Without Spine and Resilience Arsenal will get nowhere

How do you get a spine in a team? How do you get resilience in a team? Success is always built around spine and resilience, because sooner or later the going gets tough; that’s life. More is needed than those two attributes. We need talent, a plan, cohesion, passion etc, etc. But without spine and ability to get up when you have been knocked down, you, me and Arsenal football club will get nowhere.

We started tentatively against Bayern on Wednesday, handing them the initiative and soaking up pressure as much as we could. Boll*ck-on-a-neck Robben scored a very fine goal, which we all knew was coming as soon as Coquelin had been fooled and allowed space for the forever ageing ex-Chav to hit his left-footed bullet against the back of the net. After that we rode our luck and then came back into the game through a badly taken penalty that still made it past Neuer at the third attempt. We even had chances to score a second before the break, but this time it was Ozil and Xhaka, so used to playing on German soil, who lacked the composure to really take the game to Bayern. 1-2 at half time would have been very sweet indeed.

The second half was as bad a performance by Arsenal as I have ever seen. As soon as Die Lederhosen scored their second, in the 54th minute, I knew we would get spanked. And didn’t we all? Without Koz, who had to leave because of injury, we totally imploded. The team were all over the place and their backsides were warmed by their hairy tales. The pitch became bigger and bigger and our men became boys, shrinking more and more as the second half went on. Mustafi and Gabriel had as much cohesion as Hillary and Trump between them and our central midfielders were chasing their own sorry tales. It was woeful and our man of the match, Ospina, was the only one who kept standing up and produced one superb safe after another. But then his name means ‘spine’ in Spanish, I reckon…. Oh spiny one!

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In every football team you need a good spine, and a good spine is held together by a strong waist. On Wednesday, our waist of Coq and Xhaka became weaker and weaker and there was nobody to help them either. The total collapse we witnessed was very painful and tells us that we have structural problems that cannot be solved before the summer. It is going to be a bumpy ride from here on. In the summer we need to get ourselves a spade of a spine and stadiums full of resilience.

By TotalArsenal

 

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26 Responses to Without Spine and Resilience Arsenal will get nowhere

  1. retsub1 says:

    Very well written T A it’s never easy to write things like this, but in truth our beloved team has come apart when the going gets tough too many times in the past (Chelsea, City, United, Bayern etc) . I think most people would agree that change is needed. Personally I would like to see the following occur.

    Wenger will go down as the greatest manager in Arsenals history and one of the very top premier managers. However he is no spring chicken and very set in his ways. I don’t think he has it in I’m to build another great team. I would like him to announce that the will leave (hopefully upstairs ) at the end of the season. Even better if he won the cup as a goodbye present. That way he would go out without ruining all the good work he has done. I have little doubt the Wenger out brigade will be out in force at the next home game and it’s not nice or fitting for the great man.

    Alexis and Ozil. We need to make our mind up (we being Arsenal) if we want them as part of our future and most importantly do they want to be part of it. I see little point in paying them bucket loads of money to keep them on a mercenary basis? Maybe this would be helped by an early announcement of a new manager.

    We need to seriously look at our squad and let go some of the fringe players. To my mind that could mean a new centre back, although Musfafi is still young and shows promise. A quality left back.

    The midfield is so complicated I am not sure if any of the many cuombinations work, but I would really like to see someone leading by example in situ.

    Similar situation up front. We haven’t lacked goals and bolstering the defence and midfield would certainly not harm our fire power.

    Lastly I understand that some supporters are partitioning for a terraced area to be allocated to the more vociferous supporters (the old North Bank) to get together and make a noise. There is already a corner of the emirates where everyone stands. I think Kev is maybe a subscriber to this?

    People often say we would have to take a step backwards to make significant steps forward and this is probably true. Let’s not forget though that Wenger was extremely successful immediately, albeit he acquired a very fine defence and some Dutch Geezer called Bergkamp.

  2. goonereris says:

    “But then his name means ‘spine’ in Spanish, I reckon…. Oh spiny one!”

    Hahaha! Did you just make that one up, 17ht? Very inspired.

    Then, this: “In every football team you need a good spine, and a good spine is held together by a strong waist. On Wednesday, our waist of Coq and Xhaka became weaker and weaker…..”

    17ht, you summed it all up nicely. We simply collapsed like a team without structure or plan. It was as if the moment Koscielny left, the team gave up. And that can happen when you have to consider both Mustafi and Gabriel will require a bedding in period; but that is “too long” for a talented side as Bayern not to exploit such an opportunity. After the 3rd, the heads dropped, no one could look up to the stand-in captain for guidance either as he needed a guide himself. It was a time when the Manager’s Plan B or C should kick in (assuming he had worked with the team on various possible scenarios). Wenger did not prepare the team for a setback. It was a painful watch, to be honest.

    In seasons past, we could count on Wenger to spruce up things and take the team on a fine run to the end of the season but, it isn’t looking likely now as the whole place is stank up, if you believe all the media puts out about us. Even if the players wish to do well, the whole atmosphere may become too toxic to focus. The players will be feeling low after that work-out, chasing shadows for long periods of the game. It worries me that while relegation threatened Ingolstadt can hold Bayern at 0-0 for nearly 90 minutes before they got 2 quick goals in injury time, just a few days before, the mighty Arsenal with internationals, including 2 German WC winners, could not keep the score line respectable.

    The knives are out. It is going to be a long (rest of the) season ahead. We just have to enjoy the ride and be hopeful.

  3. goonereris says:

    Oh, that was TA?

    Sorry, my bad. Very presumptuous of me not to look at the author before starting. 😉

  4. TotalArsenal says:

    Twp fine comments that are good additions to the post, Eris and Retsub. There is indeed a big chance of the place stinking itself out over the next few months. Many will even want Arsenal to finish outside of the top four as they believe Wenger would leave then (or be told to leave). This is of course nonsense. IF Wenger wants to stay, the BoD will hand him a new contract, whatever happens in the league this season.

    Retsub, your steps make really good sense. It looks like Arsene cannot turn this thing around anymore, and the secret of a long life is knowing when it is time to go. Best for him and the club, and moving upwards would be great.

    Eris, I am worried about the level of implosion we suffer everytime a major player gets injured. Koz held it together, just about, and as soon as he left the implosion happened almost instantly. Gabriel and Mustafi gave their all but neither of them was able to bring calm and stability. We needed an organiser next to a rothwheiler but we had two anxious poodles on the pitch. And then Le Coq… what’s happened to our beast of a DM. He needs to take another gulp from that potion he was fed back at Charlton? Cause the magic aint working anymore, mon garcon!!

  5. Pony Eye says:

    Brave of you TA. I was worried that BK might not be able to find the will for a post so soon after the Munich debacle. Your post is part of our picking up the pieces.

    Why are we so poor against the bigger teams? The fundamental reason is wrong strategy which then undermines whatever the tactics. It was folly to go out to press the best passing team in Europe on their own turf with personnel that are not even well practiced at that art. Bayern pinned us back with 74% possession to our 26%! Understand clearly that we did not cede possession to them, and that is why we did not follow the rules of how two banks of four should be conducted.
    This is the reason why everything ended up in chaos defensively as well as offensively.

    The first law in conducting the two banks of four is that the lines should not be broken by the bankers themselves. The banks essentially just shift sideways and sideways blocking the passing lanes and waiting for a slip by the opposition for them to gain possession for engineering a counter.

    Pinned back, and with minds set on pressing and possibly also not being well drilled in the art of low defensive block, our players broke their lines regularly leaving gaps for the excellent passing Bayern team to exploit. Furthermore, whenever we gained possession of the ball we found it difficult to beat their high press because we lacked the right players like Santi and Elneny (we had Coq and Xhaka) who can operate in tight spaces. This in a nutshell was the story from beginning to end.

    So the debacle started with a wrong strategy that possibly created a certain mindset with our players that was wrong for the tactical situation that unfolded and worsened by the team/dugout all failing to adjust appropriately. This gives us some hope. Get the strategy right and the team is back.

  6. Pony Eye says:

    Wenger might actually be defense blind. It seems he can’t get himself to accept a game plan that would not make his team dominant offensively. Don’t even begin to think of going toe to toe with Bayern over possession dominance. That would be folly. The starts say they are comfortably the best in Europe in that area. Accepting the fact of the other team should determine the strategy which determines the tactics which determines the choice of players to be used. It’s unacceptable that in the EPL top 6 mini league we are bottom with 1win, 2 draws and 3 loses. They have the edge over us because they possibly adjust to us while we never adjust to them.

  7. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey TA…Good job under difficult circumstances and as good a post-mortem as I’ve read.

    We’ve got widespread internet outages (for our service provider–a downed tower 200 miles away in our mountains…) but here at the public library they have a different service so I can chime in…

    I said most of what I think directly after the match in the comments of the previous thread (plus had some fun with Frozen…), and, much as I shouldn’t do it, I’m probably not capable of holding back on a bit more. Apologies in advance…

    It sounds like AW will take a 2nd team (with some seniors who haven’t been playing, the BFG for example) and then we get the two week break. After that it’s Liverpool away and then Bayern at home. I cannot see us getting results in either of those playing as we have for the past couple of months. As such, it’s a fine fortnight for the group to see if they can create any sort of sense of togetherness and find that spine and resilience you discuss.

    It ain’t there now, but I wonder if Spine and resilience are enough. Compared to a team like Bayern (IMO) we just don’t have the players to compete. If they ALL played out of their skulls and got a bit of luck we could have come back with a manageable scoreline and at least carried some hope for the 2nd leg. Guys on the fringe of the English team (Gibbs, Ox, Theo), not even called up for France (Le Coq) and a group of promising kids (Iwobi and Bellerin; Mustafi and Gabriel are young for a defenders..) would ALL have to overachieve. I blame the big money players less. Ozil hit a good FK and blasted his tough-angled first-timer very well, only to have it saved by the world’s best keeper. Xhaka hit his chance well too but failed to pick a post to aim at…(Ox should get some credit for the pullback to set it up.) Otherwise there was NOTHING except Ospina’s reaction saves.

    I think calling out the spine of the team (in both senses) is reasonable but I also think we’ve been riding our luck for a long time in terms of tactics by allowing teams to try and beat us with width and crosses into the box. It worked OK vs Hull but Bayern eventually got Lewandowski a free header (after several close ones) and without Cech and Kos on the pitch we were well dominated at corners and set pieces. Bayern, I think, could’ve stayed with the wide play and scored even more. But why just show that they can play the English way when they are also technically superior along the ground? Lahm, Alaba and Costa can carry the ball and turn it back inside and let Alonso, Vidal and (esp.) Thiago take it from there. Retsub made the point that Ozil would probably look great amongst such a group and I have to agree. (I think Xhaka would fit in fine with zero pressure on him, too). Alexis moves very well and stayed at it for the goal so his quality cannot be doubted even if I think he is (much) less of a team player.

    Xhaka (The Swiss Pogba?…) will remain and probably will get the armband at some point–unless Arsenal choose to rebuild with another round of the Brit-core idea and thus give it to one of the guys who cannot stay fit, Wilshere or Ramsey. Jack fit in at Bournemouth, who (under Howe) are a solid mid to lower table team. Ramsey could just as easily go back to Cardiff and help them fight for promotion, and, if they achieved it, help them try to stay up.

    I don’t really want to call out our players like this but it’s just so different than what the European Giants and the English debt financed clubs are able to do. The Chavs and Manc clubs are ahead of us with the rebuilding and will keep throwing money at the problem. So too are Spurs and Pool but at least they buy a little cheaper and/or develop some younger types. Our natural level is 4th in the league (at best)…and somewhere between the top 8 and 16 in Europe. After being gifted top spot in our group by PSG we were quite unlucky to draw Bayern…

    That’s not enough for the supporters spoiled by the first half of Wenger’s management. That we’re so consistent in showing our true level only makes things boring…

    What I’m getting at is that we just don’t have the quality. Wenger buys the players so you can blame it on him, but I see it the opposite way. I think (by taking the blame almost always onto his own his shoulders) he protects them and generally gets them to find a way to beat the Burnleys and Hulls by hook or by crook–and sometimes get a home win like we’ve had vs Chavs and ManU in recent seasons. I have no crystal ball but, w/o Wenger, Alexis and Ozil I see some serious mediocrity in our near future… We’ll see, and, of course, I hope I’m wrong.

    So, onto Sutton (where some youth players could look good), then the break (and the opportunity to come together…) and then maybe we can eke out some results (draws would be fine at Pool and home to Bayern) and then AW can hold off on his announcement and we can try our luck vs the defending champions (Leicester), etc., etc., etc. Or, more likely, the implosion happens sooner than later and the (blessed…) “change” can begin. Consider me at least not quite sure that I’m up for the ride…

    Sorry for the long comment. I’ll see about the internet situation over the weekend, but it may be difficult to write a preview for the Sutton match…

  8. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey PE…Sorry I dropped my (too long) post over yours…

    If you read it, however, you’ll see that I don’t really share your hope about tactics. I think we’ve been trying to play on the break just about all season. I think Wenger is all too aware of our limitations with ball control in MF (esp. since Santi’s injury). I like Elneny’s engine and positioning but I also think we tend to romanticize players who’ve been away from the team for awhile (like I do w/Santi)… Like I said in the match preview, I would’ve started the Egyptian over Le Coq (or the Ox), but I also tend to give AW the benefit of the doubt, so I think there must be a reason he has chosen to use Elneny mostly as a sub and not at all on Wednesday night.

    So there…even more blather…(and even less hope–except for the group pulling it together over the two-week break)…

    Sorry….

  9. Pony Eye says:

    I agree HT, benefit of doubt must always be given. Sincerely I do. Still stats remain the smartest basis for drawing conclusions. Against the lower 13 teams in the PL, we perform as well as any other team on the average. These are teams we do not need to adjust our playing style for. But amongst the top 7 teams our performance relative to the other top teams drops dramatically. There must be a fundamental fault in our approach against such teams. This fault is also there when we play the bigger teams in the CL. We should discount the occassionsl good day we must always have like the 1st halves blitzing of Chelsea and (last season) Man u. One game we saw as a landmark victory was that game we sat back and beat Mac c 2-0. We all thought that finally we had gotten wise to the trick. I wonder if the players just reacted correctly on the field on the day.

    Liverpool have lost 4 games so far this season, all to the bottom 13 teams. These lowly teams give themselves a chance by adapting there style to cope with Klupp’s heavy metal game. Adaptation happens to be nature’s greatest expression of intelligence.

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    Thanks Seventeenho. The idea that we cannot compete with Bayern is an attractive excuse for that performance and I can see where you are coming from…. butt of course I don’t agree. With Cech, Koz, Nacho, Giroud, Alexis, Santi, Ozil,, Welbeck, Rambo and Wilshere we had a really good base for the team at the start of the season. Arsene added players for a hell of a lot of money and they have not instantly strengthened the team, although there is plenty of promise. If he had bought two quality 27 year olds instead, we could have had the mass of talent to push on this season.

    Besides that, Wenger could, well should, have opted to play expierenced players against Bayern, as he knows (told us) that with those you win games like these. Why start with Ox and Iwobi when we have Giroud and Welbeck on the bench (and Perez wasn’t injured either probably…wengjury..). It was shocking how we imploded and there was no tactical adjustment and proper reinvigoration in the team. No spine and no resilience is at the core of this. There is plenty of talent in this team and there was money to add to a good core. Did we really need Xhaka last summer; did we need Holding and Mustafi or did we need a CB at their prime with the quality of Sol Campbell? Did we need to bank on Ox and Theo coming good or should they have been sold for a quality winger (instead of Perez who is not getting a proper chance). Wenger is just not getting it right anymore. You are right that Bayern are a good team, and possibly a better team, but we are not a humiliating 5-1 loss team behind them. We did not need to be and we can do much, much better with the resources we have.

  11. HenryB says:

    That was an excellent, accurate and amusing match report, TA, and altho’ I might have to discuss with you a bit about where a spine, waist and tail interconnect, I thought you summed up everything were well.

    It was one of the worst performances I have ever seen too, in the 2nd half, and we might regret the 5 : 1 scoreline, without some superb saves by Ospina, it could have been 8 : 1.

    * [The blogger once known as RA – so let me in!] 🙂

  12. HenryB says:

    Oh, and the first part of my biological lessons, here’s a starter:

    Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
    Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
    Now shake dem skeleton bones!

    The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone,
    The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone,
    The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone,
    Now shake dem skeleton bones!

    You know it makes sense! 😀

  13. HenryB says:

    TA,

    Well, I guess I am the victim of the time differences, so I will leave a comment for whoever happens by. I wrote this as a conversation piece for another blog, but the Wenger Out feelings are running so high, only a couple of guys noticed. But some one here might find it a change from the gloom and doom.

    I confess to having been critical recently of Arsenal [the team] for a number of reasons, but a key one for me is our players’ apparent lack of physicality against other PL and CL teams, and seeing Le Coq, for instance, being shrugged off the ball against Hull, and over-powered by Bayern [not that he was the only one] made me think of another manager who took what was a crumbling team and changed it from a bunch of flops to almost overnight success, after he took over.

    I am talking about Rugby Union and the new England manager, Eddie Jones. [No, don’t run – it is relevant, I think you will find] 🙂

    Four years before he became England’s manager Eddie happened to meet a Spanish physiologist at a conference, who had previously worked extensively with Jose Mourinho, [hissss] while Maureen was at Chelsea and Madrid. The Special One [in His Own Mind] — Actually he was the reason I hesitated to recount this tale to innocent Gunners fans. 🙂

    Jones’s fortunate meeting with Alberto Mendez-Villanueva was a defining moment, both for his own coaching philosophy, and was also responsible for England’s remarkable transformation since their nadir in the 2015 World Cup, held in England, when they got whopped by everyone.

    The new training philosophy he imposed enabled players to withstand the most exacting periods of pressure during games, and to still remain in contention near the end of games, even when being outplayed. [Sound like we could use it?]

    This training revolution was critical to England’s ability to withstand even the most draining and intense physicality thrown at them in every match since it was adopted by Jones. So far they have now remained unbeaten for 16 international games over the last 18 months!!

    The methodology was taken from the above-named soccer physiologist, and used stealthily for years by Mourhino, and it is called ‘tactical periodisation’.

    The way it works is that each day the team are trained in a different specific parameter of the game.

    On day 1, there are intensely physical sessions where far more running, jumping and tackling is done than would be expected in a hard game.
    On day 2, there is pace training, this is where the team train at least 60 per cent of the session at speeds above the normal PL game speed, but without any extra fitness work being done.
    This enables fitness and speed to improve enormously, and in rugby England have won a tremendous number of games in the last 10 minutes because they are fitter than the other teams.

    In addition to the above, there are “four moments” of tactical periodisation relating to specific phases:
    — offensive organisation,
    — the transition from defence to attack,
    — defensive organisation and
    — the transition from attack to defence.

    The whole aim is to help players rapidly alter their on-field behaviour according to the tactical context of the match and what is happening in front of them. This becomes ingrained and is second nature to the players. Something that just does not happen with Arsenal players at the moment.

    This methodology has become known, in soccer, as “Jose’s Secret’ as the Spanish physiologist was sworn not to reveal it while he worked for Maureen. Now everyone will be at it.

    When Arsene first came to to Arsenal he was credited with revolutionising the training regimes and dietary behaviour of English football, as well as improving warm up and warm down procedures which have been credited with extending the playing careers of older Gunners like Adams and Winterburn.

    Unfortunately, tempus fugit, and Arsene is now trailing in the wake of much younger coaches – but I am sending him, this article about the ‘secret’ training methods mentioned above, so that we do not get squished by the other top teams! 😀

    I would be interested to hear your views – if ever we meet on the blog!

  14. HenryB says:

    You’re not all still asleep are you??

    It’s 8 : 18 a.m. in NY now — come on move your asses!! 🙂

  15. retsub1 says:

    T A hope you will forgive me for off topic a little, but I found the following quite interesting and at the least amusing. I am sure many of you will have come across a U tube site called arsenal fan TV. After every game a guy interviews a group of Arsenal fans and gets there opions on the team, the match, Wenger etc. Some of these opinions are quite aggressive, but nevertheless interesting to listen to. After the recent Chelsea defeat, Gary Neville made some remarks about Arsenal T V and some Guy who was waving an anti Wenger flag, The guy at Arsenal TV invited Gary Neville to meet with a group of the fans and it was recorded on you tube. can’t seem to paste the link (mac newbie) but its something like Gary neville meets Arsenal TV.

    I was never a fan of Neville as a player, in fact I would go to say he was a little bar steward. I have to say though he does have my respect as a pundit, certainly one of the better ones. He is very defensive of Wenger and respectful to Arsenal Football club. Hats off to Gary Neville, if anuone can spend 15 minutes of their life looking at it, its worth a look

  16. TotalArsenal says:

    Hey Redders! 🙂

    Sorry that I was not around to blog with you today, Fine comments and thanks for explaining the bone-links hahaha 🙂

    It is unlikely that Wenger will change his methods much now, but something needs to change to get that resilience back into the team. Sharing a Mourinho secret with us must have hurt you though? 😀

  17. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers Retsub, GN is not a bad commentator and analyser, agreed.

  18. Goonereris says:

    Plus, the Arsenal fan tv clan got their time in the sun. A bit of grandstanding there, if you ask me.

    However, I like that Gary didn’t back down on his expressed views and gave his reasons, while being respectful to the lads from AFTv; even admitted Wayne Rooney did dive to break our ‘unbeaten’ run. Haha!

  19. HenryB says:

    What’s going on, Bergies? It’s the 19th now — where are you all?

    Come out and support Total!! 🙂

  20. HenryB says:

    Just to give you something to get your teeth into — this is an article from a journalist [supports Millwall] who does not understand why Wenger is being scapegoated:: What do you guys think? 😀

    –” I suppose it is impossible, if you’re an Arsenal fan or a former Arsenal player, to reflect upon that midweek 5-1 drubbing by Bayern Munich with anything like a sense of rational detachment. A gloom and perhaps a rage descends — perhaps was already descending as the genuinely awful Francis Coquelin skilfully shepherded Arjen Robben on to his favourite foot for him to smash home the opening goal for the Germans. However, I am neither an Arsenal supporter nor a former player, so I shall do my best.

    Yes, Arsenal were comprehensively outplayed in every area of the pitch and collapsed like a soufflé baked by an imbecile. They lacked incisiveness going forward, possessed of nobody with the guile or verve of the undoubtedly irritating Robben, nor anyone with the clinical finishing power of the still magnificent Robert Lewandowski, or indeed Thiago. In midfield and defence they were distrait and dilatory, off the pace, off the boil, disinclined to do that onerous but reasonably important thing — track back. They perpetually stood off their opponents, second to the ball, the marking haphazard or non-existent.

    The statistics for the lamentable Coquelin were telling: six passes completed in the 77 minutes he was, perhaps unwisely, allowed on the pitch. And not one tackle. Not a single tackle from a defensive midfielder! It was a shocking performance from a player who, just two years ago, promised so much. Where has his form gone?

    And yet he was far from alone. If anyone can tell me what Kieran Gibbs brought to the party I’d be delighted to know. Or Theo Walcott, for that matter. So yes, it was a humiliating rout and a hammering and one has to doubt that the deficit will be easily overhauled in the return fixture, you Gunners.

    But it was against Bayern Munich, which is why I would be a bit more circumspect than to join in the cacophony of howling that Arsène Wenger, the manager for 21 years, must leave — leave now! Go! Get thee hence! It began with a rant by Lee Dixon immediately after the game — this was the final nail in the coffin. He had never seen Wenger look so desolated. He must surely leave, now or at the end of the season at the very latest. And the pundits weighed in the following morning in much the same manner: that’s it for Wenger, all over now. It seemed to me remarkably short-sighted.

    Sitting next to Dixon in that commentary booth was Roy Keane, who, as ever, made the two important points about the game. First, with something almost approaching mirth on his face, he said: “Well, what did you expect? Did you think they were going to go there and win?” And then, shortly after — that they are simply not as good as Bayern Munich and have only two players of genuinely world pedigree in their side. I assume by this he meant Laurent Koscielny and Alexi Sanchez. Remember that the former went off, injured, in the 49th minute, with the scores level. If he had stayed what might the final score have been? Perhaps 2-1 — we should not deny Bayern a deserved victory.

    And I suppose you can argue from this that Arsenal do not have strength in depth. But it is not easy to replace a player of Koscielny’s ability, even if the subsequent capitulation was staggering in its immediacy and totality.

    But that other point remains: Arsenal are not good enough to win the Champions League. The players are not as good as those of Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona. This, I think, is correct. But then English Premier League sides have not been as good as the very top European sides for the best part of a decade now, and that is not a consequence of Wenger’s supposed ineptitude in the transfer market or his inability to get the best out of a squad, despite those barbs that accuse him of being too loyal to under-performing or inadequate players.

    The balance of power in Europe shifted eight or nine years ago, from that golden time when Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho were in their pomp and English clubs regularly reached the last four. As we have seen since then, it has become harder and harder for our own top clubs to attract the marquee players. And so the top four no longer look likely to win the Champions League.

    Arsenal are currently fourth in the Premier League, just two points off second place. Tottenham Hotspur, above the Gunners only on goal difference, were also playing in Europe last week. Having come a dismal third in their Champion’s League group they travelled for a Europa Cup fixture to the might of Gent, in Belgium — a mid-table club ranked 139th in Europe. Tottenham lost 1-0. I think that’s probably worse than losing 5-1 to the team ranked third in the world.

    Meanwhile, Manchester United were also piddling about in the Europa League. Arsenal won their Champions League group with some ease: Manchester City, above them in the Premier League table, finished a distant six points behind Barcelona, in second place, to whom they lost 4-0. These are the benchmarks against which you should judge the performance of Arsenal and Arsène Wenger — not simply that they are unable to hold their own against a brilliant Bayern Munich side, but that they topped their group, reached the last 16, continue to occupy a Champions League place domestically and have always been one of the top four — and usually top three — sides in the country.

    This all being said, mind, I reserve my right to change my opinion completely if they get stuffed by Sutton United in the FA Cup tomorrow night. Wenger out!”

    And this chap is not an Arsenal fan — but has a better understanding of the situation than some so-called Arsenal fans. Sheeesh!

  21. AB says:

    Hi there TA. Great prompts and a balanced defence in your article and comments. Also some really good thoughts from others around your post. I confess I’ve been in a mild state of shock since the Bayern game and not really had the heart to write anything – in truth I’ve kept away from reading much as its mostly been so hysterical and doom-laden. But the last comment here has shamed me into engaging.

    On balance I’m somewhere between TA and HT in my view here. I’m a Wenger loyalist, but I accept that there must come a point/time where the interests of the club may mean that Wenger needs to move on. I also love his philosophy and the type of teams he builds, but accept that when they don’t deliver he must share some of the culpability for that failure. Like both though I will try to remember that this is a single game and as such it provides no sound basis on which to assess a team nor the life’s work of its manager.

    On the game itself I don’t think there’s much argument. It was a shambles of a second half. We were made to look inept and spineless, and both the team and most individuals came out with next to no credit. It was a game we just all wanted to be over as soon as it could so we could stop the damage growing and we could get on with licking our wounds and trying to get over it all. I’m still a way off healing. Was this predictable? Well, when I looked at the teams and the benches I confess I had a real sinking feeling. HT is right that our team is simply not on a comparable level of quality. So we were starting from a position of crossing fingers for a bit of luck. Never the best really.

    Should our squad be better? Well here I differ a bit from HT in that I think we should expect more of players that we bought at top prices in their teens. Although we cant buy up all the best 26 year old talent, we have paid high for players like Ox, Walcott, Rambo, Chambers and others, on the basis of their talent. And they have yet to repay many of them. This is either a failure of talent spotting and buying, or of coaching. And Arsene has to take his share of criticism for this. He has had the time and quite a lot of money to build a team. He has done it (quite brilliantly) before, but he hasn’t managed it for a while. I don’t know why this is. And personally I wouldn’t write him off from doing it again. But I do cast envious glances at Dele Ali and wonder why we didn’t get him, nor Toby Alderwierld. Easy for me to ask afterwards of course – much harder to make the right call before.

    Do I think the end has come and its time for change? No, personally I don’t. But I will accept there’s a lot of heart in there as well as head. Wenger has kept us consistently punching above our weight as a club with not quite the top level of funding. But he hasn’t had a season of sheer brilliance for a few years. We will only win the league or the CL with an assembly of brilliance. Making a change of manager might make that more likely. But it is even more likely that we have a dip in level and more probable that we find it harder still to attract the very best players to our team. If that sounds like a conservative and cautious view of the world, then I guess it is. I spent many years watching Arsenal in mid-league; I’m in no hurry to go back. Wenger cant be with us for ever; but he is still to my mind the most likely person to leave us with a truly talented squad that assures us a strong future when he steps down rather than the chaos that others have experienced.

    So Bayern was a bit of a nightmare. But we will get over it. It was just one game. And The Arsenal is bigger and better than that.

  22. HenryB says:

    AB,

    You said; –” So Bayern was a bit of a nightmare. But we will get over it. It was just one game. And The Arsenal is bigger and better than that.”

    That’s the spirit!! 🙂

  23. 17highburyterrace says:

    I’ve got my internet back but I’m awfully busy (trying to get ready for travel to warmer places)…TA, if you can write the preview for Sutton, have at it… If not, later in the day I can probably get something together (or, preferably, comment on yours)… It might not be the happiest of summations, however…

    I am feeling very grim about the situation at my football club but I will say that it’s great to see Red Arse (HenryB) around these parts and I like the realism combined with (the choice of) optimism in your comments. I think, the Millwall supporter has it just about right (though a couple of his facts seem overstated) and I definitely agree that the loudest voices of criticism have lost perspective.

    It’s also great to get AB’s view and I think there’s a lot of truth regarding all the young talent AW has bought over the years who we’ve seen given tons (tonnes?) of playing time but not really arriving at the level where they need to be. TA, in response to my long comment above, also points the finger at playing too much youth in the Bayern match (and buying too much of the same in the off-season).

    So, we could really use your voices around here. It’s all become too much of a slog for me. I see a lot of heroism in Wenger’s efforts to keep his ship afloat as the seas get stormier and stormier. (Or, to mix metaphors, it’s a car crash and I cannot look away…) But, I’m also hopeful that I can give it up (and find better things to do) once the ship (finally) sinks and the manager and his best players jump off. As much as I support the man, I think that the time has come.The toxicity of the situation is the main reason, but the futility in Europe and in these more open English seasons is also to blame. I’ll always be an Arsenal fan but it’s been an exhausting experience trying to talk (or make) sense with folks who cannot enjoy (or even watch or discuss) the actual football and judge things based only on results guided by unrealistic expectations. For years now we’ve been is a situation where the winning is needed in order to motivate the support, not the other way around, as I believe it should be.

    Anyhow, enough for now, but I’ll check in a while and see what’s up with the preview…

  24. HenryB says:

    What a very good comment 17H.

    I gave you a cribbed copy from an independent journalist which overall was more upbeat the not – and some of it was said with his tongue very much in his cheek.

    So now, what about another article with a more downbeat bias, this time from Graeme Souness?

    If nothing else it gives an indication of what someone who is NOT involved with Arsenal thinks about what is going on. I found it interesting and rather different from what I think myself.

    — ” I would love to watch this Arsenal team in a five-a-side competition. Wouldn’t they be something? All neat and tidy, nice ball-players, easy on the eye. What’s not to like? Against a feisty, well-drilled 11 on a Saturday afternoon though — well, you saw what happened against Chelsea a fortnight ago.

    After their dismal performance at Stamford Bridge, I expected them to start last Wednesday’s match in Munich with real energy and gusto. There was none.

    Some of the stats from the Champions League tie are galling and appalling: Arsenal possession at only 25%; Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer making as many passes as Mesut Ozil; only Shkodran Mustafi among Arsenal players making more passes than the keeper David Ospina. I could go on.

    There is clearly a problem when the best Arsenal player on the pitch in a 5-1 thrashing is the goalkeeper. Fair play to Arsène Wenger because I was surprised he went with Ospina over Petr Cech. And fair play, too, to Bayern Munich, who after an iffy first half to the season, look like one of Europe’s best clubs again.

    Against small clubs, Ozil is a worldie. Against the big boys, he’s a world away
    The home side went at it full throttle from the first whistle, playing high up the field, and in Arjen Robben, Thiago Alcantara and Robert Lewandowski, they had three players who did not waste chances in big matches.

    What we saw from Bayern was all their qualities magnified. Conversely, what we got from Arsenal epitomised all their failings. Yet again, we saw a group pf players who failed to show up on the biggest of stages. Nobody was saying: “This is my level, I’m going to make a difference.”

    Ozil copped most of the criticism. Should we be surprised? Not really. The German is Arsenal in a nutshell. Against the Crystal Palaces of this world, he is an absolute worldie player. Against the big boys of the Premier League and Europe, he is an absolute world away. Just remember that this is a £42m player we are discussing. Is this what Real Madrid saw when they decided to sell him? Had they spotted the flaw? He was nearly 25 when he moved from the Bernabeu. That is when a player should be in his prime.

    At least Alexis Sanchez showed some endeavour and spark. That put him in a club of one. Watch the reaction among the Arsenal defenders when the opposition score. I’m not just talking about the Bayern game. There is never enough anger and hurt, nobody falling out or pointing a finger.

    Losing Laurent Koscielny to injury early in the second half was unfortunate but the result would have been no different if the French defender had played the full 90 minutes.

    Teams that are going to make it through to the last eight of the Champions League, never mind win it, do not let Robben jink in from the right flank towards goal, take the ball on to his left foot and shoot, as Francis Coquelin allowed him to. Everyone in professional football knows this is the Dutchman’s trademark move, so do the fans. Blame the player, not the manager, for that one.

    After a poor opening 45 minutes in which they had less of the ball than in any game I can remember, Arsenal had little right to go into the interval level, but so what? The important point was that they were hanging on, albeit by their fingertips. Wenger then had the opportunity to make changes to stem the relentless Bayern tide that threatened to overwhelm his team. This is what the best managers, like Jose Mourinho, do when Plan A isn’t working: they revert to Plan B. It might not be pretty in the Portuguese’s case, but it is often effective.

    If Wenger had sent on Olivier Giroud he would have given his beleaguered defence a target upfield to aim at, bypassing Bayern’s pressing game which was stopping Arsenal getting out of their own half. Instead, we got more of the same from both sides. Bayern maintained their intensity and Arsenal folded quicker than deckchairs under a summer storm. It was all too predictable.

    Barring a miracle, that is the end of Europe this season for the Gunners. Their top-four spot — effectively the cash dispenser for the past decade — is now under real threat too, and this is where it could get ugly.

    The fans, already disgruntled, will turn on the players and manager unless there is an immediate revival. Another FA Cup win, which is quite possible, would actually feel like a hollow joke if they failed to qualify for the Champions League. That would be the wrong way for Wenger’s Arsenal career to end.

    I used to think Arsenal were only a couple of world-class players away from winning the title, most notably a holding midfielder and striker. Now they look as many as five or six away from being contenders.

    A big reason for this has been the type of midfielder the Frenchman has signed in the past decade. This was a manager who won his first Premier League title with two giants — in every sense — in midfield. Yet since Patrick Vieira left the club in 2005, we have seen no one in the robust mould of him or Emmanuel Petit.

    I look at Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, Andrey Arshavin, Samir Nasri, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and they are all technically gifted ball-players. Yet they are all the same nicey-nicey types. You wouldn’t say Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses are better technically than any of those but an injection of the intensity and physicality they have shown for Chelsea this season would have significantly improved Wenger’s squad.

    You wonder if the Frenchman was drawn to these low-centre-of-gravity players because of the phenomenal success enjoyed by Spain from 2008-12. But Iniesta, Xavi and David Silva were great players, irrespective of their size. It is also worth noting he was never able to lure any of those great Spaniards to north London.

    Then there was the hope that the English contingent of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck could form the spine of a really good team. That hope is now gone. N’Golo Kante, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Xavi Alonso — these are players who can constitute a spine. At some point in the past decade, Wenger has been in for all of them. None came.

    What makes this such a sorry tale is that there was a time when he was one of only two Premier League managers who could walk into his boardroom and demand he should get what he wanted. Sir Alex Ferguson had that power — and that is why he went on his own terms, signing off with a league title.

    It sounds trite to say that Arsenal’s malaise originates with the move to the Emirates but it’s true. We were told that the point of building the new stadium was to elevate the club to the ranks of the European superpowers. They are as far away from that now as they were the day the foundations went down at the Emirates.

    Instead, the signals from those at the top give the impression that a steady profit built on gate receipts from a 60,000-capacity ground and a constant supply of revenue from the Champions League is just fine.

    There was a school of thought that putting the club on a firm financial footing was a means to an end — setting up a period when Arsenal’s superior spending power would kick in and deliver success. Now the profit motive appears to have been an end in its own right. That may be great for shareholders, but it’s not so good for fans.

    Reaction to Gunners’ loss

    Gary Lineker : Arsenal have completely disintegrated. An utter shambles and rudderless after Koscielny went off

    Ian Wright : We are a ******g shambles . . . At least let it go to the ******g home leg . . . **** it !!! Not watching anymore

    Ian Poulter : At least we can concentrate on finishing 4th in the league although that’s in doubt

    Roy Keane : I’m not surprised. Did you think they’d go to Bayern and get a result? We’ve said it before, though. Lack of leaders, lack of characters, hunger, desire

    Rio Ferdinand : Teams are usually a reflection of their manager. And that was a weak performance

    Michael Owen : They may now realise I was right all along. Arsenal are soft and have been for a long time

    Alan Smith : I think we’ve come to the end of a cycle whereby it’s time for a new man with a different voice and new methods. If he announced today or tomorrow that he was stepping down at the end of the season he would be revered as the legend he is at the club

    Paul Merson The time has come for change, but not just the manager — change the players. I don’t think some of the players are good enough to play for Arsenal.

    [I think some of the above have their own agenda – perhaps subconsciously]

  25. TotalArsenal says:

    Excellent comments, and some good articles posted by Redders. Nothing has changed my mind much, but I respect the views of Seventeenho and AB, etc, and we are not miles apart. I will always respect Arsene, and if he stays on I will support and defend him. I really want to see that spine in the team though and more resilience, without it we can forget it.

    Great draw in the cup. Looking fed to tomorrow’s game.

    I will write something tomorrow afternoon, Seventeenho.

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