After 4 FA Cup successes, Wenger certainly knows how to win the most traditional and prestigious domestic trophy there is. A record prior today showed that he was yet to lose to a lower league team in the FA Cup which he claimed in his Press Conference yesterday, showed that he takes the competition “seriously”.
However already this season Arsenal have lost to lower league opposition, in the face of Bradford during the League Cup Quarter-finals, to then lose 1-0 at home to Blackburn, making it twice in one season after such a good record can only mean one thing?
Yes, Arsenal aren’t as good as they used to be. It will be argued that this isn’t the case, that it was a mistake, a fluke, we dominated the game and the chances and we prepared properly. Perhaps the players attention is on the Champions League game? I hope this is true as I am searching for some or any alternative reason for this poor showing.
But I think it’s my duty, as a blogger, a provider of news and opinions to many, to give a balanced argument despite my annoyance at the teams display today.
To start, Arsenal went in to this game on the back of a 5 game unbeaten run. This in itself is good. What’s more, we had won our last 2, keeping 2 clean sheets; a rare fate. These positives should have given Arsenal players confidence, but I suppose 7 changes has a big impact and a different starting 11 doesn’t have the same confidence that other players essentially earned? Was this Wenger’s first mistake today? Probably. Is the Champions League a realistic potential trophy? Not really. Is the FA Cup? More so, yes.
However, the squad are supposed to be able to rotate. We play in the league, Champions League, and FA Cup. The same 11 cannot physically cope to play all these games and this is why you rely on those other players. So did Wenger really make a mistake in changing the team with a view to Bayern Munich? No, the costly decision was made in transfer windows. We can’t compete with a squad lacking quality in-depth.
I don’t intend to have a dig at anyone, I’m not knocking anyone, I am simply stating what everyone knows. If you disagree, then you are blindly optimistic. The situation is so unclear, is there money? Or is Wenger refusing to use it? Or won’t the board let him? I don’t want to reopen old wounds, but selling players for £20-30m and buying replacements at £10-15m inevitably means a cut in quality. How much of a choice in this there was, I can’t honestly say.
Wenger has been hugely successful at Arsenal, and the success he brought earned him the opportunity to put things back right, but he continues to ignore everything in sake of his own ego in producing quality players from nothing, and hoping they’ll repay him by staying in a world which is now all about money. And without success, it makes it all the more harder. We’re not offering either.
That’s enough of the board and management at Arsenal. Moving on to the players, it seemed that today against Blackburn we lacked passion, desire, motivation, determination. You get where I am going with this. Who are the players that everyone loves the most? The ones who wear their heart on their sleeve. Those who give 110% every game, combined with their talent of course, and come the end of the game they are knackered. Back when I played Sunday league as a youngster, the coach would have us running around the pitch after the match if we played like that. You know what I’m getting at, some of you are probably thinking I know exactly this scenario.
Even in the dying embers of the game, we were strolling forward with the ball carelessly, misplacing passes, with a lack of people making runs, a lack of players finding space, a lack of everything really. It is bizarre that after we worked so hard last weekend and the week before, that we return to this abysmal same old situation.
Wenger talks about “mental strength” and our “character” but to me, it seems like it’s something we are severely lacking. The players don’t have confidence, and there is a lot of pressure on them. But Arsenal’s no different to anywhere, a team who should be competing for trophies that is trophy-less for this long, it’s inevitable. Especially when Arsenal charge the highest prices, and every year claim we’re contenders and sell players and don’t buy enough of the same calibre. It’s so easy to see why everyone’s frustrated. Further when changes aren’t made despite repetitive seasons, which this year is looking like one of the worst.
To look at the positives of the game, we dominated the possession with about 70% and had 28 shots whereas Blackburn were pretty much on defensive duty the whole afternoon. They played well, but they are a Championship side not even in the play-off places. We should have been capable of beating them, but that final ball, that final finish was missing. The usual culprits of Gervinho and Giroud, both squandered chances that should have at the least tested the ‘keeper.
Blackburn took their goal well, it was undoubtedly a nice finish, but Szczesny has to do better when clearing the original shot. Basic rule of goalkeeping is to push it away from danger. I know he would know this. Perhaps it was ironically a lack of mental strength, of concentration, having been uninvolved in much of the game. But this is what separates the best from the rest, the top ‘keepers at the top clubs aren’t going to be in constant action, but they need to be relied on when called upon. Maybe he isn’t receiving the coaching he needs as a young goalkeeper? He certainly seems to have the raw talents and attributes necessary.
There’s a lack of leadership in the team. There isn’t a single player out there today that would take responsibility and take charge and pull the team together. You need leaders. Vermaelen and Arteta just didn’t do their respective jobs in defence and midfield as the Captain and Vice-Captain, of leading the team forward. Jack Wilshere, I think it would be fair to say is the only player with this quality. Everyone just seems to look to him when in doubt. We need more than one of these types of players, in previous years we’ve had van Persie, Cesc, then going back to the days of Henry, Viera, and Adams and well essentially we’ve always had these players, they seem to have disappeared?
Fans pressure is in my opinion understandable, we all want to be winners, we all want results and it’s frustrating because the team always seems to slip up when you’d think it least likely. It’s just typical of Arsenal. Against Bayern, as underdogs we’ll probably relax and play well and be the team that works hard, like Blackburn were today. It’s a hard thing, the psychology behind it all. This is something I have the up-most respect for Fergie, for. For all his faults, he is a great manager. The winning mentality United have, even when at their worst, they grind out results. That hard-fought nitty-gritty attitude. Something we could really do with.
Tell me, how are we going to keep hold of Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, and others? A time will come where they’ll all want to leave if we continue down this path.
Still, I look forward to the Bayern Munich game with optimism. You never know in football what can happen. Arsenal can play really well, and are capable of winning the game. They key words in that sentence being ‘can’ and ‘capable’. Wenger’s made it into such an important game now. If we win, things swing back in his favour the time being, but if we lose, then the pressure will be looming over him significantly, more so than ever, and the League will be all we have left where fourth place is Tottenham’s to lose.