Arsenal headed into the Schalke game of the back of a flat tepid performance against a team who will barely survive the top flight this season. My big question after that match was how would we bounce back? Was there a new found determination in this team not to get side tracked by major set backs? Or would we be cursing a weak back home come 0935 on Wednesday night?
Sadly, the answer was an all too familiar one.
The side set out by Wenger lacked appeal on paper. It had limited pace, it had far too many shopping trolleys in round holes and it was missing that vital ingredient called confidence.
Gervinhno000 (sorry Park, you’re nick name has been stolen) set out his stall early when he burst through on goal only to fall over his own feet. He’s a walking, running, step over attempting disaster. He’s the only player I can recall who loses confidence after scoring a few goals.
Down our end, Santos wanted to make sure that we all definitely knew he was over weight because he’s lazy when he failed to cover at left back letting Huntelaar creep inside him and let off a shot. His lack of fitness and desire to track back is frightening at times. He has a real disregard for anything bar going forward and the amount of times he falls over or lunges in rashly during a game really is a worry. The Brazilian Eboue? It’s not a bad shout…
Our midfield lacked shape, it was missing passing accuracy and worst of all it seemed bereft of guts. Cazorla was once again fairly anonymous If you mark him out the game, you basically shut Arsenal down. We don’t really have too many players in our side at the moment who can knock that ball around at pace. Well, at pace and accurately. The front three last night were all cut out of the same mould. Roughly the same height, roughly the same ability on the ball. It was a real predictable mess up top.
The second half started nicely. Cazorla started a move the ended with Coquelin cutting in Podolski, the German blocked at the near post. That was pretty much as good as it got for us.
There was one moment when Gervinho did actually manage to break free of his full back, he raced into the box, which seemed to take an age, yet he had no outlet. No one had followed him in. Maybe they knew the final ball would likely be garbage?
Wenger sat on his hands and insisted on making no substitutes despite us creating virtually nothing all half. He watched on as Jenkinson consistently had no one to play in on the overlap. He sat idly by as the whole team struggled for direction. He eventually made his change, bringing on Giroud at long last.
Moments later we’d conceded. We failed to deal with two high ball in the middle of the park. The defence charged out but not as a unit, the ball was nodded into the line of Huntelaar, the defence were flat footed, the prolific Dutchman made no mistake and buried it past Mannone. Shoddy defensive work, but you couldn’t say it wasn’t coming.
Giroud made a minor difference coming on. There was at least a target man the players could hit. It still didn’t convert into chances, the team still had no idea how to break down Schalke. Wenger made his last desperate move of the game bringing on Andrey Arshavin and Serge Gnabry. There were gasps where I was sitting… he was bringing on a player who can barely motivate himself to breath and he was bringing on a 17 year old to chase a game in the Champions League. Things looked good for the young German as he pulled off a sublime piece of skill to turn in a cross almost immediately. That joy soon turned to despair as he lost the ball twice within the space of two minutes, Schalke broke at pace, they took advantage of there being no left back, the ball was cut across the box and Affelay slotted into the empty net unmarked.
I’ve never seen so many people get up and leave in disgust. I felt sorry for Gnabry. He’s clearly got talent, but it shouldn’t be getting a run out in an important game in the Champions League. The rest of the team should be ashamed as well. Two loses on the bounce. That’s why we’ll not compete this year. The best teams rarely lose two on the bounce, Arsenal seem to make a habit.
Plenty of grumblings about whether Wenger is that man for the job as we left the ground. We’ve not really kick started any sort of form in the league. We’ve been average in the Champions League and we’re well into the season now.
Wenger’s gambling streak appears to be coming to a halt. He gambled on players settling quickly, he gambled on young players making the jump and he took a punt on us being able to deal with the loss of the best striker in the world at the time. Those bets don’t seem to have paid off and he had no one to blame bar himself. It doesn’t matter though does it, he’s the highest paid manager in the world. He’s going nowhere because he’s delivered the board a £70million cash surplus and Champions League football.
What was the point in signing Giroud if you’re going to drop him every other game and play a failed winger in his place? We looked like a team without a striker last night. It couldn’t have been easier for Schalke to defend against us. How does Aaron Ramsey keep getting games out wide? He’s terrible in possession, he has no pace and his final ball is terribly weak, yet he still manages to land a game every week. Podolski is another player who is really struggling of late. Is that because he’s not comfortable outwide? Is that because he thrives off confidence. Either way, I ‘ve never seen a more impotent Arsenal side. The most worrying thing? We can’t solve this problem with returning players. What we have on show now is what we have until January. An absolute nightmare scenario, but a predictable one.
Who is accountable? Who is going to take the blame for us once again not having a team who can compete for the major trophies?
Today we head over to the AGM to question Ivan Gazidis about the team and its lack of progress. We’ll get to ask first hand how a club boasting £150million in the bank can ever hope to be classed as ambitious if the best it can offer up to save a Champions League game is a 17 year old German with less than 5 professional games under his belt. Will we get the answers we’re looking for? I highly doubt it. These events are more choreographed than an X Factor final. Le Grove will be reporting on in none the less…
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