Friday, 7 October 2011


So Premier League action has returned and we rely on Arsenal to brighten our weekends. The trouble with football is everyone thinks there are quick fixes and in some cases there are, but usually for very minor issues. If only we had minor issues to deal with, instead we have a team that needs intense therapy to aid it's recovery.

I welcomed the international break but I'm not sure Arsene would have. Very few players remained at London Colney and subsequently we can't expect any radical changes to our performances. I didn't think our display was as bad as some outlets let on in the NLD. Instead I saw a side that reacted to a half time team talk, came out fighting, got it's rewards and subsequently retreated back into it's shell. Our confidence couldn't be any more fragile than it is at present and I don't think it's realistic to fix that before the Chelsea game. Yes, two victories domestically against Sunderland and Stoke would help but there is no belief in this current set of players that we can compete in big games. If Chelsea score first, it'll be very difficult to recover mentally. That's not to say we can't score first and install some belief that we can compete. A victory at The Bridge is just what this side needs. It would be a massive shot in the arm for some and you can prepare all you like for a game of football but if you don't have the belief, it all falls down. If we get a result it would set us up well for November. Yes, the dreaded November. However the automated fixture system couldn't have been kinder to us. If it all goes to plan (nothing ever does), we could be looking at a swift climb up the table. Games vs WBA, Norwich, Fulham, Wigan and Everton await us after our trip to Chelsea.

Confidence aside our other main issue is our defence. Some fans say
Wenger inherited one of the best defences football has ever seen and that cannot be argued with but Wenger did create a back five of Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure and Cole. So the notion that he can't build a defence can be blown out of the water. What can't be overlooked is the panic buying of Mertesacker and Santos. If we still had Almunia in goal who knows what state we'd be in. In our two victories so far Szczęsny has pulled off crucial saves early on, we could easily be in a relegation place without him between the sticks. Wojciech aside the outfield defending is disgusting. The fact we now have to make do without our best defensive asset for 3 months is a hammer blow! I know fans like Jenkinson because he's a Gooner but the lad is nowhere near ready for first team action and you have to question the sale of Eboue. One of which I was open to but he needed adequately replacing. Sadly, this was a theme throughout all of our sales in the summer! Fans are eagerly awaiting the return of Vermaelen and whilst he is our best centre half, I can't help buy feel his reputation has only been enhanced because he's been injured. Vermaelen is over rated in my opinion. He ball watches a lot and last ditch tackling always looks great but good defenders should never rely upon that. That said, Vermaelen and Mertesacker are our partnership going forward and they could well be up against Drogba and co by the end of the month. They might hit it off together but whilst we persist with the highest line of defending possible, only time will tell. Our defending is also hindered by this ridiculous formation. There is always space to exploit and our midfield couldn't be more lightweight. Due to Jack's injury our midfield three is Song, Arteta and Ramsey. Hardly smacks of tough, disciplined and defensive minded players. Although when Song sticks to his task, there are very few better than him. Unfortunately that happens 1 in 10 games. Will this defence ever be cured? I don't think so. These issues have gone on for too long and we find new ways to concede goals.

Overall, we have two key issues that need addressing and one can be rectified but the Chelsea game is huge, personally I'm not expecting much myself but football has a habit of springing surprises and I didn't think we had any chance of a victory the last time we won there!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Should Wenger Go?

The Wenger Out saying used to be a complete non-entity amongst the Arsenal faithful but now more than ever it's an expanding topic of conversation. The problems are this; we are 15th in the league and have a squad that appears susceptible to a hammering at any point. We have replaced quality with average to good replacements and worst of all we have money to spend to enhance our squad.

Our form is horrendous by our usual high standards and to be quite honest we are lucky to be 15th, this is after 7 games too. 21 points available and 7 taken? If you were witnessing this happen at any other club would you think their manager should be sacked? We have sold some integral players and we have replaced them with lesser players. Nasri's record for us wasn't spectacular but would I have been as open to his sale if I'd known Benayoun was his replacement? Probably not! As for Cesc's sale, I was expecting a big name in to replace him but we got Arteta. Arteta and Benayoun are nowhere near the calibre of player we've let go and that naturally has an impact on our results. I'm not saying they aren't good, they just aren't what we had. If this was happening at another club would you be critical of their policy? I would.

Vieira's last act as captain  was to bring home our last trophy, 6 years ago

Then we come down to the financial aspect. Don't worry I'm not going all anti-Arsenal etc, I'll leave that to people with hidden agendas. We have money to spend on players and we didn't. The attempts to get Gotze were unrealistic and desperate. Dortmund were never going to sell and we seemed to adopt the approach of our closest rival in attempt to appease our support. Eden Hazard was a possibility but we never went in and subsequently we'll never see him in an Arsenal shirt because Zidane will get Real to sign him. Last summer might have been a great opportunity to bring in players with the lure of Champions League football. Let's be realistic for a moment, finishing in the top four would now be an excellent achievement and even the club are planning for life without the cash injection that is elite European competition.

So what do we do? I don't know which way to turn but someone is accountable. Is that man Wenger? From the sounds of it, yes it is. Kroenke and Co have said Wenger has complete autonomy at Arsenal. This isn't healthy. So he's the man we should be venting our anger towards right? Not so sure. With that question comes with it what the great man has done for our club. You don't need me to go through what he has done for Arsenal, it's a true legacy. The way I gauge the Wenger debate is you are either with him or you aren't, which is fine but ask yourself this for one moment. What would you do if Wenger did leave? No if's or but's. I'd be gutted but I'd also acknowledge that things are going in the wrong direction and possibly a change is needed. I used to worry that if Wenger left all of our world class players would follow him but now we don't have any players I'm concerned about losing (compared to the invincibles). Then there's the "who is out there to replace Wenger?" For some reason this discussion can only comprehend managers that are currently unemployed. We are a massive football club and with the exception of 3 or 4 clubs we can take any manager we want. Managers would jump at the opportunity to be in charge at The Emirates.

Back to reality, I did blog on Wenger in April and I wanted him to change his philosophy but I knew then that he wouldn't and he hasn't. Our defence is still a shambles, injuries are a constant nightmare, our squad is weaker than it has been at any point in the Wenger era and players aren't living up to their potential. Have you ever watched Premiership Years and you can see a team performing poorly but you know that next month they get the inevitable sacking next month? That's us right now but we have no idea how this is going to pan out. Other team’s supporters love our demise; look at the game last Sunday. Did you see their fans reaction at Full Time? They were happy but not as ecstatic as they have been in the past. It put things into perspective for me.

Where do we go from here? Even our own players are reluctant to commit to the club. How do we get out of this mess? Fans have lost faith at The Emirates (Just look around The Emirates, it speaks volumes). Our away support is immense and in fact I have just booked myself a ticket for Chelsea because I love watching Arsenal play but can't say I'm expecting much in return. I have no expectancy of winning trophies or at present winning big games, as the scars of Old Trafford are still quite deep.

A legend that will always remain!

Is it all on Wenger? Kroenke has been clear in his message and if he sticks to his word Wenger is as safe as houses. Stability is always a good thing but we need to turn this around, now. Arsene Wenger is an Arsenal Legend, that will never be questioned but there will come a time and a place when he does leave. I personally think he’ll never be sacked and it’ll all remain mutual but if there was ever a time to question his future it's now. Can he turn it around because time is running out! I want him to remain successful but now it's more hope than expectation.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Walcott Factor

At the end of last season I thought the time was right for Theo Walcott to make the transition from winger to striker. Unfortunately for Theo two factors stood in his way. First, we needed to change our formation and the secondly, Arsene Wenger believing he is ready to make the move.

Throughout pre-season Theo occupied the right wing and Wenger never gave him a sniff of playing through the middle. The arrival of Park Chu-Young makes than even more unlikely. Theo has netted a couple of goals already this season but his overall game has been poor and he sums up the poor attitude that demonstrated by this side at present.

We all witnessed Walcott's lambasting of Carl Jenkinson at Old Trafford and he might have had a point but the fact remains he was tearing strips off a youngster on the field of play. There are times and places for things like this and that was certainly not it. Jenkinson was later sent off. Walcott then took to the field against Swansea and displayed an arrogance that you would usually see in the likes of Thierry Henry. Although every TV production didn't show it, Walcott was booked at the beginning of the 2nd half. Theo was tussling with the Swansea Left Back (Taylor?) and he felt like he was being held back, instead of playing to the whistle Theo decided he was going to berate the assistant referee (whilst play was still going on). After it dawned on Theo that nothing was going to be given he launched into a tackle, fouled the full back and was given a deserved yellow. That in a nutshell sums up his attitude at the moment.

The summer saw us lose key personel in Fabregas and Nasri and I believe this has led to Theo believing he is a bit further up the pecking order in terms of status in side, he has been at the club for 5 1/2 years. This is a huge year for Theo, as he will want to make amends for his infamous axing from Englands World Cup squad. The summer could be defining in his career as he will have 12 months to run on his current deal. He doesn't look a player that is out to prove a point and strengthen his game, instead he's written a book ironically about growing up, fast!

Where has the innocent young lad from 5 years ago gone? Remember when he took a camcorder to Germany as he wanted to record every moment of such a brilliant experience?

I have no issue with players writing books but can't they at least achieve something in the game first? When I think of Theo's achievements I think of his hat trick in Zagreb for England (which is the only international game he's ever scored in), his tremendous runs against Liverpool at Anfield , goals against Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi Final and Carling Cup final and a hat trick against Blackpol. Not exactly an erray of outstanding achievements given most of the games didn't even see us win the actual game.

Theo couldn't have made it more obvious that he wants to play through the middle but the fact is that Van Persie occupies that role and Theo is never going to displace him. Wenger transformed Henry from a winger into a striker but the fact was Henry was a striker before his stint on the wing at Juventus. Walcott developed late in football terms and he's more manufactured and he has nowhere near the natural ability of Henry. So Arsene definitely knows best on this front and if I was Walcott I'd be out to prove a point.

Theo needs to influence games much more than he does. Look at the Dortmund game, in the first half Theo touched the ball 12 times, which to put that in context the next lowest was had 27 touches. (Thanks to @orbinho for the stat). Like any player he never likes getting subbed but his lack of consistency makes him an easy target when we have to look at alternative options. His best games for Arsenal do tend to come in Europe though and this season is already testimony to that. Goals at home and crucaially away at Udinese can not be overlooked, nor can despite his lack of touches in Germany, one did lead to an assist for Van Persie's goal.

The best barometer of Theo's lack of progressing has been the fact that many supporters already want Chamberlain in ahead of Walcott. Seems ridiculous but fans are tired of the lack of production on the right wing and AOC has been a sight for sore eyes recently.

That said, I just hope that Theo sticks at it. IF remains injury free and focuses solely on his game instead of writing books etc. Then I realise how difficult those two things are to achieve for him. He does have ability and Wenger is the best manager to guide him through this phase but if he determines that he's not ready then so be it. It'll not be long until he stabs Wenger in the back and seeks to engineer a move. Let's not forget the Bosman ruling now means players are much more likely to leave with 12 months remaining on their contract of which we have Walcott, Van Persie, Arshavin and Song in the situation.