The Questions Are Being Asked; Do Arsenal Have The Answers?

No Mr Wenger, I expect your title hopes to die

Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal

1 – 0 Skrtel (1)
2 – 0 Skrtel (10)
3 – 0 Sterling (17)
4 – 0 Sturridge (20)
5 – 0 Sterling (52)
5 – 1 Areta (69 pen)

“What is important is that we respond to the result, especially that we respond with a different performance because our performance overall was poor today – on the concentration level and on the pace. Our defensive stability was very poor, we looked always vulnerable defensively. Congratulations to Liverpool, they were the better team today and we were very poor today. Only our fans were good for 90 minutes, that’s all.”

Arsène Wenger following yesterday’s game

Defeat always hurts but some are easier to come to terms with than others. Disappointment isn’t strong enough a word and I don’t feel desperation. Dejection certainly but the performance lacked heart, spirit, adventure. Anything. Everything. Something. The thing you most wanted certainly wasn’t shown. Arsenal lost. It was abject, there is no point in trying to dress yesterday in any other way. If I tried to make an argument for the positive, it would extremely short. There are none in a drubbing, just lessons to be learned.

Yesterday offers uncomfortable questions which must be answered. Eastlands was easy to compartmentalise until Anfield; it was nothing short of pre-Christmas madness, Arsenal didn’t readily ship five or six goals in any game. We had the most parsimonious of Premier League defeats. Indeed, take that out of the equation and Arsenal possessed a defensive record which was the envy of every other team. Mertesacker and Koscielny, ridiculed and mocked previously, had turned the tables on their critics. They still have but performances such as yesterday provide cracks in the arguments, flaws which are difficult to avoid. That is not to blame them for the defeat. Matches such as these should not find a scapegoat; there were fourteen on the pitch, all take an equal share of opprobrium. The manager, the coaching staff too.

Chris Waddle called it a “terrible defeat” in a remarkably understated moment and it was. You cannot evaluate individual performances under the circumstances, it is impossible to be objective. Arsène captured that post-match when asked about Jack Wilshere,

“He didn’t look more short than any other player on the pitch. At half-time I could have taken a lot of people off. I just think the whole team failed to turn up with the right performance.”

It is easy to criticise team selection but what impact would Rosicky or Gibbs have made on a match where the first goal came with turnstiles still clicking? Capitulation came too easily over the opening twenty minutes, an uncomfortable habit which had developed at Anfield in previous years most notably when Robbie Fowler scored a quick-fire hat-trick to announce his Premier League arrival.

Football folklore has it that the players will be called in for training today, to iron out the deficiencies of the ninety minutes but I don’t think an extra lap of the Colney pitches will solve the problem. Fundamentally, Arsenal’s mental preparation was flawed. As recently as Southampton, excuses were laid out for the team in such circumstances, became part of received wisdom, of how travel plans caused slow starts. The truth is that it is a habit they have developed. Slow starts are an awful characteristic for a football team. Against smaller teams, you can get away with being a bit lax, of not being ready come kick-off. Liverpool proved there is no such luxury against good sides, they punish any lack of concentration in whatever minute. The opening goal ought to have led to a wake-up call but it did not. Instead it signalled capitulation. Where were the leaders of the team, the leaders lauded for instilling more character into the squad. They were noticeable by the absence.

So where does it leave us?

Arsenal are in the middle of a two-pronged run of fixtures that were testing before yesterday. If the players were feeling pressure ahead of Anfield, they did not show it. They appeared relaxed. They were comatose on the pitch. You would expect them to be quiet before Wednesday; no words on how they want to prove their critics wrong. Words are no longer required, their actions are all that matter.

Predictably, these matches are going to define Arsenal’s season. In the space of a week, all hope of silverware could disappear apparently. In two competitions, that might be true with the knockout nature of the FA Cup and Champions League. But the Premier League? You would think Chelsea had opened a four-point gap at the top; they haven’t, it’s a solitary point. It might be that big come the final whistle on Wednesday and if it is, overhauling that will surely be too much to ask? Yet Manchester City’s result at Norwich shows that even then, towels should be kept firmly in hand for the moment.

The response to this game is going to decide Arsenal’s fate. They must win against Manchester United, not just for the points but to answer the questions in their own and others minds. It is easy to state that Champions do not lose heavily yet I immediately recalled Liverpool’s defeat in 1976 at Villa Park by a similar scoreline. They won the League that season by a single point from Manchester City. 1976/77 sticks in the memory as the year Tottenham propped up the First Division; relegation called and they answered.

But we must also remember that there are three distinctly different matches in the next ten days. United requires a different approach to Liverpool with Bayern somewhere between the two, part Premier League, part FA Cup tie. All three need one characteristic, one entirely absent yesterday and that is mental application. If this team concentrates, they can be impregnable and maybe this is the wake-up call they needed; maybe defensively they were arrogant. Now doubt must creep in, they must now prove it each other that this is just a bad day at the office.

We pontificate, discuss and argue, there is but one question to be answered. Are Arsenal flattering to deceive? The answer comes on Wednesday.

’til Tomorrow.

189 thoughts on “The Questions Are Being Asked; Do Arsenal Have The Answers?

  1. Bent scores in the 94th min to draw the game level and Old Trafford is raining down boos!!!

    Well Fucking done Fulham well Fucking done!!!

  2. id go total overhaul for the next match

    or as much overhaul as we can…

    gnabry———–podolski————le ox

    kick the condensed back to goal tippy tap shite in the bollox and spread the pitch to allow cazorla and ozil to control the game..sagna and gibbs stay back and track the wingers so we dont get countered..

  3. @ Wavey lol bet she got payed handsomely though. But if i was cheating on my better half and got caught out by the was it mirror? id have problems concentrating on any game

    You got to laugh though if its true. Its being thick and then its being Giroud….

  4. I think you may well be right about that Wavey.

    I remember when some Arsenal fans wanted him here.

    Said he was a gooner.

  5. If I start to think that the Gunners are playing badly……………. I just look at Man Utd and it cheers me up no end. If we were to lose AW we could easily end up in the same position.

  6. so basically United today demonstrated than even with a squad of three of the best offensive players in the league(rooney, RvP and Mata) you are not guaranteed to score enough to win a game.

  7. Poodle

    It’s an exclusive in the Sun. Don’t worry they didn’t have sex because she’s not that kind of girl. Happy to meet a guy in his hotel room then strip down to her undies whilst the snog, but no sex. Absolute crap, happy to slag of a footballer, but don’t want to be seen to be a tart.

  8. one have to ask though. That Darren Bent goal in the end. The just jump in and put your head on the ball goal. I cannot see many of our players do something like that. Cazorla and Rosicky and Aaron maybe. And Bent aint that good…

  9. @bob

    I agree the strike force is lacking mate, make no bones about that. I have banged on for some time about the lack of width and pace in the side. Giroud does what he does very well but he is not prolific and we know that. The thing is based on yesterday the whole team needed replacing. Terrible game and I hope they learn from it and increase their efforts in the fixtures to come.

  10. Well at least we can say we lost 5-1 and STUNK the place out. we were totally overrun and outplayed. It was a very very bad day at work. Everybody had a shocker, nobody played well.
    Untied on the other hand, they played to their max and were held by Fulham.

  11. united just won their game and they may need to follow it up with another win in a row.They have all their best players back and i can’t be carried away with this stupid argument that we shall fix things on Wednesday. Am just disgusted with everything to do with Wenger until i start seeing him tactically attempting something different. I need to see Vermaleen being played as a DM on fluid teams. Vermaleen is so fresh and has not had more than two games in a row the whole season. He can partner with either of Flamini or Arteta.

  12. ManU dropping points again. At home against Fulham. Conceding in Fergy time.

    Will be hilariously funny if we lose to them on Wed.

    Mata must be having the Ozil efect:
    Where an I? What am I doing here? Get me out!

  13. @delano

    So united just won? I cannot take you seriously if you cannot accurately see results. United 2 – 2 Fulham.

  14. its funny how the pundits say that United simply do not have enough quality in the final third to finish off games. they got the best two strikers in the league, both won the top scorer several times and they got the best no 10 in the league! Mata who won best player for Chelsea two years in a row! jeez..
    I mean compared to us they got a insane striker force…

  15. Miami,

    Another cracking game. Thought India were going to do it and they nearly did.

    Bloody turned over when he scored, bugger. But it’s lifted the doom and gloom now , can put the valiums back..

  16. @JJ

    If we had a fit Diaby or somebody like Gonalons, Khederia or the Bender twins then I would start the lineup with one of them for Mozart and put Mozart in for Gnabry but otherwise that’s a damn good attacking lineup.

  17. @poodle

    They have 2 of the best strikers in the League don’t forget about Suarez and Aguero who basically do whatever they want on the pitch and score goals for fun. Well Suarez didn’t score yesterday but was damn close and created almost all their goals yesterday and Ozil is a better #10 but is still adjusting and we don’t have the finishers that Mata has played with while Theo is out and Podolski doesn’t play.

  18. Oh dear…. things must be slow, the subject has turned to Cricket, LBW… Can’t wait till Wednesday, want to see the boys bounce back again. RVP has passed his sell by date 🙂

  19. Funny thing about the Manure match was after Manure scored their 2nd Moyes turned to the box where Fergus was and cheered and jumped up and down in joy, then Fulham scored match over and Moyes walked hastily off the pitch and didn’t even look up.

    Manure might not even make Europa.

  20. Terrific game and a great result for NZ, MA.

    Proper game of cricket. Puts all that T20 malarkey into perspective.

  21. We have to bury Manure and get an early goal on Wednesday at home to get that seed of doubt in their head and then really put them on the back foot and play at high tempo with Mozart/Santi/Ozil with Giroud and Podolski upfront to punish them.

  22. I like to see Utd struggle as much as anybody but it really doesn’t matter.

    Only Arsenal matter and what we do on the pitch. Not really interested in speculative comparisons. Utd are an average side. Couldn’t really care what they do.

    Just beat them on Wednesday.

  23. im not even indulging in what happens to utd..
    knowing us we’ll laugh our bollox off at them and lose on weds

    id love to chat cricket but alas its not my thing

    we can talk about beach volley ball..i dont know the rules and i cheer for everybody im quite the glory supporter but what a sport..

  24. When AW let Sidwell go to Reading he made some noises about his potential quality and the possibility of him returning to Arsenal at some point in the future if his talent developed. When Sidwell was at Arsenal there was no way he was going to get ahead of those already in the side and had to leave to get any chance of progressing. He works very hard, but still hasn’t quite got what it takes to play in a top of the table team. It didn’t seem to work for him when he was at Chelsea or Villa, but doing a great job at Fulham.

  25. @JJ

    So am I. At present of players that I think we could very well get, Gonalons and Khederia are top of my list. Both players I think would be perfect for us and could be had for no more than 25M not to mention both are 26 or younger.

  26. @Wavey

    Agreed but he is a player that does his job very well. Not saying he could play for Arsenal but his defensive work rate is very admirable to say the least. He was a everywhere against Manure constantly pestering Mata and Rooney while they tried to create and his goal was very well taken. I do think that he had the potential but just wasn’t managed properly and still has done well at Fulham.

  27. @Dukey

    I must admit I’ve got no idea what you are talking about when you say the ‘t20 version’. I’ll go with JJ, I prefer womens beach volley …. could watch that all day long 🙂

  28. C

    Never a bad thing to have a couple of players in the squad who you can rely on to do their job. The kind of player who you know will run through a brick wall for you. Players like Flamini and Ramsey come to mind.

  29. When it comes to cricket nothing can beat a good test match.

    Then again , I know women`s beach volleyball has it`s knockers but it keeps me glued to my chair.

  30. @wavey

    At times that’s the type of player we are missing. Like against Southampton, I felt we missed the type of player that purely worked for the team to help stop them from rampaging through our midfield even with them high pressing. A player not afraid of the dirty work and to put in that tackle when no one else will. Flamini and Ramsey both do it and Jack when properly fit and firing will do it but we habent had that since Song.

  31. The players had a warning at Southampton and ignored it, so they have now had a bigger one this week. I hope that they really take notice.

    A defeat is bad, but even a heavy on is not the end of the world.

    In 1979, I think we lost to Stoke 5 1.

    Yest I know that this is the 2nd heavy defeat, but it is clear that the lesson from the first one had worn off, so they needed another.

    ON Wednesday night, both teams will have something to prove, so our boys are going to give us a premier performance.

    The difference is that we know that we can do it if we try. I wonder whether Manure can.

  32. We`ve gone a bit `Carry On` there, Jon Jon.

    I`ve got my coat twice for my last comment.

    Can anyone confirm Flamini`s ban being over after Wednesday (no double entendre intended)

  33. what are the origins of cricket, really?
    was this Grace chappy like the hugh heffner of the 1800’s of whatever and cricket was something all the lovelies played in his back yard parties

  34. I agree with JJ regarding our strike force. We don’t have the firepower to score as many goals as almost any other PL title team, at least in this century. We have been playing with very little margin for error and “winning ugly” for nearly the entire season. Its very important for a title winning team to be able to win ugly but its certainly not the recipe for a season long successful title challenge. It’s a bit of a surprise that we have been able to hold on to first for as long as we have. Couple that with the fact that we have never been able to get through a full season without at least 1 relatively long bad spell and the subjective belief that we have been poor front runners in the seasons that we have challenged in the recent past make it difficult to not be concerned that yesterday was the beginning of the end for our title challenge. Hopefully that is not the case but I don’t think its a knee jerk reaction to be concerned.

    Regarding Arsene, this season is probably the best job of managing that Arsene has done in many years. Because of the lack of firepower, on paper I don’t think we should not have been on top of the table for most of this season. I think Arsene deserves the credit for how well we have done this season. Organizing the defense has been a monumental achievement and hopefully he can maintain the gains he has made on defense and add to our strike force this summer and we will take the next step.

  35. I suppose shining your balls on your trousers could be quite pleasurable……… but it leaves a stain!

  36. this midfield saga has gone on for far too long,,it hasnt been fixed since viera left..diaby was gonna be the one,but we all know he’s got spaghetti legs,i dnt know why people keep going on about alex song coz the guy left us exposed since he decided he was our number 10..we need a partner for ramsey..we cant rely on arterta and flamini if we are gonna chase trophies,those two must be used for rotational purposes,not first choice options..i wouldnt mind seeing that morgan schneiderlin partnering ramsey

  37. @ jj…..this midfield saga has gone on for far too long,,it hasnt been fixed since viera left..diaby was gonna be the one,but we all know he’s got spaghetti legs,i dnt know why people keep going on about alex song coz the guy left us exposed since he decided he was our number 10..we need a partner for ramsey..we cant rely on arterta and flamini if we are gonna chase trophies,those two must be used for rotational purposes,not first choice options..i wouldnt mind seeing that morgan schneiderlin partnering ramsey

  38. I think this is the first arsenal team in many years that has actually shown real mental strength while challenging for a title since the team we saw in the first part of the 07/08 season. It’s the first team since that season that has been more then the sum of its parts. The ability to turn a team into one that is more then the sum of its parts is the hallmark of a great field manager. Fertile is the model for being able to do that. If Arsene can drag this team to a PL title then I think everyone will believe that he has regained the magic he had in the first years of his arsenal career. If he keeps us close the rest of this year then he has done an excellent job, especially if we win an FA cup. However, if we fall apart and end up a fading 3rd or 4th with no trophies then I think we will have to raise more questions about whether or not we have come to the end of an era.

  39. consolsbob. I realised that the year was wrong a few minutes ago, whilst I was walking back form going out and was going to change the year when i got back, so thanks for pointing it out and also correcting the score.

  40. Giroud, for me has regressed. He has become so used having his back against the goal, that he now fails to show any initiative to create space for himself and shoot. I fear he s taking te same path as Chamakh.

  41. we do need a cm but hat could wait until the summer as arteta and flamini are not quite ready for the scrap heap yet and theyve been doing a good job until now..

    what we need and have needed since rvp left was a top notch striker.. and weve had 18months and 3 windows to do something about it and all we could come up with was sanogo whos only contribution is to be injured in the team photo and then twat bfg in the face the week weve got back to back to back to back big game fixtures..

    nice one..

  42. I think Giroud is doing everything asked of him and everything he can possibly do this season. His repertoire is limited and the back to the goal slow style of play that we have used this year is an adaptation to what Giroud can do for us. Without much pace and not being able to run at players or run with the ball at your feet and struggling to hit the target consistently he can’t really influence the game when he is facing goal. His strength is holding the ball up and using his size to muscle into position to get tap ins around goal. A player like that has to play with his back to goal.

  43. We want to see a mix of good players and formation from Arsene, we have a good pool of versatile players who can p,ay anywhere , why have the Giroud upfront when he can shoot blanks and does not have quicksilver decisions like a good striker.

  44. Despite our “lack of firepower “, we have scored one goal more than chelsea. Not on city’s level, but that is to be expected. Of course, we could have better(and i wish we did), but by the same token saying we lack firepower is not accurate.

  45. In fact, only 2 teams have outscored us and only 1 team has conceeded less. We are not doing much wrong if you look at the big picture.

  46. Andy:

    We lack firepower compared with the majority of teams that have won PL titles in this century. Chelsea has had the same problem this season. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense and the mental strength of both teams. Whichever team can stay mentally strong and defend the best for the rest of the season will finish above the other. Chelsea has the advantage of an easier schedule and more momentum. You could also argue that Mourinho’s recent success and habit of winning trophies favors them. City has been struggling in the last week but I think they are still the title favorites if they can hold on until Aguero comes back and Negredo gets back to full fitness. .

  47. Bill – But we are not facing teams from other eras. We are doing fine. I am not arguing against more firepower, we should always look to improve. However, we are not where we are in the lge by luck. We are there on merit.

  48. Andy:

    “We are not doing much wrong if you look at the big picture.”

    No one in their right mind can deny that we have done very well so far this season. Arsene has said many times in the past, judge at the end of the season. The final table will be the answer to all the questions. Until then all we can do is guess what might happen, and nothing we think or say will change how it turns out

  49. Andy:

    I have a comment in moderation at 9:29 but the short answer is that no one denies that we have done very well so far this season. Arsene has always said, judge at the end of the season and the final table will be the answer to the questions.

  50. Sorry Bill, Akismet is having a funny five minutes. Hopefully it will be alright now.

    If anyone goes into comment moderation, assume that’s the case. Unless, of course, you know you’re being a bit of a twat in which case assume you’ve been caught out…Ah right, I’ll be back in the morning!

  51. Bill – agreed.

    I have been as critical as anybody in the past, but this season is very different. We could not ask much more of the club at the moment. Arsenal fans, more than most tend to engage in hyperbole and drama and every disapointing result this season has only proved this point.

    Could we do with another striker? Yup.
    Have we had a couple of bad results? Yup.

    But we are one point off the top of the lge in Febuary. It seems our fans want us to win every single game playing like 1970’s Brazil. We are still scoring more that virtually every other team and have really improved the defensive side of our game. We are ceryainky heading in the right direction.

  52. Andy

    I have also been very critical in the past especially regarding our defense and our teams mental strength and so far this year has been much different. This season will be a real success if we can stay solid until the end even if we don’t win. (FA cup would be nice either way) However, if we fade the way did the last time we challenged for the title in 10/11 and end trophy free, then this season will be no different then the others. Yesterday was a very bad way to start squeaky bum time and puts a lot of pressure on the game this Wednesday. We have bounced back very well from bad games earlier this season but this time we don’t have a run of lower table teams that we can take advantage of. Time will tell how it all turns out.

  53. Andy:

    We and the media have all been looking at the schedule this season and saying that yesterday would be the official opening of squeaky bum time. The players think the same way we do and you know Arsene understood the same thing. From a mental standpoint It was not just another day at the office. I honestly expected we would play our usual solid defense end up with another relatively ugly 2-1 win. The way we played yesterday was a real surprise.

  54. Don’t be fooled again and lulled into a false sense of security with United dropping points today.

    They will elevate their game against us with pride at stake.As much as the spanking from Liverpool have been humiliating to us, they are struggling to get into Europe and a defeat to us will likely make that very hard.

    Basically we switched off and started cold against Liverpool. They got an early goal but we should never have allowed the two to follow from the set pieces. Thereafter, it was going to be a difficult afternoon.

    We need to start focused and sustain this through 90 minutes, something we have rarely done all season. We get away with it against average opponents but against quality, less so.

    If we win against united, I fancy us to make good against Liverpool.

    Bayern may be a bridge too far as the squad IMO deep enough for the domestic challenge may be a bit light up top for Europe. However it is a cup game and anything can happen so if we nicka draw, we would have done great for this period.

    Bearing in mind we failed the last ‘death run’, the margins are slimmer this time round and we will be less likely to come up top if we don’t do the business against the Mancs.

  55. Back 4 will have to stay focused. Think they got a bit complacent from recent accolades.

    Was a bit surprised to see Monreal starting against Liverpool as he is not as secure defending as Gibbs.

    In the middle, we need to stay compact and we need movement.

    Still think Jack and Arteta are our best bets to anchor the middle. Possibly a call for Rosicky in the thick of it particularly if Ozil did not show sufficient stomach for it against Liverpool. Santi is absolutely crucial so we are left with Podolski wide for directness or Chamberlain wide for speed and pressure. Likely Chamberlain wide first on RW then Poldy on later with Santi switching right in lieu of ox.

    Rosicky could start with Ozil coming on later in his place.

    Hard to blame Giroud up top if he has no movement around him to feed off. yes he isn’t Suarez calibre but he tries hard and needs to have some elements around him. Absolutely imperative to have someone making runs close to him in and around the box. This could be any of the attacking midfield line.

    We haven’t beaten United for a while and a convincing win is due. At this point however I’ll take us nicking a win even if it is an undeserved penalty or an own goal on their part. We simply need to get the points.

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