Even when you know something is coming, it doesn’t make the pain of sitting in a stadium with 55,000 others who have the same understanding any easier. Last night wasn’t as destructive as it could have been from a points perspective, but from a high level view, it felt like the team had accepted that they didn’t feel they could be part of the final push for the league.
Way back when, Wenger would have taken on that diabolical backline with 4 strikers. He’d have sniffed blood and he’d have gone for the jugular. Last night, we pushed for the draw… Arsene Wenger used to be the manager who’d take on the 190 yard dog leg shot over the lake, last night, it felt like he opted to lay up from 120 yards on a downhill par three at the local pitch and putt.
The narrative of the game mostly centred around an Ozil who had obviously taken on board the harsh criticism levelled at him after the weekend. However, the game opened ominously when Arteta turned into Robin who dispossessed him, had a free run at goal but luckily for us, scuffed his shot tepidly at the keeper.
Giroud had chances to put us ahead almost immediately. His first was a header from a corner that he glanced wide. His second was another header that failed to hit the target… he also let rip with a wild shot from 20 yards. Some said it was one of those days, for me, it was a typical day out for him.
Robin had another chance when he slipped into our box and thrashed his shot so wide it almost hit the corner flag…
There was a distinct lack of movement all over the park. Giroud’s early season hustle has been replaced with pottering around because he’s clearly spent. Our midfield didn’t want to commit so there was no outlet, nor one for Giroud to knock the ball onto. Outwide, we should have punted on Gnabry. United had nothing to fear from us so their aging defence had an easy time of it.
… but hey, Arsenal ramped up the half time entertainment by asking fans for the longest word they could craft out of the name ‘Santi Cazorla’… I came up with ‘spend some f*cking money’
The second half was just a more laboured expression of the problems we had in the first half. No one was running for the ball, the performance was static, lethargic and wrapped in fear. But hey, it did feel great to see Yaya Sanogo warming up on the sidelines.
What? It seriously did. Giroud was playing that badly, I thought, well… you never know, do you? Pining my hopes on an untested 18 year old wannabe postman… what have I become?
Our best effort came from Koscielny, he made a superb run in the United box, turning a corner at the far post, sadly Valencia was on call to clear his effort.
Giroud was back on form when he turned a solid Gibbs cross wide again. There was a moment when Ozil and Giroud broke together, the German fed the ball to Olivier, he ballsed it up… the German stamped his feet and let out a cry of frustration at his striker.
The game was screaming for a substitution after about 55minutes, the manager, in his usual stubborn way decided he’d wait it out until 70minutes. He then opted to bring on Chamberlain… for Rosicky (one of the few players looking to drive forward). A quite baffling decision. Bring on a player who has under 10 goals to his name and rarely causes a threat on goal.
Then the moment came for all those who wanted us to buy a striker, Sagna gathered the ball out on the right, whipped a delicious ball across the 6 yard box, all Giroud had to do was guide it in unchallenged, instead, he took an air shot, hit the deck and grabbed his hair like a French model demonstrating the USP of a new root strengthening shampoo. I hate his frustration look more than you could ever know.
The game started to slow down, neither team had the guts to go for the two points. The pissing around on the half way line nearly cost us a goal, Jack Wilshere, world class at spending 75% of his pitch time on the ground bitching, found himself dispossessed by Robin Van Persie, the Dutchman powered into our half, passed to Rooney and continued his run, he picked out the Dutchman who threw his head at the ball, our keeper managed somehow to tip the ball onto the bar. An incredible save considering how little he had to do in the second half.
Back down the United end, Cazorla saw a shot from an Ozil one two well saved. He also had a solo effort tipped wide. In the end though, we finished the game having used only one sub, battling to hold onto the point rather than going for glory.
The overriding feeling of disappointment. No legs, no guts… with a team struggling to recapture the form needed to drive hard at the last 12 games. Exasperation around the Grove…
Many things were clear to the layman. Firstly, we had no pace in the forward line. Giroud was completely exhausted both physically and mentally, he played so poorly, I was surprised he even managed a start. Secondly, we had no options out wide or through midfield. Ozil had nothing to play with, because in the main, everyone was behind him.
So why did it take Wenger until 70minutes to make a change? When he did make his solitary change, he took off Rosicky, the one player giving us drive and brought on the teenage Chamberlain, who, despite 2 goals a few weeks ago against Palace, is hardly a proven game changer. He opted against our £100k a week well rested, 100 cap, ex Bayern Munich striker come wide man who is apparently the best finisher Arsene has ever worked with. Call me negative, mental, a total w*nker… but seriously, what is our soon to be £8.5m manager playing at?
United are there for the taking and Lukas is sitting on the sidelines warming up for 30minutes, in the end, perched on the corner flag in disbelief. It was a complete shambles. Where are the managers guts? Why is he not supporting the side? Why is he not going for the glory when we’re on the home stretch?
Fear… he bottled it.
If he took a point, he’d avoid criticism. It didn’t matter if that point meant the team flatlined and missed a chance to score over the worst United side I’ve seen in my lifetime. He wimped out. Arsene Wenger allowed his team to pass out on the half way line like they were playing for a qualifying point in a World Cup where both sides had agreed not to upset the status.
I’ll bang on about it for as long as it’s an issue, but again, where’s the energy? Where is the rotation? Where are the fresh ideas to deal with the lack of pace? No Gnabry? No Lukas? No Jack sub when it’s clear he’s having an absolute stinker?
Arsene Wenger has run this team into the ground all season and now you’re seeing the results. Full team against Coventry. Tantamount to gross misconduct. Full strength teams all through Christmas and an injury train wreck off the back of it. Really, if we’re honest, we haven’t recovered since. Last season’s most effective player, back for three weeks, then out for 6 months. Our best player this season, run into a hole, brought back too early, out for 6 weeks. One striker, played in all the minutes, totally dead, can’t even chase down balls. No striker bought to cover. Cover loaned in for midfield, has broken back, still acquired regardless.
This is why I don’t believe in Arsene… because all the good in his game is outweighed by the baffling ‘what the fu*k?’… can anyone argue with any of the above? Arsene hasn’t been hamstrung by money over the last 8 years, he’s been taken down by bad decisions and an unwillingness to accept the modern rigours of the game.
Average game plan, poor approach to sport science and an average and outdated scouting network combined with an appalling strategy when it comes to squad planning has us on the verge of forfeiting the best chance of winning the league in years.
Say what you want about the booing. The manager and the club deserved it. They botched the window because no one will pull Wenger to one side and tell him the score. £100m to spend and we failed to bring in anyone. All the fans want to see is ambition. Sign Draxler and Cabaye and we’re on our way to better things. Just having them is a morale boost. Instead, we pulled the usual trick of not planning anything, allowing the manager to dither on price he shouldn’t control and we showed a total lack of ambition with the players we did try to sign… so the fans have every right to boo when the manager doesn’t have trust in any of his subs. We expect more.
I think the anger with Arsene comes more from the expectation. We know he could be the best in the world. He’s like the talented kid at school who thinks he’s too clever to exist amongst mere mortals. Without application, you’ll never fulfil potential. It’s the same with Arsene, all he needs to do is bring in experts to help him where he’s weak. He could be king if he just listened… or someone just told him what was what. It’s sad in a way… Arsenal is built around him, rather than the other way round. He’s an immovable legend who won’t be told. That, for me, is why people are frustrated… we’re not banging our head against a Brick Moyes… we’re banging it against a sleeping legend. He’s writing his own legacy post invincibles, it’s just sad to see he’s writing it with his left hand, smashed out of his brains on stubbornness with a publisher too fearful to tell him it’s a terrible read…
Still, onwards and upwards. The Perspective Brigade will tell you we’re still up at the top of the league, and we are… just a shame most of us can see where this is going to end. Not a pretty way to finish the most promising season in 10 years.
See you in the comments…