The race for a top four finish took what look like a lethal blow to the temple yesterday. The maths says we’re still in it. There’s 30 points to play for, however, looking at our erratic defence yesterday and the lack of quality we have up top, it’s apparent this years might be a miracle too far.
Spurs were in pretty much the same position this time last, the difference this year will be their manager… because on paper they’re not better and on the pitch they weren’t…
The game started off with a positive tempo, we were at the races, the Spurs fans I sat down the pub with were looking seriously uncomfortable. Giroud had the first proper chance of the game when he he found himself on the end of a Jack corner, Lloris doing well to save. The Frenchman found his way through on goals few minutes later, ghosting past Dawson… when bearing down on goal he decided not to pull the trigger which allowed the tackle to be made.
Arsenal pinged the ball around with a slickness rarely seen this season. Trouble was two fold. Firstly, the end product was seriously lacking from everyone. Crossing from outwide had nothing more than hit and hope on it. The second issue was the movement from the front three. Because it was so poor, we didn’t really create the openings the midfield needed.
Well our punishment for a lack of end product was meted out in 2 explosive minutes. Firstly Bale managed to sail through the middle of the park and spring our unstructured offside trap with ease, latch onto a Sigurddson through ball and angle his shot round our keeper. Arteta basically gave up the chase, if that were Gilberto we’d be looking at a trip and a yellow card.
Minutes later a replica of the first goal happened. The time the man missing the run was Monreal, the man doing the running was Lennon, he rounded the keeper unconfidently and slipped home for their second. This time, there was no midfield protection for the back four. There’s more to midfield than choreographed passing. Arsene Wenger said he doesn’t pay attention to the opposition, and sure enough, yesterday was a prime example of that. No accountability combined with a team lacking in confidence is generally a recipe for disaster.
We did manage to creep our way back into the game in the second half, Per Mertesacker connected with a corner before Bale nudged it just inside the post for our goal. It was a glimour of hope, but it really didn’t feel like we were going to edge our way back into the game. We’re a shell of the team we had 4 years ago, forget teams of yestyear who were winning things.
Simply put, our team didn’t have the quality needed to turn Spurs over. You can play a system that looks pretty, but if you don’t have the key elements needed to be a real threat you’re going to struggle. Arsene Wenger was king when fast pass and move football was a new serving on the Premiership menu. He was king when he had the pick of the untapped markets around the world. He was king when his teams were fitter, technically superior and loaded with desire. He doesn’t have that now. That’s why we’re languishing in the league 7 points off 4th. 9 defeats to our name with only a glimour of hope in making the Champions League next season.
The hardest thing to stomach for me is that Spurs really aren’t a great team. They have average players who are well managed. Remember, this team is the same lot that folded against us last year minus people like Van Der Vaart and Modric. Spurs took a hit on star players but invested in a manager, some new players and a system that’s more modern than ours. They’re doing things the right way and it might just pay dividends for £50m less than we’re lumping out on wages.
So what can Arsenal hope for? Well, Spurs have an home game against Inter Milan this week, which I’m pretty sure they’ll go all out to win. Now, remember Spurs have a small squad of players they’ve been constantly using all season. If they have a tough game against Inter, there’s a very good chance Liverpool will take them out on Sunday. Brendan Rodgers has Liverpool on the up… 3 games, 12 goals and a nice rest this week to prepare for a Spurs that will be tired.
Arsene Wenger has a major decision then to make on the Bayern game. Does he go for it and try and turn 3 past a side who have conceded 7 in the league this year, or does he throw the game, rest his star men and concentrate on the only realistic trophy we have left to play for? I know what I’d do… because even if we did pull off a Bayern miracle, it’d just be a vanity project because we’d have no chance of winning the trophy.
It’s entirely possible things could open up again, so we’re not out of it… the problem with this talk is it assumes we’re good enough to win our ten remaining games. Based on what I’ve seen over the past two months, I really don’t think that can happen. The team is put out without a clue, the manager looks like a little boy lost and we seem to have no idea how to get out of this inconsistent rut we’ve been in all year. It’s over for Arsene Wenger, he really is finished as an elite manager… he won’t listen to those around him, he thinks he knows best and he’s being shown up but younger managers with a real 5 year plan.
Arsene isn’t getting the most out of his players because his system is too laissez faire… we played a highline yesterday and pressed Spurs well for about 30 minutes. Then the pressing stopped after a bit of sustained pressure, then the highline became an opportunity that was exploited brutally. If the players can’t be coerced into pressing for 90 minutes, either start dropping players guilty of dropping off, or bring in players that can do the job. As for players doing a job for Spurs this season, Hugo Lloris, Dembele and Jan Vertonghen. Three players that were hardly below the radar that all could have improved our squad.
The cost of missing out on the Champions League will be around £25million plus some additional uplift. About the value of losing Robin on a free transfer this summer. When you put it like that, it does begin to make the sale of Robin look like one of the worst decisions of Arsene’s career. I mean, combined with the decision not to invest in a player of equal quality obviously.
Still, the upshot of this all is that it appears Arsene is most likely going to look for a new deal. The only way he has any chance of getting that (if the CEO is worth his salt) is if we’re competitive this time in November and the stadium is full. What will be interesting over the coming weeks is the impact this season will have on the crowds. The only way Ivan Gazidis will take notice of the issues surrounding the manager is when it starts hitting the bottom line numbers. What will the crowds look like over the next few weeks? How many people are going to show for the next home game? These next few weeks will be the weeks where the fans have the most power. If a protest is going to be made, I’d imagine it’ll be a silent one of inaction. Empty seats are an ugly reminder that failiure is intolerable when your accounts show a £123million cash in bank balance. We already saw the stadium 10,000 short at the Villa game… if that gets worse, at the very least, it might spark Gazidis into playing hardball with the manager.
If he does get a new deal, which I’m wholly against, it has to be on modern terms (being best practice in our approach) combined with strict KPIs (actually winning things and progressing). It has to be on the basis that the club win back some of that power they’ve lost to a manager wrapped up in his legend. It has to be on the basis of progression… because that’s something that’s gone amiss over the last few years. You can’t blame losing players if the reason the players left is because of bad management. You can’t blame budget if we can all see it’s there (and a wage bill the same as United’s)… and that’s something Ivan should have a word about… all the innuendo around a lack of cash is there as a pure power play. He’s clouding the waters to protect himself. You know what else protects him? The fact that we always bring it back to players. It doesn’t matter who Wenger signs, he’s still putting a Ferrari engine into a horse cart with no driver. Players will gloss over his bad management for a few months, but I’ll promise you, we’ll be back in the same situation this time next year regardless of who he brings in.
People keep saying the Premiership has got weaker, I don’t think it has, I think it’s got stronger all round. Managers are better trainers, teams are fitter, passing has increased in speed and volume, small clubs can do more on tiny budgets. The quality of the league has risen and Arsene hasn’t fought fire with fire. If he was doing 50% of what Ferguson was doing with his side, there’s not a chance we’d be worrying about Champions League qualification this year. I’m not saying our players are incredible, however, I do think the fault is with our system at Arsenal, that system is controlled by one man. Nothing will change until his hand is forced or he leaves.
We can still qualify in the top four, we’ve just made it incredibly hard. Simply put, those players shouldn’t be in that situation. Can they pull themselves back? Who knows… but I havne’t seen collective team character that would suggest they can.
Right… have your say in the comments.