I couldn’t be in attendance at the game yesterday, which is a shame, in a perverse way, even after finding out the result, I still wanted to be there. Win, lose or draw, there are always things you can take from actually soaking up the moment.
Yesterday’s moment looked quite horrible. Arsenal weren’t just beaten by Swansea, they were battered by the passing stick in front of a home crowd. That passing stick is supposed to be ours. However, after years of dismantling the core of a good team, Arsene has left himself in a situation where he doesn’t have a line up that is consistently capable of playing the game that way anymore.
The midfield of Jack, Cazorla and Arteta looks good on paper, however, the practicalities of the set up don’t seem to work. They just don’t click together. Maybe they’re all too similar, or maybe they’re just not being played in a system that works. Three tiny midfielders doesn’t really look right in the Premiership and certainly from a defensive perspective, it left us open all day yesterday. The amount of times Swansea waltzed through the middle of the park was frightening. The defense was an absolute mess. The only saving grace from the game yesterday was the keeper, who pulled off some top notch saves.
People were lambasting Wenger for dropping Giroud for the hopeless Gervinho, I think that’s the wrong angle to take. Players need to be rested. The question or rant should be, ‘why the only option outside Giroud is a winger?’
Anyway, the introduction of Giroud didn’t do much to the shape of the game. He nearly won himself a penalty, but the ref indicated the last man landed a touch on the ball.
The two goals that sunk us came very late in the game. The first came from a superb Michu finish, he picked the ball up in the middle of the park unchallenged, played a lovely one two around our centre backs and curled the ball into the top corner.
If you look in the shot above, there are four players heading to that ball on the left of the screen, Michu in the middle on his own. The defence isn’t in a flat line, a few moments later, one of our centre backs lunges in and loses out, then Mertesacker finds himself flat footed… in the end, neither of them chase back. They gave up. Now, there aren’t many things I remember from playing football as a child, but one was to always, always, always chase back… because you never know what could happen. If you were ever caught not doing that, you’d be dropped the next week for being lazy.
When pro footballers aren’t chasing back, you know there’s a problem.
Things got even worse few minutes later, Jenkinson found himself out wide on the right, he couldn’t find a pass, Nathan Dyer chased him, Jenks fell over, Dyer played Michu in… the Spaniard added to his already impressive tally with a cool finish. An spellbindingly bad piece of defending.
The boos around the stadium were loud. Even more so considering there were only about 14 people left at that point to partake. There’s something quite horrible about booing in your ground. It gives me the same feeling I get when I see an animal slaughtered or something. Macarbre I know, but that’s a club all those people love… and they’re booing. Something is seriously wrong.
Watching Wenger in the press conference after was also quite painful. We’ve been suggesting change here for the best part of 5 years, it doesn’t make it any easier to watch a once great manager basically admit he hasn’t got a clue what’s going on. He looked stressed, he doesn’t have answers and he’s relying on terrible excuses.
Sorry Arsene, being jaded physically in December doesn’t cut the mustard. You’re given a £140million budget. If you sliced that up between 25 players, you’d be able to give them each £107,000 a week. Now, I know I’m missing the fact we pay other staff out of that, but you get the picture. We have a budget that should allow for us to have a top notch squad with enough players to get to December without needing to complain about fatigue.
If you ask me, I think it’s more about mental tiredness with those guys. There’s no direction. They don’t know what they’re doing out on the pitch. New things the manager is trying clearly aren’t working. The quality isn’t there, the squad don’t look like a cohesive unit, so you end up with a mess of players who don’t really care about the end goal.
The spirit of that side hasn’t gone, because to be quite frank, I don’t think it was ever there. It’s been ripped out every summer for the last 5 years. We’re never in a stable position come September 1st. There comes a time when you have to stop building the foundations. That’s never happened. Team spirit is built over years, not months. This year, things haven’t clicked. Robin and Song going wasn’t the problem. It was failing to adequately replace them. It was allowing Theo to play on this year despite not being committed to the cause. All these things add up to a bad team… and make no mistake. That’s a bad team we’ve got out there.
Individually, they’re good players. The problem now is that the manager isn’t getting the most out of them. When I hear him say he’s considering his future. I’m glad. At least he’s finally realised there’s a problem. He told a story a few years ago about his time as a pro, it went something like this…
‘I told my chairman to let me know when it was time to hang up my boots. I didn’t want to continue on playing if I wasn’t doing a good job. Sometimes you need someone else to make that call’
I think Arsene’s time is coming to an end. Even if we do make the top four this season, it won’t be enough. Even if we win a cup, it won’t change a thing. We’re getting away with dated methods at the moment. The simple fact is, Arsene Wenger has forgotten how to win. If he goes, there’s no reason we can’t make a decent appointment. There’s no reason we have to go through what Liverpool are suffering with. There’s no reason the Arsenal story shouldn’t move to the next, more successful, more wealthy level.
People are scared of change, I think that’s a weak attitude to take. Be scared of stagnating. Be scared of failing consistently every year. Be scared of accepting mediocrity. Football and sport are about progress. We’re not progressing. We won’t progress under Arsene Wenger. He’s killed himself by failing to adapt to the modern game. Mourinho took coaching to a new level, that shock to the system took Fergie to a new level, but it left Wenger looking more and more antiquated. It’s time for a new man to take us forward. That change won’t happen now, but I think there’s a high chance it could at the end of the season.
Can we trust Ivan to make a world class decision with a new hire? That for me is the biggest question.