Sunday, January 22, 2012

Arsene suffers his 'Eboue moment' - something needs to change at the club.

Some historical context first.

Back in March, 2004, we were leading United by a single goal at Highbury. As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Arsene put Pascal Cygan (remember him) on for Freddie Ljunberg, in an attempt to sure up our defence and see the game out. Instead, Cygan went AWOL up the field, United pushed forward, and Saha scored a later equalizer to deny us the victory.

Fast forward 8 years and a young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is flying after brilliantly setting up a fine Robin van Persie goal. Wenger hauls off Chamberlain and puts Arshavin on in his place. United adjust their tactics to pile pressure on our left-hand side, knowing that the Russian is not the most enthusiastic of defenders. Shortely thereafter, Arshavin lets Valencia walk past him, and the Ecuadorian sets up Danny Welbeck for a late winning goal.

Two substitutions against the same opponents, which almost directly led to us dropping points in both instances. Yet, while in 2004 there were merely a few muttered grumblings that we hadn’t got the victory that our performance warranted, today there was the nearest we’ve seen to a fan revolt against Wenger’s reign as manager.

It wasn’t the substitution that set the fans off today; it was years of frustration finally erupting. We’ve backed Arsene for a long time, but today seemed to be Wenger at his worse, a moment that saw him follow his technocratic instincts, rather than the reality which almost everyone in the stadium, and anybody watching on TV, could see on the field. Maybe Chamberlain really did have cramp, but he looked pretty annoyed at his substitution to me. As did Robin van Persie, who appeared disgusted to see our best attacking player go off. To me the substitution appeared to be Wenger sticking to a pre-match plan of hauling off Chamberlain at around the 70 minute mark, which he refused to change or adapt despite the reality of the situation.

Whether Arsenal’s transfer budget or strategy is entirely in Arsene’s hand or not, as is endlessly debated on the internet, today saw a failure which was entirely of his own doing. Yes, he had the vision to buy and start Chamberlain, but he also made a tactical error which handed the game to United.

The wider context is that we should not be in a position where we are still relying on players like Arshavin. But Wenger and Arsenal have so far refused to enter the market and buy the new attacking players that we need. That a player like Theo Walcott played 90 minutes today is a massive indictment of whatever strategy Arsenal has regarding squad management.

In short, this may have been Arsene’s ‘Eboue moment’ – a moment when the fans’ frustration at years of mediocre players, under-investment in the squad, and bizarre tactical manoeuvres finally came out. If Arsene is to stay as manager of the club, change is needed, and change is needed now. Fans can tolerate occasional tactical failings if the club is headed in the right direction – the frustration that was voiced today resulted from many fans crossing the rubicon, and beginning to question whether Arsene really does ‘know’ anymore.

Other thoughts on the game:

·       *   Arshavin is finished at Arsenal. He’s popped up with a few mistakes recently, but Arsene hung him out to dry in the post-match interview. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shipped out before the window ends. It's sad because he is one of the most talented attacking players I've ever seen at Arsenal - he's just never been consistent, aside from his during his first months at the club.
·      
 * Yennaris’s performance at RB was one of the few moments of positivity that we can take from the game. He was considerably better than Djourou who had an absolute nightmare, and was nowhere to be seen for the cross that led to United’s first goal.
·         
But then, what was Vermaelen doing for both United goals? Let’s not play favourites here – he should have won that header with Valencia and didn’t, and he was no where to be seen once Valencia took the ball round Arshavin for the second.
·     
    *  A failure to get a short-term full-back has cost us 9 points in January, given how many goals we’ve conceded from our flanks in the last month.
·      
   * So, Park isn’t good enough to participate in any league game this year, but he is good enough to play against United with ten minutes to go? Utterly bizarre. I don’t think he touched the ball.
·      
   * We have missed Arteta badly. We didn’t control the game at all in midfield, bar a twenty minute or so period at the start of the second half. Even then, United almost hit us on the break on several occasions.
·     
    * I am not a fan of Rosicky. I honestly don’t know what he offers. He runs around a lot, and makes the occasional decent pass, but he provides no assists and no goals. The moment in the second half when he was clean through and passed the ball was horrible. Can you imagine Vieira, Pires, Ljungerg, Edu etc doing that? No. It was, and it pains me to say this, cowardly. Time for him to leave in the summer.
·     
   *  Koscielny was quietly our best player on the pitch. He has been outstanding this season.
·     
   *  I’ve already mentioned it, but how did Theo stay on the pitch for 90 minutes?  A disgraceful performance. He has no all-round game, just speed, an occasional finish, and a lot of failed step-overs.
·        
*  This is tough to say, but needs to be said: Alex Ferguson is a considerably better manager than Arsene Wenger. In 2004, both Ferguson and Wenger were faced with an oligarch at Chelsea. Ferguson made astute purchases, and got rid of his driftwood; we packed our squad with young prospects. Fast forward 8 years and it’s unarguable who took the better approach. Ferguson buys better players, and he (or coaches who he actually listens to) makes better tactical decisions. Indeed, the success of United is the most damning evidence you can use against those who say that you can’t compete with City and Chelsea.
·        
 * To return to the beginning of this piece – Arsenal vs. United used to be a title decider. Now, we’re just a minor inconvenience to the Manchester clubs. It’s time to face facts – something radical has to change at the club if we are to compete for trophies again. Either Wenger’s approach needs to change, or the board needs to give him some money, or we need new faces within the club’s management structure. Either way, we can’t go on like this if we are to maintain our status among England’s elite.

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11 comments:

johan swe said...

Rosicky together with Koscielny the best player for the Gunners today. Much more speedy and direct than Ramsey, lots of experience aswell, classplayer.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog and scrupulously fair and objective.

Rosicky was hardly competing with Kos as best player. He is passing himself as being a useful player, but there is no end product anymore - no penetration.

We have some ingredients of a top side - potential definitely is there, but half the squad is absolutely rotten and has no place at a club with the supposed ambitions of Arsenal.

The club, and the squad, need a massive overhaul, but I fear things need to get worse, much worse, before they even start to get better...

Anonymous said...

Regarding your very last comment 'Wenger should be given money.' I have two responses for this:
1) He DOES have the money, he's just a stingy asshole. He did spend around £60m in the Summer let's not forget. It depends on who you buy. Man U, Chelsea, City buy ready made players or people who are close to their peak, we buy 15 year olds. They also buy people with premier league experience, we buy them from anywhere but England (except Arteta) Obviously we do not have the money to buy like them, but options were available. Instead of Gervinho we could have bought Dempsey, he can finish and dribble well. Instead of Mertasacker we could have bought Samba or Cahill. Instead of relying on the injury prone Gibbs, we could have bought Baines. This is the problem. Look at City, United and Chelsea, in the last few years, from preimer league clubs they have bought: Valencia, Lescott, Milner, Barry, Smalling, Jones, Cahill, Sturridge, Given and well more. These players do not need time to adapt. I really think we should buy players from our league, even if they cost a little more. Next on my list would be, Baines, Dempsey, Hoillet, Samba.
2) If Arsenal do not have the money from Kroenke, they should begin to rely on Usmanov. He WANTS Arsenal to spend the money. (I still think that they do have the money but Wenger is stingy)
Max

Anonymous said...

Brilliant summary Goonerboy. I'm afraid your Pascal incident is just one of many as we all know.

Don't agree about Rosicky, he has returned to form and is one of the few to play the ball forward .
Wouldn't be a debate if we all agreed on everything!

Anonymous said...

I am gutted and completely sorry...but I have to admit that this is the most accurate summary of Arsenal and Wenger. We are at out wits end as fans and looking forward to the next season to see our team mature and grow together just doesn't cut it anymore. Our best players abandoned us as they did not believe their mentor, and now we are left rewinding 6 years with new youngsters entering the fray. Arsene is a great man, I would hate to see him leave. He built a great team twice almost three times..but the fourth is fast fading with dudd purchase and player's contracts up for renewal. i suppose this leaves me to hope that the summer will bring us some new transfers, RVP staying and Chamak's P45 - but there will be a few needing that me thinks!

Anonymous said...

Crap team, crap manager, completer joke, this will never change unless that twat wenger goes, great manager? Yeah right!

Anonymous said...

RvP would surely leave - after this fiasco against an average team played at a pedestrian speed. No way he can spend the rest of his career at such an unambitious club. Major overhaul needed starting with Wenger and all his precious proteges.

johan swe said...

Well, Rosicky played van Persie on for a open goal. He was the one finding Ox with the ball for the goal. A master of counter attacks. Guess we just dont agree.

Anonymous said...

It's kroenke.... We have NO 'board' anymore, we now have an 'owner'... He was not there today and he is not 'there' in any way and won't be, has not and will not invest one cent, he is an owner who does not lead, he will not replace arsene as he knows nothing about our game.... We are fucked

Anonymous said...

This article/blog became useless when you trashed Rosicky for his performance. He was immense in the match, one of the few bright sparks in the match. He is a sound central midfielder from an attacking perspective. i wish wenger played arteta and rosicky together rather than ramsey.

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