Wenger’s reunion can wait, our season is defined in the next few weeks

A reunion is on the cards in the New Year for our manager, as he finally, for the first time in his career, re-visits Monaco (in a proper competition) to square off against his old club. Yep, yesterday we got all the luck of the Irish as we were drawn against the easiest possible opponents that we were going to get in the next round, although as with everything in life we know that it won’t be easy when the matches eventually come around.

Just look at what happened to us when we played PSV all those years ago. we were probably the better team in both legs, yet our own profligacy cost us our space in the next round. So as much as we can view this tie as the best possible chance of progression we could have hoped for, the job still needs to be done both in London and the French principality.

Monaco got through their group having scored four goals. That’s pretty impressive in its poorness if we’re all honest. They have been forced to sell their star striker to some team based in the North of this country, and I believe I’m right in saying that they look a little like a spent force in the French league as well. We are hardly ripping up trees, but based on the respective quality of the English and French leagues, you’d expect us to be able to handle what they can throw at us.

There also seems to be some sort of cruel irony that Dortmund, who topped our group, have got one of the hardest group winner ties, as they go to Turin to square off against the current Italian Champions. Juventus won’t be an easy tie for them, but we needn’t concern ourselves with either side at this stage.

What we need to concern ourselves with it the run of games that takes place over the next couple of weeks that I think could define our season. Certainly if we want to be in Europe’s elite competition next year. With so many matches coming thick and fast, stringing together a series of wins can propel you from stuttering giants to steamrolling juggernauts, providing you have the right level of application. Oh, and it helps if you have any players fit to play as well, I suppose. This season we’ve certainly not been able to field our best eleven more often than not, but the Christmas period offers a slither of hope that we will not be the only ones. Think about it this way: our team are used to picking up injuries and we’ve learned that we have to muddle through somehow, unsuccessfully at times, I know. But it will come as no surprise to our players to be playing two games in a week and so one would hope that we’d better equipped to play three games in a week in comparison to those other teams at the top that haven’t had the same level of intensity so quickly. I am, of course, talking about the West Ham’s, Swansea’s and Southampton’s of this season. All have had good runs in the league up until this point, but with points coming so quickly and with inevitable injuries creeping up, the name of the Christmas game is rotation and it will be interesting to see how easily those teams can pick up wins with the level of squad rotation all teams probably need when you play three games in a week.

Perhaps I am clutching at straws a little bit, but I suspect we’ll start to see some teams falling away. That is not to suggest that we won’t drop points by the way; we’ve seen how easy we seem to have done so this season, but I just think that now is the time for us to assert our dominance on the rest of the division. We must start picking up wins and ideally, we need to do it next weekend against Liverpool. I was chatting to a Liverpool fan yesterday who was convinced we would smash them at Anfield, but I found myself needing to remind him that we are The Arsenal, that we give hope to those that have none at times. I hope I am proved wrong next weekend and we do smash them, because it will set us up for a massive Christmas. Think about it, a win away to Anfield, followed up by a win at home to QPR, would then put us in a fantastic frame of mind to take on a high confidence West Ham side that will fancy their chances at home. We need to be ending their hopes of Champions League football, then following that up by doing the same to Southampton. Maximum points over Christmas is probably more than we could realistically expect to get, but there’s no harm in dreaming at this stage of the season, is there?

As for the  rest of the Arsenal related news, it’s lots of interviews with players talking about emphatic responses for the Newcastle game, etc, etc. I understand that players with microphones thrust in front of them at the heat of the moment will be naturally buoyant after such a great performance, but I feel a little immune to their comments these days. We’ve heard it all before so many times, that all that really matters is what they say with their feet. And credit to them, you’re only as good as your last game and in the last game they were excellent. They just need to replicate that high intensity against the scousers next weekend.

I think I’ll call it a\ day for now. more tomorrow as we approach a crucial game/time in our season.

Broken Ford Mondeo under a flash chassis

Yesterday evening before I went to bed I watched Blackadder. I watched the excellent Christmas Carol version where Ebeneezer Blackadder is a kind gentleman who realises that being bad and evil is more more profitable than being good. So when I think back to the comparisons made by myself to the two teams that played yesterday, perhaps we should take a leaf out of Blackadder’s book and just play a bit of roughousing tactics whenever we take to the field? After all, it works for Charlie Adam.

I’m starting off today’s blog by talking about Charlie Adam because I really have nothing else to talk about with regards to The Arsenal. Well, nothing you won’t have heard before, because yesterday’s result was more predictable than an above inflation train season ticket price hike on New Year’s Day. Another year, another defeat to Stoke, another chance for the media to perpetuate the old “they don’t like it up ‘em” nonsense.

I’ll level with you. I didn’t watch yesterday’s game. I was entertaining people and so was keeping track via radio and Twitter occasionally, but what I did hear was nothing new or surprising to me. I will go one step further. I haven’t even watched Match of The Day yet. I don’t even know if I’ll bother actually. What’s the point? I know what I’m going to see. Defensive shambles, offensive nullification (in the first half), some terrible misses from Arsenal players and some woefully inept defending from another makeshift team. A team that is makeshift entirely at the fault of the manager. I’m bored of talking about it, you’re bored of reading about it, we should probably just move on actually. Arsene has proven that he doesn’t have the cojones to do what is needed by fannying around in the summer and his own stupid self belief that he could keep a small core of players injury free like he did last season has ultimately cost us any real dream of even challenging for the league. That went in October.

October!

It’s a damming endictment on a man who has given us so much, has won a place in our hearts for what he has delivered to the club, but is now tarnishing his legacy with every passing moment it feels like at right now. We’ve still got a fight on our hands for fourth, that much is clear and, after both the Spuds and Liverpool both only managed draws at home to Crystal Palace and Sunderland respectively, the only grain of positivity I can take from this wekend is that we haven’t seen our rivals for that fourth start to drift off into the distance. United play Southampton on Sunday in which I think we probably need Southampton to pick up something from the game. I see people worried about West Ham and Southampton but they will fall away as injuries bite into the New Year.

So, despite the fact that it’s December and we’re only a few games away from the midway point in the season, I’m not particularly looking at the table too much. It would probably wind me up even more anyway. I keep telling myself that eventually we’ll put a run of winning games together. We always seem to, after all, but we’ve seen that situation of back-to-back victories happen about six times already, then we see a defensive performance like yesterday and are reminded just how average a team we can be. Especially away from home.

I don’t really know what else to say. I’m deflated. I could probably have a stab at getting more angry about our current predicament, but what’s the point? This Arsenal squad simply isn’t good enough to be where we want to be. Not in terms of the sum of all parts. We’ve got some wonderful players, but what’s the point in having a fabulous chassis on your car when you’ve got an old Ford Mondeo engine under the bonnet? You can’t race a flash car without the whole thing being flash. That’s where we are.

And itr’s entirely of Arsene’s making.

See you tomorrow.

A reversal of fortunes from when we played the Baggies last year

Good matchday morning to you my friend, I hope Saturday is one that can bring both you and I what we are all quite desperate to see, three points away to West Brom. It’s a game in which last year we stuttered having been on a decent run and, if I recall rightly, it was the first game in a while last year when we really didn’t play that well, after having played well for a number of games previously. This year we are all hoping for a reversal of those fortunes, having played pretty poorly all season this time around. A stellar performance from the team would make this weekend marvellous I must say.

The weekend didn’t exactly get off to the greatest of news, after all, because we have an all-star cast of players who have been knocked about more than the occupants of a Catamaran on the Bay of Biscay. Walcott, Arteta, Wilshere, Welbeck, Debuchy, Ospina and Szczesny all remain either a doubt, definitely out or facing a race against time to be fit through late fitness tests. IT’s interesting how much has been made of Man United injury problems, but theirs have all been short term and will disappear as quickly as they appeared. For us, as we all know, we’re likely to have this problem throughout the whole season.

It’s why it wouldn’t surprise me if we actually saw Podolski get some game time if he remains at the club beyond January. I don’t believe it is possible for our stand out player – Alexis – to go the entire season Injury-free. The second he signed his paperwork at the club he was a marked man and so at some stage – providing he doesn’t tell Wenger he wants out – he’ll get his chance. But for now it looks like that door is closed to our social media loving German. Arsene was asked about Lukas in his presser yesterday and gave the usual response about how he expects him to stay. It was as believable as the old “three weeks away” stuff we have heard from the club over the years. But hey ho, they’ll be plenty of time to speculate on the ins and outs at the club in about a months time. For now, a trip to the Hawthorns looms, to which we absolutely must build on the victory from midweek against Dortmund.

Thankfully, it sounds like Koscienly is back and, if he really is fit enough to start, I don’t see how he won’t alongside Mertescaker. They’ll both be flanked by Chambers and Gibbs and with Debuchy a maximum of two weeks away, we’ll have our first choice back four back just in time for the January window to open and Arsene to declare he has no more available space in his squad for incoming players. Happy days.

West Brom will be up for this. They’ve lost their last two league games as well and will want to take a big scalp today. And they’ll have seen that even shocking teams like Swansea and United can have their day of glory against us, so they’ll probably up their game to give us an extra hard afternoon. There was some suggestion yesterday about the early kick-off playing against us when you look at last seasons games, but I don’t see that as any factor whatsoever. After all, before we lost to Moneychester City, Liverpool and Chelski in those early kick offs, we’d also beaten Crystal Palace away. So you can hardly say there was a pattern developing. Unless you say it’s a pattern of bottling it in the big games. That we can all agree on.

Tactically, you can already see signs of what Alan Irvine wants to do. He highlighted to the press this week that he thinks Arsenal are vulnerable at the back and at times have left just three players (including the ‘keeper) in their own half, so I think he’ll look to see if he can draw us out and catch us on the counter. Think the first goal we conceded against Swansea, or the Rooney second goal last weekend. He’ll probably line up quite defensively and hope that the pace of Berahino will cause us a headache. Where we can help ourselves will be to replicate the responsibility of the defenders in getting forward. Two centre halves and one full back in position when we lose the ball is essential. And a Flamini that is disciplined and not drawn forward is important. If West Brom do try to play us on the counter, there will be no need to try and win the ball high up the pitch, because they will only counter in ones and twos, so if Flamini is sitting, it would give us plenty of cover to deal (in theory) with their attack. Sessegnon will also be an important player to snuff out. He’s a tricky and fast little player who, whilst not having the best scoring record, will sit behind Berahino and be a handful all afternoon. That’s where Flamini will be important in breaking up the play. With his now customary yellow card, of course.

As for us, I expect we’ll line up with Martinez in goal (it didn’t sound to me as if Szczesny had fully recovered from last weekend’s knock, so why risk it?), with the back four as described above. I think injury dictates that the two in front of the back four will be Flamini and Ramsey, which will mean two wide of Cazorla and The Ox and Sanchez sitting just behind the striker. I think Arsene would probably ideally want to go with Welbeck if he is fit, but if there is any doubts then Giroud will get the nod. And who knows? The Giroud/Alexis combo might just work. If Alexis knows that he has a target man who will hold up and feed him in, we might see him latching on to more knock downs and flick throughs. I guess we’ll see in a matter of hours.

Right, I’m off for some breakfast, a morning chore or two, then the pub. Come on you reds!

The teenage dreamer still burns bright.

Chris asked me to write 50 words on ‘What’s wrong with Arsenal’, it’s surprisingly hard. I was torn between a few avenues to go down. So I closed my eyes and pointed. Have a go and send them to me, I’d like to hear your take – Here’s my attempt. As you can see, I cheated. and I’m not sorry.

I’m not.

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 another 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 the idea – losing simply wasn’t an option.

Re-reading that ‘The greatest team’ debate, it is obviously down to preference. Many would throw the 1990-91 side into the hat, but it all depends on what generation you’re from and I suppose the key component is nostalgia and your resounding memories. Tim Stillman recently wrote a marvellous piece on nostalgia, take a look if you haven’t seen it. You’ll enjoy it.

I feel this is a very important subject that won’t go away, and to be honest, I’m not willing to face, because it’s close to my heart. Like pulling a plaster, do it quickly, or it’ll happen in the shower when you least expect it. I suppose it’s become a more acceptable subject to discuss. Previously if you mentioned it you’d be lynched for such blasphemy. It’s, as you’ve probably guessed it, the manager and his future.

I was at the Hull game and as I was funnelling out amongst the disappointed home fans, two gentlemen starting singing “Arsssseeeeennnnneeee out, we want Arsène out”. Then they went onto slagging off Puma (which seemed bizarre, but who am I to judge?). Everybody near me looked very uncomfortable with the situation and hung their heads. Another man nearby replied “You’re on your oooowwwwnnn, you’re on your ooowwwwnn!” Which made a few people smirk. So I suspect I’m not the only one who feels uncomfortable about discussing it or making their opinions known. But I quietly got to a point last year where I was in the ‘Win the FA Cup, take a bow, be lauded for everything you’ve done…have a glass of red on the beach. You’ve deserved it’ camp. That sentiment has changed this season and we have experienced somewhat of a watershed moment. Tim Clarke (Arse2Mouse) described it as – When you realise your father, your hero, the great untouchable man you thought he was, see cry for the first time and it hits you, he’s just a normal bloke trying to find his way. I’d like to add that I think at that moment you love him more because you realise what he has actually achieved along the way.

I felt that way because the general consensus amongst the majority of the fan base (being at the ground, chatting with friends, social media, etc) seemed to want him to go. Initially, at that point for me it was unthinkable, because the young impressionable dreamer in me wouldn’t allow that Arsène poster to be taken down.

Our fan base had been spilt for a while now and I don’t think a new manager, success or not, will change that instantly. But back to Arsène – unless he wins something major and we break that glass ceiling, instead of rubbing our faces on it, opinions won’t change.

So, this season, where do we begin? We are a mess. Like leaving your toddler with a crayon & he creates a masterpiece in your hall. (I haven’t done this…or maybe I have done this…). There are lots of conversations about conceding the title in November, but the reality is that we were never in the title this season. I don’t want to be that guy that brings up the lack of transfers, etc, etc, but that (the lack of activity in key areas) killed any hope we had. I think it’s bizarre that that people thought we’d have any chance? If the activity wasn’t enough evidence then surely Martinez pulling down our pants at Goodison (again) was a clearer message, no?

As I mentioned above, unless Arsène has a certain quality of player, his management will struggle, when it really matters. His dream and vision is an ideology, not a coaching style, and that will only take you so far. Patrick Vieira has said it’s his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. I admire him for it but his dream is (has) slowly strangling him.

I’m not really enjoying writing this as Arsène has taken Arsenal to some unbelievable heights, but it has been fading for a number of years now. He’s making simply perplexing decisions, some that I’m starting to hate him for. Going into a season with one real centre forward option, not signing a centre half, passing up on Cesc Fabregas (I’ve taken that very badly, as you can probably tell). I understand all the variables for the decision(s) on Cesc but I was in the ‘buy what we need, and begrudgingly leave Cesc’ camp. I understand ALL the dynamics, but he did neither.

We currently live on this completely different level of frustration, like spraining your wrist and trying to cut a steak (I haven’t done this… or have I have done this…). If you take everything into account, success is a real possibility for us but we seem to squander it in ludicrous fashion every year. To be honest, this could all be down to the unbeaten season curse. I’d be ok with that, Ha!

The skill of a great manager is to build a team which plays in a way that it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately we have more this season yet we are well below his par. I feel for him because injuries have haunted us for years. If I had one wish for Arsène it would be a season free of major injuries. Then it would be a great gauge on how he handles his squad.

The injuries have killed us for years but not compensating is probably the biggest deficiency. Something very obvious, if a team play often with one another in training and matches then they get to know each other better, sequences become more automatic. They become everything Arsène’s play is based on. If our players played together for longer periods, we would be better as a side, which I know is a really ‘no sh*t Sherlock way of thinking, but sometimes you need to say things things out loud to realise.

Our form this year has been poor. For a few reasons: Injuries, which prevent rotation; change in direction, to try to build cohesion. We’ve seen that in our low intensity (bizarre) pressing, it’s all a sign of a lack of harmony. If we could keep players fit it would give Arsène the ability to switch things up, rotate when needed instead of playing out of form players.

I guess I’m just trying to come to the terms with is accepting the inevitability of it – him leaving, whether that’s the end of this year or the end of his contract. Without going into it, it’s going to really hurt. Crying into a pillow kind of hurt. Staring out the window watching the rain pissing down screaming “WHY?!” As you eat ice cream, kinda hurt.

One thing for sure is, it’s not working now, and it doesn’t look like it will in the near future. This whole ‘success’ thingy we all want? I have to be honest, I don’t think the league is a real possibility for us with, or without Arsène. I think what’s wanted, and possibly what is actually needed, is fresh eyes.

Hearing Arsène being interviewed on beIN sport recently. Everything he says is spell bounding. I get caught up in his genius. I could listen to him forever and a day. He still makes me dream for that happy ending. My young impressionable dreamer side always barges in and says ‘give him time to build that side, win the Champions League before you go, complete your journey’. I hope he’s working towards a smooth transition. That’s the direction I believe the Arsenal wheels are turning. But deep down, I hope Arsène is still doing what he does best, which is to dream.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

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.