Those that know me (not that many of course) or that have read things I’ve written before (a few more perhaps) will [hopefully] be aware that I’m quite a positive person when it comes to most things including Arsenal. I’m pleased to contribute to this blog because it supports the club, the team AND the manager and does so with some style, evidence and good humour.
So in writing this piece I’m aware that I may ruffle a few feathers, not least among my fellow editors and co-contributors.
I watched the second half of the Sunderland game – family commitments meant I that’s all I could manage and I’m aware that Arsenal might have played a lot better the first 45 than they did in the second. But the excellent camera angle at the Stadium of Light allowed me a fairly close up view of the Arsenal performance over the last 45-50 minutes in the north-east of England.
First, I must say it wasn’t pretty and some things about it seem to me to sum up our season (as season that I firmly believed was going to end with a bus top parade of the PL trophy in May).
I would agree that much of what is written about Arsenal by the media is rubbish. No leadership (rubbish), no backbone (rubbish) injury prone (shown to be rubbish by Untold)
But even a casual observer (and I’m far from that) would have to agree that at Sunderland we looked toothless, we lacked desire, and certain individuals looked as if they were already considering what they were going to be doing in the summer. I’d go so far as to to suggest that Arsenal are in a strange sort of collective ‘blue funk’ (possible ‘red’ funk…) caused by the collapse of our title challenge and the exit from the FA Cup.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term here is one definition of a blue funk:
“A state of confusion, absent mindedness, and deep thought, usually brought about by a profound experience or idea, often by a near death experience. Can last from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks”.
In short they, like us, are bewildered and unable to explain exactly what has happened to this team since January. Back then we were top of the league and playing some very good football (ok, not tearing up trees but we were comfortable). Leicester were doing well but everyone thought they would fold. Chelsea were haemorrhaging, Spurs were plodding, United couldn’t buy a goal, even City were inconsistent performers. The league was there to be won and we had the players to do it.
I also think this has been passed on to the manager, a man I admire for everything he has done – not only for Arsenal, but for football as a whole.
Just as he is sometimes beaten by his zip I think Arsene is now struggling to understand how this talented and very well paid group of professional footballers has managed to screw things up quite as badly as they have. Do I blame him? Well I question some of his decisions certainly, we all do, but who am I to judge? I’ve got zero experience as a coach, player or even as a pundit. So no, not really; I blame (if that is even the right word) the players.
These are (almost to a man) a set of internationals with huge experience. From Cech to Giroud, from Bellerin to Iwobi these guys play professional football all week all year at home and abroad. If they are struggling to win a game playing a certain way they have the knowledge to change tactics. They have the authority to discuss this as a team and with the manager. Wenger is not a tartar; he is an intelligent thinking individual and we cant blame his stubbornness for recent performances.
On Sunday we wasted chances as we have all season. We lacked ruthlessness. We let Sunderland in when we were dominating just as we have so many times this season (Anderlecht, Palace, United and West Ham away). We don’t shoot, we can’t take a decent corner, we get caught in midfield and over run. You can argue this is coaching, but it is often discipline, concentration and common sense. Do we blame Wenger for this? Or the players?
I don’t think its to do with ‘bottle’ or leadership. We have leaders and plenty of our guys have shown their ability to come back from poor positions (Hull in the FA cup) and I don’t see this as much different to anyone else. I think it has more to do with desire if I’m honest.
Does this group of players feel too comfortable at the club? I watched Leicester demolish Swansea at the weekend. At 4-0 up with five to go they were battling for every ball, every header, running down every chance they got. They are on (collectively and individually) far less than nearly all our squad and most of them would jump at a chance to play for the Arsenal.
Yet for me it was Theo’s attempt to avoid a tackle that summed up this season.
Mannone fumbled and gifted Welbeck a chance to get through on goal. He was quite clearly fouled which should have resulted in a free-kick and a sending off but we had Mike Dean – the worst and most allegedly corrupt of all the PGMO bunch. So nothing doing.
The chance was still there and in came Theo – needing to prove he still has something to offer Arsenal (the club that has paid him £140K a week whilst he was injured) – instead of trying to win the ball he jumped over it. Sunderland cleared.
So there you go – the season in microcosm: a gift horse squandered, cheated by the officials, a player who cares more about his career (his England career perhaps) than he does about winning a game of football for his team and its supporters.
I give you Arsenal FC the class of 2015/16 a squad that promised much and might not deliver even the oft bemoaned ‘4th place trophy’
Something has to change
- The endless assault on Arsenal. Now it is started I doubt it will ever end.
- Arijan Ademi got four years ban for failing a drugs test. So what will Sakho get?
- Sunderland – Arsenal 0-0 scoring boots stayed in London
- A selected anniversary from beyond football and a nice picture of the stadium and a train.
- Today’s Arsenal anniversaries and the Insult of the Day
- A list of the most recent posts from Untold and the Arsenal History Society
- Details of all the the books Untold Arsenal has published
Just 30 years ago….
- 26 April 1986: Arsenal 2 WBA 2. This draw in front of just 14,843 made it one win in eight. Robson and a penalty from Allinson gave Arsenal their goals.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the team and league positons AFTER the game.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: injuries, yellow cards and recent form
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the referee who just doesn’t oversee home wins
- Newcastle United’s weakness revealed and what they could do. Arsenal v Newcastle United.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the tackles, fouls and yellow cards compared