Wednesday, 17 September 2014

New Season Same Old Problems

So it’s the morning after the night before. The inquisitions have started, the blame game is in full effect and supporters want answers, including me. We’ve seen last nights performance on far too many occasions and with an alarming frequency. The scars of Anfield, The Etihad and Stamford Bridge are still fresh and lets make no mistake, last night they could have easily had five or six. So what exactly is the issue?

I mentioned this on twitter earlier today that I genuinely believe work rate is an underrated aspect of the game, particularly for top sides. You don’t get by on just ability alone, although we try our best to do just that. There’s a stat floating around that reads Dortmund ran a further 11km more than Arsenal, that's approximately six and half mile. So that can point to two factors:

Did Wenger ask the team to sit deep and absorb pressure? 

Or did we just try and be expansive and therefore susceptible to high octane pressure?

I know you already know the answer but to re-enforce it somewhat, about five to ten minutes in Sanchez went to close down their full back and he gesticulated to the rest of his team mates that he wanted some back up. A key sign that clearly we weren’t set up to sit deep.

Another key aspect would be the lack of cover and protection for the back four. They were yet again, totally exposed. You can’t take your eyes off this team for a second because before you know it there’s Dortmund on the edge of our box, as if they’d teleported.

Wenger seems to have forgotten what makes our sides tick despite achieving unrivalled success in the history of our football club. One aspect is a ability to mix it up in terms of style and the other is adapting formations to survive in Europe. Cast your mind back to the side that got to the Champions League final, there were some sub-standard players in that side but it worked with a 4-5-1 formation. Plenty of legs in the middle of the park and discipline in our play. We went on the road to Real, Juventus and Villarreal and never conceded. We had a clear strategy and a nice blend of players like Gilberto with work horses on the in midfield such as Ljungberg and Hleb. Possession was the name of the game, something Hleb thrived on. Now last night, I don’t recall seeing one player take control and orchestrate his side back into a game. It was scrappy, disjointed and above all naive. It’s the latter aspect of those three that annoys me the most. When will this side ever learn from it’s mistakes? I don’t want apologies, I want progression. Take Szczesny for example, his level of arrogance is so unwarranted, yet here we are getting battered and he’s trying to jink past a forward and taking extremely high risks. Personally, i think he’s struggled this season and when you are struggling you should be keeping your game as simple as possible. That said, he’s isn't the problem merely a case in point.

The Wenger debate will rage on but we’re pretty much wasting our time because he’s as safe as houses. I really wanted some change at Arsenal in the summer and felt Wenger deserved to go out on a high but we continue to repeat the same mistakes year after year. I say this because I have expectations that we will compete for the title. Standards for which the club should review themselves against but elect to ignore this as long as the vault is full of cash and we are playing 26 highly competitive home games. The fact is our record in big games is embarrassing and even if you look as recently as our game v City on Saturday when we are 2-1 up, it’s an absolute clown show and there’s bags of experience on the pitch. Gary Neville tore us a new one on MNF and rightly so, laughable behaviour from the side when we are both in the lead and in possession. Lessons learnt? Not a chance, on the stroke of half time we have a throw and within seconds its in the back of our net and Immobile didn’t have to do a great deal, just keeping running must be the message, because all we do is back off until its too late.

There is a saying that things are never as bad as they appear and that is certainly relevant when it comes to last night, after all it was Dortmund and not, say, Aston Villa but we want to compete and we fall short. Clear deficiencies go undressed and no doubt Wenger will say the right players weren’t available but I can’t believe for one second that there isn’t a defensive midfielder in world football that we feel wouldn’t upgrade us from Arteta and Flamini. I was probably harsh on Arteta last night, after all it was his first game back from injury and he was like a rabbit in the headlights but where was his connection with Wilshere and Ramsey? They played as individuals and weren’t working in tandem. Centre Midfield dictates how well we play, more than any other area of the field. It’s the catalyst for both good and bad and they need to adapt to this high press that has seen us wilt on every single occasion. We don’t have the tools to stop the tide. In Wenger’s old sides, we’d become narrow, soak up pressure and counter but every player seems miles away from on another and they get ratted out. The forward three become isolated and go too far up the field to have an impact. You have to feel for players like Bellerin, huge occasion and absolutely stitched up by his team mates. Ozil tracked in the first half and received credit for doing so but lets be honest, it’s his job to track their fullback. Options on the ball for Hector were limited and it was very much a baptism of fire but again, it’s naivety from our players. You can’t just expect players to hit the ground running, they need to be afforded some protection but it’s as if they all just focus on themselves, nothing else matters.

The defeat last night doesn’t actual bring that much consequence with it as we will qualify from this group, maybe even with a game to spare but these issues will then be unearthed against other top sides away from home.

Quick question when did we last win a knockout game in the Champions League?

Answer 9th March 2010 v Porto, you know the last time Falcao played in the CL.

So when we get to the knockouts we’ll have not won a tie in that stage for five years, now obviously that is masked by the fact we have played Barcelona and Bayern but ultimately it’s a sign our weaknesses in the group, whether it be Dortmund or a killer defeat away to Shakhtar, they’re always present because we aren’t strong enough.

There are a lot of our senior players who could do with having at look at themselves and maybe the reflection that will come with this type of performance will kick start our season. In this bracket i count Szczesny, Mertesacker,  Arteta, Ramsey and Ozil. The team hasn’t performed anywhere near the level expected, so hopefully we can start by winning at Villa on Saturday because it will set us up nicely for two back to back London derbies in the Premier League. On the flip side, we could lose… but that’s no worth considering just yet.

Wenger has a lot of soul searching to do and it would be refreshing for him to ruffle some feathers. I continually harp on about the lack of accountability at our club and when Wenger has axed stars such as Szczesny and Vermaelen, it has worked, particularly in Woijicech’s case. When we blew our 4-0 lead at St James Park this was our line up:

Szczesny Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy Diaby Wilshere Fabregas Walcott Arshavin Van Persie

the following game:

Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Walcott, Arshavin, Van Persie.

One enforced change because Diaby was sent off. How will these players ever learn from mistakes when they are more often than not given undeserved second chances.

Only time will tell but it’s about time we started utilising some squad members when they merit a chance, not just when they are called upon due to injuries.


  1. Wenger is done for no mattr how you chop and change it will be the same,stuck on repeat untill he is gone.Too arrogant and to stubborn to change his crazy formations and his crazy ways.

  2. The first person who needs to be removed from the team is Steve Bould because if he is not allowed to rectify the defensive problems, he is merely wasting his time because he is bringing nothing to Arsenal.
    The most important transfer that needs to happen at Arsenal is a younger, vibrant manager in the mould of Klopp who is in sync with the latest training and coaching skills in world football.
    We are tired of this sham of a manager who talks nonsense most of the time and who is so tactically-challenged that he is an embarrassment to Arsenal FC. If he had an iota of self-respect he would have quit after the FA Cup final, but no, 8 million pounds have to burn a hole in his pockets.
    Arsene Knows Best - yeah, right!