Time for Wenger to take inspiration from the Greatest Englishman ever

Supporting Arsenal can be very frustrating at times, and that includes for those, like me, with a glass half full approach to our club’s chances to win silverware this season. The boys did not do us proud, but it was not for a lack of willing or passion. It is hard to put our collective finger on what is going wrong right now within the team, and I am interested to hear what our fellow BKers have to say.

Wenger left two out of our spine, with both the BFG and Giroud starting on the bench. Many fellow Gooners have been asking for this for a while; Mertesacker is deemed too slow and Giroud is just not a world class striker, they say. Both have been lacking in form and effectiveness, so I can understand why Wenger decided to freshen up the team. Unfortunately, the replacements did not do our manager’s confidence in them any justice. I am convinced we would not have conceded either of the first two goals with the BFG leading the defence, but of course it easy to say this with hindsight. There is a future for the Koz and Gabriel partnership, but, as they are so similar in style, height and character, it is not something we should keep trying out for the remaining eleven PL games. I still feel that we need an Adams/Campbell/BFG type to replace the German (gradually) and to play either Koz or Gabriel next to him, but that is for the summer. Yesterday’s central CB pairing cost us the game imo, and the DM pair of Coquelin and Rambo were almost just as guilty.

There are a hell of a lot of people who feel that Giroud slows down our attack rather than aid it. They want speed and penetration from our CF rather than the hold up striker role that the Frenchman has made his very own. Ollie has been out of form so it was justified to try somebody else in central attack, but we struggled to play our usual style against a Man United team that sat back and had only conceded five premier league goals at home all season. We still managed to ripple the net twice, so leaving Ollie out was not necessarily a bad thing. The thing is, and I have tried to explain this on many occasions, the Frenchman does so much more than score or create goals: he is our hub through whom we play our style of football; he gives us structure and allows the whole team to be more effective.

Theo is not that sort of central attacker, but Danny and Alexis could become one over time. I was excited about Wenger playing Alexis – Theo and Danny upfront, but it absolutely did not work in terms of dominating our opponent and being ourselves. Welbeck was bright and confident and that was one of the few real positives from this game. Theo AND Alexis totally struggled to have an impact on the game, and that left Danny and Mesut with too much to do. They still managed to assist and score two goals between them, which is something to cling on to.

But we also struggled to dominate the midfield and especially Ramsey was below par. For me clearly our best footballer against Barcelona, Rambo lacked composure and ingenuity to own the midfield and help Mesut to create gaps and opportunities. I am starting to believe that 17HT and PE might be right that we need Santi to return as soon as possible.

Le Coq is also still not 100% at his best which further weakened our spine – with Gabriel and Theo already below par.

But what was most disappointing, other than conceding such soft goals, was the lack of plan and cohesion in the team, and Wenger’s apparent inability to put this right during the game. There was no lack of effort but we just did not look like a team that knew what they were doing. We oozed a lack of focus and belief that we could dominate the game and come out victoriously by hook or by crook. The naturally introvert Ozil led the team as much as he could, and I loved him for it, but behind and in front of him was no real leadership and dominance. Given the fact that we played such a young and inexperienced MU team, that is pretty poor. I have no doubt that the midweek disappointment was still lingering on within the team, as it is hard to get over such a blow to the individual and collective confidence, but that is still not a good enough excuse.

The BFG and Giroud are big players in terms of giving structure and character to our game of football, and leaving them both out, rather than one or none at all, really affected us yesterday. You might not like them, and there is indeed some scope for getting better specimen, but they are both currently very important for the identity and effectiveness of our football. They are also on-field leaders.

Theo is not somebody who dominates a team but is there to pounce on an opportunity – just like Podolski was; without any doubt Walcott is going through the deepest career low at the moment. Alexis is the lone wolf who lives of his hard work and incredible hunger, but he currently runs around like he just had the snip: still horny but utterly incapable to score. And, for me, sexy Alexis’ current impotence is the single biggest worry for winning the title.

I have a feeling that the BFG was too down/ low on confidence, after his soft give away of the second goal, for Wenger to play him in this (still) big fixture, but I am hoping he will be back against Swansea and Spuds. I am also hopeful that Arsene will reintroduce Giroud as our (holding) CF and play the most inform mid-wingers; and there is a big case to leave one, or both, of Alexis and Theo out.

But what is needed most of all is a Churchillian team talk by Wenger or Bould. It is still not too late to win the title and if we win the next two games we are back in the saddle. I have always said that we do not have a team that will win the league with superiority but through a bumpy ride right till the end, if at all. I am less confident we can do it, but we are not out of it by any means.

So let’s be having that inspirational team talk, something down the line of Churchill’s:

“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival”.

Up the Arsenal and Victory at all costs, Fellow Gooners!

By TotalArsenal (know at work as ‘Victory’ 😉 )



17 thoughts on “Time for Wenger to take inspiration from the Greatest Englishman ever

  • A very fair assessment T A. I am not altogether sure what is causing the malaise in the team, but there is something seriously wrong. Many times in the past Wenger has been accused of not changing tactics, always sticking to one game plan etc. Not entirely true, but on occassions he does seem a little stubborn. After about 10 minutes yesterday I was beginning to wonder if Walcott had been kidnapped by rival supporters, l honestly struggled to spot him. I am struggling to remember such an ineffective performance by an Arsenal player. It took more than an hour to change things. We have to be more ruthless in situations like this. Joel Csmpbell did pretty well when he had a stint playing recently. He or someone else should have replaced Theo much earlier. (Probably asking s bit too much to suggest before he lost the ball and gave away the first goal.

    A number of players were off key yesterday and like you I only have good words for a few of them. Ozil, Cech Welbeck etc. Alexis gives his all but suddenly looks very predictable, he nearly always cuts in on the right and I can’t help wondering if other teams have just wised up to it.

    As I say there are I am sure a lot of things wrong, but if l had to make once request it wold be please get a proper captain, in the Adams, Vierra mould. Our team is fine when things are going well, but when things start going wrong I see no leadership

  • Churchillian talk is not possible, because Wenger does not believe in victory. His first priority is profits for the club not victory and titles. That is why he goes for “cheap sales”. Anyone who can score goals and give victory to the team is not wanted unless he comes cheap. Come on wenger you don’t get winners at “cheap sales”.

  • Hi, TA. 🙂

    BFG and BHF were missed for our shape, agreed on that. However…

    BFG doesn’t have pace and you could argue that his decisions against Chelsea and Barca effectively killed our chances in both games. Both included Flamini though. BFG is still our No.1 in terms of organization of the defence. Kos is the blade of our defence but blade cuts only where you move it. Same goes for our raw talents Gabby and Chambers.

    Here is the problem: Arsenal need a WC central defender to lead the defence. Hummels was leading Germany to their WC title so he might be tempted to leave Bayern’s playground also known as Bundesliga. Stones could be the key in the forthcoming years but we need a top quality now and I don’t know if we would pay over 40 millions to get him. I can see him joining Maureen at Manure next season. Perhaps Gary Cahill would be a good short-term addition but I don’t know if Chavs would let him go with Terry leaving and Zouma being injured.

    BHF… He has gone through a goal-less patch since Liverpool but at least he has been knocking the ball down for others. Normally, a club of Arsenal stature should have a better striker than Ollie. I don’t see that one coming though if we spend big on a CD next summer. We don’t have enough money for that and even if do… Well, Sanogo scored a hat-trick for Charlton.

    Alexis is going through a really bad patch and I don’t know why. He looked sharper in his first two games after the injury than afterwards. His touch is too heavy.

    Just like Ramsey’s. Aaron doesn’t provide the ball for Ozil and that puts extra weight on Ozil’s back. And, Elneny – his only available cover – seems to be a smoke and mirror purchase to calm the nerves of the fans, Chu-Young Park v2.0. Perhaps Ilkay Gundogan would solve the problem but again it’s a top-class purchase which requires a lot of money and we have Wenger in charge. Also, Gundogan has apparrently told to his friend that he will sign for Man City.

    Finally, Theo. Ten years in Arsenal. Has he learned anything? Hell, he has declined! All of us had hoped he would jet-heel his way through both Barcelona and Manure defence. Years ago he was playing like a headless chicken. Now he plays like a headless chicken on Valium. Sorry, headless chicken PAID 110k pounds per week on Valium. Campbell should play instead of him. He at least sweats his shirt.

  • That was a pretty fair assessment of what was a painfully frustrating afternoon Total, where Arsenal looked devoid of belief and drive and certainly not title winners.
    Many more performances like that and we’ll be sweating on a top three finish, let alone a championship…

    Agree 100% on BFG.
    He is an easy target to ridicule when he drops a clanger, but don’t we miss his organisational skills when he’s absent…?

    I’m not sure what Wenger was thinking when he sent on Iwobi, as we needed a goal, Campbell for me, but there ya go…

    This could be a seminal week.

    Beat Swansea, see West Ham beat the Spuds and if we turn them over on Saturday, it’s happy days…

    Drop points against Swansea and lose in N17 and it’s ‘Up for the Cup’…

  • Well done TA with this post, as you have now identified the problems I foresaw 3 months ago.
    Alas, I had about as much luck with my timing as Pony Eye did with his … ‘Is it time to move Ramsey ou tof the midfield?’.. post.
    You are also right in saying the title race is not over.
    The biggest thing in our favour is that the teams below us who are fighting for a ‘top 4 spot’ are quite capable of beating the 3 teams above us … on their day.
    However, we need to help ourselves, and beating Spurs is a good a place to start. Unfortunately, AW, who had the brilliant tactical plan working against Barcelona, which worked a lot longer than the team held out yesterday(as pointed out in commentary) … but AW had other ideas for this game.
    I am fully behind your point about Giroud against the United CB pairing – one slow, the other short – was a match made in heaven for Giro/Theo?
    Alexis, as HT has pointed out a numerous times, is not beyond criticism when it comes to team play and keeping possession. In his defence, we do need to play the ball forward much quicker, and get players forward in support much quicker … and yes, we are missing Cazorla for that reason.
    The above also goes for Ozil. To use the Ronaldo quote … ‘If the rest of the team were at his level, we would be out of sight in the title race’. Not only that, he would be king of the ‘assists’ Europe-wide, if not the world. There is a great danger he could start to look elsewhere come the summer window if we continue this trend?
    As for the Defence. Gabriel is not experience enough to be the organiser in the middle, and Kos loses too much of his own game when required to do it. Per, for all his lack of pace, takes the burden of reading the game for himself and others comfortably in his stride. Use him AW!
    (On a future note, I saw Newcastle were looking at Lyon’s Umtiti if they don’t get relegated. I say get in first!)
    Sadly, my glass is still half -full. The reason is the way AW selects the teams he puts out. It appears that he favours playing the ‘best players’ which do not always make for the best team performance?
    That is my point of agreement with you TA on yesterday’s match. Compared to the Barcelona 70 minutes, the first two were nearly our bests bits. That is worrying?

  • Thanks for the well-balanced post TA. It is a real bad dip in form that we are going through. Santi’s return cannot come soon enough! Here’s hoping that this defeat means that we are going to skin the spurs after the swans!

  • OK, 24 hour (self-imposed) step-away from the Goonersphere is over… And there is some good stuff here on the BK… Your post, TA, again in very difficult circumstances, is just about spot on…

    Also, it’s good to see Gerry again, who (I’m guessing) feels justified about his Ramsey critique at this point. There’s plenty in your comment I agree about but I don’t quite understand the last bit, which might be the conclusion… Admir, as usual, makes many points which I agree with. I only wish he were around on a more consistent basis rather than (‘predictable as the tides…’) popping in during these moments of extreme frustration with sarcasm and backhanded attacks on those of us who hope for the best (rather than the worst…) Of course “it’s” not your fault (nor Claude’s, nor Piers Morgan’s….) but it’s also more complex than just blaming the manager and kicking his supporters (me, in particular…) when we’re down… To be clear, I find it obnoxious and mean-spirited and I don’t get why intelligent observers resort to such measures. Frustration, I guess… As always, I’d much prefer discussing the football when emotions are a little calmer, so, all told, stick around… 😀

    Believe me, I’m also very, very frustrated and I think there’s quite a bit of justification in saying that the manager (Wenger, who of course, I’m pulling for…) is leading his team into a negative confidence spiral. Dropping Giroud and Mertesacker in favor of Theo and Gabby was a surprise to me, as is the gradual (but now complete?…) freezing out of Joel Campbell. These moves have to be seen as AW hoping for the best while noting the fixture congestion we face, i.e., attempting to “deepen” the squad (except in the case of JC). Still, tactically, I just don’t get it. You’ve got slow and small midfielders used as defenders so United we’re clearly going to sit back and try to stop us with possession play while hitting us on the break, i.e. not much room in behind the lines.

    That might justify playing Gabby for his (so called) superior recovery pace but he just looked like he was sh*tting himself from the first time Memphis (a good, direct footballer…) got past Bellerin and (standing there) Theo. He didn’t give up the pen (early on), but then failed (completely) against the 18 year old when it came to marking him or clearing crosses from the left… Maybe he shouldn’t be blamed for the final goal but backing off and off and off allowed for the kid to identify the lack of tracking in our MF for the simplest of lay-offs, also wasn’t a shining moment…

    Like Ozil (and Giroud), I imagine Gabby is a sensitive type (introvert?…) so rebuilding that confidence will take some time. Will he get it or will AW send the BFG back in for these must-wins vs Swansea and Totts (I taped their game, for preview purposes, but haven’t watched it yet…) both of whom, I’m guessing, will be just as tough as United were yesterday. Again, I think we’re very capable of winning both, but we have to find some confidence and actually play some football.

    What has happened to the football? When I wrote the piece about missing Santi (or asking WWSD–what would Santi do?…) I was mostly pointing the finger at Ramsey and Alexis, who, I believe are reverting to their upbringings as the fittest and best players on their teams. This is true: they are true 90 minute + guys for Chile or Wales and likely at every other level they’ve played. With Arsenal, however, they need to work together and with the best (and fittest) German #10, whose frustration is clearly reaching the boiling point. Giroud needs to be in there as a back to goal pivot man given that (selfless) Santi isn’t (facing the goal). Again, I’m scratching my head about Wenger’s idea on that call… As it was, Le Coq was often further forward trying to help but looking just as lost as Iwobi and Elneny when they came in…

    I defended Theo’s “contribution” after the nil-nil at Stoke, but that was when we didn’t have Alexis nor Welbeck in the squad. I guess the (very hopeful) idea was that using all three together might result in another “blitz” as in the reverse fixture. Maybe AW thought LvG would try to force Smalling back into the line-up and play as a more traditional “home team”… That it backfired so spectacularly seems both an error in tactics and in attempting to respond to media and supporter criticism about playing personnel (Flamini didn’t make the dressed group which I predicted but also questioned in the lead-up)…Post match comments add to the sense that it’s all quite out of control…

    Like TA says, none of this is the end of the world (or even our title hopes) if we learn from it quickly, regroup and win the next couple of matches. Maybe playing an “easy” match at home (never easy, with Claude and his ilk ready to pounce…) and then the tougher one at the home of the hated enemy are the cauldrons which will force the team together. After yesterday, however, the opposite seems to be happening–it all appears to be coming apart and in rather spectacular fashion. As such, the Churchill quote about winning = survival seems particularly spot on… Well done…

  • Kev, Iwobi never got into that game. I guess Wenger wanted to give Ozil extra support in creating something but it did not work.

    We know that Wenger is good at getting his team to bounce back, and that is why he has been so long our manager, but it is a big challenge for him nevertheless. Win the next two and we’re flying again and I guess the MU loss will help to create new focus and momentum! COYGs

  • Gerry, agreed re most and especially re the risk of Ozil feeling he may need to move on to win the biggest silverware again. What a big shame that would be.

  • Great post. To me Wegner’s greatest down fall is sometimes he put’s to much faith in his players. Walcott held the club at ransom a few seasons ago demanding a large pay increase and for a chance to be a striker. In my opinion he’s still yet to deliver. Giroud may be out of form at the moment but he’s integral to how Arsenal plays. His hold play and his flicks are second to none. BFG, we all know is a clever player, but there are games he needs to rotated for a quicker defender. Gabriel is still a work in progress. I believe he will come good eventually.
    Ramsey to me at the moment is looking leggy and has not not been effective for a while now. Probably El Neney needs a chance until Carzola returns.
    I know a lot of Arsenal supporters are upset at the moment, but I agree with TA let’s rally behind the team. I believe we still can win the league.

  • Gabby has been bad at positioning in his last few starts, and see what is the result.

    Theo needs to improve on his positioning. Alexis was so bewildered with him that he went up top himself, leaving space in the midfield for manu** to exploit.

    The other notable point that has been going on here is that Rambo does not create much from the back, meaning that play comes from the wing backs.

    When Elneny played most of his passes were to the central defenders, just as static as Rambo.

    We definitely need Santi back soonest possible. We can either put Alexis back with Le Coq or Elneny and link up with Ozil. The only players that runs with intelligence are Ozil, Alexis and Kos.

    You cannot un-see the number of times Ozil came back deep to get the ball upfield.


  • Cheers and Agreed Keston, faith can go too far sometimes. I have no doubt that Wenger will be using the last two games as a team review moment on which he will base his summer transfer activities.

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