Well, it’s getting all a touch painful, and we’re what, two games in? Arsene Wenger bore the wrath of the away support as fans chanted for him to leave the club. I wasn’t at the game, but I read it was quite vociferous and it wasn’t a minority.
I think the difficulty for Arsene Wenger at this point is that he’s taken things too far. He’s run out of goodwill. The fans are unfortunately in a position where anything outside a resounding win is a disappointment fueled by his ineptitude that needs to be met with aggressive disobedience.
That is Wenger’s fault. This isn’t about having terrible fans. This is all on one man whose belligerence, dithering and lack of energy has pushed fans down the nastiest of paths. This is about a man who has it all to make Arsenal a powerhouse, but chose instead to stick his middle finger up then sit on his hands. This is about fans watching the dying days of a manager who should have been put out of his misery 5 years ago.
Yesterday wasn’t a terrible result in the context of an away day at the Champions after a bit of a thumping in our first game. However, framed in the reality of the moment, Leicester looked a pretty poor side who were there for the taking and Arsenal didn’t do what Hull did last week and take the victory.
If we had a proper striker, that game is ours. Simple as that. The bare minimum of summer requirements has been badly mismanaged again. To make things worse, before the game, the media shared quotes from Wenger who insisted Alexis Sanchez was on par with Suarez technically, ‘He has similar qualities to Luis Suarez. He is technically top’, which is enough to drive even the sanest fan wild. The reality is Sanchez is nowhere near Suarez, it’s a pipedream of a fantasy (my fantasy) that was on full show today. He’s not smart enough and he has no presence in that role. He was eaten up by the Leicester defence today.
There were other issues outside the square peg / round hole striker situation. Before the game, it was leaked to the press that Santi Cazorla kicked off about being dropped for the Liverpool game. So what did Wenger do against the Champions? Instead of starting Mesut Ozil in the hole, he opted for Santi who never looks good there. Keeping a favourite happy, rather than doing what was right for the starting 11.
The final strange decision came when he dropped the impressive Elneny for Xhaka and continued with Coquelin. Now look, I like the Frenchman, but he’s really kind of average. The whole point of signing Xhaka and Elneny was to upgrade a problematic position. Coquelin just isn’t a great player. In games against great teams when you need smart players who can unpick defences, why are we putting in players who can’t fulfill on that?
We really struggled to break down Leicester’s resolute defence. Their two banks of 4 made it really tough to break through the lines. But we didn’t change things up until, you guessed it, the 70th minute when we brought on Mesut, Jack and a bit later Giroud.
Shock horror, when we brought on players who could open up the pitch creatively and run through the lines, we started to make chances and looked like a team that could do something. It still wasn’t enough, but you do wonder why Wenger didn’t setup with a bolder line up? Why did he cave to the whims of a great player who doesn’t have the legs anymore? Why did he wait until the 70th minute to make a progressive change?
It’s the same issues we have all the time, Wenger is a manager of routine. He’s a manager who can’t handle conflict in his dressing room. He’s a man who has consistently demonstrated terrible in-game management.
So what did we learn?
Koscielny was a welcome antidote to the back four. He really is an exceptional talent wasted at our club. He should be winning Champions League medals. However, he chose the Arsene Wenger tutelage and he’s stuck with us. I’m glad. He reads the game so well, he calms those around him and he was pivotal in us keeping a clean sheet. His fitness is directly correlated with our success this season.
He had a really good game. I trust him. Sure, he makes some mistakes, sure he’s green. But he looks like he could be a player. Confident on the ball, he has northern grit about his game and he looks very excited to be playing in the big leagues. A great talent. Wenger complaining that people don’t respect him as a signing because he didn’t cost £55m is ridiculous. Fans are more than happy to have great young talent at the club. Thing is, they know how it goes. 10 good games, 5 bad. The plan was most likely to send him out on loan. Him being in the starting 11 is a big accident. Him becoming an important player for us over the next few months is amateur hour. The fact he looks better than Gabriel tells a real story…
Ok, so maybe I was just really upset and really drunk. But look, Theo looked impressive at times? Sure his finishing was still off, but he looked twice the player Sanchez did. He tracked back, threw himself about, played through the middle, out wide. He looked dangerous. I know I’ve written things like this before, then been disappointed by him… but for me, he’s better through the middle than Sanchez.
Did not impress me. I know he’s new to the club and the league, but he looked out of sorts and certainly didn’t look the superstar he did at the Euros. He was caught on the ball and he wasn’t really allowed to showcase his skills on the ball because of how deep Leicester played. Not a great first two games. I look at how well Kante played and how he was cheaper and worry. But look, Kante hasn’t a creative bone in his body… and Xhaka has room to grow. So let’s see.
Let’s just not ever do that again. He’s a brilliant player, super on the ball, dazzling with his feet. But he doesn’t have the legs anymore and I think it’s been pretty clear his best position has been in the deeper lying role. I have absolutely no idea what Wenger was thinking not starting Ozil. It’s an embarrassing slight on his management that he caved to a player who leaked stories to the press.
Someone needs to take him aside and tell him that he is merely a cog in the Arsenal machine. He is not bigger than the club. He is not the club. He is certainly not the fucking financial controller.
“I will spend £300m if I find the right player, and we have £300m. But we also have 600 employees and we need to have a responsible attitude as well.
Comments like that strain the relationship with fans because they’re patronising, they make him a target of the media because everyone knows the points are stupid and they show that he’s completely out of touch.
Arsenal will never again be in a situation where paying their staff will be an issue. Never. Arsene Wenger has never been responsible for the salaries of non-playing staff. Arsene Wenger is not our financial controller. Only last week he had to be corrected on his view that referees were paid £45k a week. Arsenal have £200m in the bank, guaranteed TV revenues lined up for 10 years, growing shirt sponsorship deals and an ever growing global fanbase who have dollars to spend. He really should just keep his mouth shut about the finances, they’re outrageously good.
“I’m a bit fed up saying the same thing when people say we do not want to spend. We analyse everything then make the right signings.”
Fans are a bit fed up that this constant analysis ends the same way, with no players. A squad that isn’t good enough to compete. No major trophies.
… and this is the thing. We constantly hear that Wenger is a bad loser. That he longs to be a winner. That he lives and breathes the club.
So here’s an idea? Why doesn’t he fucking do something about it?
He behaves like a masochist. Like he enjoys going into the season with an under-prepared squad. Like he enjoys, at 67 years old, sitting in a disgustingly toxic ground that’s turning on him. Like he’s addicted to the misery of losing.
Wenger should have looked at his squad this summer, assessed the weaknesses and gone aggressively for what he needed.
Sell Theo Walcott and Alex Chamberlain for £50m (If you can get £32m for Bolasie and Benteke, you can get good money for our two). Move on David Ospina and Kieran Gibbs for £10m.
Pay Mkhitaryan £200k a week, because he was on for us. Go hard for a striker if Vardy falls through, most clubs managed someone. If you can’t get a striker, maybe move for Draxler or Reus and convert them through the middle like you did with Thierry. Do something, because to do nothing is beyond stupid. Go out and sign a centre back like John Stones because he’ll be England captain and one of the most complete ball playing defenders since Rio Ferdinand. Sign up the best young keeper in the game. Sign up an experienced backup central defender.
We could do all of that for £80m give or take £10m.
Then what do you have? A fucking great squad. You heard on Sky the explayers talking about the buzz of rolling into training knowing they’re playing with the best in the business. That’s what Arsenal haven’t had since, what, 2002 (players wise, when we signed about 8 names)? That buzz of invincibility. That excitement that the manager has dropped a madness and winning is inevitable.
Why doesn’t Wenger do that? Why wouldn’t he want to be presiding over positive energy? Why wouldn’t he want the fans chanting his name because we know the boss has, well, bossed the summer?
We’ll never know. Well, maybe we do, Wenger has already come out and insanely said that vibrancy doesn’t matter in relation to performance. You know what Arsene? You’re wrong. Absolutely wrong. Like you’ve been wrong so many times over the last ten years. Like you have been this summer.
That’s why the fans are upset. That’s why the media are savaging your summer. That’s why no one, bar Stan Kroenke believes in you (and I have to question if his undying support can continue when you look at how we’re falling behind United with sponsorship deals / he said he’d like to win things).
Finally, remember this, the narrative of ‘two players short’ is just that. An engineered story that keeps Wenger in a job and in new contracts. My personal view is this works for Wenger, because the reality is, if he spent £150m on players, he’d not be able to deliver the Champions League or the Premier League, especially now he has genuine world-class managerial quality to compete with. He’s not sharp enough with his in-game management, his tactical approach is rigid and predictable, he’s not ruthless and he doesn’t have the energy to lead like he once did.
My hope is that this is the last season we have to put up with this. My hope is that Wenger opts out of a new deal, because I have no faith Gazidis will pull the contract away from him. But hey, wishful thinking, we know he’ll engineer a 10 game winning streak, sign a 2 year deal and we’ll be back where any club would be with a substandard man running the show.
When I wrote a few weeks ago I was looking forward to next season already, I was right. Look at us now. Unreal it’s come to this. Let’s all pray this is the last time we have to go through this. Let’s pray this is Wenger’s last season.