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Man U 2-1 Arsenal: Gutless

Before kick off I wasn’t alone in expecting that this match between Manchester United and Arsenal would be feisty  One could reasonably assume Arsenal would be looking for revenge after Man U spanked them 8-2 last season and then rubbed salt into the wound by taking their captain and best player during the summer transfer window. At the very least, even if Arsenal didn’t want to get caught up in the revenge game, they should have been looking to back up their words about how they are a title challenger and actually challenge a Man U team who have been perennially tipped for the title since 1992. But instead of the fireworks many expected, we were treated to a blaise affair as Man U traipsed to a win and Arsenal submissively let them.

If you watched the game then you don’t even need stats to back up my assertion that Arsenal put in the most gutless performance I have ever seen. You could have literally just watched the first 45 minutes of the game and seen that Arsenal were not up for the challenge. Before kick off, the tunnel cam was trained on the two lines of players and I was curious to see how van Persie would be treated by his former teammates as the two teams walked out. The Dutchman was last in line and no one looked at him. Then Podolski came bursting out of the Arsenal dressing room and ran up to van Persie, slapped him on the back, and the two had a laugh and a hug as they went out onto the pitch. It was a moment of foreshadowing as it seemed like for 90 minutes all but one player went out of their way to make Robin van Persie feel comfortable.

Two minutes later, current Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen made a hash of a clearance and gifted the ball to the former Arsenal captain who did what he does best, score goals off the slightest of chances. The contrast between the two Arsenal captains couldn’t have been sharper: one hung his head in shame and the other wore Wayne Rooney like a crown.

For the rest of the half, Arsenal made a half-hearted effort to stay in touch with United. Wayne Rooney man marked Mikel Arteta and forced Arsenal to pass the ball between Mertesacker, Vermaelen, and Sagna. On one occasion  the Gunners did get the ball forward and Santos took Arsenal’s only shot of the half, a right-footed effort that threatened the corner flag more than the goal. As the half ended, Mike Dean called handball on Santi Cazorla for protecting his face from a yard away and gave United their customary penalty, but Wayne Rooney’s subsequent shot hit the post to give Arsenal the slightest hope going into the locker room.

As they were walking toward the dressing rooms, Andre Santos went over to Robin van Persie and asked him for his shirt and the Dutchman obliged. Like everything else about Arsenal it’s a moment that deeply divides opinion but I saw this not as some shameful event in Arsenal history, but rather just another example of the gulf between the players and the fans.

I suspect that the average Arsenal fan would never shake Robin’s hand, ask him for a signature, a shirt, or want anything of value from him. Just the opposite, the average fan wants our players to tackle him harder than other United players, to refuse him a hand up when he’s down, and would applaud loudly any player who refused to shake his hand during the pre-match lineup. That’s why the average fan is livid when they see Andre Santos exchanging shirts with Robin van Persie.

But the disconnect between the players and the fans runs so deep now that it’s almost beyond repair. What you saw when van Persie gave Santos his shirt wasn’t “Man U v. Arsenal” but two multi-millionaire co-workers punching in at the clock and exchanging formalities. Santos asking van Persie for a shirt and Robin agreeing smacked of the old Looney Tunes cartoon Sam Sheep Dog and Ralph Wolf. They aren’t mortal enemies or fiery combatants, like the fans wish they would be, they are probably roommates, best friends off the field, and co-workers on it. Multi-millionaires who will earn a lifetime’s worth of the average fan’s pay in just one month.

Donning a clean shirt the second half wasn’t any better from an Arsenal point of view. Man United always play the second half harder against Arsenal and this was no different: the Red Devils came out of the tunnel and had 6 shots to Arsenal’s one, eventually getting a goal off a set piece header by Patrice Evra in the 67th minute.

The biggest concern for the Arsenal faithful has to be how simply Manchester United dominated the game for 91 minutes and how the Gunners couldn’t change tactics to counter the United game plan. Sir Alex Ferguson has had a number of creative ways that he’s beaten Arsenal and this time was no different. The plan was simple: Rooney, man mark Arteta.

You could almost understand if no one noticed the man marking for the first 15 minutes, there were a lot of emotions going into the game. But Wenger never made a change against Fergie’s simplistic tactic. The Frenchman never moved Arteta forward, never changed shape, and persisted with Ramsey on the wings until the Welshman started hobbling with what looked like a hamstring injury in the 50th minute.

Walcott came on for Ramsey but received almost no service as Arsenal kept possession deep in their own half, incapable of getting the ball out to Arteta and unwilling to rotate someone else back to overload the zone or to rotate Arteta forward. In the last 10 minutes of the game, United dropped deep to defend and finally gave Arteta some room to breathe. But it was a case of too little, too late. Arsenal’s first shot on goal came in the 92d minute and if it had gone in and Cazorla had scored in the 95th we might have been talking about a lucky escape for the Arsenal. But as it were, they got exactly the result they tried for.

In the best of circumstances playing a team like Man U requires 100% concentration and 100% effort. There’s no room in there for switching off or a dip in effort. How much was Denilson slaughtered for not paying attention to the threat of Rooney as the Englishman bombed forward through midfield and the Brazilian jogged back? That performance by Denilson effectively ended his Arsenal career. I wonder which Arsenal player’s career ended after yesterday’s game? I mentioned at the start of the season that I wanted Sagna to be Arsenal captain and I stand by that. Vermaelen is a disaster as captain but is this the end of his career? I highly doubt it.

That said, I would venture that none of the Arsenal team showed the requisite fight demanded by the Arsenal faithful save Mannone and perhaps Jack Wilshere. I predicted before the match that United would disgrace themselves by kicking Arsenal up and down the pitch and that Mike Dean would give them the freedom to do so. But what I failed to take into account in my calculations is that United wouldn’t need to kick Arsenal all over the pitch, because you can’t kick a ghost.

The Man U players had it in them to kick Arsenal all over the pitch, you saw that when Robin van Persie went in two-footed on Bacary Sagna’s standing leg.

I suppose those two won’t be swapping shirts any time soon.

Qq

40 thoughts on “Man U 2-1 Arsenal: Gutless

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1tino

    Um, excuse me but, what does Poldoski do exactly?

    I am also starting to question playing Ramsey AND Poldoski. Both these players have a strong tendency to come infield and I suspect it just clogs up the area.

    As far as Vermalean is concerned can Arsene even drop him? What’s the point? Koscielny seems like he has almost as many individual errors. Maybe with more starts Koscielny will get back his 2011/2012 form.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1GiantCalGunner

    Before the teams headed out the tunnel and Poldi and RvP had a hug, RvP went along he Arsenal line hugging each player. We didn’t see all of it, but it seemed that most everyone “hugged back”. Not sure about Sagna.

    Good post Tim!

  3. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    I’m still not in a good mood after that 2-1 horrendous mauling we received from those unmentionables.

    I would make these proposals to Arsene Wenger: drop every one of those millionaire wonders except Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla, Mertesacker and Mannone. I would transfer list Santos. Any player showing PDAs (public displays of affection) should be fined 2 weeks pay. Any player swapping shirts before the game or at half time will be benched because they will not get a replacement shirt. Fly coach from now on. When doing team business, no more electronic devices. No more coaches with entertainment centers for each seat. No laughing, no talking in training. Have I got your attention now?

      1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

        Sagna, even out of form and returning from injury is miles ahead of Santos, so they left the Bac alone and picked apart Santos with predictable results.

    1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1marek

      Yup, what is needed is Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross. Whatever else Arsene is, he is not that guy.

  4. +12 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    There is plenty of talk about Guardiola casting an eager eye at the Arsenal manager’s seat. I’m a huge Wenger fan, but maybe this would be no bad move.

    Let’s cast aside the question of whether the board constrains Wenger or Wenger chooses not to spend. If we were to put someone like, say, Guardiola in Wenger’s position, would he improve the team?

    Look, we all know what Wenger is good at – he’s got a great eye for a bargain, good at spotting talent, all the players love him. On literally no budget, he creates a team that competes for the top 4 year after year. These are not things that are easily replaceable in a manager. In fact, there’s probably nobody else like him in the world in that sense.

    We also know what he’s not so good at: tactically stubborn, doesn’t seem to motivate the players anymore, will not spend an extra few million to get players of a higher level. There is also the mentality – put Reading aside (a mental game that requires no analysis, a one off), and you can’t really say that Arsenal have a fighting mentality. Not like Man Utd, or even Man City of recent times. The Man Utd game was the best proof of that, but there are other examples. Even QPR, we couldn’t turn it on until the last 10 minutes or so.

    Tactical rigidity: Tim covered many excellent points today about that, in particular how Ferguson mixes it up when it comes to playing us. Yesterday was about marking Arteta; in the past it’s been about letting us play our games in the middle of the park and then hit us on the break. And so on. Ferguson talked about his diamond formation, which he could theoretically do (although in practice I don’t see why he’d do that for any prolonged period). He’s got a number of options, and he likes to mix it up.

    Us? Barely any. And if you look at how our players work together, it doesn’t seem great either. Look at Podolski and Santos: they clearly don’t work together, but there’s been no effort to remedy that (if there has, it hasn’t made an ounce of difference). Ramsey and Sagna. In fact, Ramsey on the right, period. Yes, when we did it with Benayoun it was great, but Ramsey is not Benayoun, not even close.

    No Plan B, and you could argue that we shouldn’t need one (see: Barca), but we barely have a plan A these days. And surely, surely, we should be more sophisticated than just stopping all play when Arteta is marked? Anyway, I digress.

    There is also the big game mentality: clearly lacking yesterday, but also lacking in many other big games. This hasn’t always been the case, but it’s very apparent now. Look at Birmingham in the CC final – we were the poorer team. Or Chelsea in the other CC final a few years ago. There is a book called ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg and he talks about some American football coach who basically wired habits into his team, so they did what they did without thinking, and it worked like a miracle. And I think we had a large element of that in the past, with our intricate passing game and lovely triangles. But this team kept fucking up because when they got to the big games, all that went out the window, because of their mentality. We have that.

    In fact, even our ‘habit’ – the lovely passing – is gone. We don’t look smooth and awesome in attack, we look labored and toothless. The passing is ponderous, there is no movement up front, and no plan of what to do with the ball when a player gets it.

    The biggest thing about this is that in the last few games/losses, there have simply been no positive things to say. Not against Schalke, not against QPR, not against Man Utd. No positives, nothing to look forward to. It’s dire.

    Would someone like Guardiola be able to change it, assuming a similar budget? Perhaps. He’s known to be a motivator, and known to be a bit of a perfectionist. He remains untested in such a scenario, but there are elements to his coaching that Wenger lacks (and vice versa, of course). A gamble but… if we WERE to drop out of the top 4, it may be a gamble worth taking.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    “United wouldn’t need to
    kick Arsenal all over the pitch, because you
    can’t kick a ghost.”
    Simply Brilliant.
    Now where do we go from here?
    I get the whole “players don’t feel about the club the same way as fans, they are just like glorified white collar workers”…. But then what’s the point of supporting a football club? Then I read interviews with players like Eduardo who’s coming to face the blue twats and can’t help but feel great respect and sympathy for him. He declared himself a Shaktar player and an Arsenal fan, and I still have faith in the game.

  6. +9 Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    I understand what you are trying to say, but Ronaldo and Messi are ten times the millionaires as well as players Santos and Van Persie will ever be, but still we don’t see them giggling like schoolgirls at the Classico.
    What Santos did was incomprehensibly DUMB from a PR perspective and I can’t find not a single reasonable explanation, because he could have waited 5 fucking steps to do that same shit in the tunnel.

    But to blame a player bought from the Turkish league as a back up starter for playing bad at OT would be too easy.

    No, what I was thinking yesterday while watching that sorry pitiful performance was that it all looked too familiar. And even though we had a completely different team than in the previous years when Denilson was prancing on a meadow while Rooney was running his socks off in that counter to score the third goal, it was completely identical in terms of expectations immediately after the whistle.
    So I thought: Fuck, these are all good players now. We don’t have the Denilson’s, Silvestre’s, the Clichy’s and all the usual suspects. We had a midfield we could have sworn was the best in the PL, we had a solid defense, the attack was formidable. So, how is it that they stink again?
    And I answered to myself that even David Moyes could manage this team better. And I believed that.
    For me, this coach as a manager is responsible for everything that happens in his multimillionaire company and I can not bring myself to defend someone anymore who I honestly believe does not want to accept that he is making mistakes.
    Also, Ramsey sucks as a winger more than Bendtner ever did.

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

      I agree with you and probably could have put my idea better. It’s not that all the guys are like that, just some of them. Rooney, for example, worked his multi-millionaire ass off. Most of the players at City work their asses off. But ours yesterday just punched the clock.

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1TRoberts

    I keep telling folks:
    - different players, same play style.
    - different players, same play intensity.
    - different players, same let off games and perplexing performances.
    - different players, same stupid 4-2-3-1 (or 4-3-3).
    This all comes down to management.

    OK – Why did I say ‘stupid 4-2-3-1′?
    Stupid because it never fit Wengers players, even when Cesc was here. Triangular football needs triangles – simple. 4-2-3-1 (or call it 4-3-3 for all I care) doesn’t have successful triangles… draw it out on paper. The BEST formation, but isn’t practical in professional football is a 3-2-3-2 (PERFECT triangles all over the pitch, not a square to be found). If you are playing triangular football, squares are your enemy – squares provide a ‘dead zone’ in your coverage; space that can be exploited much more easily.
    There is a geometric way of studying football formations, depending on your needs (pure attacking, pure defensive, mix of both, most one or the other, etc…). Maybe I should write a book on it…

    Oh, and if you think just lining up in a different formation can’t help…
    Formations dictate style and intensity of play, working harder to score in a defensive formation while working harder to keep the opposition from scoring in a pure attacking formation, for example.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

      MW formations? Herbert Chapman is that you? You’ll find those in the same discard pile as the 4-4-2.

  8. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Oh Lord. Am I really coming around to the idea of a new manager?

    I feel dirty just saying it. I’ve defended Wenger for so long now, it’s become a habit.

  9. +9 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Frankly, the past couple of seasons have felt like the ending of a dynasty. We’ve seen it in all team sports. A coach takes over with fresh new ideas, brings in new players, and builds a team which sweeps all others before them. After a few seasons of dominance, the original players age and new ones are brought in, other coaches adopt and copy what they can and learn to negate what they can’t. And that’s when the true litmus test of greatness comes. Can that coach adapt to those changing circumstances–acquire and develop new players of similar calibre to the originals, instill his tactics and belief into those players, adjust his playing style to take advantage of the qualities of those players as well as the reactionary tactics of other coaches and rebuild a new, winning side?

    I think that some acknowledgement has to be made as to difficulty of the task that Arsene was assigned. The financial constraints imposed by the building of Ashburton Grove arrived at the same time as the Invincibles were about to begin their inevitable decline. The injection of first Russian then Arab petrodollars magnified and widened the financial gap that he had to deal with. Still, it seems at this point, even acknowledging that losing players like Cesc and RvP will inevitably result in a drop in the overall talent available, this squad seem less than the sum of its parts. There’s still good players at Arsene’s disposal. Even teams like ManShitty, ManUre, and Chelski would love to have players like Cazorla, Arteta, Sagna, Wilshere, and possibly even Mert at their disposal. Podolski, Giroud, Walcott, Arshavin, TV5, Koz, and Ramsey would be first on the team sheet at most mid-table teams despite their current malaise because of prior performance and/or potential. Despite the quality of the players we had available being quite good if not the very best, the performance was strictly lower table.

    At what point does resolute, unwavering, purposeful, steadfast belief become intransigent, obstinate, obsessive, inflexible, unyielding stubbornness? I saw Arsene send out a team which has so obviously been lacking in attacking fluency with the exact same tactics as if they were playing League 2 side, possession based attacking football through the middle. Tactics which have failed to work at Old Trafford when we had better players at our disposal. I saw ManUre use the same tactics which have repeatedly beaten us, defend deep and deny space between the lines, attack with speed down the flanks and not worry about possession, and expect that we will make more mistakes than them. A definition of insanity is expecting different results from the same actions. I saw players who didn’t seem to believe that the instructions they were given would get a result. Part of coaching is instilling the players with the belief that they can compete and the Arsenal didn’t compete yesterday.

    I saw no adjustment of tactics for an obviously weak link at left back. Wenger continues to act as if the players he has at his disposal are the top players at their positions rather than decent players with some strengths but also definite weaknesses. If you have top quality at every position you can afford to think that opposing teams have to adjust to you and not the other way around. Despite obvious weaknesses in set pieces and defending for a number of years, only now are we attempting to address that. And only by promoting from within. As much as I hate Fergie, when he’s needed, he’s hired outside coaches to help him adapt when the need has arisen.

    I’m rambling but I look at Arsene and Arsenal like a friend with an addiction problem. Despite occasionally being able to perform at a very high level, something at the core is rotten and the malaise won’t end until a drastic intervention. I’m sure that intervention involves Arsene and unless he can change, we might be better off without him.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

      Cheers for a great post. One thing I was thinking about was that our forward line, in theory, doesn’t need to be as static as it is. I mean, look at the main attackers we have: Giroud, Podolski, Walcott, Gervinho. And even Cazorla. Except for Giroud, these are all players that are comfortable playing multiple positions:
      - Gervinho in theory can play in any of the front three places
      - Podolski is playing on the left, but was very effective through the middle last season
      - Walcott in theory has some ability to play through the middle
      - Cazorla can play on the left.

      We should be utilizing this versatility by switching players around during the game, pulling defenders this way and that and confusing the opposition. But our attacking always looks static, static, static.

  10. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Siggi

    The team needs to inject some speed and into their play. I think it must be time for Arshavin to get his first start. He may make mistakes but he’s willing to take a risk and that could be what Arsenal needs. Could it be I miss Vermalens risky runs up the middle. Maybe that’s what we need in a deadlock situation like the one on Saturday.

    Can’t wait until Gibbs and Chamberlain get back. More speed.

    About Wenger. He does look helpless on the sideline but the players aren’t excactly helping him either.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      Wenger has total control of player acquisition, player development, and tactics. These are his players, instructed and led by him. Ultimately, it’s up to Wenger to inspire and lead this team.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

      I think I did see it once or twice, when TV5 took the ball forward, we created a little movement in attack. Of course ManUre took advantage and countered but they didn’t score from those moves. That’s what we needed yesterday. Somebody to take risks, somebody to show some balls against those idiots

  11. +4 Vote -1 Vote +111cannons

    Love that Looney Tune reference. Well spotted. What bothers me most isn’t that he asked for the shirt, it’s to be expected one of our players would. What irks me is that because he made a point to do it so early, I suspect he felt competition from his teammates to get that shirt so he wanted to beat them to the punch. Given Vermaelen’s Close Up on the dot.com this week [another PR own goal by the official site], and his hospitality to our former captain, I’m going to irrationally believe he was the one Santos was trying to beat.

    With regards to our game, the loss was our own invention. Our lack of pride, passion and performance meant we’d rightfully get nothing. The cause was further challenged by a bent referee who punished us to the extreme every time we DID try to compete physically with them. That only reinforced our reluctance to get stuck in. After Wilshere got booked for his first tackle in the first 10 minutes of the game, what player could feel safe going for a 50-50 ball against that referee at OT? The same one who put Wenger in the stand among a mob calling him a pedophile for kicking a fucking water bottle?

    Another very bothersome feature of that display was that with virtually an entire new first XI of players to the ones that capitulated in 07-08 and 10-11, as soon as United went ahead and, I suspect, because it was van Persie, we were navel gazing for an hour and a half rather than getting gee’d up and fighting back. There is something rotten about Arsenal right now and it’s hard to see how that will be corrected within the scope of a single season, which is all we ever have now because each year we ship last season’s most crucial player and replace him with one that will need a minimum of 6 months to begin to pick up the slack, if they are capable of doing so in the first place.

    Sigh.

  12. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1kev

    The whole world knew that Ramsey and Santos will be our weakest link and
    it was no surprise Wenger wanted to prove the world wrong by playing
    them from the start. I guess he must be pleased with himself as he
    pissed a lot of people off today. Another thing is why is Wenger trying
    to convert Ramsey into a winger? He has no pace, no dribbling skill and
    can’t cross the ball. You want a winger go and buy one you stubborn
    fool. As for Santos he’s inability to defend aside, he’s a muppet for
    exchanging shirt with RVP at haltime. He’s likea 10yr old ballboy
    meeting his chidhood hero for the 1st time and not like a player
    represnting Arsenal. Disgraceful. Wenger should have substituted him for
    that stunt alone but of course he did nothing. Anyway for those
    defending Wenger the board does not motivate the players or set up the
    team. He does. Any other manager would have gotten more effort out of
    these players than what we are watching now which is a dissprited bunch
    of good for nothing.

  13. +11 Vote -1 Vote +1jacob

    i turned 15 on the 2nd and all i really wanted was a great performance and a win from the arsenal. not a single player gave his all the whole game and some didn’t even give it at all. in some ways i was most disappointed with cazorla because for 90 minutes he did nothing, and in my opinion he showed the least desire out of everybody. he maybe did his job but he put nothing extra into his sub par performance, there was no will in him or many others on the team to push forward and represent what arsenal stands for. he scored a goal in added time but thats cause thats his job, he didnt score a goal for the arsenal in our battle against united, he scored a goal because the ball fell infront of him and now he has a goal in his stats folder. yesterday he was like a singer who has had intense vocal training but put no heart or emotion into their song. this is not to say that everybody else was great and was brought down by santi but that this is just an example of the performances put in by our players yesterday.
    the squad on the field yesterday was obviously better than the squad that played on tuesday but the squad on tuesday realized that they were representing the Arsenal and left everything on the field. obviously tuesday was not the most elegant game we’ve seen and the first half was one of the worst performances i’ve seen from arsenal but by the second half we were playing like a team who understood what the crest stands for and why “victoria concordia crescit” is our motto. i think we all agree that chamahk is not the most talented on our our team and didn’t even have a very good game against reading and we agree that arshavin is probably closer to the end rather than the beginning of his career, and im sure we agree Giroud is not in the best form but every one of those players realized that the arsenal doesn’t give up and never stops pushing so our team of misfits pulled of a comeback that will never be forgotten. against reading we did not have any Vermaelens or Artetas, we didn’t have a Podolski or a Cazorla but we had a team that cared just as much as us die hards did and we won that game on pure commitment and love of the club and the beautiful game itself. we lacked desire yesterday and that is what hurts the most about it.
    last season we played the spurs at home in february. we found ourselves 2-0 down by the 34th minute. we had not played our best so far and we needed somebody to step up and Sagna did. sagna scored 5 minutes before the break with a header. this was not the most elegant or beautiful goal but for me Sagna scored what what will be a goal i never forget because he showed what The Arsenal is all about. nothing in the world was going to stop Sagna from getting on the end of that cross and pulling one back for The Arsenal. Sagna knew he was getting to that ball no matter what it took. Sagna cared and cares about his team, our team and wasn’t going to let anybody stop him because he plays from his heart, something very few players did yesterday. Sagna leads this team by example and this team is his team. we need everybody to share his desire and love for this club.

  14. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

    Here is the irony of our manager’s approach to tactics and line ups. Ball retention is seen as the be-all and end-all of the game, and the only way we know how to win. He won’t play Arshavin in his favoured role in the middle because he gives the ball away too much. But Arshavin at least tries to make things happen. So instead, we pass it painstakingly around our backline and midfield, looking for the perfect opening that never comes, until we lose the ball. Surely if we are going to lose the ball, it’s better to lose it while trying to do something that might possibly lead to a shot on goal.
    I’m not saying Arshavin is the answer – that ship has sailed – but his handling of the Russian says a lot about our problems.

    Someone needs to have a word in Arsene’s ear and tell him that the reason Barcelona can play the way they do is that they have the best players in the world scattered through their team. We constantly labour under the delusion that we can play a similar way, yet with personnel of lesser quality.

    That same person should have another word in Wenger’s ear and tell him that it’s no point buying a 6’3″ powerhouse of a striker, then play in a manner which effectively neutralises his size and strength.

    This is probably the game that says for me that it’s time to move on from the Wenger era. Until now I’ve been able to find positives that outweigh the negatives, but I’m convinced now that we are never going to acquire the mental game we need to succeed with Arsene in charge.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      It’s almost as if the team views the game ass backwards. Possession has become a primary defensive tactic for Arsenal. Players are afraid of losing possession leading to overcautious passing and a toothless attack as they look for the perfect opportunity. Here’s a thought, how about we learn to actually defend properly without the ball? Learn to control space and keep the opposition away from the areas of the pitch which we don’t want them in. If our primary attacking players are confident that we don’t NEED to keep possession as a primary defensive tactic (even if it has its place), they can play with more freedom and spontaneity.

  15. +2 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Great post, and some excellent comments today that for me sum up the feeling that losing is NOT just losing. You can lose well or you can lose badly. We’ve done both this season, and on Saturday, well…

    I’ve been going to my favourite musician’s concerts since 1987. Having seen multiple performances over the years I can honestly say I have never seen him or his band “mail it in”. Not once.

    I just saw them again a couple of weeks ago and it was an absolutely fantastic experience. Sure he uses a teleprompter now for some of the obscure stuff he pulls from his extensive catalog, and he doesn’t move as fast as he once did, but he crowd-surfed from the back of the arena to the stage. He played for 3 plus hours without an opening act and without a break. At age 63 he absolutely rocked the house. He burned it to the ground.

    Once again as over the years, I was invigorated and inspired. If I could bottle some of that sincerity and spirit and send it to our club I surely would. They badly need it.

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Wenger hasn’t signed a new contract. I’m wondering if the 2013-2014 season could see a new Arsenal manager? If that were to happen, I’d be delighted to see Wenger handed a boardroom role.

    1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

      On the one hand, Wenger still has a lot to offer in terms of player acquisition, etc. On the other hand, he’s a fucking giant – his presence in the club would always overshadow any new manager and put unnecessary pressure on them. So it’s a tough one. I’d like him to stay were he to step down, but I’m not sure how it will work.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

        Zeddington,

        I think Wenger himself has said that he wouldn’t want to impinge on any future manager. He only seeks to leave the club in a better state than when he first arrived, and then let others carry that work forward.

    2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bull

      Really? I suspect the new manager would receive similar funds to those Wenger is happy to spend or what he thinks will be sufficient for 4th place. When the time does come and I’m not sure it has, I don’t want Wenger making or contributing to decisions on spending.

  17. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

    I think I sort of get it now. Why most people found the performance gutless and pathetic in terms of attitude. I think we were a bit pumped up about the ‘battle’. Both with the old enemy, and with the old friend who stabbed us in the back. If it were any of us, we would have been more aggressive in everything we did on the field. Be first to the ball, be first to score, kick the greedy badger and stick to him like glue, and don’t let them score, especially him. And the players obviously didn’t do that.

    For me though, I don’t place any special importance on this fixture (after the game) We lost, and we lost playing poorly. All of those issues however, have been in the team since we started this season. Struggling to score, individual lapses or poor set piece defending leading to us conceding goals, and some players exhibiting lack of focus. It is up to the manager to get it right of course. But we have had a tough run of fixtures, and have had issues with new players taking time to settle in, and then having to rewire themselves to new partnerships because of injuries.

    None of those are excuses. I suppose it’s a case of WHEN the outer limit of fixing issues with the team is. I don’t think 10 games is enough. The same issues of course show up across seasons and across teams, which is where the frustration comes from with the manager. Would hiring a new manager help? Perhaps, but if the next manager has to deal with the same issues of an ever changing team and constant injuries, I venture we’d see the same weaknesses show up throughout his tenure too (Not the same as Wenger’s weaknesses but whatever weaknesses he has) The only solution to that is constantly switching managers, but that is not something really desirable when you’re trying to shape a club.

    I think, though it’s not as unthinkable as it was, that Arsene might have to go, we’re not quite at that point yet. His contract is up in 2014, right when the new commercial deals start. At that point, either we’ll see a new club policy on spending, or a new manager, or both. With our current situation, I still can’t think of anyone who could get us as high in the table as Wenger has done, and probably will do again. He, is very much responsible for the mess his team is in. I still think he’ll turn it around this season. But will that be enough for many supporters who’ve gotten bored of the mundanity (is that a word?) of finishing in a CL place every season?

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      Oh and I’d like to add. The fact that fans at large, are questioning Arsenal’s most succesful, and arguably, greatest manager’s future, will hopefully act as some sort of wake-up call for those at the club.

      Wenger’s been great for Arsenal, and great for the board too. What he’s delivered to the club has made it much easier for the board to carry out the club’s transition, both in terms of finances, as well as Public Relations due to Wenger’s stature amongst fans. They now have to ask themselves if they are willing to do all they can to help Arsene Wenger. I still think we have the foundations of a good team. But we need to build on it in January and next year, as well as keep whoever Arsene wants to keep (Theo) The original plan might have been to sit (relatively) tight till 2014, but surely there’s got to be scope for some flexibility as regards that.

  18. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Oh..boy… the knives are out again…!!!

    Lacks Mental Strenfff…Wenger out…Arsene is tactically bad..He cannot motivate… players have no desire… This guy should never wear the shirt..that guy should be transferred… walcott should be signed…

    While I share the disappointment of the loss, I really dont think the major changes is what need…I have no clue how why we have to put blame of players for goals conceeded..I’ll still hail ourselves as the meanest defence in the premier league… and the team that is still on its way to the peak…

    Another way of looking at it is.. we have played Liverpool, Stoke, City and ManU away.. Have already played Chelsea once…We are only 9 points from the top… the good fixtures lies ahead…and there is still time to get our mojo back…

    Call me an eternal optimist and believer and deluded…But I think the only cure is confidence…we need that desperately…But the team is far better than the faith that the fans put in them. This team for me can only get better in the run…

  19. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Just going back to the live text of the match on Arseblog…and we had Coquelin warming up at the 48th min…to come in as a sub…Something which I guess, points to the fact that Arsene wanted to push up Arteta in the second half.. Definitely a risky move but worth considering..atleast if nothing happens until 60 mins…

    Minute later Santos fires a ball across the post…expecting someone who makes the run into the box to be there…ideally it should have been Ramsey.. Wenger is forced to make that substitution in the next minute…with Walcott for Ramsey who pulls his hammy…

    Few minutes later we go a goal down and Wilshere gets red carded..and we no more get to see Coquelin taking up the centre defensive role and Arteta moving up…

    Jack goes all out to prove himself to be the right one on spot there…and gets sent off…with 10 men and a goal down…Wenger does not go all out subbing a defender of an attacker..because that was what he was blamed for doing…last time

  20. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Gunman

    Yeah what Santos did was stupid and it made my blood boil. But why single him out ? what about wenger hugging Rvp at half time ? How can we blame a player when our manager behaves like that …. I mean a cunt who badmouths the club through his open letter (a club which made him the player he is ) ,who doubts wengers ability and asks him to buy th e players he wants , a player who the fans despise, who scores for United against us and United are leading at half-time…. and Wenger hugs him at half time …. does Wenger have no self-respect left or does he take more pride in developing Rvp into the player he is than developing Arsenal into a team we want it to be ? Even In Post match conferenece Wenger praising RVP like he was our own player made my blood boil.

  21. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

    It’s enormously frustrating to see us come up short against Man U again, and to never look like we could have won.

    But to be honest, nothing about that game was surprising. I had it down as a 2-0 or 3-0 loss before the game. We are deep into a run of awful form, and given our third choice keeper, Vermaelen’s terrible form and Santos in the back line, I expected us to concede. I expected to concede because of at least one major clusterfuck error. I expected the players to be too friendly to RVP. I expected the lack of fight.

    Losing so many key players in the last few seasons I think is finally catching up with us. We’ve lost our identity. There was no fight at Old Trafford because nobody in the squad has any memory of our battles there in even the recent past.

    I bought the new shirt this year, I don’t normally bother. But I had a feeling, and still have, that this side could be great, and that the blue-band home strip could go on to become legendary. All the ingredients are potentially there, but we need the players to click, to take collective responsibility. But if anything we are looking worse than last year, so this has to happen really fucking soon. This, right here, is Wenger’s biggest test.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      Yes we have Mannone in goal, TV5 is playing poorly, Santos is having a nightmare run of games at left back, and the team is lacking attacking fluency at the moment. You know that, I know that, every fan knows that, and Fergie knows that. I think what my frustration is that despite knowing that, Wenger didn’t change one thing about the playing style to address those issues. Shift Arteta to the left? Put in Koz and play TV5 at left back? Shift Ramsey to left wing and Poldi right to free him of defensive responsibility? Play Coquelin deep with Arteta and push Wilshere higher and Santi to right wing? Tell Jack to stay at home? Nothing to address an obvious weakness on our left which was exploited in the first three minutes to open the scoring.

      Lacking attacking fluency at this moment? What about working on defense without the ball during a full week of practice, sit a lithe deeper, and play more on the counter? No, let’s just play possession based attacking football through the middle, a formula which has resulted in defeat at Old Trafford repeatedly.

      Set piece defending has been a major issue for at least two or three seasons. Have we corrected that? The second goal off a corner would not suggest that. For the upteenth time we didn’t anticipate the possibility of a short corner, failed to send a second defender out to that side which any Sunday league team would know to do, and allowed one of the best forwards in the world to send in a fantastic cross completely unmarked.

      I don’t doubt that this team will right itself and will certainly compete for Champions League qualification next year and probably will get to the knockout stages of that competition this year. There is too much quality in the squad not too and Wenger isn’t a bad manager. In fact, he’s still a very good one. Whenever he leaves, I will be grateful because Wenger has a great legacy of winning as well as overseen a period in which foundations were laid for a great future, both financially and, if those funds are used properly, competitively. But all coaching dynasties end. Some end with the manager on top, some end with the manager struggling to adapt to new times, times which they themselves may have played a large part in bringing about. In my opinion, something at the club needs to change. If Wenger makes the necessary changes, I’ll be extremely happy.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

        I feel your frustration, but I think you’re going to far and making too many assumptions:
        - Just because there is an obvious problem doesn’t mean there is an easy solution.
        - How do you know that any of your alternative solutions would have a better chance of working?
        - How do you know that Wenger hasn’t tried any of your alternatives in training?
        - How do you know how much of our bad performance is down to tactics and how much is down to poor execution?
        - Hindsight is 20-20 but there are no certainties before a game. All Wenger can do is look at probability: which options are most likely to produce the best results. If the option he takes does not produce the desired result, that does not mean it was a bad option.

        For example you can see alternatives to Santos playing at LB, and Wenger still plays him, so you think Wenger doesn’t see those alternatives. But I would argue that we have a Brazilian international LB as back-up to Gibbs, he gets paid a lot of money, and Wenger is entitled to believe that playing Santos is more likely to produce better results than playing someone out of position.

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