Via @Arsenal Instagram
What a haze.
Pep Guardiola won his first trophy in England in a walkabout less intense than his team’s warmup. Arsene Wenger hoped to save his dire season with another trophy, but he couldn’t muster the tactics, nor flame the team’s belief to even make a half decent attempt. It was a damp affair, but in all honesty, not unexpected.
The Arsenal of last May didn’t come out to play. We were scared, the side didn’t believe for a second they’d win out there. As Matt has said on the podcast, we’re great at doing one thing really well in a game. Yesterday, we setup to defend and frustrate. It wasn’t a bad strategy, and we played fairly well in the opening 18 minutes. Then disaster hit. Claudio Bravo picked out Aguero in a route one disaster class. Mustafi was well out of position, he knew it, and tried to convince the ref he’d been unfairly handled, giving up the run of the Argentinian. Aguero took advantage of our pint-sized keepers late run out of the box and lobbed him. A great finish, but amateur defending for such a big occasion.
Arsenal didn’t have a reaction in them. Their one game plan had been destroyed, and there was no change of approach. We didn’t create anything. We didn’t look like we knew how to. There was obviously no reaction at halftime, you honestly felt like Wenger had told the team that losing 1-0 would be an achievement such was the flatness of response.
The game was all but finished when we were slow to react to a KDB corner finding Gundogan unmarked on the edge of our box. The Turk duffed a low shot into the box, Vincent Kompany reacted faster than all our players and he turned it past Ospina who couldn’t react quick enough to the change of direction.
The final nail in the coffin came when Jack gave the ball away, Danilo played through Silva who roasted the painfully bad Calum Chambers and drilled a shot hard and low across goal.
We had nothing.
What can I add to the debate about Wenger that I haven’t said a thousand times before?
The biggest issue for me yesterday was the lack of belief. The players knew they weren’t winning out there. Arsene Wenger knew his team didn’t have enough to take home the trophy. We played like we knew the result before the game. It was depressing because the players are good enough to give City a run for their money. It’s hard to really hammer the players, because you know that not enough care is going on behind the scenes to make a difference against the best coaches in world football.
I mean, only yesterday, Wenger ignorantly told the press that Pep hasn’t moved the bar with his management techniques. If he can’t credit the best manager in the world, it’s either because he’s deflecting attention, or he genuinely isn’t curious enough to see what he’s up to.
So far, in 2018, we’ve lost 6 times. We tanked against a Forest academy team, we were utterly outclassed by Spurs, we lost to Swansea, Bournemouth and to a team of misfits from Sweden at home in the Europa League. You can say that the achievement is being at the cup final, but sadly, you can’t look at that performance yesterday in a bubble. The bigger picture is Arsenal are in terminal decline under Arsene Wenger.
We’ve also got to start being honest with ourselves. The lack of fight from Wenger is rotting the players. Mesut Ozil takes more holidays than lottery winner, and was totally anonymous yesterday. Aaron Ramsey once again went missing against a top 6 side, and he’s our saviour. Jack Wilshere was off the pace and offered next to nothing bar a fight at the end. Aubameyang had literally no service all day. Our midfield still boasts one of the most calamitous players I’ve ever seen in an Arsene Wenger team. Our defence needs a total reboot. All of our keepers are a joke.
We’re now 8 points off 5th, and 8 from 7th. No chance we’ll win on Thursday in round 2 with City.
How can the club continue to watch this decline? What are the data points outside sentiment that keep Wenger in the job? Even if he wins the Europa League, which he won’t, what does it matter? We are dead under Arsene Wenger. We need to cut the losses this summer, bring in a coach who can build confidence, build out player intelligence and bring some sort of identity back to the club.
If there’s one positive we can take from that defeat, it means there’s only one more season saver, and that’s the Europa League. If Wenger doesn’t win that, and doesn’t make top 4. It’s going to be pretty hard to suggest he’s the man to take the club forward.
… finger crossed this nightmare is coming to a close.