I’m expecting the press and many fans to come out and start blaming the Arsenal board of directors for this loss and 7th consecutive trophyless season. They have gotten quite a bit of flak for not loosening the purse string for Arsene to splash out on “quality players”.
I’m going to buck the trend here. Yes, any team is going to improve if you spend 30 million on a Sergio Aguero. To be honest, this isn’t the best Arsenal team I’ve seen. But they are far from awful and the first team is able to give anyone a good go. We’ve not been able to harness the full ability of the team and play them to their strengths. I feel that our problem lies deeper than just the lack of expenditure.
And that problem is Arsene Wenger.
I know it may seem sacrilegious for any Arsenal fan to point the finger at one of our most successful managers in our history. He’s won many trophies in his earlier years and has reshaped the club’s infrastructure. Arsene’s the reason why we have a world class stadium and a first class training centre and youth set-up.
However, today’s performance has been symptomatic of what has gone wrong for the past 7 years or so.
1. Lack of fighting spirit
Clearly, Sunderland won tonight’s game almost purely on desire. The lone striker and wingers were brilliant. They closed down Arsenal, fought for the ball and were purposeful in attack. Credit to them, they deserved to win the match.
Arsenal looked second best in mid-air and didn’t look like they could stomach the fight.
Sunderland’s endless harrying and closing down of the ball created opportunities for them out of nothing. They scored the first by catching Verm and Djourou off guard and winning a free kick. The second was born out of a good clearance, a quick counter attack and tireless running to support the lone striker.
Somehow I feel that Arsene doesn’t have it in him to inspire the troops and kick their asses when they’re under-performing.
Arsenal also didn’t have players who wanted to claim responsibility and take the match by the scruff of the neck. Central midfield was always vacant with Ramsey absent from a position in that he should be readily available in which to receive passes from Arteta/Song.
Which leads me to my next, crucial point.
2. Bad tactics/ lack of adaptability/ wrong choice of players
These reasons seem to overlap. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time. I’ve talked about playing formations which make it hard for the team to get their game going. For the past few years, opponents knew how Arsenal was going to play their game and knew how to stop them.
It’s no secret that they play a high line, try to pass through the middle and don’t shoot from afar. Opponents have succeeded by playing deep, closing down in midfield and counter attacking.
Cut down space and Theo’s a lame duck who is also a liability in defence as he always leaves his right back exposed. Ramsey’s had a good start to the season but he has dipped in form. Can’t blame him as he’s still 21 and is just starting on his first full season in Arsenal. Surely Rosicky is a better option after proving his quality this past 2 months? Afraid he might be suffering from fatigue? The grossly under-used Benayoun was crying out for a game and so was last week’s game-changer, Arshavin.
We had options to turn it around. Need more examples? Chamakh should have started in a 4-4-1-1 with RVP in a withdrawn role to affect play more often. Afraid of injuries to RVP? Then play Arshavin or Benayoun in that role. Chamakh may have had a lost of confidence but hey, you’re not going to pass through the thick Sunderland defence so you might has well make those crosses to someone who can win them.
I’ve also been crying out for Park to play. No, it’s not because of Asian pride. I caught his first match for us against Bolton in the Carling Cup and he was immense. Quick passes, clinical finishing, hardworking player. It’s a shame we don’t see much of him as I’ve got the niggling feeling that he was bought to sell shirts in Asia. Sad but true as this guy would have been a great player for us if we could find a way to accommodate him more often.
We’ve got so many variations calling out to be played, each providing a different edge to tackle different situations. However, we’ve been doing the same things for more than 5 years expecting the same results.
Well you know, a clever man once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Let’s get back some sanity and have a manager who can get some proper perspective on things. Whether it’s Arsene or not - I don’t care.