Southampton Preview: I’m Alright, Jack

Southampton and Stoke; grounds where we haven’t won in the last six and seven Premier League fixtures respectively. Not two places where you’d want us to go needing wins but that’s the mess Arsène and the squad has got us into.

Now they have to get us out of it. The 5 – 0 FA Cup win at St Mary’s is insignificant in this context; it has no relevance.

Two grounds where we’ve collapsed in similar fashion which haunt our current season. And we’re expected to release the handbrakes, to free ourselves from mental chains? Which sounds like the lyrics to a 1980s song – Nik Kershaw or Howard Jones? – rather than a football tactic.

Of course, if we had a Director of Football, Arsène would have someone to bounce the ideas off but no, he doesn’t want one. That stance is nothing new, he was adamant in the past and I’m not surprised that he is the stumbling block to change in that sense.

Arsène’s emphatic assertion of his authority closed the door on the discussion at that point:

“I’m not prepared to talk about that.

“I’m the manager of Arsenal Football Club and, as long as I’m manager of Arsenal Football Club, I will decide what happens on the technical front.”

Now, it may be that Ivan and others are pushing this agenda behind the scenes, leaving Wenger tired of the battles. His exasperation with the ‘catalyst for change’ is evident, despite this theory surfacing to ease the pressure on the beleaguered manager.

Much Too Fast To Take That Test

Those were the headline words and I think they offer an insight to why no announcement over his future has yet been made; he has yet to sign. The push, it seems, is stronger than we assumed and perhaps Ivan’s notion has gained traction with Junior and Dad.

The interesting stuff came later. Pushed on whether the creation of a director of football role would be the change the club needs, his strident rebuttal underlined that Wenger is not necessarily winning the power struggle at Arsenal:

“Progression or regression? Changes can go both ways.

“It is a question of teamwork inside the club. Some coaches are only interested in managing the team and they are happy with it. I am not like that, and I cannot change myself now.

Arsène is only interested in organic growth:

! I have 40 years of experience at the top, top level. I think I have a good knowledge of the game.

“You want to create a problem that I can’t see. I am who I am. That is it.”

The times they are a-changin’ but Arsène is Thatcher-esque in his stance. She wasn’t for turning, nor is this football manager.

So Arsène has lined himself up, front and centre, taking responsibility for the failures of this season. Rather than the board throwing him under the bus, he did it himself to prove he is invincible.

That he was so easily rattled on the issue underlines the debate behind the scenes. He doesn’t like being questioned and is feeling the pressure like never before. It also undermines his claim to put the club first, that he will always put Arsenal’s best interests before his own.

Just Gonna Have To Be A Different Man

The autocrat in charge of football clubs has long disappeared; Arsène is the throwback, the anachronism in that sense and it isn’t a good thing.

Wenger’s stance may work if there was accountability for his own performance; is this what he is most afraid of? This season highlighted the desperate need for fresh impetus behind the scenes and the man in charge is the least-equipped to do that. His loyalty, commendable as it is, hinders him to the point of inertia.

Disturbingly, Wenger’s resistance to change is becoming less about him but a battle for the soul of Arsenal Football Club. It is not his personal kingdom, he does not own Arsenal nor is he Arsenal.

But there are worrying signs that he thinks he is.

You’ve Left Us Up To Our Necks In It

After the victory against Manchester United, Wenger faces some selection issues. Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny are both doubts, unlikely to be fit for tonight. Francis Coquelin will bring his unique star jump defence to the south coast, with Gabriel presumably slotting in to replace Koscielny.

Other than that, not many changes are expected. I’d be tempted to suggest Ox alongside Ramsey in the middle but the defensive side of the game would go missing so maybe not.

Which leaves the line-up:

Cech; Gabriel, Mustafi, Holding; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Ramsey, Monreal; Özil, Sanchez; Welbeck

Reaching the top four is beyond the players, I believe. However, Liverpool seem intent of blowing it so I’m sure the squad won’t give up. In their minds at least; we’ve chucked in the towel so many times at St Mary’s that I’m not confident of victory tonight. Not that I don’t expect it; there’s no guarantee it will happen. Not that there ever is, of course.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

137 thoughts on “Southampton Preview: I’m Alright, Jack

  1. So just have to beat the Orc Army under their own mountain. Sunderland really don’t have much in them and Everton might have nothing to play for by then.

  2. Wavey i do hold Stan responsible because it is exactly his hands off attitude that hurts the club, i can’t think of one owner who acts the same way while the club prospers. i personally dont like the way people like him accumulate ‘sports franchises’….he is not even remotely interested in our little club over in london bar the fact it might make him money, i find that sad, detached and i dont want someone like that owning our club. i have seen no evidence that he isnt going to treat us just like his other sports franchises and that means we are not aiming anywhere near the top, he’s made that clear himself. i think it was incredibly weak of the arsenal board to sell out to him having been so snobbish about roman a, for example. Your points about the manager i totally agree with. Frankly many managers could be doing a better job…we have been underperforming with our squad resources for years. but who can sack wenger ? stan. does he ? no.

  3. We are obviously going to finish 4th and win the FA Cup. Wenger says it’s been another successful season and the board announce another 2 year contract.

  4. I am 100% in the Giroud is not good enough to be our striker camp. I have spent a lot of keystrokes complaining about him for 4 years. However, given our other goal scoring options not named Sanchez its hard to argue that he does not deserve minutes

    Giroud: 10 league goals in 1029 minutes
    Walcott: 10 league goals in 1914 minutes
    Welbeck: 2 league goals in 628 minutes
    Perez: 1 league goal in 265 minutes

    I am not making a case that Giroud is a great striker and I think we should sell him this summer but statistically he is clearly the best option in a very mediocre group of goal scoring options.

  5. Just an observation on whether Wenger has been bypassed on the odd deal or two, I seem to recall some comment by him that he was away when Welbeck was bought and that he would have got him on loan if he’d been there to make the deal.

    Now I don’t know if that was just Wenger trying to be clever but it might hint at some dynamics that things go in the manner of “when the cats away”, and then maybe there has been the odd purchase made when HE hadn’t quite sanctioned it?

    I seem to also recall some issue around Wright (the keeper) being bought when he wanted Dudek instead?

    Might be total gumpf, but perhaps there’s something there?

  6. I don’t think Welbecks minutes today were included in that so he is now at around 700 minutes with 2 league goals which is probably on par with the rest of his career. We need to buy 2 more goal scorers this summer.

  7. Really enjoyed Sanches’ goal.

    As mentioned, it’s not a particularly bad season, as Wenger is trying to convince us. We’ll get 70 plus points, as usually in the last 9 years. Consistant, if anything.

  8. Bufallo,

    I agree that Stan has no specific ambition for the club other than to be profitable. Stan doesn’t need to sack Wenger as he is doing what is required of him. But Wenger should have been better with the players he has had at the club. Wenger is the constant and is therefore the reason behind the way we are set out.

  9. Despite everything that has happened If we end up on 75 points it will be one of our better seasons of this decade.

  10. Bill,

    Yes, it’s funny that this season is being portrayed as a disaster just because we are not in the top 4 – but many other seasons have been just as mediocre over the past decade – it’s just that other teams that were behind us have improved as we stagnate.
    But I suppose if you set the bar too low to start with, this is what you get

  11. Points mean nothing, table doesn’t lie ! But i am sure Arsene is chasing a pig around with some lipstick as i write…

  12. Buffalo

    Table position is only indicative of how the teams around us play and we can’t control that.

    13/14 was easily our best season of this decade and we were in 5th place after game 34 and we had climb over Everton to hold on to our run of top 4 finishes. Last year was a really poor season in almost every respect but we finished second in the table.

  13. Bill,

    I would love to know how many of Giroud’s goals are tap-ins at the end of the game (when he’s come on as a substitute against tired teams when Arsenal is dominating). Seems like most of them to me. How often does he score the first goal in a game or even in the first half? Very rarely, so far as I can recall.

  14. Bill the table only matters once a season and resets anew every season.
    It all sounds a little like Arsene trying to justify losing the league to Leicester on the basis that other teams apart from us didn’t beat them…..completely ignores our own failings. I doubt Chelsea are comparing points totals over the past seasons, they’re just counting trophies.

  15. Freddo

    I am not defending Giroud other then making the point that he has been the second best scoring option we have on the squad. That is not saying a whole lot but it is an undeniable fact.

  16. at the beginning of the year giroud had the best stats for goals scored/created per minute than any other player in the premier league, by a big margin. fat lot of good that did.

  17. All of this talk about a football director is interesting. The Board is obviously engaging in succession planning. They don’t want to lose Arsene without a director of football in place to guide the transition to a new manager. Yet Arsene has told them to take a hike because, hell, it’s his club and his feelings are all that matters. The last thing he wants is this board of directors getting alternative advice from anyone. For the first time, I think there is a chance that Arsene will be out the door.

  18. Buffalo

    Our points totals are the single best indication of how much we have stagnated. A lot of people have said the reason we can’t win the league is because of the big money clubs. However, the big money clubs have no control over the number of points we can collect in a season. The fact that 75 points would be a good season and we have not collected more then 80 points in any season since 07/08 is a much better indication of the fact that despite all of the money we have spent, we have not made any progress in this entire decade.

  19. freddo:
    All of this talk about a football director is interesting.The Board is obviously engaging in succession planning. They don’t want to lose Arsene withouta director of football in place to guide the transition to a new manager.Yet Arsene has told them to take a hike because, hell, it’s his club and his feelings are all that matters.The last thing he wants is this board of directors getting alternative advice from anyone.For the first time, I think there is a chance that Arsene will be out the door.

    Now that, would be a successful season.

  20. MikeSA

    Are you really going to suggest that there are no cell phones or conference calls or fax machines when Arsene is out of town. The idea that someone sneaks in a purchase that Arsene does not want while he is looking the other way seems like a gigantic stretch. Do you really think he would let that happen?

  21. bloody hell Bill you’re like a jack russell terrier ! Call it points, call it finishing position, let’s just agree that we haven’t been good enough for a while and this season is no different, as we’ve both said if we take care of ourselves, what other teams get up to is going to be mostly irrelevant. even if we have the same points this year as last or the nine before, this season has been a disaster exactly because of what has gone before, we are not learning, we are going backwards. and besides most of the other ‘big’ teams haven;t even been that good. and we still have struggled.
    we know for sure that wenger wanted a loan only for wellbeck and that he wasnt in the country at the time, we also know that man utd insisted on a sale only….the bit that’s missing is whether arsene was going to spend the money anyway or someone just went ahead and finalised the purchase because they thought he might dither….i find that possible. what i find odd is him wanting a loan only….i’d like to know the reasoning behind that one beyond financial cheapery

  22. We won, kept a clean sheet and scored a couple of nice goals. The first goal was a great bit of individual skill and excellent finish from Sanchez who had been quite poor before he did that. The other was a nice team goal.

  23. Buffalo

    I assume Arsene wanted a loan is because he only wanted Danny to hold the fort for a while after Giroud went down with injury and it left Arsene with Sanogo as his only striker. ManU wanted to sell. Why they help Arsenal with a loan spell and then they would still have had Danny on their books when the loan spell finished. ManU probably said no to the loan deal and indicated they would sell him to someone else if Arsene did not buy him. Time was short and Arsene had to buy or look somewhere else. I doubt ManU would have sold him to a top of the table rival if they really thought Danny could be a difference maker.

  24. Danny’s wages were not high especially for a team like ManU and they certainly did not need the wage relief they would be getting from a loan spell and he was not part of their future plans so why loan him and help a rival when they really wanted to sell.

  25. Speaking of loan spells. Loaning Calum Chambers in order to give him some much needed experience is exactly the right way we should be using the loan system. We should be doing the same with players like Iwobe, Jeff, Maitland-Niles. On the other hand I have no clue why we would loan out Joel Campbell when I doubt he is part of our long term plans.

  26. Bill,

    Perhaps because there were no serious offers to buy him. He was a bit part player for us and has been a bit part player for Sporting.

  27. Bill i dont mean from united’s perspective, i mean from ours…..we needed a striker, an english striker was available of a decent standard, from our rivals no less, who were willing to sell at a relatively cheap price. We decided we’d prefer a loan ?! Luckily, and i say this although his record hasnt been great and he’s had a lot of injuries, we were made to pony up the cash.

  28. OK i think that’s probably true as well as an element of wenger hedging his bets, if he had turned out to be amazing at sporting, he could have hauled him back to sit on the bench! and talked about how he always knew he could ‘make a career’ at arsenal….

  29. Bill,

    Bill, as I stated, that’s what Wenger actually said, you can find a clip with him actually physically making that statement if you search for it, so yes, I’m one of the first to call him an outright bullshitter, but he quite definitely made that statement on Wellbeck.

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