Dear Arsenal…Grow Up

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“I think it just shows, you know, I’ve talked all season about the team winning in different ways and performing in different ways. We’ve won games dominating possession and dominating teams and winning that way, and tonight we did it another way where we worked our shape, tried to frustrate them, make them come to the game a little bit towards the end and then we tried to pick them off and that happened.” – Gary Monk

Like it or not, the Swansea gaffer has not only done better than many expected, but he’s also shown a managerial maturity in his early days patrolling the touchline at the Liberty Stadium. Home and away wins against both our lot and Manchester United have surely repaid the faith shown in him by Huw Jenkins. But this is not a blog where I praise Monk, but rather one were I lay into our support, and yes, even
Arsène Wenger a little bit.

I’ll begin with our Alsatian headmaster first and my continued frustrations with him in regards to his tactical approach – he only has one, and what makes me more baffled is that he has yet to learn from the poor performances we sometimes put out that he conveniently refers to as “mistakes.” Mistakes happen once, maybe twice, and then they are corrected…they don’t keep happening.

Truth be told, Wenger showed up Monday night ill-equipped to head into the dressing room at full time taking the full three points with him. Swansea have shown previously this season that they have what it takes to sit back and defend in numbers/layers and frustrate a home side that is blessed with more individual quality. So, as I have asked this question so many times after so many disappointments in recent seasons, where was our plan B?

In typical Arsène fashion, the deflection campaign in the post-match aftermath was immediately put into action, with the Frenchman going out of his way to keep attention on Monk’s tactics and “refusing to play”, rather than coming good and admitting that he was yet again tactically outclassed by the Swans boss.

He also referred to the result as “unlucky and undeserved”, but if you ask me, if you cannot see off an opponent at your ground when you had 68% possession and 23 total shots (9 of them on frame and most of them nothing more than half chances)…that’s not poor luck…that’s an inability to do enough with what you had.

But perhaps even more frustrating to me than Wenger’s insistence of tactical Novocain, is the continued state of our clubs supporters. Far too many Arsenal supporters spent more time slagging off Swansea for their tactical approach last night rather than asking more questions of our own lot.

To be honest, I have had enough of people complaining about “anti-football” tactics. Football, in case you have forgotten, is about winning…it’s about results and where you end up in the table come the completion of 38 matches – should you so happen to do that in an aesthetically pleasing manner, that’s all well and good, but surely it cannot be a main priority. I mean, did anyone really expect Monk to set his side up to play open, free flowing football at the Emirates, against an Arsenal side who could pass them off the park on a moments notice? Those who spent more than zero seconds with that thought are not only lack overall intelligence, but lack a knowledge of football as well. As a previous piece for ABW stated, I expect better from our supporters.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the flood of tweets condemning David Ospina for Bafétimbi Gomis’ winner was laughable at best. It surely has to be understood that keepers are going to make mistakes, and apart from his poor positioning in the run up to the header at the back post, Ospina has been brilliant on the whole since he ripped the number one shirt off Szczęsny’s back. But I’ll ask you this…where was the criticism levied in the direction of Nacho Monreal? Not only did he fail to even attempt to challenge the French center forward in the air, he’s guilty of the same in our first meeting with Swansea when Gomis headed home in that fixture as well. Rather than being so critical of our keeper, perhaps a few more questions needed to be asked elsewhere.

Where am I going with all of this? Simple – Arsenal supporters have a great deal of growing up to do in a footballing sense (and indeed, supporters from many club are not exempt from that notion). Football may be a simple game, but it’s only simple on the surface. Yes a header beat Ospina, but his back four didn’t deal with the bit of service into the box nearly well enough. Yes Łukasz Fabiański made 9 saves last night, but 6 or 7 of them were right at him, offering little more than having to make sure his hands were assured. And yes, Swansea were “negative” last night, but their match plan worked to near perfection and they garnered a result where we could not.

But it’s not just our supporters than need to mature; it’s our manager as well. I am not saying I think Wenger needs to go, but what I am saying is that you’ll never be able to fix the problems if you keep insisting that there aren’t any – it’s like someone threatening suicide every time their life is in a jam, but claiming that they do not need help and/or medical treatment and are perfectly okay; sure you are…sure you are.

At the end of the day, my opinions on all of the above can be summed up as follows: If you, the supporters, want to love this game, then understand this game. And if Arsène Wenger wants to win the league before he calls time on his glistening touchline career, then he has to understand that there are more ways to win than his way. In football, just like anything else, you live, you learn and you grow – when it comes to Arsenal and it’s supporters, we still have plenty of growing to do.

Andrew is our newest regular columnist here at ABW.  You can find him on Twitter here (@AFCBvB1410).  When not writing for us, Andrew also writes for Outside of the Boot and the Modern Gooner. He loves a good football debate; so don’t be afraid to chat with him on Twitter.

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