Top Four Goes For A Burton So What Now, Top Man?

So, there you have it. All of the season’s follies came home to roost when West Ham rolled over and let Liverpool tickle their tummies. To be fair, relying on the Hammers, Middlesbrough, and whoever City are playing is essentially, a crap plan. While we can reach 75 points, it’s most likely not good enough to reach the Champions League, a competition we’re not good enough to win. The Europa League, if we’re talking levels of sporting competition, is the Arsenal level.

And yet finishing fifth still seems to surprise some people. It’s a wake-up call but there’s no sense of alarm. Arsenal, one of Europe’s wealthiest clubs, are a country mile behind the elite, with the already wide gap getting larger with each passing season. In 2009, we were deservedly in the semi-finals; now we’re in no position to even compete in the Round of Sixteen, let along reach the last eight. The Promised Land of the Champions League, where reward is plentiful, turned out to be nothing more than a fallow field.

Mega Bottle Ride

Arsène observed that the champions of the past two seasons haven’t played in Europe. Factually correct, it ignores several truths which Arsenal must address. Firstly, these are the anomalies; prior to Leicester, all the champions until as far back as Blackburn were in Europe. They were the last bolt from the blue. And white, if you want to be factually accurate. It’s not the new ‘norm’ just yet. If it is, that shows the depths to which English football’s mediocrity has slumped.

The second is irrespective of that, we flattered to deceive yet again. We have a decent set of players but mentally weak; astonishingly so. Losing at Bayern didn’t undo our season; that was after we’d lost at home to Watford and at Stamford Bridge. The roots of our struggles trace back to being ill-prepared for the season. Barely able to field an XI against Liverpool, taking just a point at Leicester compounded the woes.

Of course there are plenty of other turning points in a season and Wenger pointed to Everton and City, and the manner of those defeats. He’s so confused that he now thinks Chelsea was after Bayern; he’s a boxer reeling in the ring, tagged by a punch he didn’t see coming. The warning signs were there last season where the second place finish thanks to Tottenham’s collapse, masked deficiencies. Wenger’s inability to bring the players out of the post-Bayern slump exacerbated the problem.

Yes, he needed to do that; it’s what the manager or coach is supposed to do but the players needed to respond. Forget the talk of ‘letting the manager down’; they are all in this together but it is the Frenchman’s job to ensure preparedness for the season and find solutions quickly when problems arise.

Bummed Out City

It’s not just this season; the pattern is repetitive to the point where the only surprise about not reaching the top four is that it took so long to happen. Since 2010, Tottenham and Everton have both gifted us a Champions League berth when none should have been vacant. The logic was that the table doesn’t lie; it does tell fibs though.

The planning for next season is under with decisions influenced by the formation. There’s still a sense that Arsène dislikes three at the back, primarily because it was forced upon him by the collapsing situation and it is principally about shoring up the defence; it’s not winning football in the ‘right’ way. However, it is successful compared to the flat back four not just because we look stronger in defence but also in midfield. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka found their feet in the roles, even Francis Coquelin seems a decent player albeit against a Stoke team which was mentally on the beach.

To revert to 4-2-3-1 next season would be typical of the Frenchman’s stubbornness and affirmation that he is entrenched in his views. Retaining the formation and investing heavily in the squad could put forward a convincing case for progress. We will need essentially two squads; one for the Premier League, one for the Europa League, and that’s not treating the latter like a European Carling Cup; it represents an avenue back to the Champions League which must be pursued as vigorously as the top four. United will finish below us in the league and may yet feature in the Champions League next season. If that doesn’t focus minds, nothing will.

Cool ‘n’ Out

Anyway, Arsène is set to meet the press soon and tell everyone that the top four isn’t over just yet, Middlesbrough, Watford and West Brom are sure to put up a big fight to take points off Liverpool and City. And in any case, fifth is the new fourth.

Finally, there is a new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox: Jukebox Classics: #3 The Songs Which Influenced Arctic Monkeys is as eclectic mix as could be found; it’s here while the Record of the Week – Paul Weller’s A Kind Revolution – is found here.

’til Tomorrow.


59 thoughts on “Top Four Goes For A Burton So What Now, Top Man?

  1. Good morning folks and thank you Yogi.

    With the mythical Top Four Trophy all but out of our reach it will be instructive to hear how Wenger spins the failure to achieve his target. That said, I suspect that he will duck the question should it be asked. We will instead hear about the the player’s “response” after a difficult period.

    Meanwhile, not a word from Gazidis about the DoF , or catalyst for change. I’m resigned to the fact Wenger is being handed a new contract, that he will be allowed to do exactly as he wants over the summer transfer window and will be given no target for next season, not even the TFT.

  2. Wenger’s latest bit of nonsense about the Bayern games:

    “I think we suffered a lot when we went out of the Champions League under special circumstances. If you look at just the first halves, we would have qualified.”


    Bye-bye marbles Arsene, you’ve just lost it I’m afraid.

  3. What astonishes me is the way Monsieur Wenger is firmly in the favourite’s book of Stan Kroenke. Pardon me, but isn’t it more profitable to actually win trophies and earn more revenue as a dividend of your success?

  4. At today’s press conference Arsene tries once again to polish a turd:

    “Our chances are just to win our games. Getting 75 points would be four more points than last year.

    “We had a difficult period and we have recovered from it. I’m very positive [ about the team’s displays]. It looks like we’ve been getting stronger every game.”

    In case anyone is wondering no news on his contract situation.

  5. This just about sums Him up. Unfockingbelievable!!

    Wenger’s latest bit of nonsense about the Bayern games:

    “I think we suffered a lot when we went out of the Champions League under special circumstances. If you look at just the first halves, we would have qualified.”

    Bye-bye marbles Arsene, you’ve just lost it I’m afraid.

  6. Last season 71 points 2nd place 10 points off the top.

    This season most points possible 75 most likely final position 5th most likely deficit 18 points.

    That’s progress?

  7. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fIl. It’s wh we have done this season and many others besides, only this time it looks like the chickens have come home.
    For a student of economics, I am surprised that he has not grasped supply and demand (except with regard to his salary). Tv deals have pushed up demand but there are still similar numbers of top quality players. in fact each is unique. This means prices go up, so the old model of prices is gone for now and you have to adjust. He hasn’t. Sadly as the BoD and owners are supine and only care for profits, cash flows and the like, this will end in tears. Even assuming that we could agree terms with the selling club of the players we need, the players and their agents, we have no pedigree in closing deals as we dither. I also doubt we have the allure of any club above us as we have no ambition and show no progress.
    Wenger should leave gracefully if he is honest with himself, sadly his fear of life without football forces him to cling on. He should leave as soon as possible.

  8. If we suffer so much when we get knocked out at last 16 stage every year that it kills our league form(even though our league form was rocking before Bayern away..),we are better off not in it

  9. According to Arsene it’s not fair because other teams aren’t trying and have gone on holiday. The cheek and dishonesty of the man is epic. What a fraud, what an embarrassment….perhaps if he and his team tried a lot harder we wouldn’t be in our annual mess.
    As to the first halfs comment this is a man with no self respect. No wonder the players are wet he’s like an indulgent grand parent undoing any good parental work.
    Time his luck ran out

  10. Quick silly season things that I have taken notice of so far:

    People are really running with this chatter of Sanchez agreeing personal terms with Bayern in hopes of a move.

    Sead Kolašinac has signed for Arsenal according to reports in Germany and if social media is to go by (I did have a laugh when I typed that), a couple of his Schalke mates have #yagunners in a couple of Sead Kolašinac personal posts and snapchats.

  11. C,

    Someone has edited Wiki already…

    Sead Kolašinac (German pronunciation: [ˈsɛ.ad ˈkɔ.la.ʃɪ.nats], Bosnian pronunciation: [ˈ ko.laˈʃi.nat͡s]; born 20 June 1993) is a Bosnian professional footballer who plays as a left back for English club Arsenal and the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team.

  12. Excellent stuff Yogi!

    I think the most damning thing is that Arsene hasn’t been able to actually manage the players out of the funk that we were in since Everton and Citeh which is more than half a season; I think that speaks volumes to a manager that simply is past it. The other thing is that you have on numerous occassions heard players talk about not being prepared for matches, not feeling ready for matches; isn’t that why Arsene is getting paid 8m / yr? The funny thing is that the players that have actually said it were dropped (Theo and Bellerin), while Giroud and Ramsey said it but then immediately said it was the players fault.

    Formation wise, honestly I prefer a back 4 and I actually prefer a move back to the 4231 but the thing is, no matter whether we stay with a 343 or go back to a 4231, players will be needed to fill out the formations. I think the thing with either formation is that the list is clear what we need: CF, LB, CM

  13. andy1886,

    Well then that is that, we have a new LB that the world knows about but Arsenal won’t announce until, maybe August 1st.

    I would be interested to see which LB leaves, my money is on Gibbs.

  14. C,

    No, no the new left back will be played in central midfield for two or three games, get a couple of vital goals and disappear into limbo. Monreal will be back-up to Koscielny, Gibbs will play left wingback. Half the squad will either miss pre-season through extended holidays or injury, we’ll struggle to put eleven fit players out for the first game of the season in which we’ll score one in the first half but give away two in the second. Wenger will say we won the first half and claim it as a victory.

  15. Excellent post, YW! I agree with you completely that last season showed so clearly our chronic weaknesses when we failed to challenge for the league. Since then the latest edition of AW’s teams, this time with ample money and time, has been failing. How anyone can preserve the myth that he has us punching above our weight or at expected levels is a mystery of the ways of delusion.

  16. C,

    Well you’d hope that it would be Gibbs but this is Arsenal… Maybe Nacho or his family are missing sunny Spain, I think that he’s been linked with a return home in the past but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But you’re right, they will delay any announcement. It wouldn’t surprise me if we get well past the end of the season before we hear about Wenger too.

  17. It has certainly been a long time coming. So many times were were quite lucky to finish 4th. The luck might just have run out this time.

    The only thing I might dispute, YW, is that we were deserved semifinalists in 2009. Sure, technically we beat the teams drawn in round of 16 and the quarters. You can only beat the teams drawn. But I do think it was a kind draw against good but not great or pedigreed teams. When we finally met a genuine top team in the semis, it only took a few minutes for a deflating capitulation. 2009 team was not, to my mind, a very strong one domestically or in Europe. But this is a quibble that doesn’t affect the larger point, only reinforces it further: the pattern has been set for a very long time.

  18. The comments after the opening day defeat about not being prepared were an unsubtle dig at the Board, and Gazidis in particular, for having the temerity to impose pre-season tours. I guess that, in hindsight, this was a pretty clear sign that all was not well.

    But this goes back further. After our defeat to Sheffield Wednesday last season, the Manager made some unusually harsh comments about the readiness and quality of the youth set up. Again, an unsubtle dig at Gazidis for taking away control of the youth set up.

    There has been conflict there for a number of seasons and whilst I agree that you could never call our Board dynamic, they have not been as inactive as many have suggested.

  19. Orson Kaert,

    That is actual all very likely to happen which would be an absolute shame but with some supporters and Arsene himself isn’t beyond reproach. Or he might play him at CF to replace Perez since Perez was only bought, “because Giroud wasn’t ready for the start of the season and nobody knew when Welbeck would be fit”.

    All jokes aside, Nacho and Sead Kolašinac are much better LB’s and LWB’s for that matter than Gibbs who after all these years still can’t defend and his final ball rivals that of Cech’s shit distribution.

  20. I certainly hope we keep this formation and actually prepare this summer to recruit and train the players properly for it. It can still be a very attacking set up and with good, mobile, ball playing center backs this might improve the freedom of our midfielders and forwards to press high and go forward.

    But, ultimately, this team needs a much more thorough and dramatic overhaul in leadership and composition if these measures are to be anything other than an attempt at the top 4 restoration. And how is that attractive to anyone at this point? The only good option from such an approach might be winning something in Europe, but I wonder if that is even achievable unless the squad is built properly this summer for that objective. YW is right again, that AFC would need almost two squads for league and Europe given the grueling number of fixtures and our propensity for injuries.

  21. lari03,

    It’s a balance between profits and expenditure. I suspect top 4 plus CL group phase is the optimum balance. We actually earned more money from the PL (in prize money and TV appearances) than Leicester last season.

    Wenger is happy to claim the praise for the victories, even begrudgingly claiming credit for the shift to a back 3, but will never accept responsibility for the team’s failures. If you can’t recognise your mistakes you are not going to be looking to correct them.

  22. andy1886,

    Yup, it should be Gibbs but Nacho has talked about ending his career in Spain which given the difference in style of play, he could possibly play another 3-4 years for a good side, or make the conversion to CB where unlike in the PL, CF’s in La LIga are more technical and are more about movement, quickness and positioning as opposed to force. O yea, I’m not holding my breathe for an announcement, I mean didn’t Arsene say that we would know his future by the end of April; maybe he meant April 2018.

  23. We have had so many “special circumstances” regularly over the last 10 years. I wonder what is so special about an annual failure when facing teams in knockouts?

    Perhaps it is just normal now? What a joke we are and he is making us!

  24. Mason Bison,

    Interesting points about these simmering conflicts and the actions that have precipitated them. Of course the youth set up might be weaker. And ore-season tours don’t help your preparation. But other teams seem to manage better. No one but AW made the decision in summer 2015 to add only Cech to a team that needed a striker and central midfielder. But I think you are right that AW has been resenting the few actions the club has taken so far as he is resisting vociferously the latest ideas like the DoF etc…

  25. Limestonegunner,

    For me, the striker situation is by far the most telling “special circumstance” when you think about the fact that we have continued on with Giroud even though the last 3 summers he has tried and failed to replace him. Then you look at the start of this season and the summer at the start he goes after Vardy and then scraps it until the end when he signs Perez which Arsene has publicly admitted that he signed Perez because “Giroud wasn’t ready for the season and nobody knew when Welbeck was coming back” .

  26. C,

    Yes, grave inaction since RvP was sold. I understand it is difficult and expensive to buy a top class striker but AW blew it on the Suarez-Higuain summer deals. He failed to find a good young player who might develop. That is supposedly his forte. It hasn’t been a strength for years now.

  27. He didn’t fail, he succeeded….his remit was not to spend the money on a striker, he fenced a bit, talked about players he nearly signed, put in stupid bids, didnt make serious plays for the player, talked about trying and it not being easy and trousered his generous wage. I dont believe for a single second Arsenal have seriously tried to sign a top class striker…’s like going to the supermarket and saying i tried to do my weekly shop. Nobody stopped you, you chose not to ! I find the dishonesty that comes out of the club pretty unpalatable.

  28. Agreed Limestone Gunner with your point -” he blew the Suarez / Higuain deals”

    I maintained previously that about three years ago Arsenal had significant funds at bank and the new stadium revenues were giving an added advantage. As someone schooled in economics Wenger knew that the supply of top players was finite and that the new TV and other commercial deals would have much more finance swilling around even to the lesser PL clubs which would inflate everything.

    Investment in a top class CF, CM, DM, Wide player should have been front loaded. Suarez or a Higuain could have been had for under Fifty million. They did the equivalent of leaving their cash on deposit earning relatively little and then found that the selling price had radically inflated. Now that type of player such as Griezman is closer to ninety million! Wenger s last six years are typified by conservatism, stasis and risk aversion. If Devin had stayed I think he probably would have provided some dynamism and counter weight to Wenger but maybe not if it was still under silent stan

  29. Limestonegunner,

    Completely agree with you, I also think he cocked it up with the Lacazette transfer that was happening then wasn’t happening. There has been too much movement when it comes to strikers both established and youngish talented strikers for us not to end up with one. Why didn’t we chase Jese or make a cheeky bid for Chicharito who isn’t world class but pair him with Ozil and Sanchez and you have 2 players capable of immediately getting you 15 plus goals and all 3 would work well. The lack of striker movement coupled with the conitnuation of Giroud speaks volumes to the current state of Arsene and Arsenal under Arsene. Completely agree with you about youth and the thing is, Jonkers was actually starting to have success with the youth not only bringing in better talent but developing that talent, think Iwobi, Adelaide, Nwakali, the development of Bielik, etc.

  30. Sky has confirmed that the deal for Sead Kolasinac will be completed on July 1 when his contract with Schalke expires and that is the reason that there hasn’t been any announcement from Arsenal or Schalke on the matter.

  31. C,

    Hmmm, I’m sure that plenty of other transfers have been announced before players can officially join their new clubs. Come to think of it Podolski was announced at the end of April even though the deal couldn’t be signed until July 1st. And I’m pretty sure that players can sign some sort of pre-agreement to join a new club when they are in the last six months of their contract. it seems to be another area where Arsenal are out of touch.

  32. andy1886,

    Exactly my thinking about all of this but it seems to be the real deal and you know when things like this happen Arsenal are always respond as if the media forced their hand. Podolski was announced in April and we have seen countless other players announced before hand but this is Arsenal and even when the reports are out and the players talk.

  33. An early announcement or an early non-announcement like the present one are a stimulus for flagging season ticket renewals.

    Or am I just an old cynic?

  34. AlanG,

    Good points–the accelerating costs of top attacking made that sort of conservatism obsolete. when major success on the pitch isn’t the genuine top priority, all kinds of silly things happen.

  35. Well I am certainly going to be down in the mouth about a new signing – looks like a pretty good one too. Nice to see some business being done early and properly.

  36. Latest waiting list for Arsenal season tickets appears to be around 11 years and 40,000.
    No obvious reason for the Kroenkes to upsticks. 😉

  37. Awesome post Yogi

    In order to make criticism creditably you have to be honest enough to give credit where its due and 20 years in a row of top 4 finishes is quite an accomplishment and Arsene deserves credit for what he has done even if I don’t like to give him credit. On the other hand you also have to avoid the emotional attachment and accept when there is a problem and 9 years of stagnation and nothing but top 4 finishes without even a reasonable title challenge is not acceptable for a big team like ours. You can only stay stagnant for so much time because eventually everyone else will catch up and pass you and it certainly looks like that is what is happening no.

  38. Arsene did not manage to lift the team after Bayern this season? But when did he? May be last season, when we had 2 wins in 9 games, which is relegation form for a quarter af a season? Or may be in 2010/11, when our two horse title race ended up in 4th?

    Liverpool will finish with 76 points, the points tally we managed to beat only once in the last 9 seasons. And mind you, Liverpool managed two genouine title challenges in this time.

    No, the problem is not something that happened or did not happen this season, with or without transfers, uncertainty, special circumstances etc. The problem is Wenger’s usual arrogant gamble to serve rabbish and to hope that others are worse.

  39. @jonnygunner,
    My sole purpose of quoting the figures is to show that any attempt to alter the governance of Arsenal FC by existing supporters through demonstrations, withdrawal of support, etc, would be doomed to failure. There are simply too many would-be ticket holders waiting to accept the status quo. 😉

  40. I agree with Limestone’s comment at 6:56 and SV at 7:07. It’s the nature of sports teams that Stagnation takes no prisoners and eventually it will drag you down. We have done a marvelous job of papering over the cracks for years but it was inevitable that things would eventually start to go downhill.

  41. This seems like a very sensible suggestion from AST. Wonder what others, particularly ST holders and regular match attendees, think. I mean, as boring as CL group stages had become, Europa League group fixtures against the likes of Bucharest, Genk etc… are not category A or B matches.

  42. While I would love a decent striker, I believe what we really need is a ‘don’t know how to lose’ Captain in the Adams/Vieria mould. A Captain that can pick up our team by the scruff of its hang-dog neck. But our off-field leader allows no others. And when we are losing, a sadly expected occurrence nowadays, his motivational methods are: 1. sulk in his leather chair 2. berate the 4th official. A few words of advice from Dylan Thomas:
    ‘Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

  43. Ivan to AST. “I’ll have a word with Stan about increasing the cost of category B and C matches ahead of next season. Thanks for your heads up so we can work out a way to stiff the fans while trying to appear magnanimous and ‘fair’. We lie about attendances already so fear not we have that one covered. Please remortgage your property and put the deeds in the name of ArsenalFC before season ticket renewal time.”

  44. Isn’t it odd that he undersells the idea of a captain but Adams and Vieira were captains during his greatest periods of success. He couldn’t see a tree falling on top of him these days. And conveniently we have a german tree captaining the club.

  45. C,

    Arsenal’s traditional late season surges suggest to me that, when faced with dropping out of the top 4, Arsenal teams are able to find some desperation. However, Arsene is incapable of instilling any desperation himself. There has to be an outside stimulus. He’s also incapable of recognising that he’s had it easy for years and, now the pace is picking up in the Premier League, Arsenal are dropping off the pace.

  46. Morning. I see that Pep has had a pop at Arsene for his comments about clubs not trying at the end of the season. He certainly does seem to be unpopular with his fellow coaches. It was an odd thing to say anyway when we’ve just played several teams (Stoke, United and Southampton) who hardly busted a gut to beat us. If West Ham rolled over for Liverpool then Stoke did the same for him the day before.

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