Top Class? Not anymore.
First let me start off by saying that this is not one of those reactive, self-pitying rants that you get in the immediate aftermath of a poor result. The issues that I will raise have been in existence for some time now and I believe that no-one, not even the most die-hard Wengerite can refute them.
The Wengerites may however wonder what happened against Anderlecht, so to any Arsenal fan wondering what happened Tuesday night, I’ll tell you. We saw the last 10 years under Arsene Wenger summed up in one game.
-Some lovely attacking football (ruined by the following)
-Massive tactical naïveté
-Failure to buy adequate defensive cover both in midfield and defence
-Lack of on pitch leadership
-Strange or ineffective substitutions
(It’s ok though, the club is run well and we have lots of money).
As you know the game started off reasonably well, (albeit with a scare or two) and all was good in the world, until around about the 61st minute when one of the Anderlecht players, Vanden Something decided to have the temerity to score against us.
I heard moanings about it being offside, (which it was), but I think we were lucky to get away with a Sanchez foul in the build up to our third goal, so I’m not going to moan too much about the decision. What I will moan about is how Vanden Blah managed to run into our six-yard box without behind tracked by any of our midfielders. Kieran Gibbs was vaguely aware of some bloke wearing a blue shirt behind him, but ultimately when a ball is being crossed into your box, you should be goal side. Playing the opposition offside is a wonderful thing, but not when a low cross is coming into your six yard area.
This is the crux of it. Defenders who don’t really know how to defend properly. Both our full backs are routinely caught high up the pitch, and players like Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen before him had this kamikaze habit of being closer to the halfway line than the goal line leaving poor ol’ Per Mertesacker exposed. It’s ok though, he big strong and very quick.
Which brings me nicely to my next point. Why do we not buy players suitable for the Premier League and Champions League?
Having Nacho Monreal at CB is unforgivable. He’s a decent left back, he really is, but a centre half he is not. Also when you consider the size of some of the forwards he’s going to face in the PL, the fact that he’s our only viable option when we only have one injury in central defence shows a massive lack of thought on Arsene’s part. I get that Calum Chambers would be in but for Mathieu Debuchy’s injury, but then why are we not playing Hector Bellerin? (I’m not a fan, but it’s Anderlecht for god sake, give the boy a run-out).
Watching Nacho haul down their fat forward because he wasn’t aware enough to be goal side or strong enough to simply get in the way was painful, especially when I remembered how Vermaelen had been let go and no replacement brought in. Again, Chambers is good, but he can’t replace Verm AND Bacary Sagna.
In the glory days our third choice CB may have been Pascal Cygan, but that’s the thing, he was a central defender by trade. Nacho is not.
The third goal. Just fuck right off. At 3-1 Wenger should have brought on Theo Walcott, taken off either Santi Cazorla, (tired) Aaron Ramsey or Danny Welbeck (ineffective), moved Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the centre and given them something else to worry about. I know he’s only played about 10 minutes of football, but his mere presence would have been a huge deterrent to their left back and winger.
I know it’s easy to say that now, but Wenger has a history with crap substitutions. Bringing on Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski in the 81st minute is not going to help. For one, neither player is in form, because Arsene hasn’t been giving them any game time. Also, neither player is a defender, and if you want to hold a one goal lead with nine minutes to go, you being on defenders, except we don’t have any.
A quality defensive midfielder would have been nice. How about that Arsene?
“Well errrr, we have lots of quality…blah blah etc”.
Like Paul Merson said after the game, Chelsea have Gary Cahill and John Terry, and they still have a big strong battering ram in the form of Nemanja Matic to sit in front of them. We have Mathieu Flamini, the smallest and lightest defensive mid in the history of the universe, playing in one of the most physically challenging leagues. Poor planning from Arsene. Let’s also not forget, he brought him on because Mikel Arteta got injured. Which takes us nicely to…
Injuries everywhere! Debuchy, Koscielny, Abou Diaby, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere, (man flu apparently). Why are we so badly affected? Outdated training methods? A terrible fitness coach who Wenger won’t sack? Poor conditioning? All the above really. Ivan Gazidis knows this, which is why he brought in Shad Forsyth, but Shad can only do so much when the man he was brought in to replace is still there and Wenger won’t listen to him. This has been a problem for us for years and will continue while Wenger is still at the club.
Finally we come to the manager. The buck stops with him and he really is accountable for the train wreck we saw Tuesday night. Like I said, at 3-1 he needed to make the right sub. He didn’t. He needed to get the message out to stop trying to score a fourth and defend our lead at 3-2. He didn’t. He really needed to have replaced Patrick Vieira in 2005 so we at least have a leader on the pitch who could have figured this lot out for him. He didn’t do that either.
What he did do, and has done since Barcelona beat us in the CL final is pursue an ideology of sharp attacking football made up for small technically minded players. This is okay when you have Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta in your side. It’s okay with Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla if they played in Spain, but not in the Premier League and even the illustrious trio above have Sergio Busquets to back them up if things go wrong.
He set up last night, as he does for all games without really thinking about our opposition. That’s okay against Sunderland and Burnley, but against a half decent side with the injuries we have, you need to have a game plan. Even, ‘let’s defend a bit now we’re three up.’
What this all boils down to is that Arsene Wenger is no longer a top class coach. He was 10 years ago, but he’s forgotten the formula for success. I know we won the FA Cup last year, but can anyone honestly say that we would have if we’d have come up against Chelsea or Manchester City?
10/15 years ago we had a big strong team full of leaders and proper defenders. He inherited Tony Adams and Steve Bould, he brought in Sol Campbell, Emmanuel Petit, Vieira, (he apparently told David Dein to buy him before he got here), and Thierry Henry. Big players who could dominate the opposition physically and/or outplay them technically. Now the spine of our team is small and light and unsuitable for challenging for top honours. Henry, Robert Pires, Vieira etc made up for Wenger’s tactical deficiencies by being world class, intelligent players. Nowadays Monreal, Flamini and Welbeck are on the pitch and Wenger has been found out. We really can see how important David Dein was as the years since he left drag by. Dein wasn’t perfect, but he and Wenger made a great pair. Arsene seems lost without him.
Merson said after that game that he doesn’t think Jose Mourinho has lost many from 3-0 up. Mourinho probably hasn’t lost many 8-2 or 6-0. Granted he lost against the finest club side of all time 5-0, but how many times have we been mauled. 8-2 against Manchester United will haunt us forever. All the heavy defeats last season alone to City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
They have all exposed our numerous failings to great effect which is why it’s happened so often, and yet Wenger does nothing to rectify the problems.
Mourinho learnt from his mistake. That’s because Mourinho is top class. Fergie was top class. Ancelotti is top class. Wenger was. Not anymore.
I’m a 29 year old with a Gooner wife and two mini-Gooners. I also have a dog but I strongly suspect he favours Portsmouth, (he also votes UKIP, the bastard).
I’m a lifelong Arsenal fan. I got my first kit at 3 years old and my dad put a nail in my wall and hung it there rather than in my wardrobe. Mum was furious.