In a week that American’s celebrated Groundhog day, it was fitting that the day was bookended by two losses and that dreadful feeling of everything being over for the season.
Arsenal capitulated to Chelsea in a fashion so routine, when I spoke to a friend during the match, the phone call was eerily familiar to the one I had when Arteta was rushed back and we were tanked. The game wasn’t a disaster, we weren’t destroyed, but we were outclassed in every department, we never found a 5th gear and Chelsea cruised the victory in a casual 2nd.
It wasn’t a game. It was Saturday afternoon kickabout with the bigger boys. Arsenal players didn’t believe they could win. Wenger didn’t believe we could win. The whole day was just one of those things you have to go through under Arsene Wenger management.
We started brightly, looking good for a full 5minutes. It didn’t last, Chelsea felt their way into the game and broke us within 13minutes. Chelsea picked up possession from a terrible Coquelin pass. Diego Costa was found out wide by Moses, the Brazilian whipped in a cross to Hazard who forced Cech into tipping onto the bar. The ball rattled back out, Alonso powered in like the ball had called his mum a slag and smashed a header into the open net, wiping out Bellerin in the process.
A lot of people thought it was a foul on Bellerin. The Spaniard collapsing on his back in a nasty midair fall from a leading elbow. I’m not sure I can buy that, firstly, Bellerin wasn’t in good shape to defend the header, he had no awareness of Alonso coming in and I think he showed his age by not using his body to defend the oncomer. Would that have happened to Tony Adams? No way. It wasn’t a foul for me. Interesting that none of the expros on Sky and NBC thought it was a foul.
After that, we collapsed into ourselves, Chelsea were walking through us with relative ease. We had our moments, namely an unreal chance for Gabriel. We went with a short corner, Ozil found Chamberlain on the edge of the box. He set the ball, then curled a beautiful pass onto the 6 yard line and Gabriel fluffed his header at the keeper. Ozil also had a very good opportunity moments later. Coquelin found him in space at the back post, his shot was poor and the keeper made an easy save to his left.
The second half started badly, Mustafi had a warning from the impressive Hazard when he fell over on the half way line and the Belgian ripped away. Only a perfectly timed challenge from Kos prevented a clear chance. We didn’t heed the warning though.
Arsenal lost the ball in midfield, this time under zero pressure, when Coquelin tried a stupid flick in their half. Chelsea broke after Costa forced Koscielny into a weak header. Hazard picked up the ball, Coquelin bounded back to make amends but bounced off him like a rag doll hitting a car. The Belgian powered into the box, with Kos on his toes backing off not knowing what to do, he marched into the area, jinked and unleashed before Mustafi could drop his customary Vermaelen-esque slide tackle. Chelsea’s Ryan Giggs moment. Unbelievable shambles. The flick from Coquelin? Nothing tells you more about Arsene’s management than having a technically weak player playing a high-risk pass like that at 1 down. Absolutely horrifying lack of discipline.
Chelsea weren’t finished. Sorry, Cech wasn’t finished. For the second time in a week, we conceded from OUR throw-in. Gabriel once again the perpetrator, threw it to Cech, who under light pressure from Costa, tried an odd lofted chip that flew gently to Cesc who chipped into an unguarded net. He didn’t celebrate, not out of respect to Arsenal fans, but out of respect to all the viewers around the world who had to witness a mistake that amateur.
Giroud came on late, he scored a consolation goal after he headed home from a lovely Nacho cross. But it was too late. Conte had his revenge and it wasn’t even served cold. It was lukewarm, cooked up by Arsene Wenger with stale ideas, minimal care and a depressingly familiar taste.
So what can we conclude from this shambles?
For the board members, apparently baffled by the fan upset of late. Is it crystal fucking clear why we’re upset now? Interesting point from John Cross article I shared the other day. The ‘you’ve never had it so good’ element, we wondered if the author was aware that a line very similar for Harold McMillan was the beginning of the end for his political career? Maybe there was a smarter subtext to that story after all. Today, for any other manager, it would be the start of the end.
Here’s the thing though. The board members that matter (those under 75), do understand why we’re angry. Because we’re right about Wenger. He’s dead as a coach and he once again demonstrated it on the biggest stage. Losing to Chelsea was expected. It was almost a given. The biggest shame though? That wasn’t today. It was earlier in the week against Watford in one of the worst Arsene performances of the last ten years.
Wenger does not know how to prepare. We don’t practice throw-ins, you’ll not be surprised to learn. We clearly had no clue how to counter Chelsea today. We didn’t know how to deal with the physicality of their play. We didn’t know how to cope under pressure. Our defensive transitions were woeful. Our attacking set up was pitiful. Watching Ozil try and pick out an uninterested Sanchez for 90mins was testing to say the least.
The manager doesn’t know how to win big. Our last 34 games against Spurs, CFC, Livepool, United and City have thrown up 6 wins, 15 draws and 13 losses. He is up against a master tactician with a drilled well-oiled machine and his player don’t now how to react. They are not coached properly. They’re not educated to the levels you need to be. They’re sent out there with their dicks in their hands, with signs around their necks saying ‘please be nice.’
So if anyone is in any doubt as to why we’re upset, replay the video of today and Tuesday. Ask yourself how Chelsea can go to Liverpool and come back looking twice as fresh and 10 times more motivated to succeed.
Some minor things we need to speak of. I think the chickens are coming home to roost with Mustafi. I really don’t think he’s good enough. His game is reckless, he spends too much time on his arse and his belief that he’s a visionary passer really doesn’t help anyone. His positional sense was poor today and he’s starting to get found out.
Petr Cech need to be moved on in the summer and we need to be searching the market for a keeper of stature who can pass with his feet. Not just that, we need someone who can pull out the worldy saves. He’s dipped into Almunia like form. He doesn’t win you points. He was weak for the Hazard second goal today. He was atrocious for the third. He is a man removed when it comes to having a spare player to move the ball around. It’s over. He’s a keeper of the past.
Our midfield needs a rethink. I know it might be unpopular to say, but I thought Chamberlain showed some promise in a broken system today. Stats wise, he had a very good day. 8 ball recoveries, 4 tackles, 93% pass completion as well as creating two good chances. Outside that, we were garbage. Coquelin stray passes led to two Chelsea goals, his overall game was ineffective and his ability on the ball is so unArsenal it’s frightening. Ozil was pedestrian, but he was kind of isolated in his role. That doesn’t make up for the half-arsed attitude to putting his foot in and generally pottering around like he doesn’t care. Still, at least he had a pop at the players who didn’t thank the away support.
Finally, we’ll end on a positive. Danny Welbeck needs to be starting all the games through the middle if he’s fit. His pace, aggression and ability to bring the best out of Ozil’s vision is greatly needed. He should have started and so should Perez.
Our season is over. The final humiliation will likely come at Bayern, though they are having troubles of their own. Regardless, Wenger has been at fault again. The man is part of an anti-sport regime that is built on self-preservation that flies in the face of all the norms of competition. Someone needs to interject and tell Wenger the two years that are on the table have been pulled, and the club will start the hunt for a replacement immediately. If that’s Max Allegri, let’s do it. But we should also be paying attention to Napoli’s Sarri, Jardim at Monaco, Bielsa, Tuchel and Sampiola. There are a bunch of great coaches out there, with real philosophies and the balls to make them work. Don’t let Arsene run the clock down as he assesses his feelings at the expense of the next man having a good run at reimagining the greatest club on the planet.
As for you, the fan? Make your voices heard. Wenger is listening apparently and there’s a slim chance he might pack it in if he’s not felt loved.
Don’t feel bad either. It’s for the good of the club. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The man needs to go, play your role.
P.S. Fuck Gary Neville and his hypocrisy yesterday. Hammers Wenger week in week out every season, spent 90mins rabbiting on about how Arsenal that performance was, then a banner goes up in the crowd and it’s disrespectful. Have some consistency, some of us don’t have 30mins every Monday to tell the world what we think of Wenger. I’m not a banner fan, but good for them for standing against mediocrity, shame on you and your journo colleagues for slating the fans as moaners when you do exactly the same.