To say the atmosphere around Arsenal is palpable would be kind to say the least. The last 18 months have been frustrating not only in terms of the agonisingly repetitive November slump, round of 16 exit from the Champion’s League or predictable title challenge haunting before march, also the consistent positives we’ve enjoyed have been fleeting at best.
Every year the board and Wenger say we’re going to try to win the Premier League and Champion’s League but when we fall at the same hurdles season after season is there really enough being done to achieve this? We’ve kept the team together and spent £90 million in the summer just to look like we’ve regressed.
The fantastic Arsenal brand of football, rightly dubbed ‘Wengerball’ that we’ve enjoyed for the last 10 years has done a Houdini. To add insult to injury I don’t think it would be unfair to suggest that over the majority of the last 18 months we’ve looked clueless in how to build attacks in general, let alone play consistent, aesthetically brilliant football like we’ve become accustomed to throughout the Wenger tenure.
You could forgive this over a one or two month spell but not over 18 months.
There are obviously serious issues within Arsenal right now and it spans right from the top to the bottom. Wenger undoubtedly receives the lion’s share of the backlash and such is the strength of the Frenchman that he chooses to absorb it himself in an attempt to protect those around him.
This was shown in Giroud’s recent quote whilst on international duty with France when he told media:
“The coach tells us to ignore what is going on around us and to leave him to deal with the critics.”
“Play, I will deal with the rest.”
In fact the last week contract rebel Özil, Bellerin, Monreal, Xhaka, Iwobi and Koscielny have all come out in support of the manager.
Which begs the question, has Wenger really lost the dressing room? Or are a couple of bad apples souring the batch?
Regardless of this the flaws in our preparation have to be laid at the manager’s feet. With absolute power comes absolute responsibility and on a systematic level we haven’t been up to scratch for a very long time.
This season we’ve played a game based around quickly transitioning the ball from deep midfield to Alexis and Özil in attacking areas who both play with a lot of freedom.
Are both players good enough for so much freedom? Certainly. Can we give that to both of them? Definitely not.
The lacklustre performances by the team could be partly due to the strain caused by giving them both so much freedom. It almost creates a problem by giving them the freedom to begin with because we struggle to get the ball to them in the areas we want to. Furthermore whoever plays in the wing positions are caught in a variable no man’s land of freedom and structure which leads to very confusing movements and general shape during build up.
Someone has to be the man and the rest have to be happy with second fiddle.
After games we hear a lot of players say the team should do better but is the team really accountable? Wenger’s willingness to shield the players from outside blame shouldn’t shield them from the repercussions inside the club. Confidence is obviously low so I understand that heavy scolding probably isn’t the best plan but at the same time these players should be afraid to lose. They should hate it and dread it. They should especially hate losing when the man that’s getting the heavy majority of stick is the one man who’s believed in them all every step of the way.
This should give even more emphasis to the fact we’ve been outrun in all of our last 12 Premier League games. Both Chelsea and Manchester City ran nearly 5km more in their games versus us. Why do these players not want to run for Wenger? Are they unfit, unmotivated or just not have a clue?
To suggest recent off the pitch events aren’t contributing to this would be delusional. They know the discontent that surrounds the club and most of them are no strangers to social media but I get the impression many fans think they can say and do whatever they like on social media with the assumption it’ll get lost in the current of comments but if enough people say these things the current begins to turn very toxic.
Peaceful protests are every human beings right but I draw the line at that white line. Inside stadiums it should just be about the football with everything other than the game left outside the Emirate’s walls.
If I’m being honest I can sympathise with the people who want Wenger to leave so desperately. For years I’ve supported him fiercely and I will always continue to do so as long as he is manager of Arsenal but it would be ignorant to ignore the clear issues.
In the past Wenger has kept us in the Champion’s League with scraps. Even looking past the titles he’s won us his actions in moving us to this stadium and staying to oversee the adaptation years or debt has set the club up to continue to flourish.
I can understand missing Highbury and if Wenger was as selfish as some make him out to be, I believe he’d have influenced us to stay there and perhaps we’d have been left behind. Before leaving Highbury we were struggling to cobble together even £12m to bid for Cristiano Ronaldo, but he didn’t and I’ve always felt, as I do now, that he always will have our best interests in his motives.
Maybe the strangest thing is all of this has overshadowed the fact that we’re one game away from potentially being in the FA cup final. Obviously playing against Man City will be very difficult but over a one game basis anything can happen. If we can regain some confidence and introduce some structure before that game there’s no reason we can’t make it a 3rd FA cup final in 4 years.
The match against Man City this Sunday will be a great time for this team to stake their claim. Even if we don’t win the game, hell, even if we lose, just show some heart and give us all faith there’s better to come in the remaining few months left in the season. Hopefully the sooner we hear the manager’s future, whatever that may be; we can just concentrate on football until the summer.
Luke (@LukeisPremium) is one of our regular bloggers and loves talking tactics – go give him a follow.
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