At the beginning of the season I decided not to write anything Arsenal related until I had given the team a chance. I wanted to wait and see how the team responded to playing without Robin and with new team mates. Then a few weeks back I made up my mind to write but wanted to wait until we got a string of wins together so it won't look like I'm kneejerking but since this doesn't look like happening anytime soon, here goes...
Who's to blame? Board, manager or players? who's to blame for how bad we've become? Since we last won a trophy in 2005 we've played roughly 400 games, we haven't improved an inch. We haven't learned from our mistakes, we haven't rectified or problems, basically 400 worthless games.
I know I'm painting a dark picture here but bear with me. Let me start with Arsene Wenger, whether your pro or against him there's no denying the guy's a legend but unfortunately he seems to have lost his ways, he's not the manager he used to be. I will always remember our final game against West Brom last season, not because we clinched an unlikely 3rd but because that's the day I knew Arsene Wenger had been broken. Like the best parenting dad possible. I was always used to him standing tall with his head held up high even in the most frustrating of situations but seeing him hiding his head into Pat Rice's chest right after Gibbs' last ditch tackle, I knew he had lost it. Instead of standing shouting and motivating he chose to hide his head and hope for the final whistle.
He's made a lot of errors since that FA cup win, the so called "Project Youth" has been a huge failure, he should have known you can't ask loyalty from a bunch of kids, no player will spend his career in a single team unless it's his hometown team. I can't blame them for leaving when they reach their peak, we all would have done the same in their position, more money, more trophies or childhood team, whatever the reason I can't blame them.
The Invincibles were dismantled so quickly in order to give a chance for those youngsters and that's his second error, no matter how good the youngsters are, you need experience that's why the likes of Pirlo, Scholes & Terry are still playing, even if they are past their best.
Our transfers lately show that Wenger has acknowledged this, he has reverted to buying players that weren't given a chance or playing at a team well below their talents, players that are more experienced, talented and at a budget price. The problem is twofold here, non of these players are world class and more importantly they are all so inconsistent the made Walcott look like our most consistent player. Seriously look at our team, with the exception of Wilshere and maybe Cazorla non of our players are world class and our only slightly consistent players this season have been Walcott and Arteta.
Another problem with this team is that they are really bad at finishing, picture this if you will, it's a cup final we're 1 nil down with just seconds on the clock and we get 1v1 situation or if someone shoots the keeper saves and the ball falls to one of our players near the penalty spot, who in our team would you want these chances to fall to? Walcott, maybe Podolski but thats about it. Rosicky's ball will curve too much and won't hit the target. Wilshere will try to get it on his left foot and is tackled, Giroud will hit a fierce left footed shot while closing his eyes, Cazorla will sky it, Ramsey will try to place it and fail, Gervinho......well I'll take a moment to talk specifically about Gervinho, how can a top professional have all his passes either under hit, over hit or just lamely wobbling and how can almost all his shots sliced, wide or air shot???!! It's amazing and unacceptable frankly.
Speaking of Gervinho a.k.a Gary, I know it's not the only problem with Theo's contract situation but it is surely one of the problem but even so who would you choose to play upfront at Arsenal? Gervinho or Walcott?? Seriously how does Wenger see Gary as a better option as a striker is beyond me.
Which leads me nicely to Wenger's next error(s) which lack of intelligence in acting to certain problems within the squad. Problems like giving the captaincy to undeserved players (Gallas?? really?) or to players in order to make them feel important and maybe encourage them to stay, which has lead to us having 4 captains in the past five years. Problems like allowing players to run down their contracts until they have the upper hand over the club. Problems like contract length, giving high wages to undeserved players or low wages to those who deserve higher.
Then there's the tactical part, the last time I think Wenger changed his tactics and did a tactical masterstroke was at home to Barca where he played so narrow and gave Barca full control of the wings knowing full well they'd never cross and would have to cut inside where it was congested, it worked and it was ingenious. Now the most he does is play Ramsey upfront which is still a mystery to me as to why. Our formation 4-3-3 isn't working and hasn't been since Cesc, we don't have the players to make it work, how many times have we seen podolski or walcott get the ball on the wing only to pass it back where it came from? or how many times have we tried to cross only to have just one player inside the box ?? Why doesn't he try a different formation, we can't get worse, maybe the old 3-5-2 that's been working well for Juventus lately. having both Podolski and Giroud inside the opponents box will give us an edge and maybe a few more penalties, yes we have been given too few penalties in the past season and a half because we're only playing around the box not because there's a conspiracy against us.
Then there are those all too familiar problems that never go away, we're useless from setpieces, no really its unbelievable how little use we make of corners or free kicks. No one in the team can cross maybe except Jenkinson. Nothing has been done in the past few years to rectify that, I thought these were the things they should work on in training. This season we've added new problems as well, we're now rubbish at breaking on the counter and we have too many misplaced passes, I don't have the statistics to prove it but I can honestly say this arsenal team has more misplaced passes than any Wenger team before them. A few years back I would console myself that even though we aren't winning any trophies we still played one of the best football, now I don't even have that. In seasons past almost every game we lost felt like we were robbed, a team would just park the proverbial bus and hit us on the counter, now we are being outplayed and deservedly lose most games. But at least we're better defensively though I doubt we could have been worse than last season.
The team looks disjointed, I don't feel the players have confidence in each other, just look at Cazorla and how when he's running with the ball keeps looking around him to find a single good run but his hand gestures says he can't that's why more often than not he just shoots. ]
What about the board? well I wouldn't say they were to blame because apparently they're all about the money and really what did you expect, Ivan Gazidis probably hadn't even heard of arsenal before he arrived, He was brought to get more money to the club and I personally see him doing a good job at that. The players?? well I can't blame them either because you get what you paid for, if we're buying Gervinho don't expect Ronaldo, most of the players are doing their best but unfortunately their best isn't good enough at the level we aspire to be.
So the solution?? well the easiest solution is a change of manager, a new manager will inject some mush needed energy in this team and most probably will be given access to the mythical transfer war chest that's been hidden under the Henry statue at the grove, so we could buy world class talent not just good inconsistent players. The only problem with that is I want us to get better and to start winning WITH Arsene Wenger in charge, I want him to win at least another trophy, I want him to prove me wrong, I want to once again say "Arsene knows".
I won't be holding my breath though....
Mean Lean's Response
Thank you for the thoughts above. As is often the case, I agree and disagree with several points made. However the floor is very much yours and I feel your frustration. Frustration that burns inside the majority of us all at present I'd imagine.
I love Arsene Wenger and haven't understood some of the criticism levelled his way in the past but right now, he is simply not getting the best from what he has in his squad.
At the start of the season I looked at what we had on paper and thought we had all the ingredients. Well apart from the obvious hole in the front line. If Park and Chamakh were not in favour then they had to be replaced. That aside we had/have a squad capable of beating most teams. It may take a few games to click for our forward players but it would come, sure enough it did at Anfield. A professional, commanding and ruthless display. With or without Abou Diaby that had to be the blueprint, that had to be the template for the team, yet a few months down the line we see a team that looks to have either no or very little idea of what to do when on the ball.
Lukas Podolski looks like a left back playing wide midfield, a left back with a great shot who doesn't get in the position enough to use it. Gervinho looks like an under confident boy who has spent years running around with a ball at his feet but never learning to pass or shoot. Our whole team look like they have never ever learnt how to cross the ball into the penalty area.
I have said many times already this season that when our passing game is off then we can find it difficult to beat anyone and that was more than proved last Tuesday night in Yorkshire. When you do not create goal scoring chances against a League two side then you know you have huge problems.
I used to find it frustrating that in the past we needed so many chances before we scored a goal, now I just want those chances back again. Watching the Bradford game it struck me that our combination play around the opposition penalty area has just disappeared. The little give and go's around the opposition box which played a runner in before the cut back and finish. It was our identity for a number of years and not just one Arsene Wenger team but many under Arsene's reign.
This squad have yet to find the consistency to go on a winning run and that in itself is quite remarkable given players like Cazorla, Wilshere, Arteta, Podolski, Sagna and others.
Arsene's approach to management is to give players the freedom to learn from their mistakes and fix their own problems, it has given individuals and also teams a platform to produce their career best football but at times like this it almost feels like Arsene is dropping a pile of text books in a classroom of 11 year olds, walking out and telling his pupils to get on with it. In a time like this I want the players to have some more direction, a plan, some purpose and not stand on tables throwing pens around the room.
I have so much to say about the man I admire so much and I think I will try and write in depth about Arsene and our current situation. If I can get hold of that elusive time thing then I might just give that a go.
I am clinging onto the fact that Arsene has turned us around more than once before and that we have many good players in our squad as well as out of form players. Arsenal fans have written off many a player in the past and labelled them as not Arsenal quality before they turned their fortunes around. A certain speedy wide forward who is set to leave after being criticised from pillar to post in the past is just one example of that.
So whilst disappointed in just how far we have fallen technically and mentally, I remain hopeful that a winning run is around the corner. Preferably starting tonight against Reading.
The season is a long one and I cannot believe that we can go the whole season without going on a winning run and building unshakable confidence. That is something that all Arsene Wenger teams have found at periods during a season and I will eat my hat if that doesn't happen with this team, yes this team that has lost to the likes of Bradford, Norwich and Swansea. This team that can go for games without creating clear cut chances.
Something is missing in the final third and has been missing all season but I don't think it will be impossible to find the answer. The answer may well be in the January transfer window, I just hope that Arsene can rediscover his touch in the transfer market. Many recent signings have been hit and miss where as he was more consistent with his quality in the past.
This has been one hell of a frustrating season so far but I am not yet willing to give up on the manager and certainly not the team.
Three points tonight please and equally important, a positive display that we can build on for the rest of the season.
Thanks in advance Arsenal.
It is interesting to read back through the emotions of a football supporter during a certain time, bad runs of form affects us all and to different degrees, Tottenham were creeping up the table, UK Bookmakers had Arsenals odds spiralling and life wasn’t very rosy being an arsenal fan. However looking back at it now, we were a team very much in the process of trying to find ourselves, and by that I don't mean in a hippy spiritual sort of way but in a footballing balance sense. We have had so much change in recent years and I think the result of that is often under played. We have never in the past lost first team players at the rate we have in the last few seasons. Big players also like Cesc Fabregas who was the heartbeat of our team for many years, the ball went through him, he was the player to dictate the pace of the game but not only that he was the game changer, the player to pick a pass in a crowded penalty box. His departure set the team back massively and it was difficult enough trying to replace him but having an up and coming Nasri departing at the same time was tough.
We had to go down the same path once more finding ourselves but we finally got there thanks to Robin van Persie has his excellent leadership, movement and ultimately goals. Arsene Wenger was rocked for what I hope is the last time when the grey haired fella who spent so long on the treatment table decided to up sticks to Manchester.
It was little wonder that we were so inconsistent having three new attacking players on top of converting another midfielder into a defensive midfielder. Yet more changes.
Fast forward to today and look at the position we are in, A clear position of strength, our long game is going to pay off. Years of fighting to tread water has now given us the chance to fight at the top due to the long awaited commercial deals.
I still believe that many Gooners do not appreciate the work done but if all goes well over the next few years, many minds will be changed. Arsene might even get the credit is clearly deserves.
Arsene Wenger has taken a longer view for success, one where we had to make sacrifices. It has been difficult at times, plummeting down towards the levels of Tottenham and nobody wants that but I suspect that will be a thing of the past.
We are on the road back, the club are stronger than ever and I thank Arsene Wenger for the wonderful job he has done at Arsenal since he rocked up in 1996.