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Archive for the ‘Preimeri League 2011/12’ Category

Manchester United Vs Arsenal: 4 Reasons Why Today Was Inevitable

In Preimeri League 2011/12, Wenger on August 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm

What the hell was that!

Here’s my disclosure for today’s post:  I didn’t go to the game today, I do not subscribe to a TVsports channel owned by Rupert Murdoch, I only listened to the game on the radio and followed certain twitter feeds, I shall not be matching MOTD2 tonight.  I am still proud to be an Arsenal fan no matter how much it hurts…………..but today it bloody hurts!!!

Rather than go into the in’s and outs of a game that I thankfully did not have to view I put forward some reasons as to why the result today was inevitable and, in a painful way, might be the kick up the arse this club has gotten away with in recent time.

1.  Arsene Wenger

Turn on the radio and listen to any post-match phone-in and you’ll hear both sides of the Arsene Wenger.  No matter which side of the fence you sit there are some big areas of concern where Arsene seems to be shooting himself in the foot in his current approach to managing Arsenal.

Unwilling to recognize the teams weaknesses:  Time and time again we hear about this team’s massive potential and mental strengthness, however, this has never actually turned into results.  How many times in recent seasons have Arsenal struggled against the title challenging teams as well as against teams that should have been beaten easily.  Yes, there may have been the odd victory against ManUre and Chelsea but for every one of those there has been a Wigan or a West Brom or a Newcastle or a Bolton.  Teams that should have easily been beaten and would have been beaten by Premiership winning teams that have produced that mental strengthness every week to win games against the run of play.

Unwilling to recognise the failings himself:  There was a story of the news the other day about a man who had been sentenced the other day for faking his army career having never served in the army at all.  He had built up such a strong story to convince others that over the course of time he had convinced himself that the lie was in fact truth.  I’m not suggesting that there’s anything untoward in Arsene Wenger’s head but the analogy does hit home and a small dose of humility in that a new course of action may be required with the current squad.  If not delusional, then it would be more concerning that his approaching is complete arrogance and the current situation is entirely deliberate.

Poor morale within the squad:  We’ve heard some concerning stories this week including one in which the club captain sat down with the manager to discuss areas in which the team need immediate improvement.  No progress was be made and RvP was left completely perplexed in the ambitions that his manager has for the current season.  A season it should be noted in which Robin’s contract should be renewed in order to avoid another Nasri situation.  Furthermore, how much should we look into the non-signings of Phil Jones and Juan Mata. After lengthy discussions with both players we now found them playing for two of Arsenal’s main competitors but if money was not the issue then why would they have turned down the chance to play for Arsenal?  See also the “reason” why Nasri and Cesc left, the latter moreso when he in fact took a paycut to join a Barcelona team that still have Xavi and Inesta in their pomp.  It’s not  money but winning ambition.

2.  The Board

Why has the buying power of Arsenal dropped so dramatically?  This has been touched earlier but how much does the current insecurity of the board impact deals?  In the past year we have seen a boardroom tussle between Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov with silent Stan apparently winning the battle.  Yet, what difference have we seen from an outsiders perspective?  By what measures is he deeming successful performance, and by this I mean in terms of investment purposes, because is the slide continues then unrest amongst the fanbase will ultimately result in left money in the coffers on a weekly basis.  Surely success on the pitch equates to success on the balance sheet?  At what point does Stan and the board intervene in either supporting the manager or not?

What role does Ivan Gazidis serve as Chief Executive?  Whilst he was not a direct replacement for David Dein the comparisons in Arsenals emptiness of the trophy cabinet are reasonably tangible and when, in November 2008, Ivan Gazids was bought in to take on a similar role it looked like the rocking ship was being stabilized. In fact, for the MSL power-broker whose crown jewel was brokering the transfer of David Beckham to LA Galaxy.  However, let us look at the signings made at Arsenal since the summer of 2008:

Season 2008/09:  Andrei Arshavin, Mikel Sylvestre, Amaury Bischoff

Season 2009/10:  Thomas Vermaelen, Samuel Galdino, Sol Campbell (2nd time)

Season 2010/11: Sebastien Squillaci, Lauren Koscielny, Ryo Miyachi, Kyle Ebecillo, Maurouane Chamakh

Season 2011/12:  Carl Jenkinson, Gervinho, Joel Campbell, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Of those, only 2 (3 if you include Sol Campbell) would automatically slot into your first team now – Gervinho and Thomas Vermaelen.  Not much return for 4 years work is it.

3.  The Players

The gaps between the players and the fans is becoming really evident now.  It was only 2 years ago when the Arsenal team would join up in the centre circle straight after the final whilstle for a final team talk.  OK, it all feel appart after that fateful game against Birmingham which Eduardo’s horrific injury and Gallas’ final minute tantrum.  However, there was comararde within the team and with the fans.  Nowadays, as soon as the whilstle is blown the players are straight down the tunnel without much recognition for the fans who pay the tickets that fund the wages.  For a club of great history and demand for respect towards the paying crowd this needs reinstilling amongst the current crop of players.  Fine, there are a minority that are still aware of need for a good rapport but the majoirty of players would be found guilty of not giving something back to the fans on matchdays.

Player Indiscipline:  Three premier leagues games into the new season and we have had 3 red cards and 1 retrospective suspension.  I haven’t seen the two yellow cards that Jenkinson received today so cannot comment (and never will) but for the other three suspensions that the team are having to suffer, they could have been avoid.  Song was petulant, Gervinho needed self-constraint and Frimpong’s first yellow could easily have been avoided.  The current Arsenal team need to be more savvy in the way they conduct themselves on the pitch to avoided such penalties because all they do is end up causing harm to the team by making themselves unavailable to play.

Inexeperienced Players:  I said this previously in the Liverpool aftermath, you cannot expect players with little premier league experience to be able to complete with other teams that have built up collective experience of number of seasons.  Add to that the mix of youth and it’s turned into a receipe for disaster.  I have no doubt that given the right football schooling, some of these new recruits will go onto shine for seasons to come but right now it’s like lambs to the slaughter and is coming across as naive management.   Whilst the youngsters should take a lot from the current experience, and (hopefully!!) be safe in the knowledge that it couldn’t get much worse, a club like Arsenal should not be in this position.

4.  Other Teams

Other teams have strengthened and have strengthened early.  ManUre made the majority of their signings at the beginning of the summer and entered their pre-season in the knowledge that their squad was pretty much complete.  Liverpool started in January and have continued throughout the summer.  Chelsea have been slow but this can be put down to Andre Villas-Boas coming in himself part way through the summer.  However, year-on-year Arsenal either leave it very late to make a signing or do nothing at all.  In fact, like the British railway system, Arsenal are now suffering from years of under investment whereas our competitiors having just gotten stronger.  Have a look at the table of net spenders in the past decade.  Arsenal are only trumped by Blackburn in the profit making stakes but the bigger area of concern is the net investment vs winning intent/desire of the club to be able to compete for the best players.  Can you imagine what Arsene might have acheived if he’s kept hold of his most valubale assests and then spent some more money on imporving that squad!!!

Time and again we hear commentators saying that Arsene should be recongised for what he has acheived with the players that he has had.  Fine, but there will not be a asterix next to Arsenal’s permier league standing in the footballing almanacs of 2068 stating *but fair play to Arsenal, they finished fourth but they had to deal with Chamakh up front and Eboue in midfield.

It’s results that count I’m afraid……..

So tonight’s post has been a little bit doom and gloom but reality hurts I’m afraid.  Today has been a time for a little bit of humility and soul searching to find the truth of the matter.  And if the truth hurts then so be it – anything that can make Arsenal stronger should be encouraged.

What reasons are there to be optimistic?  There is a core of players in the squad that are willing to stand up and be counted.  With the current club captain (Lord, let him stay fit) we have the right person to pick up the team and take them on to the next battle.  If Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong could be nominated for World Footballers of the Year on the merit of their twitter accounts then they would be battling amongst themselves to be on the podium:

There is a core of players that do share a desire and have true heart for this club that need to rub off on the others in order to this team to evolve and become stronger.  If not, then I’m afraid they need to be shipped out.

Finally, and saving the best to the last, the best performance of the day would go to the away fans.  It’s not the first time that Arsenal fans have done their best to urge on the team midst the face of adversity and woeful defending  but the audible performance would have been heard around the world as 3,000 away fans out sang 73,000 ManUre supporters whilst they were 7-2 up.  To hear “I’m Arsenal ’till I die” was heart warming on a cold day for all Gooners and the club should recongise this.  And this is the point, this club is more than the players on the pitch, the state of the art stadium and the fancy merchandising and branding.  It’s about the soul of what it means to be an Arsenal fan to enjoy the good times and regroup and be strong during the bad and kudos to those who made every Gooner proud to know what it takes to be a fan.  The players who wanted to go off straight at the final whistle should take note.

Jack and Frimpong send their best!

*Jack seems to have deleted his posted so I’ve only got his retweet

So as this post comes to end we shall shortly see the transfer window close too.  Will these 3 days define Arsene Wenger’s career?  There’s only one person that can answer that, isn’t there Arsene…………

Keep the faith Gooners,

GG

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Arsenal 0 – 2 Liverpool: The Aftermath

In Arsenal, Nasri, Preimeri League 2011/12, Uncategorized, Wenger on August 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

Pre-match feelings on Saturday were very much a mixed bag.  Anticipation, trepidation, caution and hope.  When you have hope you enter dangerous world and hope breeds contempt and we all know about that at the moment.  This does stem from the fact there is so much uncertainty at Arsenal at the moment:

Why does Arsene believe that the current crop of fit and non-suspended squad players are capable enough to challenge for the Premiership crown, let alone qualify for the Champions League group stage?

What has happened to Samir Nasri’s supposed and very public move to Manchester City?

How many more games do Arsenal need to lose before fundamental changes are made?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions yet at the moment it would seem that our manager is not close to providing answers himself. 

Yesterdays game was a watershed moment for the club and for the fans in attendance the realisation that this season is going to be a very hard season, this for a club that has very much become accustomed to recent success and flowing football.  Both were obvious by the absence yesterday.

The starting line-up was certainly the best that could be put out in terms of those currently available.

Szezesney

Jenkinson  –  Koscielney  –  Vermaelen  – Sagna

Walcott  –  Ramsey  –  Frimpong  –  Nasri  –  Arshavin

RvP

Whilst the line-up looked very raw and untested in previous games, this deflected from the big talking point as the crowds were taking their seats, what reaction was Samir Nasri going to receive when announced to the crowd?  Inevitably, he received a mixture of boos and mild encouragement but there certainly wasn’t the same warm welcome afforded to the rest of the team.  Unsurprsing though for someone who has either personally or had his agent’s team court a move away from Arsenal.  If he loves the club as much as Arsene claims he does then my has a new contract not been signed yet.

If you compare the two line-ups though, regardless of potential and mental strengthness there was a clear difference in the Premiership experience of the two line-ups and this may have provided a few clues to the final outcome of yesterdays match:

 There were some bright moments to talk about but not enough to ensure a win.  In the opening encounters it was clear that Liverpool were looking to leverage Andy Carroll’s aerial ability but this was well countered by the two centre backs and this summed up their first half.  Not too many chances to talk about and if Arsenal had been stronger with the final ball on the break then they could have gone into the half-time break one up as the Liverpool defence was not at its strongest, or fastest.  A failing on the day from our wide men.  However,  the best two chances came from Nasri and Frimpong who both took runs to set up shots from outside the box that challenged the Liverpool goal.  The former’s run started from outside Arsenal box and ended with the ball zipping just past the post and the latter forcing a fine save from Reina who tipped the ball behind.

Emmanuel Frimpong was extremely lively from the outset and was clearly relishing his starting debut on home turf.  However, if you were look for a surrogate marker within the team for the current climate at Arsenal, Frimmers would be a prime example.  After today’s performance Frimmers was clearly the best player throughout his time on the pitch and within 3 minutes a Liverpool player, Carroll maybe, felt the full force of his hard tackling style.  Shortly after, Frimmers earnt himself his first yellow card for trying to delay a throw in and one that he would go onto to rue when receiving his second yellow for a strong and slightly high challenge on Lucas which any midfielder enforcer should expect to receive every now and then.  This is why you need to protect your yellow card status in matches and earn a card when you deserve them but we now have three midfielders currently under suspension and between them only one deserved yellow card.  Some discipline needs to be instilled across the team as these absences are being felt.  The sending off of Frimpong was a turning point in the game and one from which the young team could not recover from.

In the final quarter of the game the inexperience of the squad was harshly evident and whilst this is not their fault, the team, club and fans continue to suffer as a consequence.  Arsenal lost their shape completely in the second half, the flow of passing was absent and the defence were unable to get the ball up the field.  Both Arshavin and Theo had poor games and if your outlets are ineffective then chances are not going to be created.  Theo was worryingly poor yesterday and seem to be very one tracked in his approach and the Liverpool defence soon learnt and read every intent.  If Ronaldinho opened up a magic and trick shop then Theo should pay him a visit.

Unusually, the substitutes warmed up at the opposite end to the normal warm up area and for those of us in the bottom left hand cornered we were shown the difference in squad depth with Mai Rodriguez, Mierieles and Suarez ready to come on.  The latter two did come on and Arsenal were unable to adapt to the change in style.  Yes, the first goal was unfortunate and there may have been a suggestion that both were offside but this is football and you have to play in the moment as results have never been changed in retrospect.  There is no point moaning about what could have been, the scoresheet at the end of the game reads a 0-2 defeat for Arsenal.

So what can be taken from the game?  There were a few bright spots but not enough to grind out a point or 3 for the homing home game of the season.  I’ve already touched on Frimmers performance but this was soured by his sending off.  Thomas Vermaelen was very strong in defence and it’s great to see him back.  If anyone knows if thee are an cloning factories out there then can we get a fast-track pass for Vermaelen?  Can you imagine a defence made exclusively of Thomas Vermaelen quadruplets!  

Hats off to the crowd today.  It’s really hard at the moment being an Arsenal fan with all this ongoing uncertainty.  The crowd played their part today, they appreciated Nasri’s contribution through the game, advised a weak referee on what decisions he was missing and made the point that no matter was turmoil the team is going through the club and fanbase are bigger than that and they will give undeterred support.  If you could convert that passion and desire from the stands to the scoreline then the game would have finished 2-2 at least!  There were certainly very audible chants for the manager and board to spend some money but this is because the fans want to see success and not to struggle but the lack of financial investment.

In terms of poor performances, as mentioned our wingers were poor.  Neither Theo or Arshavin were unable to get hold of the ball and take players on.  If this was down to the defensive prowess of the Liverpool fullbacks then fine but there was too many deadend runs and poor ball control to be able to give any credit.  Samir Nasri was bright in moments and his turns and runs were lively but as with the back end of last season Nasri drifted out of the game when needed and if he were every to replace Cesc then this was what was needed.  Another sign that £25M could have been another astute bit of business BUT ONLY if replacements were found.

The potential is certainly there and when you see how Frimpong, Miquel, Jenkinson and Lansbury (for a shorter period) were willing to step up to the challenge then you have optimism for the future.  But not now, not against Liverpool where every point counts.  I know it’s early but at this rate we run the risk of entering September in the Europa League which only 1 point from 9 in the Premiership.

As discussed in Friday’s blog, the concern was going to be how well will this squad acquit themselves against the big spending Liverpool.  Liverpool certainly have a different squad to last years they have strengthened as a unit which is important if success is to be achieved at the end of a long and challenging season.

So there are 10 days left of the transfer window.  How the team will change over that time we cannot predict.  One thing is sure – the next two games, away versus Udinese and Manchester United, will define where this season will end and what the future for the team is.  I’m nervy but still have the faith.  It’s tough this blind faith thing isn’t it!