Same old Arsenal?


After they slumped to a disappointing defeat at Old Trafford, the same old questions over the Gunners manager’s lack of imagination rear their ugly heads once more. Tom McKeown at tells us that not much has changed at Arsenal over the past 7 years, since the club’s last major trophy. Although the Gunners started brightly earlier in the season, since then they have slumped to their lowest point-haul in 10 games since 1994, the worst start to a season during Wenger’s reign.

Arsene Wenger’s side lacked any sort of spark or imagination going forward, and the defence which has shipped the fewest goals in the Premier League this season was easily exploited by United’s wealth of attacking talent.

What is more worrying is that the Gunners boss chose to stick with an XI that barely scraped past a poor QPR side just a week earlier.

Wenger aim is surely to build a strong back four echoing the classic defence from the late eighties and nineties, but times have changed and the 63-year-old needs to be able to adjust his side to fit their opponents, and not stick blindly with the same tried, tested and failed formula.

One of the key problems is that Wenger is not renowned for being proactive and reacting to match situations. Jack Wilshere’s red card was a perfect example of these shortcomings.

Less than ten minutes before Wilshere picked up his second yellow of the game, Sir Alex Ferguson hauled off Tom Cleverley – also on a yellow – when referee Mike Dean gave him a final warning after the midfielder fouled Arsenal’s number 10.

The United boss saw the impending danger and immediately reacted. Wenger did not, and Arsenal ultimately paid the price as they failed to make any serious inroads into the Red Devils’ two-goal lead.

The gap between Arsenal and the top is ever-increasing. Wenger has to be prepared to adapt if the Gunners are to have any hope of picking up silverware this season, including the “fifth trophy” of Champions League qualification.

Going further, The Guardian’s Richard Williams asks if “Arsene Wenger (is) finally losing his grip at Arsenal?“.

For the last 10 minutes of a 2-1 that felt like an 8-2, the visiting fans kept up an unbroken chant of “We love you, Arsenal”. Long before that impressive display of solidarity, however, they had supplied ample proof of an anger provoked by the way yet another season threatens to disintegrate in a welter of complaint and recrimination.

If anybody wanted to see the evidence that persuaded Van Persie to move from the Emirates to Old Trafford, it was on show in the flaccid, error-strewn performance by an underpowered Arsenal team containing too many players seemingly destined to make no positive impact on the club’s history.

It started at the back, with the third-minute error by the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, that invited Van Persie to open the scoring. By delivering a savage blow to Arsenal’s morale while encouraging their opponents to slip into a careless, overconfident mode, it was a moment that shaped the course of the entire match.

Arsenal supporters were encouraged at the start of the season by the promotion of Steve Bould to the role of Wenger’s assistant, with special responsibility for defensive matters. But it is hard to believe that Bould, a revered member of the defence Wenger inherited on his arrival at the club 16 years ago, sees Santos as a satisfactory replacement for the injured Kieran Gibbs. Retaining Carl Jenkinson, the young Englishman, at right-back, where he had played every previous game this season, and bringing Bacary Sagna – returning from injury – back in on the opposite flank would surely have been a better option.

Almost anything would have been better than Santos, and one could only imagine that Lukas Podolski’s failure to lend the hapless Brazilian much support on the left flank was the product of a desire to avoid being tainted by association. All that needs to be added is that when Santos bizarrely asked Van Persie for his shirt on their way to the tunnel at half-time, the Dutchman did not bother to ask for his former team-mate’s in return.

A chance to compare and contrast the two vastly promising young England midfielders was one of the attractions of the encounter. Some people fail to see the point of Cleverley but he was neat and industrious alongside Michael Carrick at the base of United’s midfield, while Wilshere, making his second league start after his long absence, showed his familiar ability to accept the ball on the half-turn and move it along with adroitness and relevance.

But after collecting yellow cards in the first half – Wilshere for going through on Cleverley, the United player for a foul on Santi Cazorla – both men were warned after the interval, Wilshere for upending Van Persie and Cleverley for bringing down Wilshere. Three minutes after Cleverley had received Mike Dean’s final warning, Ferguson replaced him with Anderson. Wilshere, however, was left on the pitch for the 15 minutes it took him to crunch into Evra as the Frenchman tried to halt his dribble.

…While the narrowness of the eventual scoreline was no more than a trick of the light, the deficiencies in the way the Arsenal squad is currently being managed were glaringly exposed.

Meanwhile, Steve Palmer of Highbury House, an Arsenal fan, provides his opinion on the topic:

Many Gooners have the hump, as watching United this season it’s clear to see that they are not at their best, they look beatable and they have struggled to keep a clean sheet. Then we turned up with a toothless team and we hardly covered ourselves in glory did we?

Personally speaking I don’t think we have a bad squad, but the tactics we are deploying are not working, we are being exploited by teams we are trying to catch. The lack of good defending and square-ball passing is leaving us a toothless unit. Teams are now realising that if you can stifle players like Cazorla they stop any creative passage we have. Teams seem to have realised that persisting with zonal marking leaves us open and again we are being exploited from running/jumping forwards, yet still we persist.

Arsene Wenger comes under fire when we turn in results and performances as we are doing lately and so he should but I feel he still goes out with the idea that if we play our game we will overcome but he is wrong. The United’s of this world with old red nose planning their assault realised that if you stifle our midfield play-makers you will make the engine miss fire and boy did we miss fire.

Shots on target or should I just say shots, are very few and between which really is a disgrace. How can we expect to win if we don’t create and take chances?

Selling Players like Van Persie to a team like United is just professional suicide, Nasri and Clichy to City is the same and as much as we all didn’t mind Clichy leaving at the time, playing Santos at left back is not a better option.

Granted these player all wanted to leave for either the money or as they choose to say, to win trophies, and after the start we have made you can understand their statements because with our defending tactics and our lack of creation up front we aren’t going to win much are we?

I also get the feeling now that he wants to offer our best players more money and he wants to bring the kind of talent in that these players want to play with but he feels that its to expensive for the club and when a manager feels like that he is not doing his own job properly.

Wenger should have only one thing in his mind and that is building a squad of players that can win things again, leave the finances of the club to whoever it concerns.

It’s time he got back to doing his managerial job and if he won’t, then ship him out.

What do you think? Is the manager the problem, the board or both? Should Wenger be given more time to turn the club around or should he finally be sacked? Let us know your thoughts below, on Facebook or Twitter.

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  1. Arsenal ride out stormy season but old flaws remain | TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM - May 20, 2013

    […] complete article is available at The Guardian. Meanwhile, TKTG has recently studied the problems faced by Arsenal over the last few years. Tell us how you feel about the club and its immediate future, below or on Facebook and […]

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