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We are not failing, we are winning

By Luke Tao

Resulting from the latest seething in the blogs after the unfortunate draw against West Ham, I am requesting a chance to express some views on Arsenal which I have for awhile.

My view is that we did not fail against West Ham but rather that we have progressed as a club for the last 4 seasons despite not winning trophies.  My view is we are not on the wrong track this season, we actually are doing well.

The draw on Sunday was really bitter but I still retain vivid memories of 3 games which happened during the ’98 and ’02 seasons.

– The magic game with three goals from Dennis Bergkamp…  but we ended up drawing that game
– The game we lost at home against Blackburn (1-3)
– The last minute equaliser from, again, Leicester City in the ’02 season

What I want to emphasize is that even in successful seasons, there were still many bitter and heartbreaking moments.  We actually won the league title(s) after the turn of the year – it’s really up to how we do in the last 18-20 games or so that will define our season.

Right now it’s the players’ job to do their best to keep up (stay at worst 5 points from the top) or even win all their games to lead the league going into the year 2010.

Of course many moaners said that we are competing with more teams now (back then it was us and Man U).  But look at how all the teams, and I mean all of them, have dropped many points already this season.  And I can argue for myself that we are the only team who dropped points undeservedly.

As to my second idea, all I will say now is that what other manager has…

1) managed a team under such a tight budget to reach CL final and semifinal

2) produced another crop of young and great players

3) managed an injury prone team to lead the league for 8 months before that evil moment against that evil team

4) sold greedy, want-away, and unneeded players for a large chuck of profit

5) given us the most beautiful footballing team in the history.

(The answer is no one apart from the Lord Wenger, of course).

It’s funny too when you compare the SUCCESSFUL Arsenal teams to this current squad of how they do in Europe.  This current team is actually doing a lot BETTER than the class of  ’98, ’02, and ’04.  So unsuccessful and incompetent?  I’d say hell no.

We just have to pray that we will get a break this season (bad calls, injuries, lucky goals…..), – the sort of break we have not had for a long long long time.

Moaners say that we can’t look at the past.  But a great manager is defined by ALL his actions, both the past and the present.

Luke Tao (diceman)

EDITOR’S NOTES… We expect to have copies of the book MAKING THE ARSENAL ready for dispatch this Friday.  There’s a new article on the book, and the chance to order on www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk (that’s a new address).

39 comments to We are not failing, we are winning

  • I really agree with today’s comments… I remember a home draw early on in the Unbeaten Season – 2-2 with a Bolton side managed by the Fat Slug.

    Everyone was criticising after that, with all the usual “Manchester U would have finished the game off by half time staff”.

    You can’t win every game and I think this piece really puts that into perspective.

  • ignatz

    I generally agree, but I don’t mind some criticism if it helps to sharpen up the team’s focus.

    Also, the whole hindsight thing. It’s easy to forgive ourselves for draws and losses in seasons past when we ended up winning trophies. But you could equally point to draws and losses that lost us trophies. This season is still going, and it won’t be time to forgive Sunday’s draw until we’re top of the table in May.

  • Gf60

    How’s about Stoke City 5 Arsenal 0 September 1970? Suppose it’s just as well the net and these blogs weren’t around then. It was bad enough reading the newspapers!

    That team learned the lesson. Our first double 8 months later. I’d like to think that this one would have already learned not to take the foot off the accelerator. But we do and have done it far too many times in recent years. Maybe we should halve their wages and put them on a bonus (that is a bit more than half) for 4 goals or more. That should keep ’em going…not to mention add a few pots to the trophy cupboard.

  • diceman1984

    That’s true too ignatz; One more thing I’d like to say is this:

    I think too many Arsenal fans give some teams too much credit. To say that our rivals would not drop points like this is such a big compliment to give to teams who are not at all in better shape than us.

    You can say all you want about how and the manner in which we dropped the points. The fact is that dropping points mean, as it said, losing points. It doesn’t matter how, if it’s not 3 points then it’s not. And when you look at it like that, man u dropped the same amount of points as us by playing poorly and chelski lost to the likes of wigan and villa by, too, playing badly.

    But luck and bad bad calls play big big big big part in the games we didn’t WIN this season so far.

    And faith is a two-way street guys. Arsenal is the best club in the world and no matter how many headaches and near-fainted moments it gives me, I am proud to be a loyal supporter and believer of this great club.

  • Ian Trevett

    Good Post Luke – totally agree.

    Tony

    I remember the Bolton draw very well. In the pub after the game everyone was going mad about how we weren’t good enough. I stuck up for the team but just like your experience, everyone seemed completely fixated about how Manchester United would have beaten them easily (those were the days before Chelsea had the Russian money so we only compared ourselves to United).

    In fact, the game was in September in the 2001/2002 Double season.
    As for Manchester United? Four weeks later they played Bolton at Old Trafford – and lost 2-1 at home. I had fun in the pub that day. “Er didn’t you say that the Mancs would thrash a team like Bolton?”.

    Crap results happen – and West Ham was a crap result seeing as we had been 2-0 up. We will learn from this. We know we can play much better. Looking at United on the same day I think they have far more problems.

    And as for the moaners on the blogs – traitors one and all.

  • Armin

    Its hard to not agree with you Diceman, though its also hard to say it didn’t hurt. But there is something which troubles me more than our form and quality of players (what is unquestionable). Though football advancing in next level by quality (at last from our side), referees were never such worse as now.
    If we compare 1/4 of season where we are now, to last season and check how others were doing as well, you will notice that we improved 2 points more than last season. While all other teams (I am talking now about top teams) earned less than in same quarter of last season. When you say two points, it doesnt look much, but when you take it as average “bonus” per a quarter, you get to final 8 points bonus on the end even if we continue to play on this level.
    And knowing Arsene a bit, our shape and form should only improve in next games. So if you ask me this is quite fair start for now.

    Ah yes, and about “number of teams we competing with”, its crap if I may say, what is difference now and last year. Remember the furious start of Hull last season weren’t they “competition” same as today Citeh can be. And Villa is where Villa was (small team for big games). So from my point of view, nothing changed, just we got better.

  • salman

    The reaction of some fans has been disapointing they say we cant win the league. but now a days no team can gaurentee 3 points away form home every team will drop points. west ham fought hard and got what they deserved with a young squad these things can happen any time n i m glad its hapening at this stage of the season so that the team can learn from their mistakes n do not repeat these mistakes in jan-may like we did in 07/08

  • walter

    Luke very good article and thoughts.
    I must admit that on sunday I was very dissapointed with the result (and the ref). Not with the way we played. I spoke to a local West Ham fan who said they had played a great game against us. I then asked him: how many chances did you got in open play…. and he couldn’t remember one. These lost points came out of the refs pocket. We were on top, we kept them away from our goal. It came out of the blue. Sh*t happens and this was sh*t.
    I also saw the moaners picking out some players…. would you think that MU fans write off their team after the Burnley and Beach ball defeat ? No, it’s just a section of our fans that always seem to find it necessary to say: take X, Y or Z of and sell him.
    Are those posts made by not really fans or fans from other teams ?

    We really should stay calm and look at the table once again. 1 game in hand and if we win it we are level with Utd. How many fans would have given an arm to be in this situation after the lost games in Manchester ?
    If we can stay in this position come march we are really in with a very good chance.

  • LRV

    Majority of people have claimed how ruthless Chelsea are against the traditional middle to weak teams. But no one has been able to explain how Wigan trashed them or how Aston Villa withstood the so called Chelsea barrage and edged past them. ManIOU lost to Burnley and indeed, nearly lost to Sunderland at Old Trapshite. How does anyone explain that?

    In this league as it is now, anyone can beat anyone. That makes the league interesting, not dominance. If your team can beat other teams playing football; in that lies your pride. There is no pride in winning against minnows who cannot string 3 passes together successfully. So, when other teams manage a draw against your team, kudos to them for trying and not just laying down to die. That Should galvanise your team to work harder and not be complacent. You, the so called supporter, moaning and criticising would not help. If care is not taken, you will end up demoralising, and completely eroding the confidence of, your team. How can that help your team? Immagine if you take the dagger out everytime your child or your wife makes a mistake? You will end up loosing them; that’s a fact.

    If ManIOU and Chelsea were treated the same way as the referees treat Arsenal (hashly, with biaz & extreme prjudice), I wonder how they would cope?

  • ignatz

    And I agree with those above who point out that all the top teams have struggled and will continue to struggle against supposedly lesser opposition. And that this is something to celebrate… and to take on the chin when it happens to us.

  • Jonny

    We have a game in hand that would, if won, take us to within a win of the league leaders. There ARE some concerns (more clean sheets would be nice for a start) but for the most part the recovery, since losing two games on the spin (both of which could have won), has been spot on.

    More importantly what the D&Gs fail to have noticed is the problems the rest of the top 4 have. No one looks remotely unbeatable and, with the exception of Chelsea who do look ominous, the other big clubs, Liverpool, Man Utd & Man City have much bigger issues & concerns than The Arsenal.

    The Spuds game this weekend is huge for us but even bigger for them – people would really start to make noises were we to lose that. However Spud injuries are rife and I expect a big performance from our lads – it’s time to show some steel.

    It’s probably going to be a tough tie though.

    Looking at the fixtures this year the 6 pointer against Chelsea at the end of November is absolutely crucial – this will be the biggest fixture our season thus far and a win there would give the boys some real belief.

  • gunnersgun

    Be honest with yourself, AW should take a large portion of the blame. (team selection, substitution, tactics)

    Arshavin was the worst, if he is thinking of barca, like to remind him he is not any better than A.Hleb who is only out on loan.

    already leak 13 goals in EPL; 4 goals in CPL.

    Always the same excuses: didn’t get final ball to kill the game. If the team can grind out, the game is already won. Don’t understand y other teams can grind out a dodgy 1-0 win. At the end of season they have trophies.

    It is how you play ??(In CPL final AC Milan 3-0 still lose, how often does MU & Chelsea let 2-0 lead turn into draw??) Where & when is the ruthlessness coming ? (always like to buy midfielder who can play wide & not deadly striker e.g Torres from LFC)

    AW likes to play players (Arshavin, Eboue..) out of position, y he didn’t do to diaby as a lone striker baffles me ???
    If continue to let Diaby involve in defence, we will definitely get more similar result & can forget about top 4 not to mention trophy.

    Pls Mr AW don’t be TOO stubborn in substitution, learn from J. Mourinho

    Arsenal have many wide players who SHOULD supply good crosses & also drift in but rely on Sagna & Clichy for crosses. They are defenders.

    Pls balance beauty with miser defence. Solid defence is the foundation for winning (trophies)

  • Cape Gooner

    Thanks Luke. I agree fully with your sentiment. We have had three bad results where we were clearly the better team. IOU and Beachball both had games against Sunderland where that was not the case. Chelsea was clearly second best against Wigan and against Aston Villa. When looking forward to future performances, the quality of football is more important than the result. By that yardstick, we are the team most likely to be winning in the future. And the future starts soon!

    We do have two problems. The goalkeeper situation might end up being expensive. Almunia must be deep in the dwang for AW to keep playing Vito. However, putting him on the bench indicates that the possibility for resurrection exists. I think we can win things with Fabianski in goal for the rest of the season, but not with either of the (other) two youngsters.

    The other problem is referees. I feel we are getting the short straw. Every match we ask Walter about some silly decision. I keep thinking about Liverpool in the CL, one clear penalty denied to us, one dive given against us, and getting déjà vu. On Saturday the same thing happened, this time in only one match. I don’t know the reason for this, my guess would be xenophobia, but I think it means that we need to be substantially better than our competitors in order to be the favourite.

  • diceman1984

    I honestly think that we conceded so many goals because the players are still adjusting and getting the right balance to this new (to me, an excellent) formation.

    In the league we conceded two blunders at old trafford, 2 recently from set piece(individual error too) and unclear penalty, and against city we threw everything at them and got caught. My point is that it’s not totally the team’s fault letting goals in. The most focused talking point from now on should be about not making stupid error and at all times be very careful against every small things. Because in the end everyone including most refs are focusing on bringing us down.

    I really have a good feeling about this team. The last time was 07-08 which hadn’t turn out the way I thought but I wasn’t far off at all. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s game watching our kids taught some footballing skills to beachball co.

  • LRV

    Thanks Tony. I have now booked my copy of Making The Arsenal. Don’t forget to sign it. Cheers mate!

  • Jonny

    Gunnersgun blame AW for what? For consistently achieving miracles and allowing us to compete against bank-rolled teams with bottomless pockets who have spent 20 times as much as we could dream to afford?

    It was by playing Henry on the wing, increasing his versatility as a player and his all round understanding of the game that he helped create the greatest striker this club has ever seen.

    Eboue for all of his faults has had some very good games in midfield and provides excellent cover for Sagna at RB. If he never got a game at RB because he was always second choice he might well have left and we would lose that depth in that position. Eboue is also one of the most direct players in the midfield and provides something different to the many passers we have.

    The problem with Arsenal fans like you is that all you seem to do is see the negative. The season is young but are we the only tea with problems? Is AW doing any worse than Fergie, Rafa or Hughes?

    We are conceding too many at present but Arsene has admitted that and I think we can be sure he is trying to address it. we can also be fairly sure he knows more about his team, its capabilities and about tactics and every other element of football then you, me or any of the other bloggers out there.

    If the cacophony of dissenting MU fans had had their way Ferguson would have been shown the door at the beginning of the 07/08 season.

    Even now some are criticising his team selection and management this season.

    No manager should be above criticism but the rise of the pub bore who thinks he knows everything about football into the blogging know-it-all who does nothing but criticise is tedious and lame.

    The self-created punishment for such a negative viewpoint is you don’t even seem to have enjoyed what has been a largely excellent season because you haven’t actually noticed (largely because people like you spend most of their time on Le Grove complaining about everything under the sun).

    Bah! Football didn’t used to be like this – I am missing the old days!

  • Jose hasn’t won a Champions League game in 9 despite being hired to win it Mourinho?

  • Ooooh bloody hell,

    I’ve been looking forward to setting Jack Wilshere on Liverpool for 1 month and it turns out he’s injured and won’t play!!

    From what Wenger says, team will be:

    Vela Eduardo Bendtner

    Nasri Randall Ramsey

    Gibbs, Silvestre, Senderos, Gilbert

    Fabianski

    Bench: Bartley, Eastmond, Watt, Coquelin, Merida, Szczesny, Sunu

  • diceman1984

    jonny; the rise of the pub bore line was excelllent we should collaborate it into a decent article’s name :)…

    And if young Jack is really injured I’ll be very dissapointed. Young Coquelin should start and let Wenger know he’s ready to cover Song.

  • Sean Odom

    Great article. I became an arsenal fan in the 05/06 season and haven’t yet seen our team win anything, but I see the constant improvement in our team, and the ideals that this club is built on. How can i have any feeling but unwavering optomism. I’m greatly enjoy your blog. It’s one of the most positive, and thoughtful arsenal blogs on the internet. You’re insight, and ability to look long term, rather than to condemn certain players after each sub standard is refreshing. Keep writing, and I will certainly keep reading. Bon travail.

  • Jonny

    Crumbs! JW may be out but that’s hardly a weak line-up – really shows how strong our 2nd string is these days.

  • grand funk diaby

    Where is Barazite again??? Why is he always missing?? Some kind of late nite party animal? He plays like Pires, this fella. If only Simpson and Lansbury r playing tomorrow…

    About WHU’s match. I have never felt more assured about our predestined glory this season, even if we have lost that match. I couldn’t find fault with anyone, seriously.. All played damn well, but there is a danger of ‘boredom’ playing useless stupid teams. And against WHU it happened.

  • stuartlondon

    On holiday and have just caught up with recent posts. It’s truely amazing how the first response to a setback shown by so many ‘supporters’ is to criticise our manager, individual players, and the team as a whole. What is this supposed to accomplish? Where is the basic sense of loyalty and commitment that are essential features of the real supporter?

    The suggestion that we should start to model our play on lesser teams, and be prepared to grind out wins, is particulary offensive. If I wanted to support a team like Manure or Citeh, then that is what I would do. When we win our next set of trophies this will be achieved by doing what we do best, not by copying mediocrity.

    We let our guard down and were punished for it. Get over the disappointment, learn from it, and move on. And above all, show the kind of commitment as a supporter that you expect from your team. That way, when we win the League you can claim a small part in achieving this. Here endeth the lesson. See you at the Liverpoo game. Stu.

  • stuartlondon

    grand funk diaby: Agree absolutely, after dominating play for most of the match, with a very efficient and well coordinated team performance, we lost concentration and allowed them back into the game.

  • Jonny

    I think I read Barazite was injured and out for most of the season…

  • Just meandering down another by-way, the latest on the financial front is the Hull City are teetering on the brink, and Southend United are about to go into liquidation. Debate continues about where Rangers are or might be, financially, but none of the news is good on that front. Chester are back in the wars, and could still go under.

    Wilshere and Traore are both our injured tomorrow.

  • Jonny

    Ah yes Traore, I was thinking about him the other day and wondering how he was progressing. I always thought he had something about him.

    Though that might have just been the knuckleduster he tried to smuggle into the Emirates for the Spuds fixture…

  • Paul C.

    Barazite out injured until New Year. Unlucky for Wilshire, it seems it is just a small knock and he could have played had the match been 2 or 3 days later. I really hope Coquelin plays over Randall.

    I think that for most Arsenal fans of a certain age, the endless pessimism that seems to surround our club now is often hard to believe. I can remember being at Highbury on cold winter’s nights with only 20,000 in the ground watching a team going nowhere. My father was at games in the 60’s (a truly lost decade) with under 10,000 in attendance. Arsenal today are a different beast altogether.

    As many others, including Arsene, have said, we have no divine right to win trophies, or even to be in the top-4. Up until the mid-90’s Tottenham and perhaps even Everton were considered bigger clubs than Arsenal. Times change. Manchester Utd will one day have to make do without Alex Ferguson, and perhaps their next manager will also be constrained financially. Chelsea will have to replace half their team very soon. There is no guarantee that either club will continue to achieve success. The sheiks could walk away from Manchester City. There are no guarantees in life.

    Arsene Wenger has put Arsenal at the top of the footballing world. We are now one of the elite clubs in Europe. It is hard to see that changing even if AW was fired tomorrow. There would be a long queue of managers lining up to take over from AW. At what other club in Europe could a manager find the same combination of fiscal security, abundant youth development, modern infrastructure, and a progressive and “hands-off” board? Barcelona and Real Madrid perhaps. Manchester Utd if they were to sort out their debt. But what other club can offer what Arsenal can? That is all due to AW.

    Football is about entertainment and, as Danny Blanchflower put it, “GLORY”. Glory is not necessarilly about winning or trophies, but about those spine-tingling moments that stay in the memory forever. AW’s Arsenal teams have given us many of those moments. This season there have been many already. At what other club in England has there been such fantastic entertainment? Are West Ham fans complaining about the lack of entertainment that Arsenal provide?

    I actually do not expect us to win a trophy this season. I believe this team is still “a work in progress”. But I do believe that no other team in England, perhaps Europe, will give its fans (and fans of every other club it plays) such outstanding entertainment as our team will. And ultimatelu, is it not entertainment that keeps us coming back for more?

  • Jonny

    Bravo Paul C.

    I think for true ‘sports fans’ – those who have genuine love for ‘the game’ as opposed to just masturbating over the bragging rights each weekend/at the end of the season – ‘glory’, narrative and drama are what keeps us coming back.

    ‘The traitors’, as Mr Trevett so amusingly coins them, care about nothing but winning and show little or no interest in the how or the why. I don’t even class them as football fans – to them it is just a pissing contest.

    They would rather we had signed Tores and Ronaldo and were £500 million in debt so long as we had won the CL every year for the last 5. If it meant consigning AW to the dustbin in the process they would not care.

    Frankly I’d find all of that too soul destroying to enjoy.

  • walter

    Well Tony, I already posted a comment in the Rangers (financial) article about a club in Belgium that if the Fa sticks to its own laws will be excluded from the rest of the season because of their financial troubles as from this weekend.
    Didn’t want to change the subject of the, once again, nice comments.

  • diceman1984

    It’s true, those gloomers self-proclaimed no it all pissed me off just by claiming to be a gunner.

    Paul C. got it spot on about Glory. I’ve said it before that it’s not always about winning everything all the time. We are at where we are because of only one man.

    Feel so sad for the man, he’s given so much (still is everyday) to the club and its fans but there will always be morons who demoralize everything we do. And it’s so funny how most of them think Song is still a no good player. I think they ought to switch sports, maybe baseball or something. He’s clearly the most improved and have become one of the leading defensive midfielder this season.

    I would really give those moaners some respect if they have brains you know.

  • Flint McCullough

    Excellent post diceman….
    & with an obvious exception very educated comments.

    I would emphasise your point about being in touching distance at the turn of the year. You say 5 points, I think within 7/8 is still possible. You cannot win the league at this stage but you can knock yourself out of it. The league is normally won by the team that has a competent first half but can then go on that 10 game winning streak in the later stages.

    Form is a funny thing particularly at this point of the season & the best teams can & will drop unexpected points. I don’t think we have respected the opponents well enough in the last 2 games & have drawn these games, that should have been won. What you notice with Man U in particular is the all out hard work from start to finish from all their players. I don’t think we had that against AZ or West Ham. The strange thing is that the 2 players who actually did put the work in, Eboue & Diaby have attracted the most venom, from those most brilliantly portrayed by Ian as “traitors one & all”.

    I was at that 0-5 at Stoke, Gf60 & what you say is true, my younger self may well have led the moaning. My memory of that game was sitting close to Charlie George, who had his leg in plaster, us dominating most of the 1st half but letting in a soft goal to Ritchie. The second half everything they tried went in. One of the very few games that I have left before the end.

    There really is no hope for those who look to football for just the glory, ie trophies. What I go for is to see the games like Blackburn & Wigan, the scintilating football. Those performances have been pretty regular in all the Wenger years but you may have got only 1 or 2 in many of the seasons past.

    Savour the football & see where it takes you at the end. Expect more & all you will get is mainly disappointment.

    Having said all that (sorry to ramble on) I am as pissed off as everyone else after a poor performance or result but I recognise that the only cure is to look forward to the next game.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice post Diceman,I would agree that all your points were fair comments.
    I think those who called fans who expressed their displeasure on drawing 2 games from positions of strength ,traitors and ‘fans of other clubs in disguise’,rather extreme.We all were all gutted and some of us were more vocal and hypercritical of the team’s performance.None
    of us profess to know better than AW nor to doubt his ability to bring success to this club ,but it still hurts. As someone said ,it felt like more of a defeat than a draw.Being a fan since 1971 ,I think the last decade or so has been the most pleasurable period for me .Despite some of the low points ,I’d rather watch AW’S team than those of Mesrs. Mee , Howe,Neill ,Graham et al.We are not traitors but just passionate fans venting our frustations.I still scream at the tv despite my advancing age and being 3,000 thousand miles away.I’d like to think thats true comitment to this club.”It is not love ,that alters ,when it alteration finds”.

  • leany

    what can we do any more than look forward? We must do that!!

  • diceman1984

    brickfield gunner: you are not one of the moaner we talk about mate. Your comments about the negative is very well taken and acceptable. Sensible fans will see both negatives and positives, we don’t make bad things to be good. We all, too, had expressed our displeasure from Sunday’s game. But there are just too many posters who only moan and talk so much shit about my team. All they do is wait for one hiccup and they will attack the team without stopping for a week. It’s like they have this agenda and ‘I told you so’ smirk which I so much despise. Anyway, I’d say this site brought in the most sensible posters and readers that’s why I’m always here.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Thanks Diceman ,I guess we agree on most things and that is why this site
    attracts likeminded hardcore Arsenal fans who at the worst of times agree to disagree like gentlemen.Not for us the ranters ,ravers or the Johnny-come-latelys who have a blinkered view of all things Arsenal.Cheers mates!

  • anup

    “we are the only team who dropped points undeservedly”!!!!! Mr. Tony, don’t u think that’s the sole reason we dropped the title in 2008 and don’t win anything(remember vs loserfullofgarbage in cl), i think we are in a habit of losing undeservedly and champions are in a habit of winning undeservedly…gotta do some work their..don’t u think..

  • anup

    n yeah wenger is my favorite without a doubt for arsenal..

  • wonderinggoon

    It was very disappointing, the draw. Painful to watch, I have to say. The look on Wenger’s face hurt the most. Sniff.