I have frequently criticised Arsene during the current campaign and he got it wrong yet again last weekend against the Hammers. This time with a decision made prior to kick off, with him bizarrely keeping faith in David Ospina and naming the returning Petr Cech amongst the substitutes.
This decision became a bigger source of frustration after news filtered through that Andy Carroll had been included in the West Ham starting line-up. Those who know me personally, or are familiar with my previous articles, will be fully aware of my concerns where Ospina is concerned. Particularly in games against opposition who offer a strong aerial threat.
It has been argued that Ospina wasn’t directly culpable for any of West Ham’s three goals. Whilst this is perhaps the case, a taller and more capable goalkeeper, like the recognised world class one sat on the bench, would have caught the original ball into the box that led to their second. I would also question whether West Ham’s game plan would have remained the same, had it been Cech between the posts.
Although I consider Cech’s absence to be a factor in Andy Carroll being allowed to freely torment our defence, it would be wrong to solely blame Ospina. Some supporters have made comparisons between Gabriel and Martin Keown but the Brazilian is yet to attack the ball with the same determination as Martin did, on a regular basis. Also evident at the Boleyn ground, was Gabriel’s poor positional sense and lack of awareness.
It is perhaps unfair to single out individual players, when over the last decade we have repeated the same mistakes year after year and the real culprit is the manager who has been the common denominator during this time. Arsene regularly praises the mental strength of his team but the reality is that we lack any real on field leadership. How often after conceding has the team mirrored their manager on the touch line by looking completely bereft of ideas in terms of how to respond?
Arsene’s teams over the last decade have always had an air of susceptibility when defending against dead ball situations, not assisted by his insistence on using zonal marking, and against teams with a tall and physically imposing forward. The playing personnel may have changed but the problems have not and you have to ask why Mertesacker wasn’t brought on in an attempt to combat the aerial threat of Carroll.
What has also become increasingly evident is that Wenger’s decision not to buy a single outfield player in the summer was a foolish one. Even more foolish was his statement that there was not a single one available who would have improved upon those we already have. No player is available until you make a bid for them and two of this season’s most consistent performers, namely Dimitri Payet and N’Golo Kante were available last summer.
Bizarrely, it was only recently that I saw one of Arsene’s supporters claiming that neither player would have improved our squad. How Payet isn’t a better player than Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Kante not a better player than Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini for example, I don’t know. Loyalty is to be admired, blind faith is not.
Many of us, who think it’s time for a change where the manager is concerned, are long term admirers of Diego Simeone. Whilst it may prove impossible to tempt Diego to leave Atletico Madrid, the arrogance shown by some supporters who criticise the style of football his team plays, amazes me. We’ve not consistently played entertaining football for a number of years and with both teams having played thirty two league games to date, we’ve scored fifty five goals, whilst Atletico have scored one less at fifty four.
Not only is Simeone’s tactical acumen on a different level to Arsene’s, his motivational skills are too and watching their team knock Barcelona out of the Champions League over two legs must have been a particularly boring experience for Atletico’s supporters. Although Simeone’s lack of English will be used against him, it should not be forgotten that Mauricio Pochettino spoke very little English when he became the Southampton manager and that hasn’t worked out too badly for him has it?
Some will argue that until Pochettino wins anything, it’s a poor comparison to make but a sign of a good manager doesn’t always relate to how many trophies they have won. A good manager is someone who makes the most of the resources available to him, gets the best out of his players and exceeds the clubs expectations and Pochettino has done that at both Southampton and Spurs. Sadly Wenger used to do that but doesn’t anymore and that’s why it’s time for a change.
There are two types of people in this world, those who fear change and those who choose to embrace it….