Guest Post: Minding The Gap

A guest post this morning from Alex Anderson

We hear a lot about “ambition” in the modern Premiership. When it comes up in relation to AFC it’s usually a negative. A player like Robin van Persie, Ashley Cole or Samir Nasri announcing to all and sundry that he has to leave because the team does not match his “ambition” or he “wants to win trophies.”

It’s nonsense of course. Suggesting a professional sports team doesn’t want to win is like accusing Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of not wanting to make money. Damned straight they want to win. The manager wants to win; the players want to win even the accountants on the board want to win. After all, winning means more profile and increased brand power which in turn means more money. But professional sports franchises are businesses too and this is where it gets murky. Like Gates, they want to make money and they have to balance the amount they can invest today with their ability to at least break even tomorrow – preferably without dipping into the staff pension fund.

All the players referenced above claimed their concerns had nothing to do with the size of their personal weekly pay-cheques. In van Persie’s case I want to believe him. (I’m not sure I do, but I want to if for no other reason that he has shown a measure of respect and class.) The claims of the others I dismiss out of hand. Of course, even if we are kind to van Persie in this and accept that his position was not built on a foundation of personal avarice it is impossible to escape the fact that he was still talking about money. In his case “ambition” referred to squad investment.

In these terms it is not reasonable to compare the ambitions of AFC with the financial recklessness of Chelski, Manchester City, Paris St. Germain or any of the other teams that have been acquired as playthings for the mega-rich. That accepted, however, it is perfectly reasonable to expect to see appropriate investment in the squad. As supporters we have seen a lot of players leave Emirates over the past few seasons and the amount of money coming into the club through these sales dramatically outweighs the amount that has gone out on new players. This gives sad credence to those decrying Arsenal’s ambition and leaves the rest of us scratching our heads. Comments from club officials about aiming for the top four have been especially damaging to the club’s image.

Wenger has told us he doesn’t want to block the development of the young players he has coming through the ranks by bringing in big name players ahead of them. Clearly one of his ambitions was to build a squad from the youth team out that would play proper football and win everything a la Barcelona. This has led to a number of acquisitions that were at best dubious as he has expanded the squad with older, less skilled players rather than people who will challenge for genuine starting spots. It’s like he has been trying to bridge the gap to the time when the youngsters will be ready in a year or two. For example, is Squillaci merely holding a spot for Miquel? Is Santos doing the same for Meade?

If true, this is of course completely misguided. You should never be shopping for squad players. You shop for starters and your current starters either work harder – showing their own ambition – or they become the squad players, making substitute appearances and taking a reduced role in the rotation. Quality will shine through no matter what and the team will be better off.

Now that December is upon us we are already well into the Silly Season and the rags have been talking up the possible targets upon which Arsenal can demonstrate its ambition for weeks. Huntelaar, Zaha, and Goetze are just the tip of a very large rumour iceberg. Personally, I think we already have a lot of quality in the side, but we are shallow and the players have been under-performing.

Wenger has said he will buy new players. Without getting specific about names (other than Sagna and Walcott who need to be locked up for the next few years at least) let’s hope he brings in the kind of players who will challenge for starting spots and put aside the disheartening claims of those who have questioned the club’s desire in the past. It might be expensive in terms of upfront investment, but the residuals down the road will make the bean counters a lot happier than missing out on the Champion’s League will.

’til Tomorrow

1,063 thoughts on “Guest Post: Minding The Gap

  1. Dukey – You don’t think the players selected should have been able to beat Bradford? All international footballers to a man. Where was the professional pride? They should not need motivating or guiding through games agsint opposition four leagues below them.

    Forget all the crap that is going on at the club, once on the pitch they should perform (that is, after all, what they get paid for). If they can’t, it tells us more about their mentalities that anything else.

  2. As for the treament of players being woeful, I would argue the opposite. The players have it too easy. They hold no responsibility. And this culture has led (IMO) no no rsponsibility on the pitch. yuo rarely see players berating each other if somebody makes a mistake. Everything is too cosy and nobody wants to rock the boat. That is not a good enviroment for a winning sport team.

  3. AW does not help himself though. Coming out saying that we have no reason to be embarrassed being beaten by bradford is plain stupid. Every person involved with the first team should be embarrassed. If they are not, you would seriously question their mindset.

  4. Andy,

    Footballers are temperamental they need guidance, they play when happy they sulk when they don’t….that’s why the manager is so important. The selling of their mates, the lousy contract offers to their mates all help to create an unhappy vibe.

  5. The lack of penetration is in part down to a lack of numbers of strikers in offensive positions i.e. in the 18 yard box

    Even last night, dominating the ball, desperate to nick an equalizer we played with a single striker – what in God’s name is the point of that ?

    At least on one occasion, and probably more, a flank player was looking to put a cross in to find no one in the box.

    Were we scared of Bradford ?

    At least two strikers in central positions were required last night as the shite slid relentlessly toward the fan (well this fan anyway)

    Midfield players should have been hurtling forward

    Instead it was a tame and often painfully slow plod which allowed a well organised defence to lap it up

  6. Dukey – Yeah, but we were playing Bradford. Four lge’s below us.

    If the poor little lambs can’t manage to put their woes behind them to beat a a team of that level, they are in all honestly an embarrasment to their profession. If we had just been tactically out-thought by a Championship teams (for example) I would be looking towards the manager as well. But the gap in talent was so great last night it shouldn’t have mattered if you were sat in the dugout managing the team.

  7. Well I’d go with Anicoll , the tactics were wrong and they have been all year. We don’t have the players to play 4-3-3 anymore but Wenger is refusing to let it go.

    Let’s go back to 4-4-2 with podolski and Giroud upfront with arshavin or gervinho on left and the ox or Walcott on right and cazorla on either if needed.

  8. You are corect, andy, as far as that goes but why aren’t they motivated?

    We have seen a pattern here of players, who we are told are ‘winners’ and have a ‘strong will’, come and go, and yet this pattern repeats.

    Is Arsene buying players with poor attitude?

    Or, does their attitude and drive to succeed lessen during their time at the club?

    Podolski was dynamic when he arrived, ran the left line ragged and always looked a goal threat. Now?

    Arsene picks the team, he manages the squad, he prepares the players, he sets up the tactics.

    JJ made some good points last night about players seeing other players, less effective than them, featuring in the positions they want themselves. How demotivating is that?

    I bet when you get some shiny new kit you all want to have a go at that. How would you feel if it all went to the Marines!?

  9. Let`s be honest , who was surprised by last night`s result & non performance ?

    It`s become the norm for us & no amount of spin can change that. Right now we are a poorly motivated , under prepared , tactically inept, error strewn shambles.

    If anyone doubted some of the `end of an era` quotes on here previously they should take a look at the VT from Bradford.

    At this rate it`ll be here much quicker than people expected

  10. I doubt that many of us were really surprised, Paulie. The first ten minutes set a pattern that I felt was almost certain to continue until a half time bollocking. That doesn’t seem to do the trick any more either.

    However, before a ball was kicked I wasn’t feeling optimistic.

  11. Bob – I do agree with every word. But there has to be a degree of self motivation for a player surely? It was a quater final against a pretty poor team. We had a team cock full of internationals. The manager has much to answer for, but last night was not one of them IMO.

    As for buying players with poor mental attitudes; maybe? It would certaibly explain a lot. But on the other hand we have (at times) shown real mental strength. I always thought that were were a bi-polar team, capable of extremes in either direction. Amazing football, or truely shambolic play.

    But now that does not seem to be the case. Many of us have been thinking that we are a god side with certain issues. But maybe that is not the case. Maybe we are an above average side which is capable of occaisionally great football. When was the last time we put together a run of form which would mark us out as a very good team. I must admit, I can’t remember.

    But I digress. As for the shniy new kit, we always get the shite left over 😉

  12. I was not surprised that on an important night that the team, or the front two thirds of it at least, failed.

    I was however surprised at the result, that from the depths of their boots not one of our players could really pull out a rabbit.

    And in contrast at 120 minutes Bradford had a man who had that final capability that killed us

  13. We always used to console ourselves with the fact that despite failings, we still played great football. Now not even that is true.

    Football is not about keeping possesion, it is about scoring goals. And we are really struggling to create chances, let alone take our chances.

  14. @dejected dukey this has everything to do with the players. the gulf between arsenal and Bradford is so vast that we should be able to field 9 defenders and two keepers, playing the keeper as our outlet for attack and still win comfortabley.

    The arsenal players are so superior tactically, techincally and strengthwise that they should not need AW on the sideline to win this.

    Even chamack is to good to flop against Bradford.
    We fielded our strongest team. AW should not have to motivate them to win against bradford.

    In retrospective view we should have fielded the yongsters. atleast they have fire in their bellies…
    Because with the difference in skilsl that is all that was requiered from our players.
    We shuold have won easily…

  15. dejected dukey, I’m all for 4-4-1-1 but you need more dynamic players out wide. Arshavin and Gervinho in particular would be a disaster. Rosicky, Ox, even Cazorla wider would possibly work. Or Podolski left and someone else ahead of Giroud. And despite a lot of claims to the contrary, Ramsey is made for a wide position in a 4-4-2.

  16. I suppose, then, that the good kit actually does go to a proper fighting unit like the Marines.

    That’s what my dad always said anyway!

  17. Well that really sucked. Troubling thing is that is feels like the natural progression of where the club has been going for several seasons now.

  18. Markus – “Ramsey is made for a wide position in a 4-4-2.

    Really? I don’t see that at all. He does not have the pace nor trickery to beat his man. He is blatently a central midfield player. Unfortuntely for him, we have plenty of players who are better than him in that postion. I don’t understand why AW seems intent on crowbaring into the side when he is offering us absolutely nothing and having zero impact on games.

    I like the lad, but he is simply not good enough to be starting for us. I actually think Le Coq is a better player than Ramsey.

  19. @goonerandy i think Ramsey will come good though. Not everyone blossoms age 21. Look at Cleverly, he needed a couple of loans before he was worth a start for United.

    ramsey needs to play, but maybe in a team with a bit less preassure than we have atm. He would be a great loan for any team like eer. i was gonna see midtable team and name a few. but unfortunatley most of those i was gonna name are above us atm.
    statistics says we need aroud 70 points to grab Fourth.
    How many more matches can we then afford to loose now i wonder, before that becomes an utopia…

  20. Poodle – Yeah, maybe so. I hope so because I do like him.

    Amazingly, we are still in with a really good shouth at fourth place. But we need to start picking up form.

    Heh about the mid-table teams 🙂

  21. Pace and trickery not as important in a 4-4-2 as they are in 4-3-3. Ramsey can cross, shoot and has a talent for being in the box at the right time (when he is allowed to get forward). In a 4-4-2 we’d see more of his strengths. Just my opinion.

  22. It`s not about last night. It`s not about tactics , formations, injuries signings or even personnel.

    For me it`s about acceptance at the top level of our club that these things don`t really matter.

    Well, pretty soon they WILL start to matter – playing poor football & losing (matches & fans) are going to effect the all important `brand`.

  23. Markus – “Ramsey can cross, shoot and has a talent for being in the box at the right time (when he is allowed to get forward).

    Which he has not shown in any of the games played on the right in a front three. Which if true, you would expect him to.

    In a 4-4-2 we’d see more of his strengths. Just my opinion.

    I don’t agree, but fair enough.

    But to add to that; is that not a a good example of where our problems lie? Ramsey may be able to be a job on the right, but is that good enough? A job? Should a team like Arsenal not have players who excell in their given positions?

    We have too many players doing “a job”. Gervinho through the middle, Ramsey on the right, TV5 (at times) at left back. Not a recipie for success. Compare that to our last sucessful side. Both wide men were match winners. We had two strikers who would have graced any side. Midfield which would dominate teams. Compare that to now. Not compare the players, as that would be unfair. But compare their standings.

  24. Why would it make a jot of difference if he did Mel ?

    Do you imagine the Glazers have a clue whether Manyoo are playing or Mansour is glued to 5 Live every Saturday afternoon ?

    Now if Silent Stan could play a bit, a deadly finisher perhaps, fair enough

  25. anyone who thinks rambo out wide and gervinho through the centre in any formation needs to go stand in the corner with wenger in the queue for the CAT scan..

    pull the trigger ivan..

  26. I think Cazorla shot a lot more last night simply because the players infront of him were offering him no options, at one point he had to shoo Gerinvho away from the ball and he didn’t even consider passing it to him but looked for the dodgey long ball to Chamberlain, quite probably because he kept seeing Gervinho waste possession and started to view him as a last resort rather than someone who he can link up with.

    If you don’t trust the players around you to be sensible with the ball it complete destroys your game.

  27. Ramsey starting games ahead of Rosiscky is a big joke.Ramsey just not good enough.OH, he’s 21 years, he will come good,Wenger is playing him out of position, pls pls pls.Pls stop defending him.

  28. Wonger wenger Wenger Wenger Wenger Wenger weng……arsene Wenger……he’s selling a song , he sells his players when the month gets too long..sha la laaa la laa laaaa . It’s the arsene wennnger waaaay.

    Are you in need of some good players in a hurry…then don’t delay phone wenger today and you could have a player transfered to your club almost straight away.

  29. I can see Usmanov and Stan playing together as our strike force in an emergency, the 25 stone Uzbek knocking the ball on with his huge head into the path of Stan, pivoting on one elegant leg like a stork, before volleying into the top corner – I bet Usmanov would have tucked his spot kick away last night

  30. I dont blame Gervinho Ramsey and Chamakh.I blame the man who bought them.I blame the man who put them on big contracts.They cant help being not good enough,the buck stops wih the manager

    The words of Tom Fox are starting to hit home.We should be proud we make massive profis.Yes lets all be proud today

    Thanks Arsene Ivan Tom and of course Stan

  31. Unoriginal post: I still would like to see 4-4-2. The idea of seeing Podolski and Giroud playing together seems really good to me – go and watch Girouds Montpellier assists, knockdowns in the penalty area, it’s what he did for Jack a few weeks back, Podolski wants to play centrally and is a brilliant finisher. This would leave you to form a midfield bank out of Rosicky, Arteta, Jack, Santi – add in Walcott and Diaby when he’s fit, Gervinho as an impact player. I dunno, I’d just like to try it.

  32. Zinc – It would be an option. Cazorla could still playmake from the left as Le Bob used to. Arteta and Wilshere in the middle with Theo on the right. Roskicky could play in any of the midfield roles. Up front Giroud/Theo/Podolski. Another striker would still be an essential addition.

  33. It was a difficult evening, one in which I had too much time to reflect on Arsenal and their loss on penalties to L2 Bradford City. The CC is not a competition that was on my wish list at the start of the season, but perhaps it does highlight the depths to which we fans are willing to go to get back to winning something. A season in which we win the CC alone would not be considered a successful season but it would at least show we had a little something for the year.

    The performance in the 2nd half after the substitutions, introducing Rosicky and Ox changed the pace of the game and gave us a chance. The late goal scored by TV5 was probably no more than we deserved, though in truth we were poor for the majority of the game. It was another case where we just appeared short on every front, out played in the middle of the park by a more passionate opposition and undone again by the zonal marking that left a player unmarked at the rear post. It should be a lesson learned, but history would suggest that past lessons are simply not well enough taught for this Arsenal to understand. I expected to see Bradford City come out and give us a torrid 1st half and so it came to pass, the glaring miss by Gervinho the only substantive chance created by the Arsenal. We were of course left to rue the fact we were playing without an established striker. Again, a lesson learned? I guess we’ll find out in the January transfer window.

    This was not an under strength Arsenal side, no novice players expanding upon their youth experience. This was a strong Arsenal contingent, probably reflecting the fact that Arsene knows it is time for this side to win something.

    I shudder to think what Arsene must have said at the final whistle, is this how far we have fallen? For all the effort put in by Bradford, they are a L2 side (no disrespect) and losing whether during the 90 minutes or on penalties with a near full strength side is without question an embarrassment. I read today how pundits think we can climb back in to 4th with the next 5 games (apparently) very winnable; I wonder whether looked at this performance and still thought that the case? How much is on the players under performing, I don’t know; but it is time for Arsene to take full responsibility for his teams failures. This side is not lacking in talent, though obvious questions must be made about the squad depth. The experiment Arsene continues to try with playing players out of position is clearly not working, and yet no one seems to have told the manager.

    I wish Bradford City luck in their cup run(s) and wonder now what people are going to say to find an excuse for this game.

  34. Visualising Usmanov in a pair of 42″ waist shorts in full flight a la Anicoll5 is the only thing that’s made me smile about football this morning

  35. As expected, and deserved it must be admitted, I see there are a lot of negative comments posted today. Even one calling for the return of Denilson, as he knew how to hold onto the ball. LOL!! Careful what you wish for! A lot of questioning our motivation going on too. That I will not join in on. Fact is, once we got our team selection sorted out last night, Bradford never got a look in. The problem was, that did not happen until after Chamakh had entered the fray, when Rosicky and The Ox had come on. After that it was all Arsenal. The real bitch being we were relying on a striker, Chamakh, who never gets to play. Is it any wonder he missed?

    Players available last night for knock-out round in Quarter-final for COCup:

    GK – Szecezny, Mannone

    Defense – Sagna, Jenks, Per, TV, Gibbs, Squillachi

    DM’s – Arteta. Coquelin

    AM’s – Rosicky, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere

    Wingers – Gervinho (L + R), The Ox (R), Podolski (L)

    Strikers – Podolski, Chamakh

    Actual team selection –

    GK – Szez

    Defense – Sagna Per TV Gibbs

    DM – Coquelin

    AM – Cazorla Wilshere

    LW – Podolski

    Striker – Gervinho

    RW – Ramsey

    I am sorry but it just does not make sense to me and never has, why AW insists on playing players out of position, when we have players for that position who are fit and sitting on the bench. It is frustrating for the fans and it must be confidence sapping for the players involved. Both those who are forced to sit on the bench, Chamakh specifically, and those who are constantly asked to play out of position and have below par performances because of that, in this case Ramsey specifically.

    All of this is AW’s making and only he can stop it. Or is that true? We have all heard the reports by the Bradford players, of hearing AW giving our players a right bollocking at half-time. But I have to admit to being very disappointed to not hearing reports of the players yelling back, not that I really expected them to but it would have been nice. If I were Ramsey and AW started yelling at me at half-time, make no mistake I would happily yell back. And ask him why I, an attacking midfielder, am stuck out on the wing, while our winger is playing as our striker, while our striker is sitting on the bench and all the while our inexperienced DM is having a rare old time attacking Bradford’s back line any time he gets, completely ignoring his duties as a DM, while our regular DM looks on from the bench!? And while we are at it, who’s brilliant idea was it to start off with a DM instead of 3 attacking midfielders in the first place? This is a cup competition, not a fucking group stage were a draw can be good enough. Unless you score, you can’t win. A DM should only be brought on in Cup competitions to protect leads already gained. Especially if we are to play a 4-3-3. Christ if AW has so little faith in his players, why not play a traditional 4-4-2 and choke the life out of midfield from the beginning.

  36. The problem with everyone suggesting that a 2 man attack is the way to go, is that the manager clearly does not feel the same way. We can all harp on it, hell; I have, but the fact remains Arsene does not want to play that way.

  37. Miami – A good tactician is able to change formation and team selection to suit his opponents. The fact that AW seems to insist on constantly using the same formation, leads to predictability. When we face opponents, it is the teams that have a tactical game plan and have the discipline to stick to it, that give us the hardest games. I hate to say it but that is why the likes of Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce have had so many decent results over us over the last few years. Same goes for Utd who tend to sit back and watch all our pretty passing, simply waiting for a chance to counter-attack themselves. And it has been working for several years now. In one of the rare games where we beat the Chavs, 5-3 last year, it was because they tried to match us head-on. Completely losing their shape over and over and letting us punish them for it. John Terry’s face plant notwithstanding 🙂

  38. Ivan will hold a ‘drinks’ session with some of the fans tonight i am lead to beleive..

    you guys know what to do..

    this is like the GG era all over again..

    sell your best players, buy utter crap and play shite football..

    only difference is we dont have a top defensive line and and 30 goal striker to paper the cracks to pull us through the shit this time..

  39. Does anyone honestly believe that arsene actually looked in the mirror after lasts nights game and even contemplated the possibility that he might be part of the problem?

    The one good thing that has happened this season is we have reversed 7 seasons of worsening defense. Steve Bould has to get at least part of the credit. Does anyone think arsene would have even considered making a coaching staff change this season if he had not be forced by pat rice retiring?

    I think Arsene has lost the ability to accurately judge his own performance be it tactics, personnel decisions or squad motivation. He has made himself bigger then the club and there is no one who can question him. .

  40. Anicoll, the point I’m trying to make is that with the current owner(& the potential owner) we are in limbo as a club and it kind of looks like we are as a team as well,uncertainty breeds uncertainty, marching and moaning won’t make a blind bit of difference-I think we’ll agree on that but the current soap opera at our club will play itself out and as fans we’ll just have to be patient which is bloody hard going, like I said ; support the manager support the team, anyway stan up front wouldn’t work as his syrup would fall off at far post headers,as for the Bond villain the only kit we have that would fit him is gunnerasauras’ , we’ll be alright, it’s just gonna take time and hard work.

  41. Miami I’d take a one man attack at this stage! As long as it is a recognised centre-forward.

    Us having no recognised striker is not a new thing. We played for months with Arshavin at centre-forward! He did a job and got us though it but to be in that situation again WILLINGLY is crazy. Giroud couldn’t play, Chamakh is not an impact player and not trusted to start evidently so we are short at centre-forward. January window needs to adress that. And no, Henry will not fill the gap.

  42. Hello all.

    No post today? Can’t say I blame YW.

    The idea of playing Gerv as a striker has proven the mistake that it always looked like being.

    I scarcely understood Wenger’s assertion that Gerv was suitable to play there to start with and initially this season it looked as though Gerv might prove me wrong but he has continued to show almost zero aptitude for the role. In fact I can think of few players who have exhibited such an remarkable ability to miss easy opportunities.

    When he swiped at air from two yards (again leading with the wrong foot) I just put my head in my hands. I don’t blame Gerv – he shouldn’t have been put in that position to start with – let alone again and again.

    How many times do we have to suffer watching this torture until the obvious is accepted?

    Gerv has scored just 9 goals since we signed him.

    He has attributes that are useful and strengths that should be played to but ‘final touch’ is probably the least of them.

    We saw that for the umpteenth time last night.

    I’d sooner play Chamakh there – he’s not much of a finisher either but at least he has the distinction of having experience playing as a CF.

    Maybe – when Giroud is absent – it is time to let Poldi have a go up front and play Ox on the wings?

    As most people with sense have been saying since before a ball was kicked – we require another option up front and – after last night – no one should be under any illusions that Gerv is, or ever was, the answer.

  43. Surely arsenal will make top 4 at the end of the season.Then everyone here would start praising the professor for taken us from 10th position to 4th position. Now, all get behind him and stop complaining.Right now there is nothing anybody could do with the way things are going in now which I like so much.In Arsene I trust.

  44. Chamakh was my man of the match yesterday considering the number of times he has seen action this season. I trust Wenger.

  45. You also can’t have a striker who isn’t ‘up’ for taking a penalty in a shoot out. It’s your fucking job! 🙂

    Gunnerlife – if Chamakh was the best player how can you trust Wenger?! 😉

    Anyway any fol could see JW10 was the best player on the park – 2 games running now we have seen the old Jack. We just need a few more with that attitude.

    Coquelin looked good yesterday too.

  46. The biggest problem not really the players skill but a long standing and slowly worsen atrophy of our cajones.

    That said if we are going to add in January we need goal scorers. We need players who can actually hit the target. Right now Walcott isn’t playing and probably won’t anymore. Podolski is inconsistent and has not been effective other then an occasional goal. Giroud hasn’t scored without a good cross from the wing. Their back ups are Ox who hasn’t scored a league goal this season, gervinho who I think can officially be labeled a bust, Ramsey who is not a goal scorer and Chamakh. How in the world does anyone think we can consistently score with those as our options?

  47. Yep, it is pure rubbish to suggest that the team is not motivated. The team played motivated on Saturday and now all of a sudden they are not motivated?

  48. Zinc @ 9:15 am
    you bring up pertinent points about Gervinho. If his other skills were as mastered as his dribbling, he’d be a sensational player.

    His shooting technique is very poor. At his age, I don’t believe he can improve enough to meet fan expectation.

    I say that because Theo has been at Arsenal almost 7 years. His obvious issues (for me), all brought up before, are still present in his performances. This is just as much the fault of manager and coaching staff.

    Consequently, it doesn’t appear that weaknesses in a player(s) game are not addressed pre or post training or that the player is not committed.

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