Monday, 3 December 2012

Is the end nigh?

Saturday was hard to take wasn't it? So many aspects of our game didn't work, too many players failed to turn up and this against a side who can keep possession well. It all added up to a truly dreadful day and a cacophony of boos, which in truth for those into the pantomime booing culture were richly deserved.

We are left yet again discussing the future of the manager and even the usually supportive Gary Neville stated on MNF that Wenger has never been under more pressure at Arsenal and he's spot on. Before we look a Wenger though, I'm going to give this some form of perspective. It's not the first time we've appeared at a crossroads around the Christmas period, who can forget the 3-1 home defeat to Blackburn in 1997, with Wenger's unproven pedigree in England, questions were asked and he responded by winning the league in that very season. I want to highlight the end of the George Graham era. The game I want to focus on was a home game against Leeds United, a Saturday 3pm kick off in December 1994. In that game we lost 3-1. It wasn't so much the result but the performance that left the Highbury faithful disillusioned. We were one step behind the play, failed to press the ball and got punished by a clinical Phil Masinga. We managed to get ourselves back into the game at 2-0 by sticking Andy Linighan upfront but moments later we conceded again and the game was over. Now, the bung scandal was the main source behind the departure but ultimately the board wanted a way out of that set up. At that time we were reigning Cup Winners Cup holders and the season before we had completed the FA & League Cup double, so it's fair to say we had it good at the time but he was replaced (temporarily) and Stewart Houston who led us to another Cup Winners Cup final. 

The reason I've chosen to focus on managers is because I feel Saturday was all Wenger's fault. It was his fault because we weren't prepared. For three consecutive performances I've seen us fail to press the opposition anywhere on the pitch, the formation is never adapted but players are expected to adapt there game for better or worse. Look at centre midfield, Arteta was stunning as the box to box midfielder last season but at present he looks lost. He's reluctant to get into the final third and we certainly havent seen any efforts like those against West Brom, Manchester City or Villa. Could we really expect a player to adapt his entire game to be a success?.Yes, he covered well for Song on many occasions last season but he isn't a tough tackling midfielder. There was a chance of Rangel in the first half, Arteta is beaten easily in the build up, we don't press the ball when it goes to left wing, then again when Shecther has it in the box, he plays it to Rangel with a caught out Gibbs scampering back to close down, this led to a shot being well saved by Szczesny but the ball rebounded to Rangel and not one player reacted until the ball fell at his feet again and Szczesny turned it away. Now this isn't me singling out Arteta for our woes, it just sums up our current situation. I here time and again from Vermaelen and Wenger that we have a great team spirit but I just don't see it. I see a side that is confused and lacking drive, something Cazorla admitted to at the weekend in this article. He said

'We don't know exactly what the problem. Take the Fulham game, we were 2-0 up. You can't then be drawing within five minutes.Those points aren't coming back.'
He's bang on but it doesn't change the fact it happens time after time. It's just different players using the same phrases and because of that Wenger has to feel the heat. Enough heat that he can hopefully react but then I feel I have this discussion on far too many occasions. I can't listen to pre or post match press conferences anymore. It's just stuck on a constant loop. He said we were 'jaded' on Saturday, he said words to that effect after Villa, Everton and now Swansea. Surely that means he has to ease the training routines in order to regain some form of sharpness? Or is that just too obvious? Whilst Wenger is right that buying players isn't always the answer in the transfer window but what he does have to do is work with what he's got and I'd suggest he starts the window by recruiting a centre forward, so that when he does rest our main goal threat we might still possess a vague threat to the opposition goal. I was speaking to my mate when we travelled home from Everton and we looked at the upcoming league games - Swansea (h), West Brom (h), Reading (a), Wigan (a), West Ham (h) and Newcastle (h). Now judging each game on its on merits we should be winning each fixture but realistically we know that in at least 2-3 there are some surprises and already one has reared its ugly head.
The truth is Wenger's head should be on the block right now but we all know it probably isn't. 6 points from a possible 18 is pitiful, even for a side whose ambition it is to finish 4th. Some will refuse to even discuss that fact but if you put it into context that a manager who had won three major honours over the course of two consecutive seasons, can you really not question a manager that has won nothing in seven years? This cannot go on much longer.

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