Here I am, penning an ode to another insipid Arsenal performance, trying to add new flavour to same cardboard curry we’ve been consistently forced to chew down for the last ten years.
We won, on aggregate. We are through to the last 16, but the worry about Wenger’s decaying ability to focus players, even when there’s the prize of CL football at stake, is reaching new levels of panic.
Arsene fielded a heavily weakened side, but make no mistake, that insipid performance was not reflective of the talent on show. No, the effort on displayed was a reflection of a manager who allows players to switch off because there’s no consequence.
Arsenal are the most inviting club to play at if you’re happy to coast.
Francis Coquelin: “You tend to get into a comfort zone when you stay several years in the same clubs.
The Ox: ‘I felt the main thing was taking myself out of my comfort zone. ‘
Jack Wilshere before Bournemouth: “Sometimes when you are at a top club and you have been at a top club for your whole career and you are playing week-in week-out it is easy to get in that comfort zone.”
Theo’s comments last season: “I think they just wanted it more. You could tell they wanted it more. You could sense that from the kick-off.”
Thierry Henry after Liverpool: “It’s comfortable at Arsenal. There’s not that kind of pressure that you should have at a big club.
Mesut Ozil calling in sick:
Our best player literally picks and chooses when he wants to play. Am I really that fussed about him resting before a cup final? No. The point being, he’s been doing this all season. It sets the tone.
I’ve been told by many people that Arsenal treat their players from junior through to senior better than any club on the planet. Alan Smith spoke to us about the difference in mentality between the Arsenal of now and the Arsenal of his era, stating that it’s a different world, the staff are not allowed to met out discipline like they used to. You can say that’s the modern game, but somehow Pep and Conte manage it. This is an Arsene issue.
I know from people in and around the place at the moment, that some of the players take monumental liberties and the manager simply lets it slide. Do you really think a club with an empowered mad Jen’s Lehmann and Steve Bould would be suffering lapses like tonight if they had their way? Do you think our defence would be so structureless? Do you think the absolute lack of leadership or accountability would persist? Not a chance.
That performance was one of the worst I’ve seen of Wenger’s last ten years. We played against lower league castoffs, against a team that has been in existence about the same amount of time as Wenger has been in charge of Arsenal, and we looked second rate. Fair play to Ostersunds, they were really good, especially considering they’re only just coming off their preseason. Imagine what could have happened if they’d scored that penalty and played a slightly calmer opening 25 in Sweden? Imagine what Graham Potter could do with elite talent?
Some will say that the players out there tonight were demotivated at the prospect of not playing on Sunday. Again, I can’t have that. It’s an unacceptable excuse, because we’ve seen that showing against Koln, who were bottom of the Bundesliga and beat us 1-0, we’ve seen it at Nottingham Forest, who trounced us with academy kids despite not having a manager, and we’ve seen it across the Christmas period where we dropped points for fun against the bottom 8 teams. We even saw it against Spurs, where the fight just wasn’t there.
The players on the pitch should have been playing for the bigger prize of Champions League football. The hope that if they threw their guts into that game, they’d land a starting place in a plum tie in the next round, when the competition starts to get exciting. Instead, they mailed it in.
Wenger, once again demonstrating that he is the master of new lows.
He’ll point to the win, but he can’t hide behind the stark reality that he has lost his ability to motivate modern footballers. A large chunk of our first 11 don’t really care. The second string look like they’d rather be on the beach, and it’s only February.
Arsenal are the most comfortable club in world football. We’re the cushy job in the country you take when you’ve had enough of the big smoke. You roll with the 9-5 every day, switch the e-mails off at weekends, you book a cheeky round of golf on a Thursday, you take all 7 weeks of holiday and definitely bring the dog to work on the regular. Arsenal are not a football club, we’re an old man’s lifestyle business.
How many more explayers have to talk on the record about the comfort of Arsenal before it becomes a club embarrassment?
How many more shocking results have to occur before the club connect to the reason the players don’t care?
How far must we fall before someone realises this obsession with preserving the career of Arsene Wenger is doing long-term damage to the brand and our chances of making a swift comeback when he leaves?
Who knows. Maybe Josh will get the DL when he undertakes one of Arsenal’s famous club reviews.
Tomorrow, we crack into cup final mode. If you want to move out of your funk, tune into our amazing interview with Alan Smith. It’s a cracking piece of nostalgia, with a dash of future talk that should moisten your loins!