December 12, 2012
I’m starting to think our manager may be actually losing his mind.
I’m starting to think that somehow as a club we’ve managed to find ourselves in the extraordinary situation where we found a boss who was so successful, so revolutionary, so wise and so likable in the first half of his tenure that he’s now unassailable despite increasing evidence that in recent years he’s turning day by day into a nut-nut.
After last night’s latest (but absolutely greatest) humiliation, Arsene Wenger was asked if the display was an embarrassment to the club. He thought not:
You feel embarrassed when you don’t give everything. I feel the team did fight and will be more disappointed and frustrated.
Hmm. Respectfully I beg to differ. If you don’t think last night was embarrassing then you’re severely out of touch with what it is to be a football supporter. Let’s forget for a minute the record. Let’s forget that we’ve been in the Champions League for the last 15 years and that there’s even a decent chance that we might qualify for it again this year if we get our shit together. Whatever happens now this season will be remembered as the one in which we got knocked out of the cup by a fourth tier side.
You think that’s not embarrassing? Other than trophy wins (which we’re learning not to expect) those are the things that stick with the fans. It’s no coincidence the commentary team were banging on about Wrexham last night. That result was back in 1992 but to anyone who witnessed it it still rankles. It’s still painful.
What’s worse about last night is that this was no smash and grab raid. This wasn’t a lower tier team sticking all their men behind the ball and hoping to nick something on the break. We weren’t just beaten. We were deservedly beaten. We weren’t unlucky. We were outplayed, out fought and out thought.
It amazes me if the boss looked and that and couldn’t fault the effort on our side. You want to see what effort looks like? Take a look at Jack Wilshere. Now compare that work rate to everybody else in the side. Now come back and tell me that you couldn’t fault the effort.
I realise that his style of management precludes him from criticising his players too heavily in public, and that’s fine when you’re talking about the odd poor display and generally you’re trying to keep the team’s pecker up, but when you’re turning in performances like this week in week out then maybe it’s time for a change of tack. Who knows? Maybe they’d respond to some home truths. I can tell you one thing – as a fan, just occasionally, I’d feel better to know that he sees what we’re all seeing. A team of reasonably talented footballers strolling around expecting that, despite all recent evidence to the contrary, all they have to do is turn up and the opposition will wilt.
It was only our superior Premier League fitness levels that allowed us to get into the game at all last night. We didn’t have a shot on target in the first 70 minutes. Even when Vermaelen finally got on the end of a cross and sent us into extra time we didn’t have the quality to severely test their goalkeeper. Le Boss said, rightly, that Bradford defended very well and limited the space we had to play in but, seriously. For 120 minutes against a League Two side we couldn’t score more than one goal?
Despite all of our limitations things could have been much simpler if we had even one half decent centre forward in the starting line up. Instead we played a central midfielder on the right, a central striker on the left and an increasingly poor looking left winger up front. It might have been understandable if this was a one off due to a number of injuries but this has been our preferred formation for much of the season.
Gervinho was woeful. He offered next to nothing as a centre forward. I could think of at least two strikers at virtually every other Premier League club who could have played that role more effectively. He missed that absolute sitter in the first half and yet for all that it’s hard to blame him. He just looks out of his depth. The bigger question as ever is why, when we’ve got a rumoured £70 million in the transfer fund is that the best we can offer. Why haven’t we got any strikers? Well…Le Boss sort of inadvertently gave an answer for that:
We played with a very offensive team and for over an hour played with five strikers but couldn’t score.
Sorry, what? At what point did we play with five strikers? Rosicky isn’t a striker. Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t a striker. Cazorla isn’t a striker. Gervinho isn’t a striker. Marouane Chamakh I’ll admit is a striker but he’s not a very good one.
Is this the reason we can’t sign a striker? Because everywhere he looks Arsene sees strikers where there are none? ‘I like Radamel Falcao as a player but if I sign him it will kill Francis Coquelin and Vito Mannone who are both very promising strikers’.
The penalty shoot out itself was largely an irrelevance. If we couldn’t beat Bradford in 120 minutes we don’t deserve to go through in this competition. Mind you, if you want yet more evidence of what’s wrong at this club at this moment in time it was fairly instructive. Bradford looked prepared. The commentary team informed us that they’d been well coached on how to take their spot kicks. No short run ups, pick a side, stick with it. Meanwhile we were taking about five minutes to even decide who was going to take the kicks. We missed three of them and you could tell we would miss them before the players had started their run ups.
You can say that penalty shoot outs are just pot luck but they’re not. There’s a reason why Germany always beat England and it’s not luck. Last night we looked unprofessional, unprepared and mentally weak. And that’s pretty much how we’ve looked all season.
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