Internationals helping the fringe players; the reality of online opinions

I know it was ‘only’ Gibraltar, but I thought it was really interesting that Poldi played – and well by the sounds of it – for Germany last night. He’s only started one league game for us this season and that was in the uninspiring defeat at home to Southampton. From what I hear he was deployed on the left and clocked up a couple of assists (one from an own goal), so although it’s painfully obvious that Arsene doesn’t fancy him as a first teamer any more, he has shown once again at international level that he can do it.

I don’t know if you’ve been the same as me, but I’ve been looking so much at Theo getting some game time and that being beneficial for the team, that I haven’t really paid much attention to the fact that there are a number of other fringe players at the club, for whom this international break is a much welcome opportunity to get some minutes under their belt. Just take Rosicky and Campbell for example. I believe Rosicky will most probably start this weekend, whilst the dotcom site confirmed that Joel got 86 minutes under his belt. I hope Le Boss has ordered some tapes or some kind of modern equivalent (series of 30 second Vine’s to patch together?) to watch the performances of the players, because I really think that e should be looking at mixing it up a bit after what we’ve seen so far this season. After all, it can’t get much worse, can it?

Actually, it probably could, because half of the draws we’ve had this season could have turned into defeats.

Anyway, the games that these players will get will at least give them a chance to regain a bit of competitiveness and hopefully when they return back to the manager (fingers cross not broken) he will see that he has options and that he doesn’t need to run the same players into the ground week-in, week-out.

Of course, Alexis scored last night, but that’s becoming as frequent as minor delays on the Circle Line, so I’m becoming quite blasé about it now. It’s a nice feeling.

One other thing I wanted to touch on – having flicked through the official site this morning – is the poll that the club ran on who should be our first choice striker when Giroud is fully fit and fighting again. To my surprise, our handsome Frenchman got the largest proportion of the votes with 32%. Hold on a second, isn’t this the Giroud that we all lambast for his lack kof chance conversion? Isn’t this the Giroud who looks like he’s running through treacle and has an annoying habit which involves an Ali-G-esque flicky hand? Huh, turns out that he’s not as hated amongst the fan base as some corners of the world would suggest.

Shows you, Twitter, shows you real good. Or, perhaps it shows, as I have experienced over the last couple of years of being on social media sites and speaking to gooners pre-game, that most people actually have a more moderate view of players, and probably that those that are so extreme on Twitter are in fact a minority. That’s probably why when you see protests seemingly gathering pace about the manager online, rarely do they translate to anything substantial on matchday’s. People are happy to be vocal from behind a keyboard – hey, I’m just as guilty sometimes – but when all is said and done when they’re at the ground they just want to support the team and see us get a result. The last protest I saw at the ground involved a bedsheet and about 25 people. Hardly a vocal majority. Which is probably why the Giroud online poll shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it has. After all, Giroud may not be as quality as Sanchez or Suarez, but having seen how Sanchez can operate just as effectively alongside Welbeck, there are probably a lot of people thinking ‘hmm, I wonder how successful Sanchez will be if he had someone strong like Giroud to win flick-on’s, hold up the ball and release him into space?’.

For what it’s worth, I still think our best front three contains Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott, mainly because with that pace you can always frighten teams, but I can certainly see that Giroud will provide us a different option. And not just from the bench either. There will come a time when the opponents that we have will sit deep and we might have to play the ugly side of the game, with balls up to a burly centre forward in a crowded box and, as much as Welbeck has a good go at that, you have to think that Olivier would be better, so Arsene can shuffle his pack accordingly with his attacking options over the coming months it seems.

If only he could do the same with our defensive options, eh?

More Micro-blogs: What’s wrong with The Arsenal (continued)?

The theme from yesterday continues, my valued Arsenal compatriot, with another batch of friends, colleagues, co-workers, or generally anybody that will talk to me about anything to do with football. Well, actually, not so much football, as it is 100% The Arsenal.

If you didn’t manage to tune in yesterday then you can relive the thoughts of fellow friends here, or you can scroll below and see what the latest round of colleagues make of the conundrum that is Arsenal. For those that missed yesterday, the background here is that after speaking to many different people about Arsenal in all walks of my life (boozer, online, work, etc), I decided to try and collate a series of responses to the simple question:

What’s wrong with The Arsenal?

I’ve asked contributors to provide just 50 words max, hence the term ‘micro-blog’ (which I think sounds kinda cool, but I’m sure someone will tell me it’s been done somewhere on the internet that I don’t ever visit) and have kept the question as broad ranging as I possibly good. Here is the latest thoughts from friends on what they think.

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Ben Leeder

The key problem with all of Arsène’s squads, post-Highbury is a lack of standout character(s), to compensate for Arsène’s ‘Wengerball’ philosophy. Recently reading Amy Lawrence’s Invincible (A must buy) that side simply lived and breathed on the will to win and push one and other to that required level – I appreciate it isn’t the best example because it’s probably the greatest Arsenal team you or I will ever see, but you get my flow – We’ve seen you you can’t allow this squad (insert any of Emirates era teams) that much freedom when they need so much guidance.

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Jokman

Too heavy an emphasis on attack, tactical ineptitude at the back, injuries hitting us with the force of 2000 Hasselbaink backsides, an obstinate outlook from Wenger and failure to buy a defender in the summer. I still support though. I’m a SUPPORTer.

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Gary Prince

Previous boards self interest, David Dein introducing Stan, the fall out and sale to Usmanov. Giving Arsene total control over football matters with no governance or overall control. A board happy to “make do”.

A manager without question or challenge, refusing to accept another’s opinion or adapt to changing circumstances.

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Dave Seagar

Apart from the obvious injury woes I would say – Don’t pick out of form players hoping they will play themselves into form (AR & SC) Change the policy of FBs being wingers. Let them defend and stay as back 4 and allow Theo, Ox or Campbell to provide pace and width which is the key.

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Block 5 Gooner

You can blame players for poor performances but a whole team? That would suggest an issue with motivation or tactics. Never been a fan of throwing away money but equally having a ‘make do’ attitude is negligent. Then there’s the ‘going AWOL’ tactics. Works most of the time except when we face quality opponents.
It pains me to say but I’m afraid Wenger is the problem.

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Garrulous Gooner

We have heard for many seasons how we lack a commanding presence on the field. I think we require to world-class footballers to make us a real force. A central defensive partner for Koscielny, and a more naturally defensive midfield player. Their intelligence and leadership qualities are equally as important as their footballing abilities; the sense and authority to say to their full-backs and midfield partner respectively “Don’t you leave my side for the next 10 minutes, and then we’ll go from there.” I doubt it’d be in that language, but you get the gist.

Hand-in-hand with in-game management goes flexibility, and, unfortunately, our team currently mirrors our manager in that sense.

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Hannah Feiner (a Legal Bod at my work)

Firstly, what’s right? The hard-work ethic of Alexis Sanchez. The man simply does not give up. Creates opportunity out of nowhere. What’s wrong? Utter complacency. A football team, shockingly, consists of eleven players. They all have a part to play. If everyone had the Sanchez mentality we’d be, well, invincible…

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Mean Lean

50 words? gee thanks Chris.
Truth is, I don’t think there is a simple solution to the question. There are many factors at play here such as Arsene’s style of play which means a lack of a proper pre season hits us more than most. Injuries, lack of defensive options and poor individual form have cost us dear. This squad is better than we’ve seen I’m convinced of that. Whether you think Arsene’s time is up or not, it doesn’t matter too much for me because this squad should perform better than the one that finished seven points off the title last season along with winning the FA Cup

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That’s yer lot. Well? What do you think? Having read the mixture of these views over the last couple of days it’s quite clear that nobody really has a silver bullet on what is going wrong. Football is a clearly subjective topic matter, in the sense that very rarely do we see anything in black and white. For what it’s worth, I do think that Arsene, having accumulated so much power, now has to accept that ultimately he is the one most culpable when we fail as a club. There are always mitigating factors, other issues and elements that are beyond his control, but rarely does much at The Arsenal fall outside of his control, so I think that he is the one that ultimately has to right the wrongs in order for us to be successful this season.

Thanks to all the contributors of the micro-blogs over the last couple of days. I’ll buy you all a pint. Of water.

The Micro-blogs: What’s wrong with The Arsenal?

So, here’s the thing. I try to brain dump my thoughts on to this here blog every day and sometimes it’s rambling and sometimes it’s not too shabby (if I do say so myself). But my views and opinions are often formed by Arsenal-supporting friends. I have a few Whatsapp groups, work, the pub, Twitter and a few other forums. Lots of people, lots of opinions on what on earth has happened at The Arsenal this season. So, in an effort to collate some of the thoughts and thinkings of mates I have had convos with, I thought I’d just do a bit of a brain dump on to this blog so you can see what I’m seeing. This came to me after having a couple of people chat to me (both on and offline) about how Monreal is getting a bit of a pasting. But if I’m honest, I haven’t really seen it. I started to think to myself “what is actually wrong at the moment?” and after pondering it, after writing a few generalist blogs, I thought “why don’t you just ask around?”. So here I find myself.

This is a collation of that thinking into a series of ‘micro blogs’. each micro-blogger has 50 words and is answering the simple question:

What’s wrong with The Arsenal?

Like I say, this isn’t about anything else other than to collate some general views, about what people think is wrong in an overarching sense. If you have a view on the question and want to share then I’m all ears. Keep it to 50 words though!

Over to other’s to give me their two penneth worth. Starting off with a poetical piece…

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Invinciblog

Spinning and spinning in downward spirals
The protégés cannot hear the Master;
Bodies fall apart; the defense cannot hold;
Mediocrity is loosed upon the world.
A Gooner meltdown ensues, and everywhere
The illusion of acceptance is drowned;
The AKBs lack all conviction, while the WOBs
Are swollen with poisonous intensity.

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Rob Woodfin

The balance of the team is the major issue. When we attack we are open to counters & look vulnerable defensively. When we sit back & keep it tight we look short of a creative spark.

The clear issue is simply a proper DM to allow our creators to create & to protect our back four. Subs, or lack of really, pisses me off. Arsène reacts rather than being pro-active.

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Harold (guy who works in my office on the front desk)

I liked your description yesterday. My take would be that any time I’m watching them in recent years, they remind me of Lotus in F1, the brand sounds great but it feels like Arsenal are only there to make up the numbers when it comes to the top four spots. The desire just isn’t there to kick us on to the next level through the right player buys. We are a brand. We are a business. Not a football club.

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RamblinGooner

Apart from the transfer failings it’s the style of play. We’re chasing goals even when leading but, also we’re defending too high up the pitch which leaves us open to the counter. It’s so apparent even smaller teams can work it out.

Time for pragmatism: Go back to basics.

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Ian Howe

Simple, and it pains me to say it, the Manager.  Once a pioneer, Wenger is stuck in his ways, and his stubbornness is a contributing factor in Arsenals failings.  He’s become tactically inept, and in my view, worst of all, he has lost the dressing room. Time’s up.

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Fonky Chris

Arsenal have been in transition for almost a decade, we know this. But now the shackles are off we appear to be making the same mistakes as previous years. I don’t see Arsene as the problem. I think he himself needs management, as David Dein did so well, during our dominant years.

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SheWore

What’s wrong with The Arsenal? How about we start with Kroenke caring only about the almighty dollar? Or perhaps we should look at a CEO who can’t sack his outdated manager? Or perhaps we should look at the supporters who let him get away with it?

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Gooner Oaf

Unfortunately, it might be quicker to answer what isn’t wrong! I love Wenger and what he has done for us, but this season he is accountable for a backwards step. Signings aren’t always the answer, but they might be in this case. January can’t come soon enough!

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Ryan (Burnley fan and mate from work)

Arsenal are victims of their own success. The invicibles of 2004 have set a precedent that subsequent squads have been unable to live up to. The increase in quality at both ends of the BPL table has left Arsenal in a chasm of its own just behind the elite, but way ahead of the rest.

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Hertbert Chapman’s Bust

I think it’s a combination of things. Our rolling injury list, lack of quality players in the market especially CB’s, the integration of five new players, too many players in poor form, Wenger trusting his players too much and not being proactive enough tactically throughout the 90 minutes. But at least we’re not as shit as Tottenham.

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The Daniel Cowan (The actual real-life one! I know!)

If I knew that I would be a rich man indeed. I think there are multiple issues running parallel and creating the situation we are in. The two that are affecting us most are injuries and obdurateness in buying less than “perfect” players for big money however even those issues are externally influenced.

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Kevin Green

Current team – great going forward but need to strengthen behind the front four. We need two warriors in the middle of our spine – defence and midfield. It’s not just about physicality, it’s about leadership, a never say lose mentality. We need players that role model this behaviour.

Maturity in game management is also needed. A lead 20 mins out should be defendable.

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I’ve got a few more people who I’ve asked to share their views tomorrow, so I’ll post them up then.

Cheers all.

C

Wenger and Me: from trepidation to excitement

I’m still reeling from Sunday’s debacle and might even decide to have a day or two off during the international break. Such is the apathy with which our season has played out, I feel like not really trying too hard. But rather than just leave my blog empty for days, I thought I’d reach out to friends and get somebody else’s view on all things Arsenal. Today, I’ve got Kev – GarrulousGooner to give me his Arsenal thoughts. Rather than me rabbit on, I’ll hand over to Kev to tell you what’s on his mind.

For the past 18 months or so, I’ve anticipated Arsenal’s future with caution. Anxiety; trepidation, even. What will happen when the greatest manager in Arsenal’s history moves on, probably to retirement? We need only look as far as 200 miles north to see the unsteadiness that can be caused by such a powerful and influential figure leaving the helm of one of the biggest club’s in Europe. Further afield, similar stories can be told of Pep’s Bayern, and Mourinho’s Inter side’s decline once they had moved on.

A Manchester United squad that won the league under Ferguson’s leadership finished seventh the following season, 22 points off the champions and noisy neighbours City. I’m not sure you would have found a bookmaker in the country that would give you odds on United finishing that far behind their rivals 10 years ago. Can you imagine in 10 years’ time if we finished that far behind Spurs?
Pfft. It’d never happen. Right? Right…
The trepidation grows stronger when you review our relative recent history: A double in Wenger’s first full season; another four years later; a total of 3 Premier League titles, one won at Old Trafford, another at White Hart Lane; an unprecedented unbeaten season, ‘The Invincibles,’ who gave us 49 undefeated; 5 FA Cups.
He has signed, and developed, many of the fans’ favourite ever players – Henry, Vieira, Pires. He even signed us Spurs’ captain.

Anyone who read my only other blog attempt will know that my earliest memory of Arsenal came as a seven year old – The Cup Winners Cup Final, and the infamous Nayim’s lob over David Seaman. Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I trundled up to bed.

My next clear memory is Bergkamp’s hat-trick at Filbert Street. I will be amazed if a hat-trick ever surpasses that one as the Premier League’s greatest ever.

You’ll notice that Wenger’s appointment has been skipped. In honesty, I don’t really remember it; certainly not clearly. I can remember the headline; “Arsene Who?”, but not a lot else. I was too young to really form an opinion of my own. And I can’t recall my father’s, nor any other influences’, opinion on the matter.
Next comes comes Ian Wright surpassing Cliff Bastin’s goal-scoring record, and then the 3-2 victory over United at Highbury, secured by David Platt’s perfectly-placed header. That’s followed by hasty random memories of odd games from that same season – including Overmars’ winner at Old Trafford which well and truly started the march towards our first Premier League title. Adams sealing said triumph with the “That sums it all up” moment capped a fairly nice 10th year of life – the league win was captured on my birthday. My local non-league side won the league the day before. This football lark is easy.

The next seven years is dotted with positive memories. Amazing victories, goals, passages of play – impossible to list even 5% of them. The Invincible season remains my highlight as a football fan. How can it not? Friends and supporters of teams such as Liverpool and Spurs looked on with pure envy during my ‘formative years’, as only us and United were serious contenders for any major silverware.
As a 26 year old, I’m within a band of supporters who have only known ‘Wenger’s Arsenal’. A future without him scares me.

At least it did.

Just to go back to United briefly, they have spent over £200m (on transfer fees alone) since Fergie’s departure, on a squad that won the title in 2013. They would snap your hand off if you offered them 4th come May 2015.
The difference in the situations is that Fergie left having just achieved arguably his greatest ever feat. In hindsight, United should never have been capable of winning that league title. It was arguably his worst team for 15 years. And I think he knew it.

He left an ageing back-line, full of honours but very short on future playing time; a midfield which had never recovered from the loss of Keane and Scholes at the heart of it; and a striker, having fired them to the title almost single-handedly in one of only two seasons in which he didn’t spend significant time on the sidelines, and finding form he would never likely replicate at the age of 30.

The greatest manager in British football history? A fairly unanimous verdict. But he left the club in a position in which his successor was never likely to come out of it with any credit. I hope this is where the two situations differ. How long Wenger remains in charge may dictate that. Sunday saw the final piece of the jigsaw slide into place which ensures I now look at the future with excitement and enthusiasm rather than trepidation and anxiety. An odd-thing to say at the end of a week which saw us lose two leads – one to an Anderlecht side which was embarrassing to put it kindly (it was the first time we had surrendered a 3-goal lead in Europe, not to mention their fairly appalling away record in the competition), and another to a Swansea side who, whilst a decent side, we had beaten on our last two visits to Wales.

The feeling of excitement is fuelled by the hope that we won’t have to suffer in the same way multiple times a season as we have done for the last handful.

How many could see the collapse against Anderlecht coming? Not many, I would say. But, after witnessing it, how many of us felt genuinely surprised, shocked that it had happened? Not many on reflection either.

Much less so the Swansea defeat. I wasn’t at the ground, but I doubt anyone there, nor watching on TV, couldn’t see what Swansea’s tactic was. Their left-winger, the tricky Ecuadorian, was having Chambers on toast. He had 249 touches, and completed 20 crosses. The fact that anyone attacking those crosses from the opposite flank was jumping against Gibbs and Monreal surely signalled significant danger. It certainly did to me.

Now, I do have a certain degree of sympathy for Arsene, who has cited a lack of experience on the bench as a reason for not making a change. And we have suffered significant injuries, of which one is Debuchy – and no blame can be placed with anyone at Arsenal for that. I’m not sure I can say the same for some of the other injuries.

But, we could have started the game with a defence that, whilst youthful and inexperienced, would see players playing in their favoured positions – Gibbs – Chambers – Mertesacker – Bellerin. Instead we had a left-back at centre-half and a centre-half at right-back. Sure, we had an experienced left-back instead of the untried and untested Bellerin – but Monreal isn’t experienced at centre-back. And for someone whose ethos during his time here has been “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” I’m not sure I buy the experience excuse.

The two major games Bellerin has started in his Arsenal career have been fairly painful experiences for fans (Hull and Dortmund), but in both he has been a distance from being our worst player. To my recollection, his lack of experience hasn’t cost us goals.
Who I have more sympathy for than Wenger is Monreal. A lot of people have been quick to defend Özil when I have criticised certain performances from our record signing. “He’s playing out of position” you say. It’s a shame Monreal hasn’t been afforded the same generosity.

Even during the game, could changes not have been made? Could the defence have taken on the formation I highlight above? Or could a more responsible figure of Rosicky have been brought on to help young Chambers on the right flank? It maybe would have ended the same. But I would have felt less frustrated by a manger trying to intervene and change the course of a match than waiting for the inevitable to come.

So my excitement is fuelled by the hope of witnessing something new. I can accept losing. Players have off-games. Teams raise their game against you. An opposing keeper plays a blinder. The referee has a shocker. Those factors, whilst all frustrating in their own way, are acceptable. It happens. Anyone who thinks their team has a divine right to win any game is a spoilt child who frankly deserves the misery of defeat.
What I am struggling to stomach is witnessing the same inevitabilities occur time and time again. How often do we throw away leads? At present, we have lost nine points from winning positions this season. That would be painful over the course of an entire season. It’s excruciating after just 11 games.

Watching Arsenal is too often like watching a film when you already know the ending. If the film was Love Actually – all warm and fuzzy – then great. But it’s more like Marley & Me, leaving me in tears and questioning why life is so unfair.

Our weaknesses, which I won’t go over as many people with far more expertise than I possess have already done so, are there for all to see. Yet we don’t address them.

My point is this – something has to give. For the last few years we have accepted finishing fourth due to financial constraints of the stadium; for the greater good, if you will. I can’t stomach that any longer. A new approach is needed, a fresh outlook, different ideas. I would rather have a go at finishing first and end up finishing fifth than settle for fourth. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps that is unfair. Perhaps Arsene leaving will signal the fall, and we’ll emulate Moyes’ United and finish outside of Europe. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
We’ll forever be in Wenger’s debt. I truly mean that. What he has achieved at this club I don’t think anyone else would have been capable of. He has guided us through arguably the most difficult period in our history, in the meantime building a squad full of gifted footballers, many British, that we can be proud of. And I am by no means advocating for an immediate change. But his squads have lacked the same qualities that are needed to be a championship winning side for too long. I just hope he moves on before what he is leaving us is forgotten and he ruins all of his monumental efforts.

Arsenal the dated Audi

Yep, you read that right and nope, I haven’t gone crazy. I may be slightly mental, or feel like I’m being driven mad by The Arsenal at times, but I am perfectly compus mentus I can assure you.

Arsenal is a dated Audi. We’re one of those mid-90s cars that you see on the road. There was a time where we looked sleek, classy, cool and sophisticated. We used to turn people’s heads. We loved driving in it. But now, as the world has got that little bit older, as times have moved on and new technology has evolved the shape, look, feel and underlying technology beneath the bonnet, we just look a little tired.

Sure, our driver has replaced our old cassette stereo with a Bang & Oluffson sound speaker in the shape of Alexis, but what use is that when the rest of the car isn’t functioning correctly? I suppose we can always listen to the sweet music that his goals are, but when you’re parked in a lay-by waiting for The AA to come and pick you up, it hardly gives you more satisfaction when you know that you’re going to be faced with a hefty repair bill.

And our dated Audi needs a lot of repairing. We’re pretty broken actually. There are malfunctioning parts all over the place. Spark Plug Santi isn’t really setting any sparks alight at the moment. He’s not even delivering a flicker right now and looks a shadow of the player he was two years ago. The injury to Mesut Özil was supposed to be his chance of showing the form that saw him set alight the Premier League when he arrived, but it just isn’t happening for him.

The same can be said for fan belt Ramsey. He used to keep the whole team running. Heck, he used to do half the running himself, but right now the only running he’s doing is into blind alleys. He looks a shadow of the player that always wanted the ball last year and is contributing very little to the team at this moment in time. Last year the boos of the Swansea home support looked to spur him on, this year it seemed to drive him further into his shell.

The Ox too, who has shown flickers of excitement, that turbo fuel injection that would rev the car harder, just spluttered all day yesterday. He gave the ball away, got the ball caught under his feet, and his ball distribution left a lot to be desired of.

Defensively we were perhaps the most vulnerable. This was a Swansea team that had offered very little, yet had still managed to carve out two goals from the leaky radiator that was our back four. Chambers had a night to forget. He gets a slight reprieve because he looks like he’s playing out of position and was isolated all night against the pacey and skilful Montero. But the problem we have now is that every team playing us until Debuchy returns will know exactly how to get at our right hand side. Find a player in your squad with pace to burn and a trick and get him running at Calum.

As for Per and Monreal, well, they look fine when teams don’t press and they can sideways pass themselves to death without any troubles. But as soon as a little bit of nous is shown, they’re all over the place. The first goal yesterday was a wonder strike. Hey, it happens, but the important thing is to respond. The way we responded was to let Gomis have a pretty standard header in the middle of the goal drift past Szczesny, unchallenged to any real effect, by Monreal and Ramsey. It was shameful, shameful stuff.

There was no response. No desire shown. No motivation from the team. They all just looked to the Bang & Olufsson stereo to play some lovely crisp music to drown out the rest of the clanking of the Audi.

Here’s the thing though: we used to have a driver who could lift up the lid, recognise the problem and tinker away to fix it. Hell, Arsène has practically rebuilt a few versions of the Audi, so ten years ago he would have taken a look and we’d be confident of his ability to get us motoring again. But he hasn’t been keeping up to date you see. Much like a modern-day Audi, football and top level football teams have moved on. There is more access to information, more importance played on psychology and more involvement needed. Arsène lifts up the body of a new Audi and doesn’t understand all the electronics and wires. He doesn’t know how to operate it. All he sees is foreign technology that is alien to his eyes.

And that is what worries me the most. Our manager can’t fix the problem. I’m not even sure it’s tactical you know. Yesterday I didn’t see a Swansea team that were better than us. I didn’t see a Gary Monk tactical master-class. I didn’t really even see a Swansea team that out-passed us to death. So why on earth were we so painfully lacking in any drive or determination?

That is where Arsène earns his cash, isn’t it? That is what he’s paid the big bucks for, right? To motivate the team? How could you say that the Arsenal team that bored us all to death in the first half, had any kind of motivation or drive to them yesterday? Per Mertesacker said during the week that he was in no doubt that there would be a response at Swansea. How wrong he was. It was more of the same tripe that we’ve seen over the season. Lack of drive, lack of ideas, over-reliance on one player.

You can only look at Arsène. He picks the team. Which, incidentally, will look identical when we play United in two weeks. Heaven forbid Arsène should try to mix it up a tad and show some of those players that their places aren’t guaranteed.

Arsène is our driver. He is the one that cannot get the mileage out of this team. He’s the person that cannot motivate this team of highly paid athletes to perform at their maximum potential. He is also the one that failed to act in the summer and now we are all facing the consequence of his ineptitude.

I’m sorry for today’s blog. It is massively negative. But I find myself having my belief in this team eroded every single week. We haven’t played well all season and we’re being punished for it at every turn. That’s what happens in the Premier League. Our title chances were probably gone about a month ago, but even Arsène – the perpetual optimist – has given up hope at the moment. He is looking at this team of shattered (emotionally, not physically) players and doesn’t believe they can do it. It is of his doing and he knows it. Nobody will be lower than him today I bet. Because he will know that he is failing in his duty.

It’s an international break now. No chance to correct the issues. We just have to accept our failings and stew on them for two weeks. Then, joy of joys, we play Man United. A team we never seem to pick up points against, regardless of how poor they are. Yep, massively looking forward to that one. Really.

See you tomorrow.

Closing space is essential against Swansea

Swansea away today will be a test, of that I’m sure, which is why I’m more than a little apprehensive of our back four.

It’s not just down to Nacho Monreal that our form and frequency of goals conceded has greatly increased from last season. Per Mertesacker has to step up too and, with Arteta injured today, he needs to demonstrate his leadership abilities by marshalling the defence and keeping the unit tighter together. Also, with Arteta out, it will be incumbent on Matthieu Flamini to drastically improve his form today if we want to stay resolute at the back. Defending is not the sole preserve of the back four; it has to be a team effort that starts from the forward players and works backwards. Thankfully in Welbeck and Alexis we have so players who will press higher up the pitch, but should Santi and Rambo start again in midfield, we need to see more from them from the defensive side as much as the offensive. On Tuesday night the warning signs were there in the first half. There were two or three breaks from Anderlecht players where massive areas of the middle of the park were left free for purple-shirted players to run in to. It simple wasn’t acceptable and I remember see Arteta have a bit of a shouty moment in that first half at his fellow midfielders for not closing the space.

Today we have to be able to be more compact as a team and use our fantastic pace to counter Swansea at lightning speed. We simply must ensure that the area of the park in front of our back four is looked after. In the absence of Arteta, that must mean Flamini, but I’m also looking in the direction of Rambo too. He has to get back to basics and do the simple things first. Win tackles, close down space, distribute the ball to a red shirt effectively. That’s what we need to see from our Welshman. Who knows, maybe the return to Wales and the inevitable booing of a Cardiff boy in Swansea, will give more motivation for Rambo to have a great game. I certainly hope so.

As for the other free spot in the team, I think Arsène will play The Ox again. He was decent enough against Anderlecht and his goal will give him plenty of confidence to take into this game. He’s also more of a willing runner when it comes to tracking back, so I think that will remain in his favour and Arsène will name an unchanged side from Tuesday. Personally, I’d be tempted to put Rosicky in, perhaps over Santi, but I don’t think Arsène is in that frame of mind, so expect to see a grumpy looking Tomas this afternoon on the subs bench.

As for Swansea, they’re two scary players are clearly Bony and Gylfi Sigurdsson. I would say Shelvey as well, but that’s less to do with his play and more to do with his overall appearance. And anyway, he’s suspended today. Sigurdsson is the real gem though. The Swansea team looks to be at its best when he is pulling the strings and he looks like he has a telepathic understanding with Bony. That’s why I think it will be essential that we close down space in front of our back four, because that is where Sigurdsson will look to operate and find those balls for Bony in front of our back four.

Nacho is going to need to be strong too, because Bony will look to play off him as much as possible I’d expect.

I don’t want to come across as too much of a neg this morning, but I simply don’t see us not conceding today, which is why the front three will have to get us at least two goals I think to win the game. My hope is that Swansea are as low on confidence as we are – having not won in six games – but the trouble you have with a big team is that sides like Swansea really get themselves up for games against the top three or four, so you know that they’ll look to come out the blocks quickly and try and stun us into silence.

It’s never been easy playing Swansea and they have a good record against us, but if we think that there’s even the tiniest slither of hope of challenging for the league, this is a game that must be won. Heck, even to get our Champions League aspirations on track, we still need to get a win. We’ve had too many draws already this season so I’m hoping we’ll not be treated to another one today.

Come on Arsenal!

Grumpy Arsene cautious on Theo and non-committal on Joel

Was it just me, or did Arsene seem like he was in a bit of a mood in yesterday’s pre-match conference? I mean, he was a little monosyllabic in some of his comments, more so than I would have expected. I get that you don’t want to give the media hacks too much to re-hash to their agendas, but it felt like he was a little grumpy yesterday. Normally you get one or two jokes from Le Boss, but he kept it to just the one yesterday with a comment about the fifth official having a seat and a nice book. A fair comment actually, because our game in midweek proved they are as useful as a chocolate teapot.

I suppose given the scoreline at home against the Belgian champions he was entitled to be a little grumpy. He was effectively shafted over by his team when they decided to push on to get a fourth goal but ended up conceding a third. I’m pretty sure Arsene wouldn’t have specifically said ‘EVERYONE FORWARD!’ with a minute to go. Whilst he must take some of the blame for his substitutions and the mentality of the team after we conceded the second goal, the players have been a bit shielded from blame thanks to the manager I think.

So we had a short presser and a grumpy-sounding Arsene with which to try and dissect thoughts on team morale in the camp. Arsene says the morale in the camp is very positive and that it is just the media that perpetuates the negativity. I understand that to an extent, but it’s hard to agree with him on the positivity if I’m honest. A positive and happy team would most likely be a confident one and you can’t argue that we’re playing with bags of that stuff. Sure, they might all be smiles and laughs when on the training ground practicing with each other, but deep down they will all be hurting and their confidence will have taken another blow on Tuesday night. It’s why I am a little fearful of the game tomorrow. The team has shown that confidence takes a long time to get back and can be shattered quite easily, so you do wonder what blowing a three-goal lead will do to them. Hopefully it will spark a response that sees some players step up.

One player who could help to be that catalyst is Theo and, despite the understandable caution from Le Boss, I do hope he gets significant game time tomorrow. The benefit that Theo has through his injury is that he will not have been affected by the indifferent start to the season. He is coming in with a blank sheet of paper and can paint whatever picture he wants through his contribution. He’s that kind of explosive player that can unlock games and in between his two big injuries last season and the season before he showed that he has matured into one of our biggest threats in front of goal. With him and Alexis the hope is – particularly away from home – that they can exploit that little bit of extra space you get to run in behind defences. Arsene was non-committal as to whether Walcott would start, but I hope he is starting sooner rather than later. Wenger was clear in his articulation not to expect a guy who has been out for 10 months to be the saviour, but I still think that his place in the team will give other players a lift and, when you’ve just been held back by a frankly average Anderlecht team, to have a player come in and pick you up is a welcome boost.

Understandably Arsene was also respectful of Swansea, talking about their style of football, which I think will also be a benefit for us. Swansea’s form has been patchy too this season, so it will be interesting to see how they line up. They will invariably play a passing game, but will they be a little bit more cautious, or will they treat this game as a ‘freebie’ and come at us? Either way, I’m not sure which is more beneficial for us. IF they come at us, it will prove the sternest test of the makeshift back four so far this season. If they sit, we could see another drab draw trying to break down a stubborn opponent. I don’t know about you, but I’ve just had about enough of my fill for draws this season.

Just finally before I knock off for the day, how about this situation with Joel Campbell, eh? Arsene was asked about whether he’s happy and said something like ‘you should ask him. I hope he is always happy’, then when later Joel Campbell was asked about it he confirmed he wouldn’t be leaving in January. I wonder if there is something going on there. Campbell has shown glimpses of a good player in the small cameo appearances he’s been getting, but in the last few games he hasn’t really been anywhere near the first team. Why? Is this one of those situations where Wenger just doesn’t fancy him? OR is there a plan to integrate him later on in the season? Remember that he did the same with Benayoun when he was on loan. He barely started for Arsenal until the latter part of the season, then he became a regular player for the club. I could never wonder why and a lot of people I spoke to felt that Benayoun was the biggest waste of a loan fee ever. But eventually he came good and maybe that is the situation with Joel? Or maybe Arsene will offload someone like Podolski in January and that will free up some space for the Costa Rican to get involved. Either way, it looks to me that he’s not getting anywhere now and so I suspect that unless his career takes a Benayounly turn after Christmas, it might be his last at the club.

Catch you tomorrow you sexy people.