Arsene Wenger Needs To Stay At Arsenal

I don’t usually read other Arsenal blogs or websites, partly because I try to keep my views on Arsenal objective (what’s the point of rehashing the same opinions as someone else?) and partly because there’s so many sites now I wouldn’t have the time to read them.

Anyway, I did take a quick look at the Arsenal links on NewsNow, and I was pretty shocked at the vast majority of Arsenal fans who seem to want Arsene Wenger out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as disappointed as the next supporter, and I was at that disgrace of a game at the DW Stadium, but despite all that I firmly believe Arsene Wenger is the man to take Arsenal forwards.

First of all, as regular readers will know I am definitely not one of the “Arsene knows” brigade. I know Arsene Wenger has his faults; he can be extremely stubborn and some of the decisions he makes are baffling. But Arsene’s positive attributes far outweigh the negatives.

There is no co-incidence that the building of the Emirates has coincided with the clubs most baron spell in terms of honours. Yes, we’ve had 5 seasons now without any silverware but in 3 of those seasons, a bit more luck and we would have won two Premier League titles and a Champions League.

You might baulk at that suggestion but we reached the Champions League Final in 2006. Despite Lehmann losing the plot we still managed to go ahead, and if Almunia wasn’t so sh*t then we could have amazingly hung on. We all know about the title challenge of 2008 when Eduardo suffered that horrific injury, and even this season, with a fit again Robin Van Persie we would be top of the league right now. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.

Now people will point the finger at Arsene Wenger for all of those “unlucky” periods. They will say it’s his fault for having a rubbish backup goalkeeper, he should of had better cover for Eduardo back in 2008 and that this season, he should have brought in players in January, and that the squad was not strong enough.

But where do you draw the line?

One thing I find surprising when it comes to Arsenal blogs and websites is the ridiculous amount of transfer speculation going around during the year. We’re somehow linked to a million players and I can’t believe some Arsenal fans haven’t figured out that we only buy 2/3 players per summer and to ignore all the transfer rubbish from the newspapers.

I actually agree with Arsene Wenger when he says you can’t just bring in players when some get injured. What would you do if we brought in a striker and then Bendtner and Van Persie come back from fitness? You can say that for the rest of the team as well. You need to think long term.

People will go on about the 5 seasons without winning anything but football is about ifs and buts. You can’t legislate for certain things. What would Manchester United do if Rooney suffered his injury earlier on in the season? The same goes for Drogba or Lampard at Chelsea. Alex Ferguson clearly doesn’t have a backup plan if Rooney was missing for any real length of time yet he might win the Premier League this year. Yet if he pulls it off, I don’t think any Manchester United fan would be calling for him to be sacked.

As I’ve mentioned, Arsene has been hampered by the new stadium. Once we are back on track financially Wenger will spend, there’s no doubt about that. He has said many times that he won’t put the club in financial ruin and surely that’s a sensible thing to do. And the funny thing is that he is the one that has his head on the chopping block. If Arsene had the money of course he would spend it!

People forget the first few seasons – Wenger wasn’t afraid of spending big back then. He fact is he can’t right now. I don’t understand Arsenal fans who are calling for his head – a change of manager isn’t going to suddenly make a massive transfer budget appear from nowhere.

That said, I do believe that Arsene does need to change his priorities.

Arsenal should take the Carling Cup and FA cup more seriously. The Invincibles are all but gone and with that so has the winning mentality. We’ve seen against Wigan that no-one in the current squad (apart from Sol Campbell) knows how to win. That’s not a slight on the players, but it’s a fact, they haven’t won anything before at Arsenal. Arsenal need to instil that winning mentality by winning something, it doesn’t matter what. Arsene should see the domestic cups as a priority because they are trophies and Arsenal are more than capable of winning them.

And I don’t think Arsenal fans would complain about a trip to Wembley and something in the trophy cabinet.

Success breeds success and Wenger needs to realise this. And a good cup run would add to the “mental strength” that Arsene keeps referring to. Domestic cup competitions were great because you gain that “siege mentality”. You’re playing one-off games and need to win at any cost. That’s why Manchester United and Chelsea are so good at it (and were finalists this year if I’m not mistaken?). And it’s also the reason why they don’t lose stupid leads like we did against Wigan. The Carling and FA Cups would give our young squad the mentality to close out games because that’s the nature of the competition.

The Champions League doesn’t do that. It’s a glitzy Broadway show and a lottery to win. I personally wouldn’t mind sacrificing Europe for a successful domestic campaign.

Can Arsene Wenger change? I guess we will see this summer.

Back From Wigan: My Problems With Arsenal

Well I’ve just about recovered from the Wigan game.

Credit to the travelling fans – they supported and sang for the team right until the 80th minute, despite the fact that the players on the pitch hardly deserved it. I did find it amusing that the Wigan fans were completely silent throughout the game until they actually scored. That’s real support that is.

I also found it sad that Theo Walcott was the only one who could be bothered clapping the Arsenal fans after the final whistle. In fact, that got right up my nose.

Another thing was why didn’t Arsene bring on Van Persie earlier? We all sat there saying that once Arsenal went 2-0 up they should have brought on the Dutchman to kill the game. At 2-0, Wigan were on the ropes and the introduction of Van Persie (who is apparently fit) would have secured all 3 points. Instead, we let Wigan back into the game and you know what happened.

I know I said this yesterday, but I have to say it again – Abou Diaby is a f*cking disgrace. Craig Eastmond has more balls and desire than him and he’s only a youngster. Diaby has flattered to deceive – he had a handful of decent games earlier on in the season and I stupidly thought that he, like Song, had turned the corner. But no, he’s still a joke of a player who doesn’t deserve to wear an Arsenal shirt. No pride, no desire and no dedication. He’s a pathetic excuse of a footballer.

He clearly doesn’t care. He strolls around the pitch in such a lazy manner it’s ridiculous. How much do you get paid a week son?

Another problem I found was the lack of defensive intelligence from the team as a whole. Players like Theo Walcott, Diaby, Nasri and Rosicky close down players but the closing down is half-hearted. There’s no real threat of intercepting the ball or making a tackle, the players are literally are just moving towards the player with the ball and making a token “tackle”. It was so easy for the Wigan players to sidestep any kind of Arsenal “challenge” and run with the ball in acres of space. The closing down resembles that of headless chickens.

And back to Diaby, his ridiculous attempt at a shot (with a lazy back-heel), right in front of the travelling supporters was so infuriating it was untrue. The lack of urgency from the guy is unbelievable. It’s any surprise he gets out of bed in the morning.

The only real positive was the performance of Sol Campbell. Watching him throughout the game was a pleasure and his desire, passion and determination was fantastic to watch. I only managed to watch him a handful of times during the 49 game unbeaten run a few seasons ago but it was like turning back the clock.

Without Sol, we probably would have lost 5-0.

Live From Wigan: What Can You Say About That?

Just travelling back from the game and I can’t believe it.

Cruising for 80 minutes, then we collapse. I’m too tired and gutted to post a proper review, but I will say a few things.

Firstly, Arsene needs a new goalkeeper. Almunia isn’t good enough and Fabianski clearly isn’t either. He literally “threw” away the win today, and he was hardly tested.

Secondly, Abou Diaby is one lazy b*stard. Seeing him today was a disgrace. He strolls around the pitch and for a midfielder, has no idea how to close down or defend. The player is a liability.

I wanted to run onto the pitch and give him a slap.

And finally, and probably the most damning of all, is the fact that Sol Campbell, a 35 year old no-one else wanted and a player we got for free, has more balls and determination than the rest of the squad put together. There was only one player who wanted to win today and it was the stand in captain. And if that’s the case it really is a sad state of affairs.

Campbell, Nasri and Theo played well but apart from that no-one else cared.

But on the plus side, the weather was nice.

Devastated, But Proud: Spurs & Season Critique

What a devastating defeat that was.

It was so devastating because:

1. We had terrible luck during the game.

Spurs open the scoring with their first shot, which is by all accounts a freak goal. Danny Rose, making his Premier League debut, scored a fantastic volley from 30 yards out. Credit where credit is due, it was a brilliant strike but 99 times out of 100 that same shot would have flow right into Row Z.

And this was after 20 minutes of Arsenal completely dominating possession.We then shot ourselves in the foot by conceding a second straight after the break, but after, we still didn’t have the rub of the green. In the final 15 minutes, Robin Van Persie had a free-kick saved, an acrobatic shot saved and Sol Campbell had a header saved onto the crossbar.

Even at 2-0 down we had actually had enough chances to win the game but it was never going to be our day.

2. Tottenham had no ambition

Amazingly, a team aspiring to break into the Top Four defended so deep and in huge numbers we couldn’t get through. Credit to Tottenham, they defended well but they were so negative it was ridiculous. They were camped outside their 18 yard box for the vast majority of the game and had no intention of taking the game to us.

The freak opening goal was perfect for them and they defended in numbers.

3. Robin Van Persie returned

Why did Van Persie have to return now?

He played the final 20 minutes of the game and once he came on we looked completely different. We looked dangerous, clinical and like a completely different team. He almost scored twice, and setup the ball for Walcott from which Bendtner scored. And what made the performance even more impressive was that he looked so sharp despite the fact he’s been out of action for 5 months.

That just shows the world-class quality we’ve been missing. And watching him play so well was depressing. Why couldn’t he just have returned a couple of weeks earlier? Why did the footballing Gods have to injure him back in November? It was torture watching him back and knowing that ultimately his return can’t actually help determine our season.

If he didn’t get injured on International duty we’d be 5/6 points clear at the top of the league right now. And the thought of that almost brings me to tears.

4. In the end, the injuries cost us

The fact was that we had half a team missing. William Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen, Alexander Song, Cesc Fabregas, Andrei Arshavin and Robin Van Persie were out, albeit two of them managing 20 minute cameos. With all (or even half) of those players fully fit we would be a completely different outfit. Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and most of the other Premier League teams haven’t suffered as badly as we have this season.

But whether that’s down to poor management or bad luck is up for debate.

5. We had the majority of possession

We played well for most of the first half, but when we did actually get near the Tottenham penalty area we didn’t shoot. There were several times we had opportunities to pull the trigger but never did. Our build up play was good but we lacked that killer instinct – and that only arrived once Van Persie came on.

At times during the game, I was in awe of the quality of football being played but the frustrating thing was we didn’t make it count. Up until the 80th minute, Sol Campbell was our most dangerous attacking threat. I think that says it all.

But despite all that…

We can be proud of this team. Regular readers of this blog will probably think I am overly negative at times but it’s hard to be right now, even after a shattering defeat to the hands of Spurs. Every player (except Diaby) gave it 110% and put in a performance they can be proud of. And before the game against Tottenham, despite the massive injury list, the remaining squad have somehow kept us in the title race. That, without players like Gallas, Fabregas, Song, Van Persie and Arshavin is nothing short of a miracle.

And if you look at the positives, surely more luck in the injury department and our season would have been different. You just think about the number of points players of that calibre could have added to our total this season and surely it’s encouraging. How would Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool cope without Rooney, Drogba and Torres for 5 months? It would be hard to imagine that they would be in a better position than we are now.

But the summer is now a massive time in terms of our future. Does Arsene add strength and experience to our ranks or does he do what he’s always done and lose three players and bring in two. We seem to be rebuilding all the time – over the last few seasons we’ve lost Flamini, Hleb, Adebayor and Toure. Yes, you can argue that it was better to get rid but these were first team players, and if Arsene doesn’t want to use them in first team then surely they would make good squad players. Beyond are first choice starting eleven, we don’t really have the players who could fill in if one of the those players (i.e. Fabregas, Van Persie, Gallas, etc.) for any real length of time. We can maybe replace them for a game or two but not for several months. If football didn’t have injuries then we’d be competing for the major honours time and time again but unfortunately this sport isn’t like that.

I’m Proud Of Arsenal, Whatever The Result At Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur (White Hart Lane, London)
Premier League Fixture – Matchday 34
Wednesday 14th April 2010
Kick Off: 8pm – Live on Sky Sports 1

Regular readers of this blog will know that I put a massive emphasis on the last 12 games of the season

When I did the whole “Arsenal Title Charge” thing the size of the task Arsenal had in front of them was clear. For me, to stand any chance of winning the league they would have to win all of the remaining 12 games. For any team to go on a run like that would be special, but for a severely depleted Arsenal squad you were asking for miracles.

Amazingly though, they did manage to win their first 5 games in that run, pulling out gritty performances against Sunderland, Stoke, Burnley, Hull City and West Ham. They threw away 2 points against Birmingham, but managed to beat Wolves with another last minute winner.

Despite the loss of Van Persie, Gallas, Fabregas, Song, Arshavin, Rosicky, Diaby and Ramsey over these games, they have had the character to get the results. I am still gutted about the blip at Birmingham, but overall you can’t help but have admiration for the players.

Whether Arsene should have strengthened in January is a question for another day but the fact is we’ve had terrible injuries and still managed to be in there with a shout. I do think the dropping of those 2 points against Birmingham are probably now going to be decisive but the recent run has been nothing short of miraculous.

And that’s why I’m so proud of the team, whatever happens now.

The flip-side of course is the feeling of disappointment, as this was a big chance to win the title for the first time since 2004.

There is no doubt that this has been one of the weakest Premier League seasons in a long time. Whether that’s because the top teams can’t afford to break the bank and spend big anymore is debatable, but the fact is Arsenal are 3 points off the top despite having Van Persie, Fabregas and Gallas out for long periods of time. That is essentially the spine of the team.

And that’s why it’s disappointing. If the footballing God’s would have been slightly more favourable to us, Van Persie wouldn’t have got injured on International duty. I have no doubt whatsoever that if he was fit this year we would be a good 10 points better off and league champions. Van Persie was that influential. He didn’t just score vital goals, he made them as well but more importantly he was a leader on the pitch.

He was the focal point of how we attacked. Literally, it was like Manchester United losing Wayne Rooney. So when you look at it like that, it’s amazing what Arsenal have done in his absence.

So onto the game against Spurs.

The bookies have Arsenal has favourites at 5/4, Tottenham are 11/5 and a draw is 9/4. That to me is a surprise, considering Arsenal’s massive injury list, and there’s no doubt Tottenham will be like a wounded animal after the humiliating defeat to Championship side Portsmouth in the FA Cup.

In our favour though is our excellent recent run in the league (21 points from a possible 24) and the fact that Spurs just can’t beat us. But I don’t think that’s any reason to underestimate them – they would absolutely love to end our title chances, so I believe it will be probably the biggest test so far from our last 12 games.

Peter Crouch was terrible against Pompy but we notoriously struggle against height and balls in the air so he could do us some damage. Any with Harry Redknapp not being the most tactically adept manager he’ll favour just pumping the ball into the box, Wimbledon-style.

Anyway, we will just have to wait and see what happens.

It’s a massive game, and 3 points are essential if we want to keep the pressure up on Chelsea.