West Ham Review: If Only Matches Were 10 Minutes Long…

Arsenal 4 – 1 West Ham United

We’ve had the ‘5-minute final’ so this is the ’10-minute finale’. It’s a flattering scoreline but do we care? That’s incidental, to be honest.

Arsène fielded a strong XI but that might have backfired with Mo Elneny collecting an ankle-knack which already ruled him out of Thursday night’s game. Jack Wilshere will be fit and sickly ickle Mesut Özil will be alright as well. We will, I’d hazard a guess, be in reasonable shape for Atletico.

Physically that is. Defensively, we were a shambles again so we’ll need to get at least a couple of goals ahead before we can begin to relax. But we knew that anyway. Mind you, if that was the players making a case for their retention under the new regime, quite a few are heading toward the door marked “Do one”.

Alexandre Lacazette isn’t, not with six goals in five games. The only part of the team which doesn’t need surgery is the forward line; it just needs a plan to fit Aubameyang and the Frenchman into the same line-up without one of them being shoved out on the wing. Very few teams play with a front pairing, so it’s going to be interesting to see if the new man can do so.

Or we could go with a trio of attackers, so long as Nacho Monreal is on the left. The Spaniard was our ‘fox in the box’ once more, opening the scoring with a volley just before half-time. Six for the season, I think they said.

Monreal, Aubameyang, Lacazette; MAL. We could play ‘Bad’ every time they scored. Maybe get Wacko to record a new version? “We’re bad, we’re bad, we’re really, really, bad”? He’s not dead; he’s with Elvis in Alaska, sipping a beer, avoiding the world.

Bad isn’t always Good

The 4 – 1 scoreline makes it look like plain sailing and I dare say that in years to come, we’ll forget how easily we exposed at the back. Marko Arnautovic thrived in the gaps we left for him and it was no surprise when he equalised. It was a well-taken goal, but again, the marking was lax. And that’s being polite.

Which allowed the Hammers to consolidate while we laboured. Alex Iwobi, I’m afraid, continues to infuriate. We know there is talent there, but he was woeful yesterday. Lack of confidence? Shock at Wenger leaving? Worried about the future? All these could affect him yet they all undermine him as well. A new manager, that jolt, may be the best thing for him. If not, he will quickly find himself on the pile of players who flattered to deceive at Arsenal.

He wasn’t the only one; quite a few were below par yesterday but Declan Rice ducked out of the way of Aaron Ramsey’s cross and the ball bounced in. Joe Hart, who like so many others of his ilk, turned in a good performance to that point and let Rice know his thoughts on the matter.

The Lacazette stepped in with his two goals at the tail-end of the game. Created by Aubameyang – and I think that’s the concern I have for Thursday – whose entrance as a late substitute was more about three points than preserving fitness. However, he can’t play on Thursday so we need someone else to step up into that creative role in the final third. Any candidates?

Three points all but sealed sixth place. Yes, we can catch Chelsea but we won’t; they won’t drop enough points in their remaining games. And in any case, we’ve got United next weekend so will lose that.

Dreams and Reality

Which left Arsène facing the press afterwards.  He let a little snippet out about how he still retained power or would have done. “My job is to take care of the team, of the results, and of the finances in the transfers,” he said. Ivan’s power-grab wasn’t quite as effective as he hoped. Or not until Arsène chucked in his tickets, anyway.

He isn’t offering his view on who the new boss should be either. “My job is not to select the next manager,” he commented, ensuring that all the brickbats fall on Gazidis and the recruiters if it doesn’t go smoothly. Thierry Henry was “surprised” the announcement of a successor wasn’t made on Friday, but I think that’s because it isn’t agreed yet. The club knows who they want, but having tied it down.

Naturally, Wenger was asked about the reasons for his departure and it’s worth looking at what he said as a whole rather than in isolation.

“I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England, and our fans did not give the image of unity that I wanted. That was hurtful because I feel the club is respected over the world and, overall, the image we gave from our club is not what it is – and not what I like.”

If only…

“I feel this club has a fantastic image and, for me, that is absolutely vital. We can speak and speak and speak but sport is about winning and losing and you [the supporters] have to accept you will lose games, even when I will not be here any more.

“But it is about something bigger than just winning or losing and that was always a worry: how the club is perceived worldwide, for kids playing in Africa, China and America and the dreams it can create for young children who want to play football.”

More damaging to that global perception is a lack of Champions League football, or not challenging for the title. Wenger’s idealism is well-known but it is contrary to the raison d’etre of the Premier League. That’s all about money, shiny new things and how much you can spend. Not about bringing through young players or inspiring generations. That romanticism has no place in modern football. No matter how depressing that may be, it’s the truth.

Ours is an almost peculiarly English history, one which will see us drift from consciousness if we remained outside the elite for too long. We can’t draw upon Champions League or European Cup victories; we haven’t built a global following on glorious European adventures.

Wenger inspired with a philosophy but that only worked while we were winning trophies. League titles and Invincibles did more for Arsenal’s image abroad than Project Youth. Reaching Paris in 2006 was a more lasting marker than Nicklas Bendtner or Fran Merida making first-team appearances.

United Front

He did, of course, address how he felt about the past few years.

“I’m not resentful. I do not want to make stupid headlines. I’m not resentful with the fans. If my personality is in the way of what I think this club is, for me that is more important than me. That is all I want to say, it’s nothing to do with the fans. The fans were not happy, that’s my job, I have to live with that. I can accept that.”

That isn’t the headline-making statement. It’s better in the circulation wars where everyone is dying on their feet, to talk about division or dissension. To make it them and us or to gloat over the toll it took on his marriage, allegedly. More papers are sold and ads viewed by titilation than anything else. Substance is only something to be abused.

We move on, Arsène waits for the offers to roll in. It won’t be in England although if that’s the only job which came along, he would take it. That’s the future; he has his and us, ours. They may yet be intertwined.

’til Tomorrow.

55 thoughts on “West Ham Review: If Only Matches Were 10 Minutes Long…

  1. Thanks YW. I do not want to offend the sensibilities of people, but a lot of fans lived in denial. YW is correct in saying, romanticism in top flight modern football is dead. If Arsene was winning the premier league every other year, no one would complain. The season everyone fell away and Leicester won the premier league, I wonder what Arsene must have thought. It exposed all his tales about spending and competing with richer clubs. Simply because a club with lesser resources achieved something we could not achieve, even though we beat them home and away in that season.

    So it sums for me the whole issue. Arsene Wenger at Arsenal was great at winning cup trophies but he never won back to back league trophies. In order words, he maintained the unbeaten run, but he could never achieve 2 league trophies in a row. The records are there for all to see.

    It was a good score line yesterday, but even by standards previously set by Wenger, this team has consistently shown its lack of defensive organisation. Wenger is proud and I think he should continue in management so that he can see his flaws exposed brutally in another league.

    If Henry says he was surprised the announcement was not made, I am quite sure his friend Josh has told him what he intends to do. I remember Henry being very critical of the first game of the season. I think the decision has been made, the catalyst for change has concluded work and soon the announcement will be made.

    A lot of factors contributed to this ouster: the loss at Newcastle; the damning stats of no away wins this year; the apathy by fans; the continuous lack of defensive cohesion; the scatter gun approach at the beginning of the season, and the continued slide into mediocrity spanning half a decade.

    May cannot come sooner for me. A fresh start beckons.

  2. Did you spot Ranieri in the crowd yesterday?
    Do you think that was a red herring or something more positive?

  3. I was surprised at the lack of pro-Wenger chanting at the game yesterday. There were a few muted chants, but only when the game was won. Maybe there is a realisation, even among his biggest fans, that his time is up. There were still plenty of empty seats too.

    His press conference confirmed he was given the boot. The subtle dig at the fans wasn’t a surprise either. Despite his deluded evangelical following he is not bigger than the Club. Au revoir!

  4. Yes Pete, no player is bigger than the club and no manager is either.

    Exciting times now…football has a spring in its step again.

  5. The ‘yes but’ from me…..

    YES – I guess there might be a positive bounce for the EL matches and the side might pull it together to help him on his way on a high so ok, lets leave head held high at the end of the season….

    BUT – we need the new gaffer/gafferess in sooner rather than later so that their vision can be articulated and shared with the players so they know what they are buying in to – whether they are the ones that we want to keep, or the ones that we want to buy & the ones we want to leave (we being the club – so as to meet the new vision)…

    So, with a late start, realistically when can the dead wood clearance/contract negotiations and rebuilding start in light of the complications of the world cup and the fact that players will have an enforced rest if they’ve been off to the world cup ?

    and agreed that much of yesterdays game was so much ‘meh’

  6. Well done Yogi the Man.

    Your right in saying that the score flattered but to be honest outside the goals, everything else looked bang average and for as much as I wabt him to flourish, Iwobi is frustrating…he will do all the hard work than forget to finish via assist or goal.

  7. As far as the empty seats, I imagine for his last home match will be the match where Gooners will show up and show their appreciation. I think most planned not to attend and then like the rest of the Goonerverse were stunned by his unplanned announcement because like most on here, they thought he was staying for another year.

  8. Morning All
    A good write up, which is par for the course.
    To blame the fans in any way is out of order, its a normal reaction to what you see, yes some go over the top, some remain quiet. Passing the buck onto paying “customers” is purely ignoring the problem. Yes, of course I want to win every game we play, and yes thats unrealistic, but to be out of the title challenge (in points) every year since year dot, with the resources we have isn’t conducive for happy campers. The continual nonsense about not being able to compete for players, we never tried to.

  9. I think Wenger should apologize to season ticket holders. He speaks as if the fans should stomach and countenance anything on display. When season ticket prices are sold at high prices, to at least 45000 people!

  10. Great post, thanks Yogi. Really disappointed and let down with AW’s comments about the fans. He’s obviously positioning himself for another job. Its just so sad.

  11. Great post yogi.

    Good result yesterday and a continuation of the solid home form this season. Our home results this season certainly flatter us but at the same time we can’t be as terrible as our away results suggest. The reality is somewhere in the middle. The bottom line is with a proper manager we probably have a squad which is probably capable of competing for 4th place. . Lacazette has been much better since he returned from injury. Hopefully he can continue that form against Atletico. Aaron Ramsey divides opinions but he is having his best run of form since his breakout season in 13/14. Arsene’s not so subtle complaints about the fans show his true colors.

    Iwobe is just like dozens and dozens of players who have come from the academy. He has an over abundance of technical skill but he can’t turn that into end product. Over the long term you can’t be an effective forward if you can’t score so he will eventually drift away and probably end up on a lower table PL team or possibly in the championship which is his ceiling. His skill set is much better suited to central midfield where producing end product is not as critical. Its not suprising that our $350K/week worlds best #10 can’t be bothered to even sit on the bench for these unimportant league games.

  12. Bill,

    I find it hilarious that even when he isn’t apart of a match you find a way to take a dig at Ozil… Mate, fucking let it go

  13. Bill,

    He’s ill, my work wouldn’t expect me to come in and sit about when ill. And considering we’re wanting him fit for Athletico i think allowing him to stay home during the visit of West Ham is ok and doesn’t affect the game in any way shape or form.

  14. C,

    Iwobi won’t be here much longer. Same as Theo and Ox, he’s come through with bags of potential and pace, but end product is inconsistent. Another winger who seems set up get the ball outside, stop and pass it rather than get crosses into the box.

  15. YW
    Nice post. I think it’s laudable that Wenger has ideals, but as you rightly say, there is , sadly, no room for that in the modern premier league.
    For me he did great things till 2004, but thereafter, barring the CL final showed time and again how failed to build a team of winners even when the purse strings were opened.
    This year the board probably gave him a chance to get back into the top 4 having dropped out, based on his points tally argument, but once it was clear that wasn’t happening, he was shownthe door. We will have to wait for the book to find out at least one side of the story.
    Finally, when you’re on his wage, you expect to be canned for messing up.

  16. MesutsLeftFoot,

    I actually think Iwobi as a CM/box-to-box would be perfect for him because it would allow him to do what he does besf which is pick the ball up and drive forward with power and pace and then he would be able to simply hand it off to Ozil or one of the other attackers to then provide the end product. The problem with that is Ramsey currently resides there and is showing form plus we don’t have another winger type.

  17. He gets ill regularly doesn’t he? Even heads off to Istanbul for some R&R and takes a few selfies. I wonder if it’s written in his contract?

    MesutsLeftFoot:
    Bill,

    He’s ill, my work wouldn’t expect me to come in and sit about when ill. And considering we’re wanting him fit for Athletico i think allowing him to stay home during the visit of West Ham is ok and doesn’t affect the game in any way shape or form.

  18. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Isn’t it funny that Bill talks about Ozil not being on the bench yet he doesn’t realize in the PL only Xhaka(34), Bellerin(32), Lacazette(30) have more appearances than Ozil(26)

  19. Egyptian national team assistant manager Mahmoud Fayez has stated:

    “I just contacted Elneny after he finished his X-ray and thankfully his injury is not serious and he will be out of action for three weeks.

    “He will join us in the World Cup.”

    Arsenal are hoping he will be fit prior to that but otherwise it looks like his season might be over.

  20. C

    I know you will never throw Mesut under the bus. Call me a skeptic but doesn’t it seem a bit strange that he leads the world in taking sick days over the last couple of seasons.

  21. There is something almost Trumpian about Wenger.
    Always happy to blame others, and blindly clinging to the view that no one knows more.

  22. I will be there Thursday night, but no way in hell I will be singing his name again.
    Those days are well gone.

  23. Bill,

    Question for you: did we need him and honestly mate, I would rather he be fit for Thursday.

    You are the King of Hyperbole

  24. ‘ image of unity’ not what Wenger liked.
    I didn’t realise that supporters had some unwritten obligation to be united in every thought and action.

  25. my humblestest honestest opinionated of opions on it all is i couldnt give a toss about what wenger says or does anymore..
    whether he walked or was pushed.
    whether it was everyone elses fault or his own..

    dont care..

    hes going…and thats all the matters..

  26. Phil.

    Fair enough. Yesterday’s game did not matter in the bigger picture. However his 2-3 week absence for a mystery illness last season around the holiday period certainly did not help us in our fight for the top 4 spot which we ended up missing by 1 point and I think he had a couple of illness related games off earlier in the season when we still theoretically had a chance to climb back into the race for 4th. Hopefully its just a run of bad luck that will come to and end and nothing but a coincidence that the recurring illnesses have corresponded to his drop in productivity and the general malaise affecting the entire club in the last couple of seasons. The whole team has basically shut down on our away schedule this season which is the most obvious symptom of that generalized malaise and that is certainly not down to any one single player. Hopefully a new manager will be able to get players like Ozil and the whole squad re-energized and refocused.

  27. Maitland-Niles has a better chance then someone like Iwobe because he can play several positions and not hurt the team. None of those positions he plays require him to produce end product. Time will tell what level his ceiling is but as long as he does not make a lot of mistakes he can definitely fill a role similar to Elneny

  28. The bad performances and the poor results really started around Jan 2016. We dropped off in the second half just like all of the other big teams and handed the title to Leicester. However, unlike the other big teams who got new managers and refocused we kept Arsene and our downward momentum continued on a faster pace. I don’t think Arsene changed tactics or he changed anything he was doing but he lost the ability to get the players to execute. I would argue that on paper and based on reputation we have a reasonably strong squad. However the games are not played on paper and this has been our worst season of the Wenger era. It cost Arsene his dream job. I am reasonably certain that he would be managing at least until the end of his current contract if he had been able to scratch out a couple more top 4 finishes these last 2 seasons.

  29. This may be the most acronym-laden, millennial statement I’ve ever made but…YW: “MAL” – LOL!

  30. I think the evidence on Auba and Laca is that they are both willing to put ego aside a little and seem really committed to making a successful partnership. Perhaps they recognize they have different but complimentary skill sets. Perhaps they recognize it’s not in either of their interests to create an either/or situation. Perhaps they recognize we have the players to play with a lot of positional fluidity for the forwards IF (and I pray Arsene’s successor is conscious of this “if”) they have a solid enough base behind them to supply and protect such an attack.

  31. I don’t know how I feel about Iwobi at the moment, except to say he is not playing at a first team level and should not be getting selected even for nothing-games (of which we have a surfeit). When he first broke through, he looked technically very good but lacking toughness. Now he demonstrates a greater willingness to push an opponent over but repeatedly gives the ball away through poor passing and decisions. You feel there might be a good player in there but I don’t know if he is ready for our first team.

  32. Bill,

    I agree. I think what will help him is his persistence. If he loses the ball, he doesn’t stand around looking hurt, he goes and gets it back and usually without losing his head and fouling unnecessarily. It’s extremely basic but too many of our players are missing one or more of these qualities.

  33. JonJon,

    The thing is, whoever comes in will be able to focus SOLELY on managing because Ivan put into place Sanllehi, Mislintat and the contractor man from Sky to handle everything else.

  34. Iwobi has been dreadful for most of the season.

    He has a good first touch & can keep the ball under pressure but his end product is pretty much zero. He would struggle for game time at practically any other top flight club.

    Xhaka on the other hand has come into some form. Like many of our ball players he needs real legs around him in fast paced games , but once it slows down he comes into his own.

    One of the most interesting things will be how these players respond to a new manager next season. I’m not convinced many will pass whichever tests are put in front of them as they’ve had it relatively easy under Arsene but with some proper coaching you never know.

  35. A players is very unlikely thrive as a forward over the the long term if he can’t score goals. We saw that with Ox. Most teams only have 4 attacking players on the pitch and I think its a mistake to waste one of those spots for a player who is unlikely to score more then 5-6 league goals. Its simple math. If we already have Ozil and Mkhitaryan who don’t score much taking up 2 of those spots then the other 2 have to be big time scorers. I am not sure we can really afford to have Ozil Mkhitaryan and Ramsey as regular starters because it would only leave room for 1 goal scorer.

    Xhaka is playing better because the whole team is going thru our best run of form for this season. Players have false dawns just like teams. Ignoring the 2 previous years of evidence and getting fooled by a short run of better form is almost always a mistake.

  36. Like I said Ivan knows what he wants. If Arteta is the man they want to fill the job, then I will support him and I know he has the knowledge, the ruthless edge is what I do not know if he has.

  37. C:
    MesutsLeftFoot,
    i can’t see Iwobi cutting it as a CM/box-to-bx. I think of Cazorla and Ramsey as templates for that role in recent times, and Iwobi has neither the tackling nous of Cazorla nor the goal sense of either of them, for all that he is good at advancing with the ball and on a good day when he’s calm he can pick a mean pass. I’m afraid he just isn’t showing top-flight qualities, simple as.

    I actually think Iwobi as a CM/box-to-box would be perfect for him because it would allow him to do what he does besf which is pick the ball up and drive forward with power and pace and then he would be able to simply hand it off to Ozil or one of the other attackers to then provide the end product.The problem with that is Ramsey currently resides there and is showing form plus we don’t have another winger type.

  38. Has Arteta done all the required coaching badge thingies?

    I don’t know, just asking.

    Personally I’d have preferred Vieira, but as has been said, I’d support virtually anyone they brought in.

    Apart from that arsewipe Rogers.

  39. Noon Gunner,

    Honestly, I would swap Ramsey’s goals and assists for a CM/box to boc who would be more disciplined defensively, not lose possession and is consistent. We have enough attacking talent, we need our pivots to be good defensively, consistent, good in tight areas and don’t need to get forward to be effective.

  40. lari03,

    Very nicely said…….I actually think this “Outser” should have been completed by the End of the 2008 season when we were going for the title and then collapsed in 5 or so games.

    I wouldn’t have waited longer, he had already lost the only Champions League final. Was wobbling domestically, and during the barren years of no money….Where was his experienced eyes in scouting cheap talent to win the title Leicester -like?

    I don’t deny him the early success, but there was a lot of helping factors that assisted him in winning titles. The defense he inherited, completely different Board, David Dean and Pat Rice.

    Anyways, he is going……but not making it easy.

  41. Wenger and the fans…..

    Mr. Wenger. I personally fought day and night on this blog for years what we used to call “The Doom and Gloom” armies, and I was proud doing it.

    But come on man, we gave you at least 8 years of “Undivided Support”
    YOU LET US DOWN, it’s not the other way around.

    Fans did not turn on you until they were out of their minds of the repeated, boring, and predictable crumbles season, after season, after season, in the same exact manner like you couldn’t see what was happening.

    Please don’t make the “Long Goodbye” harder than it already is……

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