’m interested to know what that means? If they fail, like most people think they will… what will the coach do? I’ll take a wild guess… persevere… again.
4. Responsibility: This kind of ties in with leadership… Today, no one took the initiative in the final third. Like the passengers on the plane… they assumed someone else would take the lead… when everyone thinks like that, you have optimum conditions for ‘crabbing’. Today we saw exactly that… Their goalkeeper made a few smart saves, but I didn’t feel he was really worked. No one was brave enough to take the initiative and have a go. 4 goals since at home since November the 8th…
We can’t even brag about how we dominated the possession… because we didn’t… Fulham tipped the scales in their favour with a 53% dominance. We can’t say that we peppered their goal… because again, we didn’t. 8 shots on goal, 4 on target… Fulham had more chances than us!
I hope people don’t complain about Fulham parking the bus… if you were in a fight with a man twice the size of you, you wouldn’t try and out punch him, would you (Maybe Geoff would)? Teams know not to play football against us… if they get their tactics right, a point is highly likely.
I really don’t know what to think of the whole situation. Going into the summer knowing we’re ‘Europa cupped’ is a horrible thought. Knowing if that happens, we wont have any money to spend is even worse, knowing players will want to leave because we didn’t bolster the squad when we should of makes me want to weep…I don’t think I can handle another summer of Vela, Rambo and Wilshere potential stories. They are a long way off turning in world class performances every week.
We’re being told this team will dominate in 3 years time… I’m sure I heard that 3 years ago… hands up who is prepared to suffer another 3 years of this? My hand is firmly down…
The chorus of boo’s at the end of each game is getting louder and louder… which is amazing, because if the plastics are the ones that leave early (Loads leaving with 11 minutes to go)… that means a lot of real fans are very angry about what is going on at the club.
The whole set up needs freshening up… because the stench of stagnation at The Grove couldn’t be stronger.
Almunia: Had one shot on target all afternoon to deal with. He saved it and gained another clean sheet. 7
Sagna: Oh Sags… what has happened to your game this year? The longer the season goes on… the more your confidence looks shot to pieces. He couldn’t cross the road at the moment, could he? He was pretty strong defensively, but further up the pitch he looks as though he is suffering. 6
Gallas: I’m impressed by him all the time. He quietly gets on with his job without making too much noise… His defending has been outstanding, but his input vocally is noticeably less than what it was… Did anyone see him hobbling around? 8
Kolo: If Kolo and Gallas were a couple, Kolo would be the crazy one who Gallas had to keep in check. Thankfully the only partnership those two have is on the pitch… and it is proving to be a successful one. Another clean sheet, but a few mistakes by the crazy one… I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel with Kolo and JD… 6.5
Clichy: Suffering the same problems as Sagna. Going forward less because he has been instructed to, or his confidence is low? Sound at the back, crap in attack. 6.5
Vela: Another one of those, ‘Wenger needs to start playing X, that will solve our problems’. Sadly it didn’t. Carling Cup Vela didn’t turn up today… but I still thought he played well. He creates openings, he runs at players and he is prepared to play that killer pass. He is shot shy at the moment… but give him as many games as Eboue has had and we might have a player. 7
Diaby: Conflicting view’s were exchanged during half time drinks. I thought he was poor in the first half. He links up the play better than Song and Denilson do, he runs with the ball well… but sometimes he holds onto it too long… and his decision making can be woeful. He also left us exposed at the back on a number of occasions. I thought he was poor today… and he looked really tired by the end… but Bud and his brothers thought otherwise. 5
Denilson: If you watch him play with the same mindset you would watching Gilberto play, he is actually a very hand player. He doesn’t waste many balls, he covers a lot of ground and he is a hard worker. His standards dropped a little late on, but I thought he was adequate today. 7
Nasri: Our rotund wide man took up a new role today… sitting just deep of RvP in the Bergkamp role. I thought he played very well. He was busy as ever, looking for gaps and shooting opportunities, but like the rest of the team… no end product. He was our best player today… and I am pleased he is showing it consistently now. 8.5
Arshavin: Can’t you tell when you see an experienced player of quality? Arshavin knows exactly what he is going to do about 5 seconds before anyone else does… he sees runs and space… has the vision to exploit them and he isn’t afraid to have a pop at goal. His fitness levels are pretty low at the moment, he looked very tired at the end of the game. That is why he can’t be played centrally yet… although I am sure that will come soon. 8
RvP: Guilty of more misses today. I wonder how long it is before Arshavin takes the freekicks off him… because his are beyond a joke. Robin has to start taking more of his chances, because he is missing more than Nik B and he is being forgiven because we all love him. Must do better in my opinion. 6
Eboue: Came on at right back and looked better than Sagna going forward. 6.5
Nik B: Created a few chances, fluffed a few passes… but ok. 6
I’ll leave you with this quote to cheer you up… remember Hleb saying he wanted to leave London for the quiet life?
‘In London he was a hero. If I went went to a restaurant with him, there in a matter of seconds about 20 people would surround him asking for an autograph.’
‘Now he is at a mega-club. They have 25 world-class players. Only 11 of them can go on to the pitch. Seven sit on the bench and seven more watch games from the stands.’
Looks like all his dreams have come true! Happy Sunday Grovers!