Jan 232012

Arsenal 1 (Van Persie 71) Man United 2 (Valencia 45, Welbeck 81)

The bare facts make for grim reading. Defeat to United leaves us fifteen points behind them, and eighteen off the pace set by their city rivals. Our own neighbours remain ten points above us despite their loss earlier in the day, and that critical fourth spot is still an elusive five points away. Perhaps more damaging than the numbers is the psychological aspect – a new low between fans and manager erupted in the wake of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s substitution moments after he had set up Van Persie’s equaliser, and the inevitability of their winner made many stop and reassess our own expectations. Anticipating a home defeat is not a happy place to be. Watching it unfold wasn’t much fun either.

I have no doubt that by the morning, or perhaps even by the time you read this, the story will be centred around a couple of flashpoints, and I will get to them in due course. But while Arshavin will be the inevitable fall guy for many, he wasn’t on the pitch in the first half, a forty-five minute period in which we were largely outplayed by a United side that saw our weakness at full back, and attacked it time and time again. The returning Vermaelen was a boost at left back, and as such less targeted by the opposition, but even so he isn’t as dominating there as when he marshals the centre of defence. The other flank was the main issue – poor Djourou was forced to deal with Nani and the overlapping Evra almost single handedly, a job even Sagna would have found difficult. For a reserve centre back, it was too much.

United were uncomplicated in the opening period – they spread the ball wide, overlapped, and swung in whipped crosses time and time again. Largely, Koscielny and Mertesacker dealt with them well, although there was a last ditch nature to some of the defending. But the more often Nani got into crossing positions uninhibited, the more you felt he would pick out a decent delivery in time. Szczesny pulled off a good near post save from the winger, and saw another cross flash past his far post. But on the stroke of half time, the inevitable occurred – Djourou stood off Giggs, allowing him all the time in the world to pick out Valencia at the back post, who stole in ahead of Vermaelen to put the visitors in front. It had been coming.

There were murmurs of dissent at half time, which at the time I didn’t consider to be particularly helpful – it was clear that the team was nervous early on, and booing was hardly conducive to giving them the boost they needed to come out in the second half and take the game by the scruff of the neck. Of course people are entitled to voice their opinions, and it was hardly a majority – the trouble was that the crowd were so oddly quiet at times that even a smattering of boos became the dominant noise.

At half time, Wenger made a brave switch, introducing young Yennaris at right back for the ailing Djourou, and by and large it was vindicated – he wasn’t overawed by his Premiership debut, and handled the occasion well. At the same time, Oxlade-Chamberlain switched wings with Walcott, allowing the more senior of the pair to help his young colleague. While Theo frustrates many with his inconsistent performances going forward, he did show a measure of responsibility in protecting Yennaris, which should not go unnoticed.

We should have been gifted an equaliser early in the second half, when Smalling slipped, allowing Rosicky to burst past him. Perhaps aware of his recent goalscoring record, Rosicky chose not to take the chance himself, squaring instead to Van Persie, who danced inside his man to slam into the barely guarded net. Except, remarkably, he fired wide. Minutes later, the Ox set up Ramsey for a rising drive that flew inches over the bar.

Despite being in the ascendancy, we still had cause for alarm. Welbeck could have gone down under pressure from Mertesacker, but instead ran through to clip past Szczesny, only for the big German to reach out his long legs and clear off the line. Koscielny then brilliantly dispossessed Welbeck before starting the move that would lead to the equaliser – eventually the Ox would cut inside, before finding Van Persie with a clever reverse pass. One swing of his left foot and the match was all square.

And then came the moment that many will remember the game for. With the crowd in full voice, the momentum in our favour, and a spring in our step, Wenger withdrew Oxlade-Chamberlain and put Arshavin on his place. Boos immediately rang out, followed by cheers for the Ox and renewed jeers for Arshavin on his entry. Hardly the sort of reaction that makes a player eager to perform.

Wenger has since said that the Ox had been ill, and was beginning to feel his calf, so was withdrawn as a precaution before he did himself an injury, which seems perfectly reasonable, and backs up something I said on Twitter at the time:

“You know when you’re playing Football Manager, and you take a player off because his energy has dropped, even if playing well? I’m pretty certain we can track these things.”

Having said that, and having accepted that the move had basis in logic, the timing was questionable at best. A young player, who has just set up a goal against United, can run on adrenaline alone for at least five more minutes, a period of time in which we could push home our advantage. Instead, it stopped the game mid-flow, and allowed the opposition to regroup. It also took away the elation in the stands, replacing it with something far more poisonous, an atmosphere that could only give United a lift. A decision based on scientific reasoning backfired because of pure emotion.

Our captain didn’t like it either, although despite the inevitability of his ‘No!!‘ reaction being a huge story in the papers tomorrow, that is something that will surely die down quickly enough within the club – Van Persie will have asked Wenger why he took the Ox off, and the manager will have told him. I suspect that, away from the heat of the moment, it will have been accepted. I highly doubt that will stop a new flurry of ‘Disillusioned Van Persie to leave‘ stories over the next week, however.

It certainly didn’t help that, aside from offering nothing going forward, Arshavin was badly at fault for the eventual winner, turning his back on Valencia as he jinked into the box, and then failing to put in any sort of challenge as he laid it back for Welbeck to bury. The game was up in that moment, and we knew it.

And so to the reaction. Wenger is getting a pasting in some quarters, and while I (and everyone else, to my knowledge) have no problem with a bit of healthy criticism, there are too many out there who are using this as another opportunity to divide the fanbase. You are either for the manager, or against him – there is no middle ground.

Which is frankly ridiculous. Of course there is middle ground. While that substitution can be questioned, along with our first half display, he should be credited with two brave decisions – starting the Ox in the first place, and making the half time switch to bring Yennaris on. For me, there was some good, some bad – as ever, all is not black and white.

What is killing us at the moment is our lack of full backs. Often an undervalued position, it is only now that we are completely devoid of options thanks to an extraordinary sequence of injuries that we realise how crucial they are. They nullify wingers, break forward and allow us to counter at pace and with options, and add to our midfield when in possession, giving us the ability to get through well drilled defences at speed. Without them, we aren’t stopping crosses, and the midfielders are having to drop further back to collect the ball, isolating Van Persie up front. It doesn’t work.

I don’t expect any signings in January – Wenger has already said that we’ll have a couple of players back in ten days, which coincides with our next league game, at the Reebok. But playing four centre backs isn’t the answer either, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yennaris follow up today’s debut with a few more appearances. If he doesn’t get crocked in the meantime, of course.

If there is a small crumb of comfort to take, it is that the other results spectacularly went our way. Chelsea drew, while Liverpool, Spurs and Newcastle all lost. In the race for fourth, nothing has really changed, which is something we should all be relieved about – it could have been so much worse. I suspect many would have taken the status quo at the start of the weekend.

We now have a week before our next game, a cup tie against Aston Villa, before February brings our next league fixtures. Three defeats on the spin have been damaging, and we need to put a run together to claim that Champions League spot we so crave. It is very much up for grabs – the teams we are up against look pretty woeful, and a run of four or five wins would surely lift us back up there.

The question is – can we? Come back Bacary.

  51 Responses to “Arsenal 1-2 Man Utd: It wasn’t all about the substitution”

  1. Good balanced sensible article.

    • I agree it is balanced piece. I left home angry after watching the game and was irrationally calling for Wenger’s head. Luckily, my wife is not a football loon, and reminded me of the small things that one can look back and reflect upon, rather than instantaneously go into unreflective rant mode. Having got back, this article reminds us indeed that a match is always more than the defeating goal. I like Wenger, and have supported him through all, and he actually does have some good players who want to perform for him, and even though many are injured. It’s easy to find scapegoats, and Arshavin has become one, as has Wenger for a long tim among certain sectors of the supporters. He made a decision on logic rather than emotion; while it might well have been the case that Ox-C might have been feeling a tightness in his thigh, he took the wind our of the sails, and I believe he could have kept in on for another five minutes. Poor Arshavin, however, did not deserve that booing, even if he was one of the people – as there were others–at fault on the goal. Such things do nothing for the ethos or the confidence of the club and the players respectively. Managers have a right to be proud, and a little stubborn, but humility is also good. It does not mean trashing players in public, and although Arshavin has not been performing well, he didn’t deserve that response from the crowd. If something goes wrong, you can, as we saw with Eboue, almost destroy someone. It wasn’t that he was not trying (he was); it is that he was inept. Why didn’t he bring on Park, who looked far more interesting, and another midfield player/ defender to cover and help Vermaelen?

      Anyway, as far as they are off from 4th place, it is not impossibility, and I guess we should hope that the returning players would make a difference. So much has gone wrong because of their absence, but the person we need back more than anyone is Bacary Sagna , one of our top two or three best players, and who both defends and attacks, and knows what he is doing when he does both. It would be good, obviously to also get Arteta back, not least of all because Ramsey looks tired (and often very slow).

      • Agreed. Arshavin is the latest in a long line that takes in many of our keepers, Denilson, Bendtner and more. Of course those players bring it on themselves to an extent – whether it is lack of application or something else, there is always something to criticise, but at the same time players can be turned around. They just get turned away by that kind of response.

        We’re missing Sagna badly. Right now we are finally realising just how good he is.

  2. Brilliant article

    • Nonsense…Oxlade-Chamberlaine (OC) had a few very good moments during this game but make no mistake he was major liability on defense. I stopped counting the number of times that Djourou was left to deal with Nani and Evra, single handedly…he simply rarely tracked and United took full advantage of it. But this is so much more than this because had both teams taken their clear chances, this game would have been a blow out. Let’s just face it–United were once again the better team—the rest of this babble is simply deflection.

      • United were certainly the better team again, and I don’t deny that here, or in the piece itself. The table itself shows the gap – a fifteen point deficit suggests that we currently are the inferior team, and we shouldn’t hide from that.

        On OC, I was surprised that he started on the right, to be honest, as I figured his youthfulness would stop him being as disciplined as even Theo, who defended well in the second half. Vermaelen didn’t need as much wing support as Djourou, who was left horribly exposed.

  3. Thank you both :)

  4. How is this a balanced article? It’s simply another kiss-Wenger’s arse article and frankly, i’m starting to suspect many of them are on Wenger’s PR payroll. How anyone could fail to see that today was a mistake by Wenger is beyond me, he messed up, plain and simple. Sometimes, you just have to put your hands up. Walcott had an atrocious game and should have been subbed. Wenger lies when he says OC had cramps all week, etc. If so, then why start him, especially when you haven’t started him before? Also when he got subbed he went straight to his seat, no medical attention, nothing. Wenger has said three things, first that OC on the left wasn’t working, then saying that he was suffering fatigue and then that he had cramps all week. Lies, damned lies. Walcott is the one that should have been subbed. In Arsene I trust….not. Wenger’s time is up, too many people follow him blindly.

    • tx u 4 tlkn plain truth

    • Thank you Marcus, for a bit of sense in a sea of mediocrity loving tosh.

    • Ok this is confusing, we have an extremely negative ‘Pete’, and me, the author.

      On the Wenger PR payroll? Thanks for the laugh. If you’ve seen the Arsenal PR machine in action, you’d know that it isn’t exactly top notch – witness the number of badly timed articles on the dot com for evidence.

      Interesting that being a naturally optimistic and ‘sunny side’ person makes people suspicious of my motivations. Or perhaps that it just the approach of ‘I don’t agree with you, therefore you’re barmy’.

      I don’t know whether OC was cramping, and neither do you. I don’t know whether he was ill in the week, and neither do you. While I trust what the manager says about his reasoning for taking him off, you choose not to, but oddly without any evidence to back it up.

      As for balance, you must have missed the bit where I criticised the timing of the change, I guess?

  5. arsenal daznt dsav fans vry pathetic indid wenga should buy or leav PERIOD N NW VAN PERSIE WL SURELY LEAV

  6. It was not a brave decision by Wenger to bring on Yennaris, he stated in an interview that it was because Djourou had a hamstring injury. The good decision would have been to play the young lad from the start and show some faith in these young players instead of knocking their confidence all the time.. Djourou has in most of his performances at right back been horribly exposed and also sent off.. He doesn’t have the pace to deal with opposition wingers or the ability to get forward and overlap get crosses in.. It’s not his fault, it is the manager’s fault for playing him out of position and not learning that he is not capable of doing the job asked of him.. Wenger has a habit of ignoring the best position of players and another player who is suffering is Walcott who was never a winger and never will be.. He was signed as a striker but never plays as one.. Arshavin who is also getting all sorts of grief is another who is not a winger.. He is a number 10 and plays off the striker and should be doing the job that the inexperienced Ramsey is having to try to do… Even Wenger’s best decision of the day to play the Ox from the start makes you wonder why he chose this game and why we havn’t seen him against the likes of Wolves, Fulham, Swansea and all the other weaker teams that we have dropped points to this season.. I’m beginning to think that It’s not the players that are holding Arsenal back but sadly it is a manager who has had his day..

    • The trouble is – when he has put his faith in youth in the past, and they’ve been found wanting, he has been criticised for that. Had Yennaris started, and played poorly, what would have been the reaction?

      That said, now that he has played well for 45 minutes, I would certainly start him in the next game, if Sagna does not recover in time.

  7. The fans, who are ultimately the customer, should stop paying for this crap and insist on change. This is the only way the board and management will take notice. Otherwise, this great club does not have a great future.

    • Us Arsenal fans are really funny. We don’t want the club to be run like a business but yet want keep demanding like consumers.

  8. Don’t understand how Wenger’s decisions were ‘brave’. The Ox has clearly got great talent and is a natural and that is recognized in the huge fee for an 18 year old. Playing him and then substituting him is hardly brave. The Wenger hype is seen in his treatment of the full back situation. If he believes in youth like he says he does then he plays Yannaris and Miguel from the start instead of two very obviously uncomfortable centre backs. Now that’s brave and even if it borders on foolish I believe Gooners would have more respect for him at the moment. He has got himself into a strange no mans land decisionwise which started in the summer when he could not face the reality of Cesc and the little french bar steward and rushed out belatedly to sign a bunch of second raters. Bit sad really. Almost as sad as the Bafoon who thinks not qualifying for the champions league will be damaging!

    • Miquel is a centre back too y’know. It’s hard to replace someone like Cesc, the only midfielders as good as him are Xavi and Iniesta. The real mistake was letting Nasri’s contract run down and losing him.

      • The situation with contracts is definitely a problem. But Nasri only had one consistent run of form in his whole contract with us, first half of last season, so I can understand why the manager was not rushing to have his contract renewed.

        • Lets just look at the Nasri situation as the player wanting a lot of money for consistency that was never there. Also the player’s agent JPB hates Wenger since Wenger’s Monaco days.

  9. Good article.
    We lost, and that happens. If we had own, still the problems would be there. At least there is still time to rectify few things. It seems like now chelsea is the target we can leap frog for fourth spot. But for that we have to work hard. They are strengthening their squad and we have to work hard for things. I wish for signings, but even if we dont, I hope and pray that we come out in May with answers to many who try to destabilize our belief in our club. But then we have to try to get into ascendency. Ahh, I so much wish we had Arteta today for Ramsey.

    • Ramsey needs a rest. Not sure why so many have slammed him (not saying you have, just a general observation) – he is clearly tiring and struggling with the gruelling schedule, but he never hides. I like that about him.

      But, and this is a big but, the other clubs in the hunt for fourth place have massive problems of their own. We can catch them.

  10. What you missed, and most people seem to miss was how Arshavin was stitched up by Vermaelen for the second United goal. He was left on his own to deal with Valencia, and Verm was hanging out in the box. Even if Arshavin was the worlds greatest defender, fact is teams who defend properly would have sent two players to get the ball from him, one to go straight to him and one to cover the space in case he beat the first. EVERYONE else in the prem has adopted this kind of pressing as best displayed by Barca, and Arsenal clearly haven’t. To defend the wings you need a full back and winger working together, just as to defend the centre you need centrebacks working together. We didn’t. We lost.

  11. We have people like the article writer that has sentimental ties to Wenger and also fans
    that would make excuses for the manager. Unfortunately as Piers Morgan said “Wenger
    has lost the plot”. He played Ignasi at left back and he cost us 2 losses (Fulham-Swansea}
    When is the last time Wenger made an adjustment that changed the match and we got a result?
    Stop jumping on the excuse wagon. Best thing that could have happened today would have been another humiliating loss so the picture of badly this great club is mis-managed gets clear.

    • Not making excuses – the problems are there for all to see.

      I have to say though – I really hate the attitude of ‘I hope we lose so that X, Y and Z can see our problems’. It helps no-one.

      • I hate the attitude too. As a fan you always want your side to win. But on the other hand Arsene is obstinate and something is not working at the club and it is his responsibility. If some poor results help him realise that, then it’s some consolation from the 8 drubbings we’ve had this season already.

  12. Enjoyed the article,but I think wenger has given far too much oppurtunities to players who have continually misused there oppurtunities, Arshavin,denilson, ben,almu,diaby, squla,chalmk… Have cost arsenal so much,it really hurts to see arsenal fans suffer and even some of the committed player suffer others incapabilities, sometimes I question what some of the staffs do, by not questioning wenger’s decision, many of arsenal’s matches wouldn’t have gone the way they did,if the rigth thing had been done, i feel these players are not willing to help, and deliver what is expected of them, I think it is time for wenger to call a spade a spade, come to reality. All these is really dishearthen and it continually hurt me in person, i wish i could meet wenger in person…… All the best

  13. Another article in a line of Wenger apologists. Today, we lost because of our manager. It is plain and simple.

    No signings has left us extremely weak at the back. Djourou was pathetic. Nani was having him for lunch and there was nothing he could do about it. Sign reinforcements! Earlier in the evening Scott Parker was brilliant. He should have been in an Arsenal shirt along with 10 other missed opportunities.

    The substitution was UNFORGIVABLE. PERIOD! Ox was not injured. Wenger just wanted to give his dream boy some time. (Wenger repeatedly claims that Arshavan is the man. HE IS DREAMING) How many times does one go to a dry well for water before he is labeled a lunatic. Cut your losses and move on!


    • Djourou isn’t a right back. And while it would be great for us to sign one, what decent right back is going to sign for us when he knows that he’ll be behind Sagna when he returns next week? It isn’t that easy to just magic up a replacement.

      Why is everyone so convinced that Wenger’s line about the Ox feeling his calf is a lie?

  14. Very interesting and neat reflection on the game. Particularly your point on Theo sacrificing his sense of adventure to aid Nico at RB, as I didn’t really notice it during the game.

    For me, the main problem revolving the Club at this time is the distance you feel maintained between the closed doors of Emirates, where decisions are made, and us as supporters and keen opinion holders. We’re going through a rough patch and have been for a considerable stretch of time but the long term strategies as to how the frack we’re going to get back on the bounce is anyone’s guess – and that’s what’s so frustrating.

    If United aren’t performing, the crazy old Scot will tear their dressing room to pieces and absolutely batter better performances out of his players – or axe them for a while.
    If City aren’t performing, Mancini’s board simply dispatches a few more shipments of sunflower oil to bring in top players at frankly incomprehensible wage rates.
    If Spurs aren’t performing, the ol’ Twitch swings the door and signs a further 10-20 players or throws on more speedy wingers to force the issue.
    If Liverpool aren’t performing, who the ckfu cares? But somehow, even though they haven’t been near the CL for a good few seasons and aren’t playing attractive football by any stretch of the imagination, they still attract big players – and have the funds to sign them.

    At the Arsenal, it’s pretty much a case of ‘Trust in us. Just … just trust in us. We’re working on it.’
    I’m in no way saying we should do any of the above (well, not necessarily) but sometimes I feel the Club could generate crucial goodwill around it by just stating *something*. Throwing us a bone. It doesn’t have to mean any real change if they’re absolutely adamant we don’t need it. But then at least tell us what we’re then going to do! We’re being kept in the dark most of the time until either 1) matters have been settled, or 2) the damage has been done.
    We all respect the gaffer; his genius and (extreme) stubbornness is what elevated us to glory in the first place. Letting the increasingly infuriated crowds just slightly in on proceedings wouldn’t kill off his project or indeed compromise his authority or integrity, so why aren’t we hearing of *any* initiatives (in terms of tactics, transfers, finances etc.) before they’ve long since been decided upon, closed or discarded?

    Sorry, I had to let off some steam. Villa’s up next. Let’s turn on the style and hit them for at least four or five. You know, just to induce some kind of satisfaction into an otherwise testing season.

    • Very fair points.

      The club’s stance of silence is certainly good and bad. The good part is that we get gazumped less on transfers, the bad is that the fans are left in the dark, speculating on players we were probab;y never interested in, and frustrated when they go elsewhere. It is a very fine line.

      I am concerned about where this is going – the relationship between fan and manager is getting increasingly fractured, and very few relationships in football come back from that.

  15. Why is starting The Ox a “brave decision” when we have been clamoring for that ever since he scored a goal in the CL. I and many others have already pointed out that though young he can’t be worse than Arshavin or Theo. When you’re at the bottom, anything is better than more of the same and Theo and Arshavin, especially, are just about there.

    Starting Yennaris was indeed a very good decision but you know what’s a better decision? Buying full backs. Gibbs is never going to string appearances together, and Jenkinson is 18 – go find me any other winning manager that wants to trust their defense to an 18 year old.

    Taye Taiwo moved downwards to QPR just so he can play football. People will have their opinion about him but surely it’s a better option of having him play LB, Kos in RB and TV5 and Per in the middle than continually use Djourou at the right and getting burned every game for it and TV out left where he’s really mediocre at it.

    Our midfield is pretty useless. The fact that Arteta, a slightly above average player is our best midfielder says alot about how far we’ve fallen from the days of Pires, Gilberto, Ljundberg, Vieira, Petit – the list goes on. Arteta couldn’t even get into the Spanish squad when Spain were underachievers.

    It’s clear to everyone but Arsene that there’s some horrible players that need to ply their trade elsewhere and the money re-invested in some quality.

    • It is a problem that we have a lack depth, with underachievers on our books and out on loan. But Taiwo? You said it yourself, he left looking for QPR to get game time so is he prepared to move to a club with Santos and Gibbs ahead of him? He would not have made the move for a couple of weeks’ work before they come back.

      And it is harsh on Arteta’s qualities to chastise him for not making it into the strongest national team midfield… Perhaps ever. I mean even Fabregas has spent more time on their bench thatn starting. Likewise to comparing our current midfield to the midfield of the Invincibles.

      Wenger made a mistake fighting a losing battle to keep Fabregas and Nasri until it was too late, but the fact is we do not have the money to spend upwards of 20 million on a replacement for those players BEFORE they left. Having said, Gervinho has not been a bad replacement for Nasri’s wing play, though not for his flexibility of roles. After they left hazard, Gotze et al had been committed to staying within their clubs because they were not willing to find themselves in the late shopping hunt that Arsenal were in. By the same token, had he not put up the fight he would have been criticised for that too. Having said that I think Gervinho is proving a pretty good replacement for Nasri’s wing play. Let’s also not forget Wilshire’s injury. In fact, we have played a large part of our year without Wilshere, Sagna and Vermaelen – probably each the best in their position in the league. We also have the best striker in the League (who many in the blogosphere were wanting shipped out as a crock) and the most exciting young keeper (promoted from within when everyone was clammering for a new keeper to show intent).

      Long term, we need a quality support striker, better reserve keeper and perhaps someone to play at the front of the midfield as I am not sure that Ramsay is yet quite that player (though has considerable quality and works his socks off). Other than that, we just fucking need our injured players back.

      • Yeah, the likes of Taiwo won’t help – not that great, and wouldn’t come anyway.

        We suffered in the sumer because the Cesc and Nasri situations went on far longer than they should have, and left us sacrificing five games at the start. We recovered well from that, but it left us no wiggle room for the bad run we now find ourselves in.

        Wenger didn’t want to trust his defence to Jenkinson – he was intended to be the young understudy to one of the best and robust right backs around. Who unfortunately then got less robust.

        • I disagree with both of you about Taiwo not being of use because Santos isn’t much better and he was from a bush Greek league. Yeah he’s a Brazil international but he’s not first choice and second choice simply because Brazil really don’t have that much left backs anyways. At least Taiwo has had years of CL experience and he’s won things with Marseille.

          QPR has him on loan, something that would help us because Gibbs is nto the next Ashley Cole and neither can he play 3 games before going under the knife again. He’s sitting on Milan’s bench so whether he’s sitting here or there at least he’d have more chances at Arsenal because let’s face it, our physio team is piss poor at getting players fit and keeping them there. Not that great? Neither is Santos. Sure he’s great going forward and decent with defending on the ground simply due to his speed but he’s crap when it comes to winning the ball in the air. He’s not any better than Taiwo.

          Areta was playing decent football long before Spain even won anything and he couldn’t get in then, so your point is moot.

          We were going to lose Fab and Nasri but that was the summer, this is the winter window and we seem keen on keeping the trash players and paying them tens of thousands a week in salary to either play for another club, not play at all or just polish our dugout. Instead of shipping them out and making say 20M off them collectively and re-invest we keep the same players who fail to show up when it counts.

  16. I have always tried to support Arsene Wenger, and I still do. However, today he got it very wrong. Plain and simple. I was watching eleven men (well, maybe 9 men and 2 brave kids) growing in confidence, I was seeing them start to believe, I could see them moving forward with more authority, I even saw them looking up at the United goal to zero in on their target a man a piece. But then ….. A great man will make mistakes, (like we all do) acknowledge them, learn from them and change. If he doesn’t the man is usually changed. Wenger needs to listen to the fans a little more. We all knew Bendtner was not good enough long before he did.

    BTW It was quite refreshing to read a well written article. Unfortunately there is so much written than is nowhere near as considered as your penmanship. Well done, Sir!

    • Thank you.

      Wenger certainly retains faith longer than many, and a lot of time the players don’t pay him back. Song is always held up as the exception, which is fair, but there are many others who fell.

      Once Gervinho comes back, I doubt Arshavin will play much at all.

  17. Pete

    Good read. In a world of pessimists it’s always good to see someone level-headed enough to see things as they are, rather than how they themselves think it should be.

    ” ..While Theo frustrates many with his inconsistent performances going forward, he did show a measure of responsibility in protecting Yennaris, which should not go unnoticed.”
    It’s at this point as I read that I knew your article was one that was well-balanced. I’ll be the first fan to vent about how frustrating Theo has been; and today’s game was as uninspiring as they come, but we must castigate and compliment when deserved in equal measure, and Theo inconspicuously did well to help the young full-back Nico (who -surprise surprise- actually happens to be another young midfielder playing out of position). I’m one of the few who still think Theo is capable, and his status as an Arsenal player (but not necessarily as a starter) is a non-issue.

    This game -just as the others before it- emphasized the importance of full backs. Not many people will acknowledge the critical but low-key role that Bacary Sagna has played since becoming a starting right back. He has been an ever-present; the only player who was always a sure thing before every game until his injury. The fact that his deputy Jenkinson, as well as all other natural full backs, are out doesn’t help either. The team is crippled: putting all the blame on Djourou or Miquel is just naive. The team have to adjust and it is never easy as we have seen today. Plunging into the market may not be the wisest idea in the long term

    Arsene Wenger is a manager who puts a lot of faith in the players and the system he implements. The problem today was not that Arshavin came on, it was Oxlade-Chamberlain going off. And while that is clearly debatable, the jeering directed at the Manager, Arshavin (or whomever) is simply unacceptable. Again, the Russian is no star right now, but the capability to influence the game is still there, case in point: assists v QPR and v Swansea. He wasn’t purely to blame for the 2nd goal, so a lot of the calumny directed at him is mostly unfair.

    I refuse to be part of the naysayers, the likes of Mr. Morgan and others, calling for Arsene Wenger’s removal. Funny how they’re quick to put down players for inconsistency, yet they themselves during the good run we had late last year seemed to disappear for a while. And while one or two of the manager’s decisions today were questionable, the irony of how quickly they pounce on such using them as a front for their campaign agenda bemuses me. I, like you, am in favour of healthy criticism; Arsene Wenger should never feel that he will have it easy since there are decisions (like today’s) that will always need reflection however positive or negative the result. But statements like ” …You are either for the manager, or against him – there is no middle ground…” are really unnecessary.

    ‘Victory Grows through Harmony.’
    We lost. We are The Arsenal. We move forward.

    • Great comment.

      Full back is such an underrated position by many, myself included. A bit like a bass player in a band, you only realise how vital they are when missing.

      Arshavin looked bewildered when he came on – I can understand the initial jeer of dismay at the substitution, and when the Ox was cheered off I thought at least it was aimed in a positive way. But then the jeers restarted on Arshavin’s entrance, which was enormously unhelpful.

      Too many are now waiting for Wenger, and certain players to fail. They make mistakes, and they will make more. But as you say, those people always go quiet when things go well. Let’s hope we keep them quiet.

  18. I clearly remember that AW said it is stupid to lost some points due to lack of defender. Now 3 games in a row we lost because of that. So AW please stop this stupidity!

  19. Yeah, I rarely say this, but it was an excellent blog. There is a lot of middle ground, but middle ground describes perfectly many of the uninspiring, middling players we have as well. Wenger surely has to become more ruthless with the underperformers. While I dont agree with getting rid of him, which would be crazy, you can understand the detracters: the general trajectory of the club has undoubtedly been downward over the last 4-5 years. At some stage, if things dont change, those calls will become impossible to ignore.

    I dont really think people are angry we lost today, they are angry that it’s three on the trot.

    We can get 4th this year, astonishingly, as the other teams are doing terribly also. Not an ideal situation to be in, but thats what we have.

    As for signings, I believe we need to get rid of Gibbs at LB, I just dont think he’s good enough defensively.

    • I actually rate Gibbs, but agree with you for a different reason – his injury record. With Van Persie, you always felt his injuries were the result of bad luck – mostly impact injuries – and it might turn around. But with Gibbs, it is muscle strain after muscle strain, which suggests a much deeper problem.

      Yesterday’s game, in isolation, might not have been too bad. It was the losses that preceded it that hurt.

  20. Well written article but…
    Man United tactics were obvious! Valencia and Giggs in, two out and out wingers playing against a team without fullbacks.I knew it the moment I saw the team line up and Wenger damn well should have. We have Walcott (not known for covering defenders behind him) and The Ox a promising young player who showed that he deserves more game time. Now the subs bench is not inspiring BUT if it was felt that The Ox was tiring, was sick in the week, whatever you DO NOT bring on a plyer who is renowned for not tracking back.
    Now Im not calling for the mans head but he must be aware of Arshavins short comings which makes this decision completly mental!!! And so im sorry to say that this decsion was and is the reason we lost. Knowing Arshavins inability to defend or even to track back I would have left The Ox on the pitch, maybe sent him a message to saty back more.

  21. If it were not for Wenger`s unquestionable integrity I could be forgiven for thinking the match was riggd but the incident was so blatant and amateurish it can only be rated as foolish.
    I`m afraid it`s going to take a while for the dust to settle and the up coming match against Spurs won`t help.

  22. talent aside (Ox), it’s about the drive, willingness and hardwork. Yenarris & Ox good work rate. Arshavin and the likes need to realize this -lazy players.

  23. Well but RVP missed a sitter! Why are you not blaming him? We also needed a leader yesterday, but RVP, Vermalaen and all of our ‘captains’ were keeping mum, no one was shouting, giving any form of instruction. Lastly, you win or lose if you need it enough, we did not want it enough. How is it that a 37 year old Giggs was running a lot, and although combative, our own Song and Ramsey weren’t running enough? How comes that we could not string together more than 2 passes in the first half. So i light of that, how do you expect centre halves turned into full backs to play well? Because had we possessed the ball, their experience would have helped us, but whenever we got the ball, we would lump it upfield and seize the initiative to ManU!
    From the last two games, i would declare that Arteta was Wenger’s biggest buy in the Summer.

  24. Wenger is at fault people, u can do a substitution when u feel one of ur best performer is fatigued, but must his replacement be Arshavin? We had park, whom later came on, benayoun was on the bench too. Arshavin eventhough he must play should have come in last instead of park. Wenger stop being delluded by what u c about Arshavin in trainin, he can’t do thesame in a match, giv the young boys who show the hunger to play a chance, other than opting for the experince who have less desire, example of that yesterday was young yenaris. Instead of that brainless swiss. And for the remender of the games, rosicsky should be seleted ahead of ramsey untill wilshere is back.(Even after j.wilshere’s return, Rosicsky shuld be ahead of ramsey)

  25. Substitutions is a gamble for manager. sometime it really work and sometime not. Do we all remember BARCELONA match at Emirates last season. AW introduce Arshavin in 2nd half, he did not make much impact until he found a space where he scored the winner. We are lucky at that time but yesterday AW used the same strategy but it did not work. We must accept that. But how if Arshavin scored the winner yesterday??? I believe everyone will congratulates AW for making a good substitution.

  26. The goal meant United had to score three just to take the game into extra time, and they did get one back before half time through Van Nistelrooy. The equaliser, though, only had the effect of poking a particularly angry bear, and at the start of the second half, Real barely allowed United a kick. Tiki-taka was just a twinkle in Pep Guardiola’s eye in 2003, so Real’s short spell of unerring passing dominance before their second goal was like walking into your garden and finding a unicorn sitting on the lawn. For a minute, Figo and Zidane taunted their hosts, before the Frenchman sliced open United’s defence with a sublime pass through to the marauding Roberto Carlos, who unselfishly rolled the ball across to Ronaldo for an easy tap-in. Ronaldo put the finishing flourish on the move, but in truth it was all about the simple genius of Zidane. Ronaldo’s part in it was the equivalent of a barman adding a slice of lime to a bottle of Corona.

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