Well, I have avoided posting for some couple of weeks now. Yes, it’s no error. I meant to type ‘avoided’. There has been nothing noteworthy to talk about Arsenal that most aren’t talking about everywhere already.
It really is sad. So sad I’m now numb from the sadness. And instead of the deep sighs that came from the depths of my being each time I thought of our loss at Norwich, I laughed each time I heard we conceded against Schalke. I laughed hard.
No, I didn’t watch the match. I avoided (yeah, the word again) that also. I ‘3/4-expected’ the performance (not exactly the result) we had last night. I did not see the game so everything I know is what I’ve gleaned from reports of the game and the TLs of some folks I respect and can take their word for it in Goonerdom.
We were reportedly dire, slow and played without initiative. We lacked ideas in attack. Our bench had no answers to Schalke targeting our left flank and Andre Santos. Even Poldi and Vermaelen had no idea how to protect him. Ramsey was not it, using our local parlance. Gervinho? I’m tired.
From what I heard, we only had three flickering lights as at d end of the 1st half: Per, Coquelin and Jenks. That says it about our performance; it was defensive players who were doing well. Unfortunately, a good defence can’t win one games if the attack is lazy and without ideas.
Everyone talks about the fact we sell our best performers or that those sold don’t get replaced or that we don’t sign the right calibre of players bla bla bla. Everyone talks about our transfers in (or the lack thereof). I have a different view why we have been faltering though. However, pardon the inadequacies of my analysis. A brother has only been a Gooner some twelve, thirteen years. 😀
One, our tactics are rigid, not fool-proof and predictable. Two, we lack a champions’ mentality.
Even when we played the traditional 442, we still got to alter our shape in-game. We had wingers who were just as potent cutting-in as they were at the byline + they were terrors running at defenders also. We had Titi drifting wide and Pires or Reyes drifting in off the left. We usually started with two strikers with one dropping off the second, usually the Flying Dutchman (who ironically never really flew). We had fullbacks whose crosses were cause for concern for opposing defenders (Eboue’s for RvP comes to mind, amongst others). Our CBs were potent threats at set-pieces. In spite of all the attacking prowess, we were also beasts at defending. Bottom line: our play was unpredictable if noon else. Opponents had so much to worry about when they faced the team with the cannon. The cannon was always loaded those days. This cannot be said of this team since the past three, four years. Sadly.
We altered, or better put, revolutionised, our tactics, so we could get the best out of and make our game centred around Cesc. Yes, that same Cesc that turns out for his hometown club now. We didn’t even get that ‘best’ for so long. Because, I stand to be corrected, Cesc never gave us that best the two or three seasons before he left for Barca. Cesc is gone. But that formation, the 4231, remains. Imo even n this formation is why talents like Carlos Vela couldn’t make it at the Club; they always got played out of position. This formation is fluid. It is not a bad deal at all. Thing is: opponents now know how to stop us.
And still, headstrong Monsieur Wenger persists at it. Even with teams sitting deep in their halves and denying us space behind their defences. Even with teams closely marking nd denying our most creative players space. Even with teams allowing us 99% of the possession but denying us penetration. Even with teams making effective use of their counters as having large swathes of possession can culture dips in concentration. Even with all those, Monsieur Wenger persists with his 4231.
Even in the light of that, there is no evidence on the pitch that the team practises set-pieces in training. Even at that, our players (recently, bar Santi) never take aim from outside or around the box. Well, truth be told, most don’t pack so much of a shot (another training deficiency?). Even at that, there’s no evidence on the pitch that work has been done at Colney to improve our players abilities to nutmeg and beat their markers (only Abou seems to have that). Anyone notice we usually only ever get to score when a team leaves gap in behind or when we counter an opponent’s attack? Even with the very obvious fact that teams have found ways to penetrate our invincibility cloak, we still stick the ways that established us as EPL heavyweights.
Imo, this can be blamed on personnel, training methods and Arsene’s god syndrome. I read somewhere that in the years since Arsene’s been with us, SAF has had different sets of 1st Team Coaches and Assistant Managers working with him while Arsene only recently changed assistant managers (ti dare say if he wasn’t even ready to retire, he’d still be on our bench now) and he still has the same 1st Team Coach as he has always had (Boro Primorac). Yeah-yeah, they have always been friends and even some of our old players have praised Boro’s knowledge of the game but the similarity between ARSENE and ARSENAL aside, Arsenal Football Club ain’t Arsene’s family business. I’m no tactician or team manager, but I think the Utd case shoes a leader who is in touch with the realities of the changing climes in football. Don’t get me wrong. I do not endorse the continuous change of backroom staff like they were underwear. But I do not see reason in applying 18th century methods of threatening cholera in the 22nd century either. The fact they are even friends means Arsene can seek his opinion (if he ever does that) on issues without Boro being a backroom staff. Same applies to other coaches who aren’t pulling their weight.
Let’s become flexible, unpredictable from formation to strategy to attacking set-pieces. Let’s inject new ideas into how we play. Ultimately, let us have a Plan B when A doesn’t seem to be working. And Plan C. And D. And E. Heck, we can begin naming them in Roman numerals once we’ve exhausted the letters of the English language.
The second reason why I think we haven’t been doing well (not this season alone but in seasons past also) is that we do not have the right mentality going into games. I snort every time one of our players is in the news talking about how they didn’t do well in the previous match and plan to do this and that to ensure there’s no repeat in the next. (Na Walcott own dey vex me pass. Gervinho know hin own measurement; he no dey too talk to media). Blah, blah, blah and even more blah! I rarely ever see them walk their talk. Our players personify clueless sometimes. I was telling a friend that I was waiting till we conceded or lost before evaluating the team. Now we have conceded first the past 5games and lost two consecutively. If the previous three, four seasons are worth anything, I fear for us against QPR..
We lack the grit and determination that make champions; that extra they give even when they know their lungs are on fire with every extra breath. We do not push even when our arms (in this case, legs) are weary. For this, I do not exclusively blame our players. In fact, I blame their tutelaries more. I dare say our players are over-pampered. Even some well-respected book (don’t quote me oo I’m not sure) mentions that spoiling the child is equal to sparing the rod. And there’s a Yoruba saying that points out that when you use the left hand to scold a child, you use the right one to draw him closer. I doubt AW has ever scolded any Arsenal player; past or present. I seriously doubt it. I even read somewhere that Ashley Cole said he never received a dressing-down from his manager till he began to work with the Special One! Now I’ll give an example. A very recent one at that. One that makes me doubt the stories we heard that Bouldy throTtled Alex Song in training. When asked about Andre Santos’ performance in last night’s game, his reply was, “I think he has done fabulous…” I read that and I was pulling out my hair!!!!! Now some of us may say it makes no sense for a manager to criticise his wards in public. True. But how about simply answering that he did not want to discuss any individual like his boss Arsene did when asked about Mannone’s charity to Norwich?!
I think Arsene’s too lax, too fatherly, too attached to these folks. I think he’s too weak. Yes! I finally said it! WEAK. As much as I hate to say it, this is one reason I respect SAF’s Utd. His managerial style has made his players shape-up. Everyone works hard. Everyone grinds hard. Everyone knuckles down. I guess there’s no little thanks to his Scottish roots. Reminds me of @arseblogger’s reply to @timpayton when the latter asked the former if he wasn’t bothered about how the team got to venue of away games (a la the 13min flight to Norwich). @timpayton asked @arseblogger if he still wouldn’t be bothered if the team had to trudge all the way to Carrow Road, in collective chains. His reply: “decent warmup, fosters togetherness”.
Pardon the deviation. My point is that Arsene’s ‘Frenchness’ won’t do this crop of Arsenal players any good. It definitely hasn’t done Gervais or Ramsey any good. That Frenchness may not make any negative difference when you have folks like Adams, Parlour, Keown, Campbell, Lauren, Gilberto Silva, Henry, Bergkamp, etc in your team. These were professionals who knew there jobs. More, they knew how to do their jobs without being told much. This current crop is spoilt rotten imo. Now I hate it when I hear young players say they want to join Arsenal cos “they help develop young players, give them a chance”. Like seriously? Then why do you all blame Fab and Clichy and Nasri and Adebayor? Arsenal had helped them to showcase their talents so they moved on with their lives. Shikena!
I’m in no way saying Wenger and his goons should become terrorists. No. All I’m saying is that they should be more firm to get the best outta these folks.
If we can work on these two points I’ve highlighted, even with this same set of players, I have no doubt that we can reach, and more importantly, maintain those heights most of us are used to as Gooners.
Honourable mentions go to poor transfer dealings, lack of rotation, placing square pegs in round holes, bloated wages and number of staff, a cant-be-bothered-as-long-as-fat-dividends-trickle-in boardroom and a poor commercial team as reasons why Arsenal Football Club has been gradually bowing to gravity.