It is easy to get emotional over Saturday’s game and I am no exception so I understand the anger and frustration of the fans. It is an annual experience at this time of year. We are now playing for a top four finish. I could have sat down and written this on Saturday night, but I waited until I am feeling a bit more level headed before I make my comments.
First, though, there is one glaring incident, which I wish to deal with first. I heard the comments on TV about Arsene`s reaction to Bellerin`s injury and on the first goal, and none of them mentioned that it was a blatant foul by Alonso. I thought my eyes had deceived me but I watched the replays and one in particular, seen from the direction of contact. I would invite anyone who has recorded the match to look at it again. The ball dropped into the centre of the goal where Bellerin was positioned, and he jumped to head it clear. He was in the air when Alonso charged in with his forearm held up in front of him and smashed into Bellerin`s face. Our young Spaniard didn`t see it coming because he was concentrating on the ball so he was smashed to the ground unconscious. The incident was referred to on Sunday morning as an “alleged foul”, “a controversial incident” and by Alan Shearer “It was never a foul, he just went in aggressively”. When Conte was asked if he thought it was a foul, he thought carefully and replied with a smile; “not in England, but in every other country- yes” and he gave a little laugh and a shrug of the shoulders.
I would ask one simple question of Shearer; if the roles were reversed and Bellerin had smashed into Alonso like that, would you have said it was a penalty? I can hear the howls of rage from Chelsea if it had happened that way. It would have been a stonewall penalty and probably a dismissal for Bellerin.
Anyway, Chelsea deserved to win. They played exactly as I had predicted in my pre-match article. They were a well-drilled unit and every player moved about when they were off the ball. They moved quickly, defended, and counter-attacked as a unit. I don`t really need to say that, I am sure you have all seen that yourselves. My point is that it was entirely predictable and I suggested that we should have played a back three of Mustafi, Kos and Holding, with Bellerin and perhaps Gibbs or Coquelin as wingbacks and Ox as the attacking midfielder.
If that had happened, Holding would have been in the position that Hazard made his run from to score the second goal. Monreal bombed up the wing all through the match and left Iwobi on his own with a massive gap behind him. Moses had a free run from the right wing, which was a constant threat (as it always is). There was no cohesion in midfield and passes especially from Coquelin were going astray. Chelsea had partnerships all over the pitch. They always had a tackler backed up by a teammate and the nearest player off the ball made himself available for a pass. They were in constant movement whereas, even for throw – ins we had no one moving around who wanted to have the ball. I had said that Wenger depended upon his clever intelligent players to provide solutions to teams like Chelsea and there couldn`t have been a better example of that fallacy than Saturday’s game. It was like watching the Roman army against the ancient Brits.
Wenger has frequently mentioned lately that he is now aware of the intensity of the criticism against him. That is a change from his attitude when we were beaten by Swansea and Watford in quick succession in 2015. At that time he said that he did not listen to the opinion of fans. In my opinion, it has reached the point now where there can be no debate about the fact that he is just not capable of coaching a championship winning team. There are too many more capable coaches out there who can get a team to play to a plan and especially to defend properly. Even modest teams that have decent coaches can frustrate us.
Now at this moment, I have no particular manager in mind to replace him. The employer is not the fans. It is Kroenke and he has confessed that he knows nothing about football. I don`t think there is any argument about that, but he does know a lot about making money from sports clubs, and it would be nigh on impossible for him to find anyone better than Wenger for that purpose. On the other hand, Wenger is football to his backbone and if he is truthful to himself, he must have realised by now that he no longer has the answers to the modern game. He may also have had enough of the vitriol aimed at him and is ready to go himself. If, as I hope it is, he has made up his mind then I think his concentration now should be devoted to preparing the club for a new manager. That means establishing a core of players who will play consistently, to a method and a plan, and who know what their individual contribution should be. It also means staying in the top four, winning the FA cup again as a reward to the fans and putting up a decent performance against Bayern. If he can eliminate the cancer of slow play that has taken over the team in recent seasons, it would be a good start.
A sophisticated, articulate Arsenal Man of Mystery. Aged 70 and a bit.