I did not see the Everton game as I was in Spain, so I am indebted to Alex “The Tsar Cannon” for his review of the match.
After last week’s results, we all knew that we were not going to qualify. Of the trio of Man City, Liverpool and us I doubt that the bookies would have given odds against the first two not qualifying and that is what happened. Now we have the prospect of facing Chelsea in the FA cup next week when we are deprived of Mustafi, Koscielny and Gabriel – basically our entire central defense, unless the admirable Holding is categorized as a first team choice.
Why are we in this position? Listening to Wenger’s recent interviews, I have heard him say that it was sad that we had not qualified, but it was a very difficult season. He moaned that his personal position had influenced the players and they found it difficult to play in what was at one stage of the season, a very toxic situation which did not help. In other words, the players could not execute his plans/directions as he had expected, because the fans were frustrated by his mistakes and the team’s poor performances. I say that because I am puzzled if that is what he understands to be the cause of the toxic situation.
I have to stand up and admit that I could see no apparent plan being executed on the pitch. We campaigned throughout the season with no discernible shape to the team. Contrast Spurs where every single person who walked onto the pitch had a purposeful look about him. They immediately fell into shape and each player knew what his job was and how to execute it. They switched from defense to attack and back again in an organized way and moved much faster than us. They did that consistently. Chelsea are much the same and they both have smaller squads than us.
Tony Adams, in his recent book says “Arsene cannot coach his way out of a paper bag”. In some ways it was an unfortunate thing for Adams to say because his own record would seem to indicate that he can’t either. The difference is that Tony Adams was a general and a great leader on the field who carried out George Graham’s instructions to the letter so he does actually know how to marshall a defense. For that reason I agree with him. I don`t recall George Graham regaling the referee and his linesmen so consistently as Wenger has. He gallops up the sidelines with arms waving to point out the mistakes which have cost his team points. It is always someone else’s fault. He has had thirteen years to replace the Invincibles. Anno Domini made it imperative that Keown, Adams, Bould, Dixon, Winterburn etc. were replaced. Despite Arsene’s repeated assertions that “this team has great resolve” “This team has great spirit” “This team has great talent” “This squad (just this year) is the best squad we have had since the Invincibles”. We know different and we are absurdly expected to swallow this nonsense without comment.
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Arsenal fans, either pro or con Wenger will know that this season is just the last of many seasons in which the team has flattered to deceive. It is not that they could not play. There were games when we had glimpses of the “beautiful game” when our football was a joy to watch. Those occasions were far outweighed by the mediocrity and downright bad football with which we played. The backwards and sideways football crept into our football and at walking speed. There is no cohesion and no link between defense, midfield and attack. we rely on the individual skill and tricks of Sanchez to dig out results. Harry Kane picked up the golden boot even though he lost 13 games to injury and a high percentage of those goals were down to good supply and teamwork.
These mistakes in judgment, team selection, motivation and in using the window efficiently by Wenger are repetitive and he has shown no indication of improvement, yet in the middle of the season when the atmosphere became “Toxic” he pleaded to the fans to back him and postpone judging him until May. My calendar tells me that it is now May and we are probably going to be clobbered yet again by Chelsea. Chelsea have a full team and the incentive of a “double” to inspire them, together with a lethal attack and solid defense. The probability of an alternative result is slim.
For the first time in recent years, the protests and empty seats have elicited a glimmer of hope – if we can believe that there may be stirrings of revolt by some of the board who feel, like Usmanov and the fans that there has to be change. That leaves the supporters with a quandary. Do we pay to attend a game in which we can depend on the players to make a monumental effort to overcome Chelsea, or do we pay even though we expect to receive a hiding? Our heads tell us to protest and stay away but our heart says, “now is the time in adversity, to get behind the team and carry them with our love”. Make no mistake, Arsene tells us that his love of the club has kept him here. Well, believe it or not Arsene, every supporter who buys his ticket or watches from far off lands also loves Arsenal.
The person who is aghast at the sight of aeroplanes trailing banners, people carrying protest banners and those misguided thugs who use violence are also motivated by love of the club. If he does not go now, this club will remain divided. The players will not be motivated to play and the best players will not come here. His presence is now a poison within the club and he could have avoided it by leaving gracefully two years ago. If he continues to stay, he will be the man who is famous for the good he has done but infamous for ultimately destroying the club.
A sophisticated, articulate Arsenal Man of Mystery. Aged 70 and a bit.