By Tony Attwood
I have no objection to people presenting their opinions, and of course I do it all the time. But I am troubled by some of the opinions I see.
For example, the Guardian newspaper recently ran a column in which one supporter of each Premier League club was invited to write a brief review of the club’s season. The review of Arsenal, written by a fan, noted that the Europa final was pleasing but then went on to speak of the squad’s “obvious inadequacies”, the manager’s failure “to motivate” the team, and how “His relentless tinkering, in a struggle to shore up our porous defence, has left us all bemused.”
Reviewing the players the writer noted that, “Torreira and Guendouzi showed plenty of early-season promise but sadly both flagged. Leno is yet another half-decent shot-stopper who lacks the authoritative personality to dominate the area. Lacazette is just about the only player who can take pride in always leaving everything out on the park…”
And then, when asked to nominate the writer’s, “Biggest surprise” in the season his answer was “Our abysmal away form.” It is all written in the style adopted by the anti-Wengerians last season – although I have no idea if this writer is pro-Wenger or just against both Wenger and Emery on the grounds that the failings are so obvious a child could see them, and the fact neither manager can shows how pathetic the club is.
All of this gave me pause for thought, for it wasn’t just that I disagreed in terms of a matter of opinion. It was that the writer’s opinion was so far removed from mine, I began to wonder which of us was on another planet.
So let’s try and untangle some of these points…
1: The squad’s “obvious inadequacies”
As I have pointed out over and over, Arsenal were the third best team at home this season, with just two defeats. Which is hard to explain for a team with “obvious inadequacies”. If one wanted to make a point it would be that the failure to convert home form into away form was a problem – but to blame the squad implies it needs to be ripped up – which would surely reduce some of the power found in that home form. How can a squad be good enough to be better than all teams apart from the top two (who were exceptional this season) have obvious inadequacies? Clearly it is a message the Guardian loves to run, because they run it all the time, but to outsource such a meaningless message seems a bit odd.
2: The manager’s failure to motivate the team
If one added “away from home” to that one might have a point, but then it would have to be examined to see if it was tactics, motivation or indeed a lack of players suited to playing PL games away from home that was the problem. One might also mention the occasional bad refereeing decision, but maybe the writer didn’t think there were any.
3: The manager’s “relentless tinkering, in a struggle to shore up our porous defence, has left us all bemused.”
Well, no, not me. Nor quite a few of my friends. Nor some readers of Untold. We lost Bellerin and Holding – both of whom I would have expected to make a major contribution to the defence in the latter part of the season – and we had already put Chambers out on loan, and couldn’t bring him back. Monreal too had periods when he could not play, which was a blow given his adaptability.
Of course all teams get injuries – but a group of injuries which are long term, to players who would normally be in the squad, and which affect the same part of the team – the defence – will screw up all teams other than those with unspeakable amounts of money at their disposal.
With such losses to the defence, and the puzzle of why away form was so much worse than home form, surely changing the defence where possible was not a bad idea. Had he not done so the manager would have been accused of doing nothing.
Also it does look as if the one year contract for Lichsteiner was a bit of a waste, and Maitland-Niles – a fine player for the future – only emerged part way through the campaign.
Such things happen to most clubs one time or another – for us, this was the time.
4: “Torreira and Guendouzi showed plenty of early-season promise…
“but sadly both flagged. Leno is yet another half-decent shot-stopper who lacks the authoritative personality to dominate the area. Lacazette is just about the only player who can take pride in always leaving everything out on the park…”
Torreira joined us aged 22, from Italy, where a different style of play and a different style of refereeing holds sway, having had one full season there. He was also picked for the Uruguay team for the first time in 2018 and has played a ludicrous 15 games for them. Do you not expect such a player to be tired?
As for Guendouzi – he came as a total unknown from a second division club in France for a modest sum. I would have thought any good performances from him in his first year would be a bonus – and we have had a lot.
As for the dismissal of every player except Lacazette for not giving enough effort when we have the equal top league goalscorer, and the best goalscorer we have had since Van Persie – to name but two, well, it just begins to look plain daft. And when it comes to Leno – ok maybe his ability is a matter of opinion, but to take just one moment… away to Leicester when there was much dismay among the travelling fans, Leno was cheered and cheerd through the game for his work, and his name alone chanted at the end of the game. He then came over to our section to thank us for our support of him. The rest of the team kept a respectable distance.
Of course I only know a few of the 60,000 odd regularly in the stadium but I don’t know anyone who would put him down as “half decent”.
5. Biggest surprise
So I wonder what this writer is talking about – and that wonder reached far beyond my comprehension when he nominatted as his “Biggest surprise” what he described as “Our abysmal away form.”
How could that be a surprise when last season we were often talking of little else? Most commentators away from the national media (who can rarely see beyond the complimentary food and drink provided by the club) were painfully aware of our away form last season when we just won five games. How could it be a surprise this season?
If the manager had managed to get rid of the problem in one go, that would have been a surprise. But this past season our away form improved by 56%. So where was the surprise?
And that in turn makes me wonder how the newspaper selected this writer and how, having done so, they decided to print the coverage. Yes we all have our opinions, but here were facts being treated as non-existent. But I guess we just have to admit that the piece fitted the paper’s agenda for Arsenal.
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