The only thing worse than the Sun is anger fuelled by the Sun. Photos of Alex Iwobi partying 36 hours before Sunday’s defeat do not bother me.
What bothers me is the prevailing culture at the club where this behaviour is considered professional. It’s hard to argue that he played any worse on Sunday than he has done all season so he is either quite the party animal or reached the plateau which affects all players.
The question for Iwobi is whether he aspires to be Bergkamp or Bendtner. Whether he wants to go on and have a much-admired career or bouncing around Europe, held back by a lack of effort and an oversized ego. It’s his choice.
What should happen at Arsenal but won’t, is a fine of a fortnight’s wages and the mother of all rollickings. Dropping the player from the first team squad to the academy group is the lesson he might understand. But today’s players are so overpaid and pampered from a young age that any sign of discipline sends them into a big sulk.
That was a common theme in the BT documentary No Hunger In Paradise. Young players get too much, too soon and there’s no drive in them. Arsenal typifies the problem because those young players grow up to become first team players. And first team players without drive or ambition tread water.
Alex Hleb’s interview last week underlined the easy ride Arsène gives the players. Hleb couldn’t handle Pep Guardiola telling him he didn’t work hard enough; it wasn’t like that at Arsenal where Wenger empathised with the players and indulged them.
The one thing Hleb’s words said to me is that Arsenal is broken and the sticking plaster we keep applying is curling at the edges, having lost its’ adhesive qualities.
Pulling The Silent Face
You can see that with the club’s thinking regarding this winter’s transfer market. Theo Walcott has four clubs reportedly interested in him while Francis Coquelin’s omission from Sunday’s squad was so that he didn’t get cup-tied. We’re selling him one year on from handing him a contract reputedly worth £100k per week. For £10-12m.
How he fell so far is beyond me. Or rather it isn’t beyond me because I don’t think he has fallen that far. Coquelin isn’t a player who will win you titles but with the right coaching, he could be an effective defensive barrier. Win the ball and pass it quickly. Except we encourage players to express themselves and in his case, to release his inner Song.
That’s not his game. His Arsenal career underlines that lack of joined up thinking in building the squad. Recalled from Charlton on loan in 2014, he was the midfield spark we needed. That should have pointed Arsène in the direction of the kind of player the team needed. He bought Granit Xhaka instead, and the only thing the two players share is a prickly nature on the pitch.
A similar muddled thinking dominates the back four. Jonny Evans isn’t the kind of centre-back whose signature sets pulses racing but right now, he’s the kind of centre-back we need. So long as we don’t knock the no-nonsense defending out of him.
Up, Up And Away
What he will make of the squad is anyone’s guess. Özil and Sanchez refusing to sign deals with the latter possibly leaving this window. Wilshere being offered, if reports are to be believed, a pay-cut. Debuchy, a player who has wanted out of the club for some considerable time, as back-up for Bellerin.
Mustafi and Chambers, two players who were on the verge of being sold, are first-choice players. Square pegs in round holes are our best players despite a lack of experience. We buy international full-backs and then play central midfielders in their place.
Players who have been at the club for more than a decade in the first-team squad are cast into the wilderness and then asked to perform in a central striking role they don’t want. We buy an England striker who holds onto the ball well and works his socks off for the team but has a goalscoring record of 1 in 4.
We sold Szczesny who is suddenly a world-beater for Juventus which points to either poor judgement on our part or how bad our defence is. Or both.
The more you think about it, the more your mind swirls to the point where you don’t think about because your mind swirls too much. Apathy takes over. Desperation climbs aboard and leaves desolation.
We see new arrivals behind the scene but what good will they do with the first-team failing on the pitch. You can have all the talent in the world at your disposal but if you don’t know how to use it effectively, there’s no point.
So what’s the point when there’s no inclination on the part of the owner to do anything which upsets his balance sheet?
Just hope. Hope that someday before I walk off this mortal coil, things will change for the better.
’til Tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow, isn’t there?
PS. For those bitching about Hector’s dress sense and saying our rough tough manly full-backs of yesteryear would never wear anything as dreadful, I give you Mr Bob McNab. Time to cut young Bellerin some slack methinks.