Nice stadium at least

Man at the Match, Chary: Lack of quality on show as Swansea triumph

Coming off the back of two disappointing away games The Arsenal returned home to Ashburton Grove to face a Laudrup led Swansea side, brimming with confidence after their win over West Bromwich, the surprise package of the 2012/13 season.

A hard working Swansea full of energy and dynamic passing rode out some periods of pressure to score twice as Arsenal pushed for a winner late on to leave the stadium ringing to a chorus of boos at the final whistle.

Prior to the game the Black Scarf/Red Action “walk” (not “March”) had started from Blackstock Road and appeared to consist of around 500 people, with the mood being set by songs such as “Rocky, Rocky Rocky”; “You are my Arsenal”; “I’m Arsenal till I’m skint” and “We all follow the Arsenal”, with some less positive chants (“Sack the board”) mixed in also.

BSM walk as seen from the steps of Highbury East stand BSM walk as seen from the steps of Highbury East stand

As for if the march will have made any difference time will only tell.

Turning to the actual game it was played on a crisp, cold afternoon when it felt that soon autumn would segue into winter.

The Arsenal kicked off towards me in the Clock End, passing with certainty if not confidence led by Gervinho, the Pod and Theo as the attacking three of the midfield, with Arteta, Cazorla and Jack behind them. The defence picked itself due to injury, Jenkinson, BFG, Vermaelen and Gibbs.

The Swansea support was not the loudest I’d seen, certainly not for the first 85 minutes, and they looked non-descript and not much like a bunch of identifiable away fans as their team colours were largely absent from the blocks of away support.

Who were these people ? Swansea fans – non-descript

The first half was cagey with both sides appearing to have a few attacking opportunities but no definite chances; Swansea seemed highly motivated whereas Arsenal seemed to be labouring to make possession count. The only Swansea players to stand out were there number 6, with a Kolo Toure sized backside and the pocket sized Dyer, who made Cazorla look lanky.

As one would expect Arsenal did make the effort to press and were rewarded with some corners which largely amounted to little.

Sign da ting Theo taking a corner

Gervinho’s lack of confidence showed in a first half where he couldn’t make anything work for him, one of his attempts on target went so wide that it almost went for a throw in till it was retrieved by Theo, one of the few Arsenal forwards playing with urgency. The Ivorian seemed a player bereft of confidence in his ability to skin the full back.

As the shots did start to go in the Swans keeper began to look very assured in goal and you got the nagging feeling that when Arsenal did finds their shooting boots, he would go on to deny us.

When Theo ran onto a difficult looped ball and failed to control it I heard a shriek of “Oh for eff’s sake, what are you doing?!” when in reality it was a very tricky ball to control with your thigh while running at speed. This could be the sort of attitude that’ll make a player wavering on a decision whether to stay or not decide not to hang around.

The worst case scenario of going into the break one down was avoided and the crowd was satisfactory at half time, during which time I noticed a supporters banner from Maryland.

Baltimore supporters banner Baltimore supporters banner

Arsenal started the second half with more urgency, however a number of potential penalty claims were not given by Clattenburg (leading to the inevitable Chelsea inspired shouts of “You racist!”) while a firmly planted, goal bound Vermaelen header and a Cazorla volley were saved by the keeper, who was by now performing (predictably) like Superman between the sticks.

At this stage the crowd were still firmly behind the team and doing their best to push them on to score.
Swansea dealt with this phase of Arsenal attacking play and then began to press Arsenal back and get a few corners of their own.

As your humble scribe was near the corner flag, when Swansea were awarded a corner I made sure I engaged in some barracking of their corner taker (the Korean “KI”) and this had the desired effect as he duly muffed it, failing to clear the near post. That was a small victory on the day but is part of what home advantage should be all about – put off the opposition, don’t just groan when one of our passes is misplaced.

As Arsenal’s attacking intent petered out it dawned on me that not only were the players short of confidence, but it seemed they themselves were aware there was no one they could look to conjure up a moment of magic. There would be no Fabregas to curl in a delicious pass, no Van Judas to shoot on goal from out of nowhere. For some reason Arsenal seemed to be performing as a team less than the sum of its parts – we have good players yet as a unit they are underperforming.

The team looked like they didn’t believe they would win, a feeling Swansea latched onto when Arsenal’s desperation to push forward opened up gaps at the back.

Chesney had already made a fair number of decent stops to keep the scores level but a simple pass split the centre back pairing and the lumbering Michu finished with an assassin’s clinical efficiency. The home support were stunned and for the first time some noise finally came from the away end as the Swansea technical area was also awash with leaping celebrations.

Arsenal then restarted and desperately tried to push for an equaliser but as the game stretched, the hitherto (largely) faultless Jenkinson was caught in possession then the ball was deflected into the path of Michu, who had all the time in the world to lift his shot over Chesney.

Two nil and the shouts of discontent started from the Arsenal supporters. Chesney then smashed the ball into the top tier behind the goal in frustration, and got a warning from Clattenburg for his troubles; the loss was not his fault today and his anger showed he cared.

Oh bugger ! Chesney after kicking the ball into touch after 2nd goal

Just like on the BSM walk/march the shouts of “Sack the board” and “Ivan, what the eff do you do?” could be heard, which were then drowned out by the booing at the final whistle, something unheard in the normally sedate family enclosure where I was located, but felt like was being echoed all over the stadium .

Significant sections of the home crowd stayed to shout their discontent at the final whistle and that has not happened before as far as I can remember.

The Swansea support formed a stark contrast with the supporters of the team I saw on my previous trip to Ashburton Grove: Schalke 04. In their 2 nil win they showed a quiet dignity.

The Swansea supporters however decided to goad disappointed Gooners into a reaction after the match, in the queues for the tube stations and around the environs of the stadium.

To our credit no Gooner responded to the provocation as our support has too much class to get involved in skirmishes like the ones the Swansea supporters were trying to provoke; additionally the 100’s of us who stayed to clap the Swansea team off the pitch, as they had clearly played better than us, is what being a true football fan means.

No triumphalist gloating in the faces of the opposition fans after a win and recognising good play when it comes from the opponents. Add that to the lack of much singing until the late goals and Swansea’s fans were a long way behind Schalke’s in my estimation.

One can only hope the powers that be take this worrying decline in our team into account and the necessary squad adjustments are made in January or else I fear worse is to come.

Nice stadium at least Nice stadium at least

We may have a top stadium but the team playing in it needs help.

UTA!

On twitter and Youtube @charybdis1966

This entry was posted in Arsenal, Chary, Columnists and tagged , , , on by .

About ChärybdÏß1966

As a product of 1970’s Essex I was only ever going to be Arsenal or West Ham – luckily the playground bullies in my junior school were Gooners so given the “choice” it had to be Arsenal. First Arsenal memories are of the Alan Sunderland 1979 FA Cup final when my dislike of ManUre started, which was then turned into an abhorrence by the battle of Old Trafford in the 90-91 season (“You can stick your 2 points up your Arse!”) and it to this day burns brightly as a hatred of all things Red Manc. Match day reporter for 7am where I hope to bring some of the atmosphere of the game and crowd to my reports – I will call the match as I see it at the time – but always from a Gooner’s point of view. Hate reporting on losses but luckily that doesn’t happen often. UTA! On Youtube and twitter as @charybdis1966.

29 thoughts on “Man at the Match, Chary: Lack of quality on show as Swansea triumph

  1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1jax

    Your final comment reminds me of something that was said between two celebrity Arsenal supporters-Pete Murray & Jack Train way back in the early sixties on a radio broadcast talk show. These were the bad old days and after they’d made a few comments & told their jokes one of them said that Highbury was a stadium looking for a team. Later during the glory Wenger years the opposite became the norm and we were a team looking for a stadium. Perhaps we have now reverted back to that original comment situation and aren’t good enough for the Emirates. Hope our sponsors stand by us.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966 Post author

      Wow, they were saying that back then, even before my time ? Just goes to show the cyclical nature of things.

      If it’s any consolation Em**ates have recently re-signed our sponsorship for the shirt/stadium naming rights.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    Thank you Chary once again for making us feel closer to this difficult times. What a great gesture to stay behind and applaud the better team. Was there any good reaction on their part? Also not engaging on cheap provocation is a measure or our class as fans.

  3. +7 Vote -1 Vote +1Michigangunner

    I totally agree with this article. We have good players but they are underperforming as a team. Who is responsible for building the team? It is very sad to sit back and watch ,a man you once admired, methodically destroy his own legacy because of money!
    Until 2007, Wenger had a better head to head record against Man U. Since then we have beaten them twice and drawn twice in 15 attempts. Yes 2-2-11. This sums it all up for me. Is there anyone on here who thinks Wenger and Gazidis should stay?? I will love the hear their opinions.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966 Post author

      It’s a mystery to me Mich why we seem to have lost our mojo, as it were.

      As for the Wenger/Gazidis issue- I’m undecided on that, but we need a change of some sort, that’s for sure.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      This year’s dire defeat to Man U was a turning point for me in deciding that it’s probably time for Wenger to move on.

      In isolation it’s not so bad. But having seen the same game played out again and again is depressing. Every year, Man U do a job on us and we have no response, other than to try and fail to do the exact same thing every time. And we’re not playing against Barcelona-quality opposition players either. Scholes and Giggs are pushing 40, and guys like Carrick, Park and Fletcher who are decent pros but hardly superstars; yet they make us look like League 2 fodder every time.
      When you see different Arsenal teams with completely different players turn in the same feckless performance against a team that was once our main rivals, the finger needs to be pointed at the manager, who has proven himself to be not at the level that we need tactically.

  4. +7 Vote -1 Vote +1Gooneryank

    I’m now officially tired of watching our opponents work harder than us. Where are the attacking runs? We are not going to beat anyone with Jenks and Gibbs lobing balls into the area but yet that’s all I saw yesterday.

    The constant changing of starting players from game to game as Arsene Wenger searches for a group that works seems to be doing us no favors either. It often seems that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Wayward passes to empty space leads to someone throwing their hands up in disbelief as the intended recipiant cut the wrong way.

    The back “line” is in shambles. It’s not all their fault though as the midfield seems to be under some sort of non-tracking back spell. I believe squad roatation hurts the back four the most. It’s hard to work together as a unit when you have to think about who you’re paired with.

    We need a leader. A hardman who will stand in the middle of the pitch and scream “you shall not pass”! Someone who will come in hard and make attackers pause and look around for him before going forward. Someone who will stick a boot up a teammates ass when they’re under performing. Oh how I miss PV4.

    P:15 W:5. Time for a change.

  5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Excellent post and summary as always. Thanks to you and others for showing your class as supporters. I really liked the way Swansea played – that used to be us.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966 Post author

      Thanks 1NTTA, always a pleasure to spread the gooner word as far and wide as possible.
      True about how Swansea played, rewind 6 years and we used to play like that.It does hurt to see the change now though.

  6. +4 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Also a great post-match blog from ACLF, http://www.aclfarsenal.co.uk/ :

    “It crushes you in the end, being a football supporter.”

    “For the generation who have only supported the club during the Wenger reign, this is a new feeling. Those of us around since the 1980s and before, we’ve got our Arsenal back.”

    “It’s not the failure, I can live with the failure; it’s the hope that kills you.”

    - Yogi’s Warrior

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1SeaArsenal

    The top guy on the board, Stan K, owns four American teams and all of them are losing teams but I’m sure they make money so what does he care? Stan is going to run Arsenal into the ground just like the other four teams he owns.

  8. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1finestcuts

    Wengerball was once the best football in England. It was fantastic, and the envy of everyone. All the neutrals wanted to watch Arsenal. Now we’ve devolved into a team that everyone believes they can have a piece of. Quite rightly so. If Wenger is to take credit for the good, he must take credit for the bad too. On the should he stay or should he go issue, I am convinced he should go, the results are not good enough and the quality of the football is poor. Wenger has had plenty of chances to improve the team, but instead he persisted for years with Denilson, he put Eboue on the wing for far too long…..he signed Mikael Silvestre instead of a top quality centre back when we needed one. There’s a whole catalogue of comical disasters, and it’s too much now, he must go. He’s ruined the team, and the results are deserved. We need a smart modern manager who’s up to the task. I don’t think January is too soon, because at least we can have a man in charge who takes the FA cup seriously and will go for a decent run.
    Wenger needs to leave by May at the latest, the majority of the fans have had enough of his failed policies, someone else deserves a chance to return this club to competing at top level.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966 Post author

      Good to see you Finest, still drinking on the Holloway road before matches ? Hope you are well.

      It’s true that more and more Gooners are questioning Wenger than ever before,; I just don’t know if that will have any effect on what happens in the Arsenal hierarchy.

      For now we just have to sit back and let the season unfold, blow by blow, however that painful that’s going to be.

  9. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Thanks for the perspective, Chary. It’s times like these when those of us who have only known the Wenger era at Arsenal look to those with longer memories. It’s comforting to know we’ve been down these paths before (and worse).

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966 Post author

      I think we are in an “Empire Strikes Back” era and await the Return era. Still, time for us all to stick together and create a siege mentality against the media and others who are wishing disaster on us.

  10. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    “squad adjustments in January” granted we have deficiencies in the squad but being out played by a team that spends half what we do with our wages and are missing two of their better players 9not to mention first choice keeper) is a bit rich.

    We spent 55m two seasons ago, 39m last summer and we are still not in touch with the likes of West Brom.

    Spending I would suggest is the least of the problems.;)

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

      Have to agree with you, money is not the real issue here. Our squad, even with deficiencies in depth, should still be class enough to play good football and beat most of the mid and low level teams on any given day, especially at home.

      For the past few years we have been consistently under-performing against mediocre (on paper) teams. We just got taken to the cleaners on a good pitch, at home under great weather conditions by a team with 1/3 our wage bill.

      We need to reassess where and how we are spending our money before throwing good after bad.

  11. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Michigangunner

    Santori,

    Spending is the least of our problems. Our biggest problem over the last 6 years have always been mental. Wenger is incapable of firing up his squad. I am inclined to believe that he was previously lucky to have Adams, Viera, Henry and lastly Fabregas. Gone are the days when after a terrible performance in Norway the players fight on the way home, because they cared. Not anymore. They just don’t care.

    2 years ago when we played away to Man U, just before kick off Arshavin was shown in the tunnel leaning against the wall with his right arm and his left arm on his waist. Can you imagine?? This same tunnel where Viera “fought” keane and Cesc threw pizza at Sir Alex. And here was Arshavin………..

    If you get the chance watch Wenger’s prematch interview before the Carling cup final against Birmingham. He was so nervous 24 hours before the game I knew we would lose. Can you imagine how the players felt? Just look at the man during the last game of last season at WBA. He was so nervous…….This is why I think his time is up.I am grateful for these wonderful years and Wengerball but time has come to part ways.

  12. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1dano328

    18 after becoming an Arsenal fan and I wish I had seen this coming, but I still couldn’t root for another club if I wanted. When your brain locks onto one team, there is no going back. I am envious of most of you, who got to enjoy this club before it started into decline. My best memories of the club in my short lived fanship are the last two results against City. Those were the best moments the club has produced during my time.

    I am thankful to watch the other leagues shown on beIN sport. With the other leagues I can remain neutral. No anxiety or depression, but no thrill of victory, either.

    Call in Campbell.. He was named player of the day on beIN. I also feel if either Diaby stayed fit, or if Song was adequately replaced in August, we would be in the top four right now. It was a stubborn gamble by AW, who I am gradually losing respect for. I want to believe he can still turn it around. But perhaps a deeper failure is needed to enact the change needed. I am on the fence.

  13. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

    Considering Barca’s motto is “More than a Club”, Arsenal’s should be: More than a Business.

  14. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    The good: We’re only 5 points off 3rd place, which is nothing when there are so many games to go.

    The bad: there are 7 teams between us and 3rd.

    The ugly: we’re now below Stoke in the league. STOKE.

    Spending money is obviously something we can hope for it, and it will help to plug some gaps which are glaringly obvious, and which Tim covered very well a few days ago. But, is it enough? Look at each of our starting 11, and much of our bench, and you see a great collection of quality players. Podolski and Cazorla, seasoned internationals. Giroud, we all know his qualities by now. Theo, speed demon who’s upped his game of late. Jack Wilshere, England’s great hope. Arteta, Mr. Reliable (not of late, but still). In Vermaelen, Kos, Sagna and Mert we have four of the finest defenders in the league, and in Jenkinson and Gibbs we have two fine young talents.

    Like I said, quality everywhere. But they are not playing as well as the sum of their parts, far from it these days. Even if they were playing as good as the sum of their parts, we’d be no better than third or fourth. Wenger’s been good at maximizing synergy, but for the last few seasons we haven’t seen it so much. That, for me, is the worry. Yes, spending money on some players – a midfielder and a winger, please! – will help rotation (if Wenger trusts them), but it will not save our season by itself.

  15. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1dy

    The team’s spirit has broken, we need a witch doctor to revive it from the dead.
    Myself, I’m just grateful having the chance to watch Arsenal plays (on the telly of course.) Win or loss doesn’t really matter because I carry no ‘baggage’. But the team does, Arsene does, have the heavy burden at their back. A heavy load laden with expectations from whoever gives a care about Arsenal.
    So my dear friends, in your deepest moans and groans, spare a moment for all the players who I absolutely believe share the same despair and hollow feeling after the recent games. Yes they are all well paid professionals but they are humans too.

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1Simon

    I think I’d have take issue with a couple of things Charybdis
    Whilst the Swans fans were nowhere near as loud as Schalke’s @Hymns and Arias’ familiar to all those that watched welsh rugby on the TV in the 70′s was loud and clear regularly through the game
    I really wouldn’t say that the Swans keeper played like superman – our shots were pretty well straight at him (bar one at the near post). TV5′s header came straight at me and there really was no weight behind it and it was never an attempt that I expected to go in. Generally all the saves made by Tremmel (not even Swansea’s first choice) were ones you’d expect a competent back up (ie not Almuia) to make
    On the other hand Szcz’s double save in the first half was one of the few moments of outstanding skill from a gooner player all day.
    As usual there was no coherence to the play; too much sideways movement – no one wants to commit a player by taking them on or running into space. All this ball to feet is good and keep posession but it make sit easy to defend as the opposition know where the ball is going. Swansea showed us how to play posession by mixing it up with tunners off the ball, balls into space etc along with the posession that kept us off balance all game
    I dont think I booed bu I did applaud the Swansea team off the pitch
    AW has been a stunning manager – I do recall the Terry Neill days, but I wonder if he has been asled to make do and mend one time too often.
    The question is what now? I think its time for AW to go, reluctantly but do I trust Gazidis et al to pick a good successor? To be honest not much so here’s hoping AW decides to resign having got tyhe board to back the new manager with cash and he picks the successor!

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966 Post author

      Hi Simon, I’m not a rugby fan and so have never watched any welsh rugbymatches either from the 70′s or later; all I remember, apart from the late surge of noise after the goals, were a few shouts of “We’ll sing what we want” every now and then.

      I was a few blocks away from them so I should have heard these hymns you refer to however as you were in the north end of the stadium I’m a bit surprised you heard that and I didn’t – however I may have blotted out their noise sub conciously, all things are possible, ha ha.

      The Swansea fans were the first ones, in my 30ish number of Arsenal matches I’ve gone to, who seemed to repeatedly try and goad us into a fight, an unwelcome first in my eyes.

      As for my Superman comment, you kind of hit on the answer to that – any back up goalie who performs better than Almunia seems like Superman to me.

      Thanks for reading.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Simon

        I forgot to mention the goading – being the opposite end of the ground I am always unaware of that sort of behaviour and my route home avoids all the stations so I rarely encounter away fans as its samall groups when i do its always affable so I was quite surprised to hear that as Swansea don’t have that sort of rep (unlike Cardiff for example).
        Its interesting that the best away fan action seen in England seems to have been Schalke at The Groove and Dortmund at citeh
        With the lack of options I watched pretty much any sport that was on on the 70s but that chant is an odd sounding one and if you dont know it would probably sound like background hum
        Thanks for the report though its always good to get views from round the ground (and the march)

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966 Post author

        You are welcome Simon; the goading/excessive celebrations also extened to the tube trains on the way back and even at Paddington where I got my connecting train. You expect banter at the ground but not what happened afterwards, but there you go.

        We had Dortmund at our place last year and they were a great set of fans too.

        I just remembered that after the second ogal went in I saw an Arsenal scarf get thrown at the goal by a frustrated fan – I don’t know if that came up on the TV, but it was from a few rows away from me (but it was not me!)

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