Once again, Arsene Wenger finds himself in a situation where he can excuse the rapid decline of the club. His team tanked in blue again, losing 2-1 to a very average Newcastle side, but somehow, the press has brushed this off as a byproduct of searching for Europa League glory.
Partly, that could be seen as true. However, as is everything with Arsene Wenger, you need to have context. If this were off the back of a scintillating season, you could perhaps acknowledge the changing shape of our form. That’s not the case though. Our form is an illness that’s plagued the club for years now.
This season’s particular ailment happens to be away form. We just lost our 5th away game in a row this season, we’re the only club in the league to not have registered a single point away from home in 2018. In the home league table, we’d be third, in the away league table we’re bottom half. It’s staggering how damaged we are once we step off the away day bus. What makes this problem even worse, is Wenger has teed up the atmosphere at home as a reason for poor form in the past. Maybe the lack of fans > the lack of venom is our secret sauce for away games? Maybe away fans are the problem?
The game wasn’t much to write home about. Lacazette and Auba combined nicely inside the opening 15 minutes, Lacazette reaching a teasing cross at the back post. Then it all collapsed in a combination of low energy and silly defensive mistakes. The whole defense was beaten route one from a Shelvey hoof to Gayle, he held onto it, laid the ball off for a tidy front post cross finish by Perez. The second time Mustafi has been caught napping in a week, in exactly the same move.
Who spoke to him after he made the same mistake against Southampton?
The second came from a throw. Mustafi made a hash of it, Monreal made a double hash of it, Slimani nodded to Perez, who laid it into Ritchie, with the finish inevitable.
Losing 2-1 to Newcastle is shabby, they are Championship level. It does show you how good Rafa is as a coach. He’s taken a very poor group of players and crafted a masterful season, hats off to those boys.
But what does it say about Arsenal? Wenger has let the concentration handbrake off on the season. Burnley are closing in on us, terrible records are closing in on Arsenal. It’s really not looking good. Mourinho pulled this stunt towards the end of the last season, but his path to Europa glory was easy… but it was still a gamble.
Wenger now has Atleti in the semi-final. I’m not sure bombing the league is in his interest, because if he gets beaten, which seems likely, all he has to fall back on are the facts from the season.
> You spent a load of money
> You didn’t improve the team in any way
> We didn’t make Champions League again
> You didn’t win anything
How can the club possibly back him for another season like this?
Also, there’s an argument to say that when you’re still playing for something, as a player, you should be fighting for your place. Keeping your game sharp. It’s hardly helpful that Mustafi and Chambers are recording disaster classes on the regular. It’s not a positive to keep getting your ass handed to you. I think it’s arrogant. Sure, we’ve had an extra gear in the Europa League this season, but that’s only because the competition has been absolutely dross. The idea that we can switch off in the league in prep for playing one of the best teams in Europe is quite horrifying.
What all this shows is that Wenger doesn’t care about winning. He doesn’t know how to motivate players. He is utterly lost as an elite manager.
Worth noting that Atletico won 3-0 vs Levante as they cement 2nd place in La Liga. They’re up to 71 points, still pushing for a league they have next to no chance of winning. That’s proper coaching.
I guess if Wenger shows Simeone how it’s done over 2 legs, we really will have no argument over this season.
There’s also an ugly rumour doing the rounds that Wenger reckons he’s going nowhere, goading the club into trying to fire him.
Can you imagine being that arrogant about your future? Only Arsenal would be meek enough to have their next seasons plan geared around the hope their manager is self-aware enough to fire himself.
Right, see you in the comments. I’m back in England this week. Also, I have a treat coming up for you in a few weeks. I have a bonified expert in fitness, and he’s going to talk to us about red zones, player loads, j-curves and a host of other shit you had no idea about that goes into keeping players fit.
I am VERY excited about that.
Also, moving forward, no more drunk podcasts. I apologise for that.