Arsenal Gambol Down The Path To Self-Destruction.

dhubSouthampton 2 – 0 Arsenal

1 – 0 Mane (34)
2 – 0 Tadic (56)

Arsène called it self-inflicted. I don’t think you can argue with that assessment at all. He is entitled to his view that Arsenal were in control for half an hour; I would say that is generous but such is the nature of his job that any favourable bias is to be expected.

Indeed Fraser Forster made confident, strong saves at vital moments; the contrast with his opposite number could not have been more stark. Wojciech Szczesny had his poorest game in an Arsenal shirt off the back of one of his most assured. It’s hard to know whether his nervousness fed the same in the back four or fed by a lack of confidence on their part.

And the root cause is important, vital to progress being made from the mire of mediocrity that is the hallmark of this season. The return of Laurent Koscielny signalled the opportunity for Wenger to field his first choice back five for the first time this season. Can we go back to makeshift, they seemed more assured?

As vaunted as his return is, it comes with a price. Laurent Koscielny is always vulnerable early in his season as red cards and own goals have previously proven. This season was going to be different; he was to restore Per Mertesacker’s confidence. To make a difference.

Defending as a team is about coordination and understandings; both were woefully absent in the first goal. Southampton travelled the breadth and length of the pitch without a challenge of note and when decisive action came, it was the wrong choice.

Szczesny made Mane’s mind up, the finish reminiscent of Kanu on an October afternoon at Stamford Bridge. But the Southampton forward should have been shepherded to safety by Koscielny. Instead Szczesny emulated the madness which pockmarked Fabianski’s Arsenal career. It’s either a Polish trait or one that the goalkeeping coaches fail to coach out of the players.

Szczesny’s decision was the deciding factor in the goal but questions remain over the defenders. Mertesacker was slow to react to the situation, being on the line would have given him a better opportunity to stop the ball as well as making Mane look for a pass. Koscielny meanwhile, stayed in the same no-man’s land as Szczesny, neither defending a shot or marking any supporting Southampton players.

To my mind, there is little differentiation between goalkeeper and defenders in culpability, especially in the second goal. Szczesny’s panic led directly to Tadic scoring but neither Mertesacker or Debuchy was concentrating hard enough to realise that the goalkeeper could not pick the ball up otherwise it would have been a free kick. Nor did they possess the decisiveness to put the ball to touch.

The Keystone Cops are back in town.

Wenger rotated, making the curious decision to pair Coquelin and Chambers in the defensive midfield role. If he was concerned about the impact of the holiday period games on Flamini, QPR at home, at The Emirates, is the time to experiment not when you are facing a direct rival for fourth place.

It’s harsh on Coquelin as well. He has done reasonably well at short notice but to be honest, he isn’t the long-term solution. Maybe he is a good squad player and all clubs need that sort of player. Despite this, his career most likely remains away from Arsenal.

Olivier Giroud’s absence was missed, the cost of his lunacy apparent. Sanchez’s industry failed to spark any reward and Wenger’s decision to give Akpom ten minutes to breach a well-organised home defence was baffling. How could the youngster be expected to score twice in such a short space of time? The time for decisive changes came when Tadic scored.

To cap off a miserable afternoon, Gardos remained on the pitch when he scythed down Sanchez as he headed toward goal. Was it a genuine goalscoring opportunity? Of course, Alexis is Arsenal’s most productive player this season. Could another defender have caught him? Debatable, Gardos’ desperation stemmed from the fact that he felt he was the last chance of preventing a goal.

Yellow card? You can’t shake the feeling that were it at the other end, Arsenal’s performance was such that the defender would have seen red. And probably improved the defence in the process.

It’s all so hugely frustrating. Just when you think the apex of the bend is approaching, Arsenal contrive to skid and lose control. It’s a season where excuses will be made if fourth place is claimed and at the moment, that feels like a tall order.

Afterwards, Wenger spoke of the defence,

It’s difficult to find an obvious reason straight after the game. There was a misunderstanding and maybe the few games on the trot – we faded a lot at West Ham and we were not fresh enough today.

I have no qualms that he cannot provide the answers immediately but he needs to understand why the preferred back four performed so badly. An element of it comes down to understandings needing to be rebuilt, the cost of injuries.

Mertesacker’s form has been far below expectations this year and those doubts are not going to be immediately eradicated with Koscielny’s return. Indeed such are his own self-doubts that the mistakes by others which led to the first goal probably feed them.

Fundamentally, there was no leadership yesterday and some of that stems from the manager’s lack of belief in a captain. His view is well-known that he wants each player to be a leader but not every player is. Some look to a player for order, for resuscitation when their form drops momentarily on the pitch. The worst thing possible is that they look in the face of a man devoid of confidence.

A transfer window can change things. It has to. We’re having these conversations too often, too frequently for there not to be problems that can go unnoticed within the club. Whatever the popular theory is, surely Arsène can see the issues afflicting the squad?

I am sure he can, it comes down to whether those are the problems undermining the season in his opinion or whether he genuinely believes that the ill-fortune suffered is solely the fault of the World Cup and injuries. There are wider issues than one centre back or a defensive midfielder.

The club will circle the wagons. The board, the owner, they will support the manager in the transfer market but they won’t ask the questions of him if he decides not to spend because the deal isn’t right. Admirable as that principle is, there are times when the validity of the deal is not financial but on the pitch. Sometimes, a little more spent on a player than the valuation brings tangible returns.

That’s not to say they should blow the bank on a journeyman but pay more than they want? It has to happens sometimes. Now seems to be such a moment.

’til Tomorrow.

126 thoughts on “Arsenal Gambol Down The Path To Self-Destruction.

  1. The Arse in The Gamb says:

    Bill

    I just don’t rate Joel Campbell.

    Perpetually knackered in the World Cup he just doesn’t have it in him. I have never seen him contribute to an Arsenal match in any significant way.

    Not sure he is more than a championship player.

  2. santori says:

    It’s the balance of the squad that’s the problem.

    In part this is due to our atrocious injury record.

    Largely this is due to the lack of a Cback for most of the first half of season.

    Yesterday it was due to the lack of Flamini.

    Yes, like it or not, he has been a lynchpin for us with improved performances since Arteta went missing.

    Coquelin is working hard and could get better but I thought it a mistake to put Chambers next to him. Granted the young Englishman is talented and likely to end up in midfield in the future but I felt it a false sense of security to try to shut our midfield down with the pairing.

    The goals were of course individual errors at the back but the lack of Flamini meant we were unable to prosecute with as much effectiveness going forward.

    It was difficult for Wenger since he is depleted in central midfield.

    I thought it better if someone like Rosicky sat closer to the holding player (in this case Coquelin) offering a bit of maturity and the ability to transition quicker into attack.

    Also felt the lack of a CF stymied us. Alexis is a brilliant player but I don’t feel he prospers as much as a central forward.

    Thought it would have been better to have had Walcott on so both quasi-strikers could work either flank making us less predictable and quicker on the break.

    The formation would have been a front two and a midfield diamond with the Ox making up the other player next to Coquelin and of course Santi roaming just ahead of the midfield and behind the attacking pair.

    ………………………Alexis…………………Walcott…………………….
    ……………………………………Santi…………………………………….
    ………………..Rosicky………………………………Ox………………..
    ……………………………………Coquelin………………………………
    …………………………………….Back 4………………………………..

    I think its misleading to believe that we have a mediocre squad. We don’t.

    We are missing one piece of the jigsaw (A Cback) and a lot of players to injury.

    Our balance has been affected because of constant chop and change and we have not found consistency.

    We are strictly in a fight for CL qualification now IMO. We have failed to demonstrate consistency at Southampton and I feel that is a watermark this season in terms of opportunities to get back in the race.

    Had we got the result, we would have cut the gap to 10 to the front pair and 3 to United. Still a lot to do but not unachievable.

    However, we are issues revisited all season and I think the focus now must be on consistency in squad to end of season to ensure the MINIMUM finish. There is still of course the FA and CL to gun for.

    A Cback is absolutely still necessary given an injury to Metersecker would be an unmitigated (or maybe we can say self inflicted) disaster.

    But we will also have to keep an eye on Arteta’s return date. If Flamini is unavailable next game and Arteta continues two weeks away, we may need someone who can cover there as well (Granted Coquelin)

  3. G4E says:

    CBob, we have to be realistic…..we just don’t have it.

    Gamb, Ozil in terms of world class is miles away from the Ox. If Ozil is used properly as he was used in Madrid…..Who would you pick?

  4. Jonny says:

    A bit too simplistic for me G4E.

    Many of those players are unduly maligned or limited as being merely ‘good’ over looking past form and/or potential. The first team is still very strong and would be even stronger, if it ever actually played together..(and Wenger picked the right players in the right positions and signed a proper fucking DM) but the squad is limited (which is where I do concur with your premise). The other problems have been well documented on these pages and no doubt will continue to be so, but they include AW’s team-selection, training, tactics, substitutions & squad-rotation which is a think about it as a rather damning indictment. 🙂

  5. andy1886 says:

    A good manager always makes the side greater than the sum of it’s parts – that’s how teams like Southampton and Stoke beat teams like Arsenal who have much better players. IMO Arsene has never really managed to do that, when he had the best players and played in a way that suited them we won trophies (usually, although in ’98- ’99 for example we were better than United but still lost it). Whenever he comes up against sides with better players (which happened a lot more often after 2004) then almost inevitably he loses. I struggle to think of a time recently when we’ve won a game in which we were underdogs. We don’t need a genius, just someone who has a plan that’s not rooted in the last decade and the discipline to see it through.

  6. G4E says:

    Jonny,

    Good was the highest ranking in my assessment, you can call them fantastic if it makes it any easier to accept.

    As I noted, the Good and OK players all together total 12 players that can play in the first team as regulars, if they’re all fit and in form.

    Hardly enough to mount any serious challenge in a demanding league as the Premier League. The numbers just don’t add up and it’s why we get written off every season, and rightly so I may add.

  7. Jonny says:

    Arteta has been, for the most part, a decent purchase but not not the commanding presence who can break up play and/or dictate a game. He is also clearly on the wane. Both Flamini and Coquelin were only ever meant as stop-gaps – the quality of their performances illustrates exactly why.

    Ever since we lost ‘the invisible wall’ we have failed to find an adequate replacement. These days we have several porous ones instead.

    Honestly Santori – if you think all this team needs to compete is a CB you are living in the sky – how are the cloud-cuckoos?

  8. Jonny says:

    Sorry I meant ‘OK’ not ‘Good’.

  9. Bill says:

    G4E.

    i completely agree with your premise that we over rate the players on our squad. We are a team that is good enough to hold on to the top 4 but there is not enough talent and depth to consistently challenge for league titles.

    Alexis probably would start regularly for any team in the PL but no one else would. Walcott would make a great impact sub and get some starts on the wing, and you could argue about the merits of Kos.

    Giroud, Welbeck, Ox cazorla, Wilshere, Ozil, this years Ramsey, Rosicky Podolski Arteta Flamini BFG Debuchy Gibbs Wojo. These are our key players and the best any of them would be is squad players on chelsea or man city.

  10. Wavey says:

    Amazing how someone can view Flamini as so vital to the team. He’s adequate at best and this idea of making do with such dross as our first choice CDM is laughable. Arteta is a talented player, but is himself a bit of a make do player as he doesn’t have that ability to dominate midfield. Given that, he is still an effective player for us and Flamini is a poor substitute for him. It still amazes me that a manager like Wenger who put together the Invincibles team which was built on strength and pace seems to have abandoned those priinciples. Especially as he must have seen that the Premiership winning teams in the period since his glory days are still built on that same basic premise.

  11. Bill says:

    IF you put together an all star team using chelsea man city and arsenal it would be

    Courtois

    Zabaleta Kompany Terry Azpillaqueta

    Matic toure Fabregas

    Alexis Aguero Hazard

    Bench

    cech Cahill/Kos ivanovich fernandinho silva costa Walcott

    You could argue about Kos vs Cahill on the bench. Last years Ramsey makes the team but this years version certainly doesn’t.

    Bottom line is that despite the fact that we have spent close to $170M and added 12 new players in the last 3 years, arsenal is not very well represented.

  12. Moe says:

    I can see what you mean Bill.

    And i agree.

  13. Bill says:

    We have spent a lot of money in the last 3 years but Alexis is the only player we added that would start of either chelsea or man city.

    We argue about Ozil a lot and his transfer fee and reputation when he came suggested a great player but based on what he has done for us I don’t think he would displace either Fabregas or David silva from a starting line up.

  14. Birdkamp says:

    Bill, If a player isn’t getting regular football because of injuries he can’t shine. This applies especially to midfielders, who usually need time to get their rhythm back. I think injuries have certainly contributed to Ramsey’s dip.

    Form is a big factor here too. Take Cesc – the story of his last few seasons, even going back to the Arsenal days, is a quick start and very indifferent finish. His stock was rock bottom back in April when he was deemed not good enough for Barcelona.

    In our history we’ve made two signings in the Diego Costa, Aguero, Cesc, Hazard, Yaya Toure, David Silva price bracket; one of them made your team and the other is currently injured. To my mind it’s certainly not out there to expect Ozil – health-permitting – to be considered in that sort of company by the end of the season.

    This isn’t a “we can’t compete” post; more that as we’re going to have a weaker squad than Chelsea and Man City for at least three or four more years (we need to catch up with several years of investment) it would really help if we could call on our stars a bit more often.

  15. Bill says:

    birdkamp.

    Perhaps.

    We are going to have to do a lot better then we have in the last 3 years if we ever hope to catch up to the top clubs. IMO. Ozil on that list is certainly not a slam dunk.

  16. C says:

    Soooo bitter sweet. Glad he will play regularly and show his class but sad that is the end for Prince Poldi in Arsenal red and white.

  17. andy1886 says:

    I don’t blame him for wanting to go C. Sitting on a bench watching the likes of Sanogo flounder was nothing short of insulting. He and Wenger clearly don’t see eye to eye, I don’t believe that he’s ever been used properly (as a second striker playing off Giroud for example) and he’s probably seen enough decent managers to know that Wenger is a busted flush. Good luck to him.

  18. dukey says:

    Bill,

    I’d stick Walcott upfront and drop Hazard back to replace Matic, whilst Matic is a tough bruiser breaker upper lanky ugly fucker, he doesn’t get in no best of the best team. walcott wiould get into shitty and the chav team.(if fit that is)

  19. dukey says:

    and as for G4E’s squad opinions, well its well bloody Rodney marsh.

    Sanchez is world class
    theo is more then good
    as is the ox and so is bloody wilshere. so that’s three more goods there.

    szczczesney is still a good keeper, he just suffered from sods law against Southampton.

    lets see how many good players Chelsea have in their squad, why do you think joseline keeps playing the same team.

  20. C says:

    @andy

    Cometely agree with you and i actually will enjoy seeing him score goals and play regularly. I find it odd that he has scored the most CL goals for us since his arrival and has finished in top 3 in both goals and assists yet cant get a match. I dont care if he didnt always track back to cover for Gibbs(who tends to forget he is a defender 1st,2nd,3rd and 4th and attacker 5th) because he is a striker who is good in and around the box. For a team that doesnt have goal scorers and for him not to play because he doesnt have the best work rate is pure and utter shit. Fucking Arsene, not playing to players strengths again, plus we all know Arsene didnt play him because he wasnt afraid to shoot instead of always trying to walk the ball in.

    Yup its time for Arsene to leave!

  21. Wavey says:

    Seems a shame to lose Poldi without really getting the best from him. I agree with Andy, I always thought he would work better as part of a two striker setup and I just wonder if this was another of Wenger’s square pegs in round holes. Is that maybe why he gave up on playing him, because he couldn’t adapt to the style of play Wenger wanted? Given that he was third highest goal scorer last season it seems bizarre that he didn’t get much of a run out this season, especially with Giroud out. I would have liked to see Podolski as part of a front two with Welbeck for example.
    He is likely to leave us with a cult status and will divide opinion on his time at Arsenal. Many will feel he was let down a bit by the way Wenger played him. Arshavin divided opinion in the same way as many felt that Wenger hadn’t played him in what might have been his best position.

  22. G4E says:

    Dukey,

    Even if I agree with you that we have 16 – 18 FANTASTIC world class players, I say IF because some of the players you added are not consistent in their World classiness.

    18 players are not enough to win the Premier League and compete in every available competition.

    I’m not down on the players we have, I’m very happy with them. I’m saying large number of the squad are either young and inconsistent players or old and not ever present for the long and winding road.

    ‘s all

  23. MikeSAa says:

    Wenger has yet again screwed up with a good player. Quite frankly, I’d rather Wenger left than Poldi, at least he knows where the fucking net is, which seems to escape Wenger, and I’m talking about both ends.

    With respect to the Ozil question. We are talking about a player who, before he arrived at Arsenal, was the most prolific creator of goals on the planet, and barely suffered any injuries. Now, under Wenger’s “guidance”, all sorts of questions are being asked about his class and ability, and the guy barely makes it onto the pitch. It’s not exactly the first time we’ve watched Wenger destroy a player’s career.

    Personally, I’m beginning to suspect players like Sanchez succeed despite Wenger, not because of him.

    Having had a few spectacular successes, I think Wenger now tries to do the opposite of what most people suggest in an attempt to fluke another one and appear to be some sort of maverick genius. He’s a maverick alright, just replace genius with moron and you’re about there……..

    The problem is that Wenger has no intention of letting go now. He’s like a gambling addict, desperately clinging on to the idea that he can recover his losses. I see he’s saying he would not have quit if he’d lost the FA cup because he “respects” his contracts, but I was under the impression that he was out of contract at the end of last season and hadn’t signed a new one yet? Or is this just another example of the bullshit the club pisses on the fans with again?

    The club do seem to be concerned though. Although I instructed them to remove my details from all lists after the RvP debacle, I still get asked if I want to buy a season ticket every year, except that I normally get these requests around Easter. Not to mention that these offers always come with the threat that I will be moved to the back of the queue if I don’t exercise the offer, I nevertheless receive them along with phone calls asking if I would like to buy one. Things seem to have changed this year though as I already have my offer for a season ticket before Christmas this time. I gave responded, informing the club that I have no intention of taking up any such offer whilst Wenger is still the manager.

  24. Phil says:

    Happy new year to all.
    Almost 1% of the year gone already. Bloody hell, so much to do, so little time.
    Transfer window open.
    First piece of business. Get rid of the Pod. Tick.
    Second piece of business, well Diaby will be back soon. Tick.
    Third piece of business, no need.

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