I’m giving you the chance to tap out of this early. Why? Because I’m struggling with emotions today. It might be because I locked myself out of my house before the game because I went for a run and took the wrong key out with me. It might be because when I finally did get to the Greenman Pub I couldn’t find my family for 2 hours, it might be because when I did meet them, my cousin spilt a pint in my lap… or it might be because I’ve got myself so wrapped up in the details of the club over the past few years that seeing a performance like that against a very average side simply flatlines me because I, like many other fans, can see what the wider implications are.
Yesterday felt like failed success. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to break down Wigan, but to be honest, I was kind of expecting a proper reaction. I was kind of hoping we’d spank them 5-0 and we’d kick on in the league. Wigan were turned over by Millwall last weekend, how tough could it be? Arsene went bold with the selection. By bold, I mean he made some changes. Chamberlain passed a late fitness test and started, Wenger drafted in Ramsey and he went for Sanogo up front. That gave us some pace even if it didn’t give us exceptional experience or quality (or fitness).
The game started off very slowly. There didn’t feel like there was a reaction or the players that had come into the side had added anything. Wigan came with a plan that we couldn’t counter. They pressed up against the midfield. Let our defence have the ball, then when it played into the middle, they pressed into us in packs. A very familiar tactic lots of teams have played this season, but one that Arsene hasn’t found a counter to.
It helped having Ramsey and Chambo in the side. They both struggled with the size of the pitch and their relative lack of fitness, but their speed of thought gave us some joy. Chambo lashed in a half volleyed cross early on that Sanogo guided a well timed header at goal. Outside that, bar a wildly lashed shot and a poorly executed one on one, we didn’t really offer much. If anything, it was Wigan who looked the most threatening going forward, having plenty of luck with our sleepy left hand side.
Sanogo really struggled, because he’s no where near the level you’d expect. Still, the interesting thing is, I still agreed with his inclusion in the starting line up. That’s how terribly wrong Wenger has got his strike force this season. The biggest joke of it all is that it’d still have been Sanogo even if Bendtner was fit. Anyway, another sour moment, bar the booing at half time was when Wenger took off Lukas Podolski on 70 minutes. He took him off over Sanogo who someone described as an ‘8 minute old Giraffe’. I wasn’t really that fussed, but I could understand the frustration. Was it because Podolski was having a good game they booed? No. Was it because of the habitual nature of Wenger taking Lukas off on 70minutes regardless of what’s going on? More likely.
The second half started off with the same lethargic approach from Arsenal, we conceded first when McManaman touched the ball past Per and fell over. It was a dopey mistake and it was punished when Jordi Gomez powered home to put Wigan one up. We started to craft a few chances, Gibbs forced a good save from Carson. Sagna also hit the woodwork. Our moment did come in the end when Per managed to get his head on a mishit shot.
We couldn’t earn a second, though Chambo did hit the woodwork, so the game went to injury time. That was a pretty tepid affair. Arsene refused to make his third sub. He had Chamberlain cramping up to the point he could barely walk. Wenger eventually made his move taking Ramsey off, with what looked like a strain to his thigh. The extent of the cramp going off all over the pitch was a sad indictment of the preparation. I’ve not seen that much strain in extra time before.
Penalties ensued and Fabianski was the hero. He saved the first two with excellent reactions. All of Arsenal’s played buried there’s. We won, the boys went ballistic, so did the fans and we scuttled out the ground.
Post game thoughts:
There are many issues that have highlighted the ineptitude of Arsene Wenger this season. The striking situation is probably one of the most obvious. Namely because Sanogo is so far off the pace when it comes to top flight football, it’s a surprise he’s even in the first team squad. He has some nice attributes, he loves playing football, he’s fast and he’s relatively powerful. But then so is Kenwyne Jones.
Sanogo was well out of his depth against a Championship side yesterday, his touch was poor, his composure was very off and his movement was obvious and heavy footed. He might become Didier Drogba in 5 years time, but at the moment, he should be out on loan like the rest of the kids. For me, Chuba Akpom is more of a shout if we’re going to shoot for change.
Still, like I said earlier, the joke of it is, I’d still have picked him above the out of form Giroud. That’s how desperate the situation is.
I don’t know why I expected anything different, but the players out on the pitch are being given absolutely nothing with regards to a game plan. I really can’t stand it when I hear things like, ‘these players ain’t got the bottle’… because it’s a deflective unquatifiable statement when you’re talking about top international footballers who have won major trophies. You don’t get to those heights in the game if you’re not a winner. And here’s the thing, you can’t quantify ‘bottle’. It’s an emotional throwaway comment I’ve used in the past. But it’s not an intelligent observation.
Those players are bought by the manager, they’re trained by the manager and they’re prepared by the manager. They had no tools yesterday to deal with a pressing game from a very small Wigan side. There was no change up. There was no visible counter plan, other than perseverance doing the same thing. That’s unacceptable against Everton, it’s criminal against Wigan.
The fans weren’t on their best behaviour yesterday. A lot of moaning, the guy behind me regularly showered me in spittal, at one point shouting ‘go back home you job thief’ to a Fabianski who pay more tax in a week than this guy earns in a year. But outside the morons, there was a lot of negativity. This didn’t correlate with the prematch fun that was going off. Before the game, it was completley mental. I’ve never heard so much singing. I’ve not seen such camaraderie. Everyone was buzzing after having such a good day.
You get in the ground, and you’re hit by that lack lustre game. It’s really hard to respond positively. The booing at half time wasn’t surprising. The booing at the Lukas sub was unexpected, but I guess people are sick of seeing such habitual management moves. Same game plan, same subs, same sub timings…
The post game journey home was sad. I’ve never come home from a Wembley win and not heard the fans singing on the train. Now, this was just my train, not all of them. But usually, it’s crazy. Not yesterday, just quiet, sombre reflection.
Yesterday, be basically had the whole of the Emirates in the ground… didn’t feel like it. How can I critique it? Though I didn’t boo, I certainly felt the frustration.
What an absolute hero this man was yesterday. Two superb penalty saves, in the main, he was assured and comfortable all game. He even geed up the fans at one point demanding more noise. I really like him. I think he’s the better keeper and I think we’re making a mistake letting a more mature, harder working keeper leave the club on a free transfer.
That’s what a young player should be all about. He’s raw. Really raw. But he has enthusiasm, he has quality and he has explosive moments of excitement that lift the fans. Sure his decision making isn’t there, sure his touch is sometimes a bit shabby… but I get him as a player and his inclusion is totally merited.
Players Celebrating Wigan
Good. Football is all about glory. Those boys were awful yesterday. They knew they were a spot kick away from historical shaming. No wonder they lose the plot. I like to see that passion. Good for them. I’m glad they loved it!
The big panic now is what happens on Tuesday night against West Ham. We’ve just put some seriously tired players through a hell of a game. Ramsey looked like he picked up an injury, Chamberlain was seriously cramping. Per looked like he was suffering. That game against West Ham on Tuesday is going to be very, very tough now. Because we don’t have the players or the squad depth to cope with it. Bad times and worrying for 4th.
The win is clearly excellent for the club. We’re in a final and hopefully we can have an equally joyous day against either Sheffield Utd or Hull. It’s just a shame I’m so flatlined. Hearing people disappointed that the players celebrated the penalty shootout is embarrassing. Hearing people say they wish we’d lost is also a touch pathetic. But look, that view isn’t a new one. I’ve heard lots of people talk of taking the hit to cut us loose of the slow burn stagnation. Yesterday was brilliant in the end, but the reality is that cut your way through the foiliage of a meek victory and you can see that we have some very deep rooted problems that are starting to look poisonous. Wenger is out of his depth, even against average Championship sides. That’s frightening. We had no ideas. A massive worry.
I care deeply about Arsenal. I care deeply when we lose. I care deeply when my club looks like it’s going down the pan because of consistently alarming performances against very weak clubs.
I’ll enjoy the victory, it’s just a shame it’s tinged with the sadness of the demise of a once trailblazing manager.
P.S. Get well soon Bob Wilson. Arsenal legend.