05 November 2014

Well, we'll still qualify, right? Somebody hold me...

Well, that's it. Let's put the season to bed and a few players out to pasture. Fire the manager and the physios, forfeit all of our remaining matches, and accept relegation. All of the players (except one) are rubbish, too old, too injured, or some combation thereof to sustain any kind of meaningful campaign, but at least getting relegated would improve our chances at winning a league title. That one exception? He's too good so we should just sell him and use the proceeds to pay down the stadium debt. What else is left to play for after a humiliating capitulation like this, one that has slam shut the door on our chances of advancing to the Champions League knockout phase? Heck, the knock-on effect will surely see us plummet to the bottom of the Prem and crash out of the FA Cup to boot.

Oh. Wait. We still claimed a point and look just as likely to advance to the knockout phase as before? Yes, we may still need a point from Dortmund's visit or our trip to Galatasaray, but Anderlecht has to win at home against Gala and away over Dortmund as well. Yes, it would have been mighty nice to have salted that 3-0 lead away and coasted to victory. We haven't choked on a three-goal lead since that barnburner against Newcastle in 2011 when we went up by four goals at St. James' Park only to see them roar back, thanks in part to two penalties scored by Barton, and like Tuesday, the match ended in a dispiriting draw. Tuesday's result threatens to shatter confidence and see us circle the drain until the entire season slips away.

What went wrong? Maybe we went ahead too far, too fast. By the time Oxlade-Chamberlain scored to make it 3-0, it felt as if we should have been up twice that but for some missed chances and decent saves. We were bossing the game, and this seemed to encourage some bad habits that we paid for in the end. Some players seemed to get more interested in getting fancy or joining in on the scoring, playing for the highlight-moment rather than making the smart, simple play. We neglected the fact that Anderlecht had carved out a few chances, mainly from our right flank, where it seemed that Chambers was either AWOL or overwhelmed; a few tidy crosses led to some dangerous moments that went awry or that forced Szczesny into a few vital saves.

That dodgy defending, and selfish attacking, seemed to conspire against us. We kicked ourselves in the arse. By the time Anderlecht scored that first goal, we had swelled our egos up so much that all it took was that pinprick to burst the bubble. That Vanden Borre was offside only compounded matters, as we were now frustrated at having lost the clean-sheet and flustered at the perceived injustice of it all. We had no real response at either end, and the injury to Arteta, replaced by Flamini, seemed to unravel our defense all the more. Unable to clear as effectively, our defense put itself under more and more pressure, and our midfield, reluctant to simply recycle possession and preferring to pursue the next memorable moment, allowed Anderlecht more and more opportunities. When Monreal reprised the Koscielny take-down of Dzeko, he was perhaps lucky to see yellow, not red, and the penalty that made it 3-2 gave Anderlecht the confidence it needed.

It's a sign of deeper issues when our only defensive sub was Hector Bellerin. Instead of having the kind of subs needed to defend a lead (even against an inferior opponent), Arsène looked to his bench and, with 10 minutes to go, sent out Tomáš Rosický and Lukas Podolski. Now, I love Rosický, but neither he nor Podolski is known for defensive tenacity. Rosický can press up the pitch and harass, but it would have been nice to send someone of a more-defensive mindset. Were we looking to score a fourth goal or prevent them from equalising? It's all a muddle.

Still, set aside the despair. Yes, it's an infuriating result but not a debilitating one. It does increase the importance of our remaining two fixtures, from which we really must take a point or more to avoid the deeper capitulation. Those who might argue that failing to advance to the knockout phase to force Arsène should be careful what they ask for: it would incrementally if not monumentally harder. If we're no longer competing in the Champions League come January, the Khediras and Carvalhos of the world may take a bit more persuasion (read: pounds per week) before they'd join Arsenal. If critics are casting about in hopes of finding a way to force Arsène out before or at season's end, again, think past that. Who'd be available and willing to replace a manager so legendary and synonymous with the club that many believe its name derives from his? The question takes on more ominous overtones if it seems like the club is in turmoil after a fractious, disappointing season.

Look. We're frustrated. Disappointed. Perhaps livid. We're not playing to expectations or ability, and yet we're still about to advance to the Champions League knockout phase (I won't bring up how many times we've done that because we have to look forward rather than backward). We're staggering to draw after draw—but have suffered only two losses, both away to very diffcult opponents—and we're still very much competing in the Prem with plenty of time to go.  In other words, take it in stride. We seem to suffer difficult stretches in any season, and perhaps this early stretch is it. We've suffered a raft of injuries already, so perhaps we're clearing the decks for a stronger stretch to come. In coming weeks, we should see Walcott return to fitness, Ramsey and Koscielny return from injury, and we should have Giroud and Debuchy a few weeks past that. Mesut Özil will also, at some point, be back.

In other words, set aside the gloom and doom and find some courage. We'll bounce back.


  1. That was a miserable experience. we completely fell apart and gave away three of the weakest goals I've seen in one match. One affter the other. Why the hell didn't we simply play keep away, at least enough to slow things down? Irony of ironies after complaining about boring boring football, we could have used some last night yet we somehow managed to make Anderlecht look dangerous. IT seemed like we were trying to match Dortmund's goal differential all in one match (pretty pointless as they won 4-1 and if we were trying to win the group we should have focused on simply winning today, then beating Dortmund 3-0 or better when they come to the Emirates).

    Why we ended up with Chambers at rightback, Monreal and Mertesacker, and Flamini at DM staggers me. One's too young, another's out of position, and the other two are too old and slow. At this point, Flamini has no business playing for a Prem side with hopes of challenging for the league title, forget winning it. I'm starting to worry the same of Mertesacker. If we can make it to January transfer-window, will Wenger see fit to make a few improvements? If this isn't his Waterloo, what will be? Losing to Man U?

  2. we'll be fine, like you say. ppl overreact any time something bad happens. this was bad but it's not terrible. ppl need to stay calm.

  3. Aside from the obvious, i.e., lack of adequate defenders, we have Arsene still trying to prove that his bench is not that weak and that playing his favorites still can work.

    What I found interesting was the comments made by the opposing manager after the match about how surprising and, of course, heartening to them, was that Arsenal never altered their game plan or style as the game went on and and the score got closer, i.e., they were still trying to play an open game and to score. Obviously Arsene has never considered parking the bus. Is it because that would imply that he might be copying Jose M. or because he doesn't even have players capable of emulating a bus. They are good at being sieves, however.

  4. "Stay calm" ? Yeah, like we've had ten years of fiascos like this, and nothing ever gets you angry about it, I suppose ? Happy for the club to keep wastefully treading water until Wenger's contract expires ? Or will you be happy to see this waste of space extend his stay for another three years ? If so, please state your grounds for doing so, apart from your sentimental attachment to him.

    Any other manager with an ounce of tactical sense would have instructed the team to close the game down when 3-0 up, but not Wenger. He doesn't care about the tactical situation, he just tells the team to play as they like, there is no guidance from him from the sidelines, he just sits there wringing his hands in frustration. And then we end up with results like this. Fortunately, it won't prove fatal THIS TIME. But the lessons are never learned are they ? Wenger OUT !

    " In Arsene we rust."

  5. Previously I indicated that they should have parked the bus. Two obvious problems:
    1) At best they would be parking a Mini, a Smart Car, the smallest of Fiats, or maybe a Morgan 2-wheeler.
    2) Arsene, after the match, told the media that they were not playing defense well from the start, makes you wonder what he tells the players at half-time when, in theory, he has them all together in the locker room and could, if he was capable, change strategy or else make adjustments to fortify or strengthen that "weak" defense.

    Spectrum and Cuchulainn are both absolutely correct. It appears, even more than at least three new defenders (BFG is nearly on his last immovable legs and one cannot even comment on some of the others being played), Arsenal is desperately in need of a captain who can lead and take charge as well as a manager who can do the same.

  6. I think John lays it out there at the end: who's going to step up to replace a legend? The pressure there is enormous. I don't think we'd go the way of Man U with Ferguson to Moyes but we do have to wonder who'll be next? Klopp might be the sexy choice, but think of the injury-rate we might suffer with his high-energy, no hold barred style. We get ridiculous injury rates with our boring, possession style. Ancelotti? only if we're willing to go the "galacticos" route of buying up player after player regardless of FFP and balance sheets. Guardiola? He's at his best in two-team leagues.

    This isn't an argument for keeping Arsene, it's an open question of who would replace him--who's available? who's willing? who'd be better?

  7. that's the price of purity, i suppose. the question is though, why do all of us have to pay?

  8. "Why do all of us have to pay" ?

    Firstly because too many supporters refused to pressure our self serving grovelling board to withdraw their offer of a contract extension for Wenger WHEN THEY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY - that's why.

    At any OTHER truly ambitious club their board wouldn't accept endless mediocrity without even setting minimum requirements to be achieved and a strictly limited timeframe in which to do so. Does Wenger have any K.P.I.'s ( key performance indicators ) written into his contract ? No. Therefore Wenger has no reason to do more than the minimum - which is to finish in the top four in order to qualify for a competition in which we are knocked out of every year. Out of because he refuses to strengthen the team and is totally clueless about formulating tactical plans that might take us further. Ditto for the league.

    Incredibly, despite all the evidence against him, there are ( still ) too many brainless A.K.B. sheep, and others, who continue to think more highly of the manager than of the future welfare of the club itself. Until this insane cult of worship stops and people wake up from the hypnotic- like spell that Wenger holds over them, nothing will change, and sustained success - ANY success - will continue to elude us.

    " In Arsene we rust."

  9. Anyone could do a better job than Wenger has over the last ten years. They don't even need to be high profile like Klopp. Look at Southampton for example. They made a bold decision to go with Ronald Koeman - a man with a very modest managerial record. But they did their homework on him, and decided he was the right fit for them.

    Now they're exceeding all expectations - especially when you consider that their team had been gutted of its best players just a few months ago. Koeman came in, rebuilt the team, and is motivating them to play to their full potential. And all this remember, on a budget and resources that are FAR INFERIOR to Arsenal's !!!

    Then there's the Liverpool of last season. Brendan Rogers had done a good job at Swansea, so the Reds decided to give him a go. He took them to within a whisker of winning the league. Give him a bit more time, and who's to say he eventually won't ?

    Meanwhile, back at the Emirates......yawnnnnnnnnn.

    " In Arsene we rust."


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