The more I watch the Spurs game back the more I’m convinced that under better management this team could go the whole hog this year. Individually, we’re a match for anyone in the league. On our day, we can turnover the best and play keep ball like any of them. A few problems have crept into our game over the past few years that really seem to be coming home to roost at the moment.
The first major issue I have is the way we defend as a team. In 2006 Martin Keown worked with Arsenal during the second half of the season. He trained with the defence and drilled them for a few months while he was working towards his UEFA Badges. He helped Flamini, Senderos, Sol Campbell and Eboue create the one of the most solid backlines in Europe that year using his methods (They broke a clean sheet record).
For me, this year, it is clear that our defence don’t work on anything in particular. There is no coherence, there is no communication and there are so many individual errors it’s painful to watch. The simple fact is, if you’re not going to sign world-class defenders, you have to drill them into the ground and create a unit. The collective becomes better than the individual. Just like the old back four under George Graham. They weren’t the best individual players, but George drilled them hour, after hour, after hour until they became one of the greatest back lines of all time.
It’s not like Wenger would have to look far to bring in the expertise. Martin Keown is still sitting on the MoTD couch and Steve Bould is training the kids on a pitch not too far away.
Why not call on the advice you have to hand?
Our other main problem as far as I can see is this complicated formation Wenger is trying to adopt. Well, it’s not really complicated, it just involves Alex Song bombing forward and someone else dropping in for him. For me, Song doesn’t have the pace to deal with that role and it generally confuses everyone. Isn’t it telling that against Spurs, with two defensive midfielders on the pitch, we didn’t have the nous to nullify them in the second half?
The other gripe I have is the deep seated fear our players have of taking a shot on goal. I remember teams of yesteryear pummelling the opposition goal relentlessly for 90 minutes. Sometimes we’d have 30 attempts at goal in a half. Think of some of the spectacular goals we used to score? This team seem to fear the shot and they’ll do anything to pass the responsibility onto someone else.
Arsene Wenger needs to own up to himself. His players aren’t good enough or intelligent enough to make decisions for themselves on the pitch. Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson provide their players with a pre-match dossier on what their jobs are going to be in the next game. They know exactly how their opponents are going to play, they know exactly what their role will be and that prepares them incredibly well.
That is how you squeeze an extra ten percent out of players. If someone in Jose’s team doesn’t follow the rule book for the game, they’re dropped and everyone knows why they’re dropped.
As brutal as it sounds, Wenger doesn’t have the players he had in 1998, he doesn’t have the talent he had in either of the other two championship winning years. He’s asking players to win games on their own when they don’t have the talent or experience to do so. Simply put, if Wenger doesn’t have the best tools at his disposal, he has to man manage and I’m not sure he’s the sort of coach who can do that particularly well.
Sadly, he doesn’t recognise this problem and I doubt anyone in his management team has the guts to speak out. If we’re to make the most out of this season, something needs to change in how we prepare for games, something needs to change in the dressing room at half time to make sure everyone is fired up and Wenger needs to start ruling with more of an iron fist.
Dropping your best defender before an important game doesn’t send out the right message to anyone, especially when one of the goals you concede is lost in the air and the other came from losing out to 5ft2in Defoe from a long aerial ball.
A lot of people asked me this weekend why Geoff mentioned the queue for beer in club level. To give that some context, we sit in the bar before the game. This weekend we went their and Arsenal had cordoned off our area for pre-match hospitality which is a massive irritation. As some sort of punishment they’d roped of 8 tills at the bar and given us just one, squeezing us all into the tiniest area possible. The other side of the bar was completely empty. The point here is that we pay a lot of money for a ticket, only to be cattled off because we didn’t pay more money for a meal.
It’s all about money at Arsenal. They’ve even brought in mobile shops to our area as well that takes up yet more space. I’m waiting for them to turn the round tables into roulette machines. I think Geoff’s point is when does the money grabbing stop? How many more pennies can you squeeze out of already skint fans?
When do they give something back?
I only ask because Arsenal aren’t absorbing the VAT hike. They’re passing it onto the fan. So expect the most expensive non-hospitality ticket in World football to come your way this January. Yep, a £100 ticket! I’m staggered that a club as hugely wealthy as Arsenal couldn’t take that 5% on the chin for a year or so. They’re already coining it in with record amounts. It just goes to show you how out of touch they are with the fans. German league leaders Bourousia Dortmund charge £9 for their cheapest seat, what’s ours (plus booking fee)?
If Arsenal tickets were transfer targets, how many do you think Arsene would be signing each season?
It’s Braga tomorrow night, I’ll give you more of a preview tomorrow. I hope the boys are fired up for that one because they need to get back on track and sharpish…