Walk this way

Sunderland 2-0 Arsenal: years in the making

This game was not a “perfect storm”. Storms blow in acutely whereas what’s happened at Arsenal has been settling slowly like a dense fog. So instead of being caught by surprise with what happened yesterday against Sunderland, you could see it coming. Some would say it’s been a fog that’s been settling for seven years.

Of course the pitch at the Stadium of Blight was a shambles. If you reach back into the days when this fog was just starting to build, you might remember a match against Sheffield United. December 2006, Arsenal traveled to Bramall Lane to face Neil Warnock’s Blades on a pitch that was so utterly destroyed it looked like the surface of the moon. Since that game, I can think of several teams who have left their pitches in disrepair when Arsenal come to town. So it should be no surprise that Milan laid fresh sod on Monday before a Wednesday match against Arsenal and that Sunderland’s pitch actually looked worse than it had the week prior — both games against Arsenal.

That the Sunderland pitch injured four Arsenal players in a week (Mertesacker, Coquelin, Ramsey, and Squillaci) is highly unusual but the fact that Arsenal are struggling with injury is not. Arsenal have a history of players who not only pick up long-term injuries but unusual long-term injuries. Yes, Arsenal have had some horrible bad luck with players having their legs broken by the opposition. Diaby, Eduardo, Ramsey, Gibbs, and van Persie have all been victims of bad tackles that required surgery to repair. But there is also the mystery ailments of Rosicky, Vermaelen, and Walcott. Rosicky had some kind of groin injury that kept him out for almost two years. Vermaelen had some kind of congenital tendon problem in his Achilles that kept him out for a year. And Walcott had surgery on his shoulders to repair another congenital problem.

That was by no means an exhaustive list of the long-term injuries (Dourou, Frimpong, etc) that Arsenal have carried over the last several years. And now Arsenal have had Jack Wilshere out for an entire season. Any team can carry long-term injuries to one or two big players, but no team can expect to challenge for a title when they’ve had ten big name players out for a combined ten seasons.

Arsenal though are insanely loyal to these players. After returning from Dan Smith’s horrible tackle, Diaby got a contract extension in 2009/2010 when he played 29 League games for Arsenal. He has since played 17 League games. In two years. While making £60,000 a week.

We are told that these injured players will return “like a new signing” for us but I’m not so sure. When Rosicky signed for Arsenal, he immediately scored two goals in the World Cup against the USA and I remember thinking that it was another master stroke by Wenger to sign him up. Since his surgery, though, he’s not been anywhere near what he was before. His goals have dried up to the point where he had a shot yesterday against Sunderland, which curled out for a throw in.

Walcott is the same: he used to be this player who was a cool finisher in one-on-ones and now he’s a mess. Vermaelen’s looked better at left back than as center half since his surgery.  Eduardo was kicked out of the Premier League. Ramsey is a shell of the player we saw before he was Shawcrossed. On and on… these players don’t return “like a new signing” they return to Arsenal “like a busted up old signing.”

Just like the fact that teams leave their pitch in disrepair, Arsenal’s injury record and the manner in which those injured players never seem to regain their form should not be news to anyone. Does it really surprise anyone that Arsenal lost five players to injury this week?

It should also be no surprise that Sunderland didn’t really want the ball yesterday. Teams have been content to concede possession to Arsenal for the last seven years as well. At the beginning of this building fog teams had little choice but to sit back and watch Arsenal play, staying compact and trying not to let Arsenal overwhelm them with slick passing. But lately the games have a rope-a-dope feeling to them. I remember Manchester United winning 3-1 back in January of 2010. They seemed to beg Arsenal to have a go at them knowing that we tend to be toothless up front and who could blame them? Arsenal’s starting center forward that night was Andrei Arshavin, flanked by Rosicky, and Like A New Signing, Nasri.

Arsenal did manage to finish the game against Sunderland yesterday with a whopping 10 shots. However, Arsenal spent the first 80 minutes of that game with just four shots and just one shot on goal. It’s extremely worrying to me that one-nil down wasn’t enough to get Arsenal thinking that they should play more direct. That it took Arsenal to go down two-nil before they started taking shots at the Sunderland goal is worrying because if we are going to be a team that plays a high line and that is ostensibly an attacking team, then maybe we should play attacking football. It’s emblematic of the team that the last pass of the game yesterday was Bacary Sagna playing a back pass to Fabianski from midfield.

And of course Sunderland were physical with Arsenal yesterday. In the history of sports, teams who play technical are always confronted by teams who play physical. Better teams than Sunderland have done this to Arsenal in the past. Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run was ended by a Manchester United team who deliberately targeted Jose Antonio Reyes, kicked, and dived their way to a 2-0 win. That day it was referee Mike Riley who refused to send Rio Ferdinand off for what was a clear a red card tackle on Ljungberg. Once Man U knew that Riley wasn’t going to do anything about it, the kicking from there on out was ruthless. And against Sunderland yesterday it was referee Howard Webb who refused an obvious penalty and swallowed his whistle when Sunderland kicked, only to show cards when Arsenal retaliated in that tame way that Arsenal retaliate these days.

It shouldn’t be any surprise for me to tell you that Webb has always been a referee who is sympathetic to physical teams. You saw it in the Champions League final between Bayern and Inter. You saw it in the World Cup final where he gave Nigel de Jong a yellow card for a kung-fu kick — which he later admitted should have been a red card. Here, Webb watched on as Rio Ferdinand kicked Bacary Sagna in the chest. This wasn’t even called a foul.

And let’s not forget that Webb was the referee for Arsenal’s League Cup final against Chelsea back in 2007. A match where he allowed Chelsea to kick Arsenal all over the pitch and when Kolo Toure had finally had enough and stood up to John Obi Mikel for a stamp, Webb started showing red cards – two to Arsenal, one to Chelsea. He even sent off Adebayor for some face-touching that was later attributed to Eboue.

Webb’s anti-Arsenal bias is well known and has been exposed at several sites. It should not surprise anyone, then, that Webb denied two penalties to Arsenal against Sunderland yesterday. It should not surprise anyone, then, that Webb allowed Clattermole to kick Arsenal all night but whenever Craig Gardner dived it was an automatic yellow card to an Arsenal player.

What is a surprise to me, however, is the insane way that Arsenal keep doing the same thing over and over again — with ever more diminishing returns. I have not provided you with an exhaustive list of Arsenal’s faults* because I’m sure you already know them all.

Rather, that is my point. You know them, I know them, the world knows them and they all exploit them. If you face a team who intentionally mess up their pitch, you need to have a plan to deal with that — Chamakh was brought to Arsenal precisely to provide an aerial threat and yet he doesn’t even play. With Wenger preferring to play Theo Walcott through the middle, against a team which congested the middle of the pitch, and on a pitch which wasn’t conducive to Arsenal’s passing game.

And if teams are going to be physical and referees are going to allow teams to be physical then moaning at the referee won’t do a lick of good. You have to have a plan to beat those teams despite the referee.

And if you know that your team is full of players who have a history of long-term injury and who tend to return from those injuries less capable than they were before, you might want to address that issue as well. And by “address that issue” I don’t mean a charm offensive by the medical team where they invite bloggers to inspect their shiny new facility. I mean dealing with the medical team who allowed Coquelin to play despite having pulled his hamstring last week. I mean selling players and bringing in players who are less injury prone. I mean dealing with this situation.

In the end, that match against Sheffield United still haunts me. The pitch was terrible that night, Sheffield United were physical, Arsenal were caught on a counter attack, and up front, Arsenal lacked any teeth to their attack. It was a game which saw Phil Jagielka moved from midfield to goal keeper. Arsenal are down 1-0, Sheffield United have a midfielder in goal, and yet Arsenal could only manage to force Jagielka into one save.

At the time, I made excuses for Arsenal. The pitch, the ref, the tackles, the injuries, the congested schedule, the bad luck…

But at this point losing 2-0 to Sunderland after a deflected goal and an own goal, is not looking like luck. It’s not a sudden or shocking change. It’s not the convergence of three storms to make some perfect storm. It’s just the same fog that’s been settling in North London for years.


*The fact that Arsenal have a tendency to concede goals on the opposition’s first shot on goal has gotten to the point where it would be funny if it weren’t so painful. Arsenal conceded 6 goals on 6 shots on goal in the last two games.

86 thoughts on “Sunderland 2-0 Arsenal: years in the making

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Dhruv

      And the clip of Rio Ferdinand kungfu kicking Sagna while going for the ball is also apt. How did not Web see that deliberate attempt to injure a player? If I remember correctly, there was no FA action because referee had seen the incident. All in the name of game, eh? Rio is one devilish cunt and nobody should be supporting him for anything.

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Masterba...ker

    I think the Walcott substitution is proof enough that Wenger has lost the touch. Walcott was shit against Milan – so bench him for an extended period until he understands that he needs to play hungry. Don’t bring him on to save the game, it’s like rewarding bad behaviour. And then, on a shit field, against a packed in defense, we needed to start pumping balls into the box – this is what Chamahk does (did). When he came from Bordeaux I was genuinely excited, because he was a legit centre forward with an aerial threat, I guy with some hops. Yesterday was THE type of game he needed to be involved in. Instead, the manager throws on Walcott – in the middle no less.

    We’ve pulled out of the hole we were in at the end of August not because of Wenger, but because RvP put this team on his back for four months. Now he’s obviously drained and there aren’t any fall back plans. We couldn’t score against Sunderland? FFS

    We no longer have top drawer, established talent throughout the roster. And given our finances we won’t probably ever again. It’s time for a manager who is able to maximize return on investment on mid-level players. I can only imagine what a David Moyes might be able to squeeze out of our roster.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1TheGunners...AhTheGunners

      The problem is there is no one on the roster that is healthy, who could cross the ball to Chamahk.

      It’s painful, and quite frankly, sucks to watch. Just watched Milan win 3-1 this morning… a way more entertaining team than ours, they play possession, move the ball with purpose, score goals. I’m so jealous.

    2. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1tino

      @Masterba…ker, So let me get this right. When Arsenal wins, it’s because of Van Persie or the players, but when Arsenal loses these players aren’t responsible, it’s the managers fault. There is enough blame to go around if that’s what you are looking for but, don’t just cherry pick what works for your agenda.

      In regards to David Moyes, Tim shared on his twitter an article that showed some statistical insight on how managers perform above what’s expected of them based on the transfers and a few other factors. Who do you think was in the top two? Yes, Red Nose and Wenger… I am fairly certain Moyes wasn’t even in the top ten. I hope Tim can break it down in layman’s terms and share.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Masterba...ker

        I’m not interested in Moyes as the manager for Arsenal. I’d be interested in this analysis. Fact is that Moyes gets zero monies for transfers , can’t afford reasonable salary increase requests from his better players, and still manages to put a team out on the pitch that fights and scraps.

        Wenger has done an outstanding job over the years finding talent for value. That is what he should focus on. He’d be more at home these days I think on the continent, where they divide the managerial and coaching duties.

        I love Wenger. But this year has broke my back.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1ickenhamgooner

    Amazing analysis of the referees bias in the attached link. Whilst I recognise we need to play through this it does provide an unfair disadvantage to the team.

    That said, we cannot use such referee issues as a current excuse, and where we see so little tactical adjustment and player rotation.

    Just hope we do not blow up completely. That would be a massive issue for when we start (hopefully) some form of squad reinforcement in the summer.

  3. -5 Vote -1 Vote +1jake

    It’s a disgrace that a nothing team like Sunderland should have the brass to defeat a footballing aristocrat like the Arsenal. Sunderland’s presence in the last eight of the FA Cup demeans the competition. To be brutally honest, any football team North of Manchester ought to play in Scotland.

    1. -11 Vote -1 Vote +1Dan

      @jake, Fuck off you cunt. Arsenal fans were fucking silent yesterday, more passion for football in my little finger than the whole of the fucking south! We [Sunderland] have played better than fucking arsenal these past few months under MON, and you can’t even be honest enough to give my beloved Sunderland any credit! Typical southerner, thinking the south is the best, well it’s not, no communication between people! Whereas here, everyone speaks to each other, and aren’t toss pots like you fucking bellends down south, Sunderland is a great club, with passionate fans and players, and Arsenal is a club with a shit ground, in a shit hole called London, with shit fans and shit history. Get of your fucking high horse and get back down to earth will you?

      Shall we sing a song for you,
      Shall we sing a song for you,
      Shall we sing a,
      Shall we sing a,
      Shall we sing a song for you!

  4. -6 Vote -1 Vote +1kev wardle

    bad pitch?,bad referee? bad manager? too cold? ko too late,
    any other excuses? . the bottom line is and was yesterday is that arsenal do not have the players to worry anyone .at half time we discussed arsenal and we all came to the same conclusion…sunderland were very comfortable and never looked like losing.its not rocket science to let the opposition have the ball in their half ,the best teams in the world do it ,never mind sunderland.perhaps you should play like we do.3 competitive midfielders [who didnt wear gloves,or rolled around the ground each time they were tackled] and two wide men who actually can cross a ball.
    let alone you having a winger on the left who cannot use his left foot[how much was he?] and playing your other winger ,walcott down the middle?it was after all a CUP MATCH!

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    We can only speculate about all this. I just want that AW at some point comes out with the whole truth about WTF had happened all these years, with a special chapter on last summer dealings.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

      @Yan, Also, don’t the players know Webb already? It’s totally pointless to whine at him, we all know how he is.

      Yesterday was a match for a player like Frimpong :D Now he would’ve kicked some balls.

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1JV Mauer

    Dear Tim,

    Okay, here’s what happened. It’s gotten cold in the Northeast of the US lately, so I finally went out and got myself a long-sleeved jersey. I first put it on for the Aston Villa match at the end of January. By the time Milan came around, it needed a wash, so into the laundry it went and I pulled out my old, trusty, short-sleeved jersey.

    Thing is, I think the short-sleeved got jealous of all the attention the long-sleeved received, as is plainly clear from the last two results. So here’s the question…

    The long-sleeved is back from the laundry and ready to go. Do I switch back to the long-sleeved, or, recognizing that the short-sleeved has some major hoo-doo and a bit of a temper, do I try to appease it by turning to it for the return of Milan which, naturally, will require a major piece of magick to come through?


    Desperate and Shirtful

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Dhruv

      Wear a short-sleeve Spuds shirt. Dont buy a real shirt, an imitation shirt will do. Just so that Arsenal wins. Take care :)

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    I don’t want to sound too AMGoistic, but does anyone out there still believes that Wenger is able to lead this team to a title once more? I mean, I believe the Arsenal supporters (and lately, less and less of them) are the only ones who are convinced that Arsenal should keep Wenger. Almost every other person on this planet (not talking about the Rio Ferdinands of the world here, but sane, rational human beings) think that Wenger has lost the plot. And I have to say that finally, I agree with them. I mean, we all knew Rafa’s time was up at Liverpool because he kept making idiotic strategic decisions that cost his team the title, and we were right, because he was sacked soon aftetwards, but we keep believing that somehow, even though there is not a single shred of evidence to support this stance, there is hope in believing that Wenger knows.
    Either the whole world is wrong or us Arsenal fans are the most deluded people on the planet. I’d like to think it’s the first one, but somehow I doubt that all the people I know are laughing in the face of my optimism just because they are jealous of the success of this club.

  8. -11 Vote -1 Vote +1Simon Robson

    Hilarious article! Arsenal should have had two penalties! Really! I must have missed them along with Webb, I was sure replays showed O’Shea got the ball! Sunderland should have just let them win, I mean a big club like Arsenal shouldn’t have to put up with teams going out with a plan and stopping them play. Get a grip you were outplayed and deserved to get beat! Maybe next year.

    1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1BCS

      @Simon Robson, Don’t think that you read to the end of the article. The ref, the pitch etc etc were factors, but the in the end Arsenal failed to deal with situation, where other teams could have done so. I didn’t get the impression that Tim was making excuses for the team – they screwed up.

      1. -11 Vote -1 Vote +1Simon Robson

        @BCS, The overwhelming feeling I got from the article was how badly Arsenal are done too. Bad referee, bad pitch, rough tackling this all seems rather pathetic, when the week before they managed to win!

      2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

        @Simon Robson, Then you are doing exactly what you are mocking. You are deciding that you’re preconceptions take precedent over actual analysis. Tim just said that this was not the referee’s fault or the pitch’s fault. It is Arsenal’s. You, however, have chosen to believe that Arsenal supporters are moaners and don’t respect Sunderland and have purposefully chosen to ignore what he said, even as you accuse Tim of ignoring the facts in favor of bias.

        This is either irony or really, really sad.

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1Amaan

    I might be going in totally different Direction, but isn’t Stuart Robson the guy who does Talking Tactics on Dot Com, but whenever he is commenting on Arsenal games, he leaves no chance to slate Arsenal players and the team. Even wen the team is playing well.

  10. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Shrek

    One thing that used to be a hallmark of earlier Arsenal teams under AW was that all this shit refereeing used to happen earlier as well. We used to react on the pitch without needing to tackle like thugs. We simply used to ignore the referee and played with an “us against the world” attitude . If we even had half of that attitude now, it’d compensate for our limited abilities as footballers to a great extent.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      @Shrek, I disagree. What we saw earlier was nowhere near what we see these days in terms of horrendous refereeing. The team suffered in those days too and awesome as that team was, they would not have won as much if faced with 4-5 billionaire funded clubs and at least 4-5 referees who will do all they can to harm Arsenal. I don’t think our attitude is actually a problem (except maybe in the Milan game where we seemed terrified of the occasion). Sadly, we just don’t have the quality we need, especially with the injuries.

  11. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1vancouvergooner

    whatever wrong with Arsenal right now AW has to come up with an plan to motivate the team to fight till the end of the season. No safe cushion nor time to do other changes. The team is down to bare bones and they should realize a top four is their target. Any difference, or indifference, has to be addressed after the season ends.
    The correct attitude for any sport team, fans, supporters included, is admit your defeat and don’t ever look for excuses. You lose because you don’t try harder.

    1. +15 Vote -1 Vote +1Yank Gooner MD

      I don’t think there is a better manager suited to finish this season with this squad, lacking in quality as it is. And with hindsight (accounting for all the injuries these last 2 seasons) I don’t think there was a better manager than AW to get the results that he has been able to produce.

      If I am correct, AFC were fighting for 2nd in the table for most of the season last year until injuries and a bad run of form got us barely squeaking out 4th. Now it seems we have a real fight on our hands to finish in 4th with plenty of other teams in a similar form as us; however our competitors (Chelsea and Pool) added millions of pounds to their squads and we let Cesc, Cliche, and Nasri leave, so who’s manager is performing better? It may be his decision, but it is unknown wether or not AW really has the resources available to make the grand purchases we see other clubs do and many of our fans feel is necessary. AFC is not going to splash the cash, it is made so evident by our lack of action in the past 4+ windows; the board is just not interested in making huge purchases. So considering our squad will not be magically turned over this summer and replaced with a wealth of stars galactico style I think that AW is the best option to continue on. Yes, changes are required yet again to strip the squad of excess baggage that is not helping us move forward, but I can count on more than one hand the # of young gunners who look to be stars in the making.

      Who thought we were going to win the league when it became clear Cesc was leaving? (yes I had hope, but if I had to bet something substantial there’s no way in hell) It’s reasonable to have a shite season after the captain and soul of the team is sold off. RvP has certainly done an excellent job to step up, but he is frankly not the creative force that our style of football requires; he needs a better supporting cast. All I can say is that when we are healthy (I chuckle to myself as I type that, because it is a joke how bad our injury run is), hopefully at the start of next year, we will have some well experienced young ambitious players to strengthen our squad and it will easily rival our aging competitors (at least with ManU and Chelsea). I am sick of excuses for this squad just as I am sick of calls for Wenger Out with no better and realistic options of who would replace. Sadly this is just the reality of where AFC are at currently. It’s been a grand run of form for 14+ consecutive seasons and now there is a rather large hiccup. Perhaps, it is unrealistic to expect such a high sustainability of quality when we do not have the oil billions insanely pumped in constantly. I did not fall in love with this club because of their spending power and star quality. I fell in love with the beautiful play and ideals of a team that were often the underdog and gave it their all to the final whistle. Where have the last minute goals gone? Hopefully the squad can get back to that fighting spirit that I miss as soon as possible; in the mean time I will continue to have hope and will be patiently waiting. COYG

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

        @Yank Gooner MD,

        Once some people get their “billionaire, buy them, sack wenger” glasses…and buy in the philosophy over which the club has been built..and is running..they will understand the situations without resorting to desperation…

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1Dhruv

        Yank Gooner MD, I enjoyed your write up. While I respect what you have written, I will not call the situation black and white. Club owners raised the price tickets then they should give the fans something in return to justify that. It is not one-way traffic. The world’s fifth richest club cannot play in Europa league.

  12. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1NorCalArsenal

    At least two of the youngest Gunners scored yesterday. Too bad one was for Bolton and the other was for Sunderland.

  13. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1vancouvergooner

    Tim is correct to point out the main culprit for Arsenal’s dismay performance can be over reliance on the often injured players. Can’t be down to bad luck because its been a reoccurring problem. The management really need to look through the whole medical and training program to see any fundamental flaw in the system.
    I have a question, is it true AW pick his own team of training coaches including the training medical staffs ?

  14. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Dan

    1) How many Sunderland players where injured by the pitch? None.
    2) The arsenal players went down at every opportunity.
    3) Sunderland played better!

  15. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1DF

    Next week, it is back to the Emirates; the excuse of the pitch cannot stand anymore.
    In such kind of matches, when Arsenal is playing a tight defence & counter attacking team, everybody knows that an early goal can settle the team and open the game up, though we are famous for panicking after scoring the first goal and let our opponents back into the game….

    Our lack of urgency and vigour and ideas do not come about AFTER BAD referee decisions but BEFORE, with the first whistle. A few minutes of passing sideways and backward with most of our players not running scattered and creating space, players passing to feet instead of to space, or misplacing passes …..will tell you if the team will fail.

    I missed those days of the Invincibles when a game may well be over in 10-12 minutes. Henry & Pires seemed to jump out of the stall and score!

    It looks like it is the same old as last season; We won’t win the coming 3 PL games vs Spurs, Newc & Pool…we will be fortunate if we can get 2-3 points out of these games.
    We won’t claim 4th and no CL next season.

    WE can only make Wilshere cry (after the Birmingham CC final) and The Ox cry (after the game vs S’land)…

  16. -7 Vote -1 Vote +1Dave

    Reasons Arsenal lost according to the article
    1) Pitch
    2) Referee
    3) Dirty Northerners showing no respect to their betters
    4) Manager’s tactics
    5) Medical Staff

    Can I add
    6) Desire
    7) Ability (MacLean, a winger who can cross and tackle, just one of many who was better than the Arsenal equivalent). If you were picking a team just on yesterday’s game, then I think most of the team would be wearing red and white.
    8) Manager who does not make excuses for his players

    I think that the latter is a major point. Wenger offers excuses for his players every time you get beat. It is NEVER your player’s faults. This means that when things aren’t going your way the team don’t have to fight as the manager will excuse them. His quotes following yesterday bear this out. Everyone else thinks you were beaten by the better team yesterday and looked a shambles for most of the game. He thinks the players were spirited and unlucky.
    Only a few weeks ago, Everton took a point off us at SoL when the referee (the apparently biased Howard Webb) gave a penalty when Osman went down with nobody anywhere near him. O’Neill made no excuses, merely said that we should have finished off when we were on top. His team know exactly where they stand and the commitment and effort yesterday were outstanding. A total contrast.
    By the way, the reports I have read say that there was only one actual penalty yesterday and it was handball by Arsenal. I don’t remember it and I did think at the time that we were lucky in the first half not to concede a penalty but when I watched it last night it was obvious that Webb had got it completely right. If you are going to complain of bias, at least be sure of your facts.

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


      “At the time, I made excuses for Arsenal. The pitch, the ref, the tackles, the injuries, the congested schedule, the bad luck…

      But at this point losing 2-0 to Sunderland after a deflected goal and an own goal, is not looking like luck. It’s not a sudden or shocking change. It’s not the convergence of three storms to make some perfect storm. It’s just the same fog that’s been settling in North London for years.”

      1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Dave

        No, I read the article. You spent a huge amount of it making excuses and then, at the end, claimed you weren’t making excuses. The problem a lot of people have with the so-called big 4 is the apparent arrogance and expectation that they should always win trophies. Your article, and almost all of the responses to it, make no acknowledgement of how well Sunderland played. Our manager tactically out-thought yours, our players outfought yours and they also outplayed them. You were away to a team in the top half of the premier league, on a tremendous run and with the benefit of extra rest, yet it seems to most of the people on the site that losing the game in those circumstances could only be caused by external factors such as the referee or the pitch.
        Arsenal are genuinely my favourite ‘big’ team (not that there is a lot of competition), but your response to being well-beaten is a bit disappointing.

  17. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

    One thought just occurred to me while reading your article. The part about the injuries. Is it possible that our players don’t recover from injuries because we are too…ummm… respectful of both them and the rules? I mean that we don’t urge them to get some treatment they don’t want, but we think they need, and that we don’t give them illegal drugs. It’s another ‘conspiracy theory’ but Rio Ferdinand went shopping instead of attending a drugs test, there were rumours that Nani didn’t go to the World Cup because of a drug related issue (and that ManU bought Bebe for 7 million pounds as a sort of payoff for that) and Owen Hargreaves said ManU pumped him full of drugs that ended up making him worse and forced him to play when he couldn’t even warm up properly (he went off within 5 mins) Maybe we are too nice even in that regard? I for one don’t trust the FA to carry out any regulatory work with integrity.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1PJ

      @Shard, I heard a story from a friend, I don’t know if there is a grain of truth to it but, I will repeat what I heard third hand because you brought up the subject of drugs. Rosicky was supposedly out for so long because he was on the Maradona performance program (sniff, sniff) and Arsenal were putting him through treatment to get him off it. Again it is something I heard third hand, but considering how long he was out and the ‘mysterious muscle problems’ that were always the reports about his injury status, it could seem plausible

  18. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Dave

    For goodness sake you were outfought and outplayed! I cannot stand Man U but they generally buy players who are better than those that they currently have. You buy players who have potential and try and train them up. That approach makes you money but, unless you find a number at the same time, will not win you the league (incidentally, given the amount of money that he makes for the owners do you really think that they feel Wenger is doing a bad job?)
    I do not buy into any conspiracy theories on injuries. Instead, it smacks of a manager under pressure. We have had it recently when Steve Bruce was struggling. Meyler and Campbell rushed back from knee injuries and breaking down again, others turning minor hamstring injuries into major tears by being brought back too soon because the manager thought he needed them.
    I suspect that Wenger is risking playing people carrying injuries because the alternatives aren’t good enough. Man U’s squad is, sadly, stronger, so their players have longer to get fit, without being pumped full of drugs!

  19. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ace

    Tim,recall your piece after arsenal defeated sunderland with that last minute henry goal?after reading it,all i wanted to do was put my hands around your shoulders and say,’tim…tim…tim…’ affectionately because i love your take on stuff (except the leighton baines obsession),and that piece just wasn’t you.your effusive praise the team was over the top imo.and now this.a direct opposite of that one. I don’t agree that our players come back from injuries broken. You cherry picked players using hindsight as a tool to prove your point.not good enough my man. I wasn’t surprised the injury prone van persie wasn’t on your list.
    And this:are you saying neither sczesny or fabianski made a single safe in the last two matches?come on,yeah we conceded six,but not all the shots on targets scored.if that point was meant as a joke,sorry i missed it.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

      @ace, His Leighton Baines ” obsession” should have been heeded by The Arsenal. After the woeful display Gibbs had put up in Milan and compounded by the fact that an under 21 could be so weak as to be unable to play a match three days later, a conclusion I have drawn is that Kieran Gibbs will never be Leighton Baines. Arsenal wants Gibbs to be Baines, wants the prestige of providing England’s LB yet again. So if we can buy Baines, we should. Gibbs will not be Baines. I Say this not with my chest puffed and yelling, but sadly, and with regret. I want Gibbs to be Cole’s successor in England, I want Gibbs to do well in Arsenal, and I love the fact that he is our youth product. Baines is better. If we can buy Baines for 10 million GBP, we should do it.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      @ace, Robin van Persie is the outlier. Which other players have returned from long term injury with any form? Djourou? Vermaelen? Sorry but I can’t think of any except RvP.

      And yes, there were 6 shots on goal and 6 goals in the last two games. Look it up.

  20. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    A few years down the road, this season will have an asterisk as a statistic anomaly reading:”*2011-2012: Cesc left”

  21. Vote -1 Vote +1allezKev

    Interested to get an American take on Stan Kroneke as an owner.

    Do you guys think he has the will, to take Arsenal forward?

    Or alternatively, do you think he’ll just run the club to make a fat profit for himself?

  22. Vote -1 Vote +1allezKev

    That’s true Shard, but you also have to ‘speculate to accumilate’, as the overused term goes, and does Stan have the will to push the boat out financially?!
    Apparantly he spends bugger all on his US team the Rapids, so why should we feel that he’s going to do anything different for a team he’s only bothered to watch 3 times?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      It has nothing to do with how many times he watches. It is only to do with how many people are watching.

    2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      @allezKev, I fear he is only at Arsenal for the property development side of the business. I’ll write about that one day.

      His sports businesses have made him very wealthy by developing property, not by winning trophies.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Simon Says

        @vancouvergooner, That’s probably why he is circling around the LA Dodgers at the moment. Fox Sports is desperate to hold onto there tv rights after they lost the Lakers to Time Warner. Frank McCourt had a $3 Billion dollar deal signed with Fox which was front loaded to deal with his divorce fall out which the MLB killed. A deal worth $200 million annually isn’t out of the question. The Angels deal deal will pay them $150 million annually.
        and then there’s the land outside Dodgers stadium which many believe to be the most suitable location for a new NFL stadium for LA. Silent Stan just so happens to own the St. Louis Rams who have been rumored to be be on of the teams moving to LA. There are lot of questions surrounding their future in St. Louis and a new stadium that would need to be built to keep them there.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

        @Shard, By the way..I didn’t mean to mislead you. I’m not American. I was expressing an opinion on an issue. Don’t know if nationality makes a difference to that. But I guess your question remains open to the Americans on this site.

  23. Vote -1 Vote +1allezKev

    That’s ok, i know you from unknown Arsenal.

    I suppose the clue was in my initial 4.28, ie ‘an American take’.

    When you answered i was stupid enough to think that, you might be American….. Silly me….

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      @allezKev, Well..I agree with that. I seem to be getting really popular over there. Known from ‘Unkown’.. Anyway. Have a nice day and hopefully some Americans will tell you what they think about Kroenke. Oh and try pressing ‘reply’ next time. Cheers.

  24. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1gsco

    I definitely see where Tim is coming from that we just never seem to be able to overcome these issues and thus can’t really blame it on other things. But, seriously, I saw Webb was the referee and knew we were going to lose. When was the last time we won a game when he is in charge? He is a cheat.
    Also, Stewart Robson has got to go from Arsenal.com and Arsenal matches. WTF? I think I have heard Spuds talk nicer when they comment for games. Sure, we aren’t too happy about things lately, but come on man. He basically said Arsenal are a bunch of cheaters because they were trying to rightfully show that they were getting kicked in the air every time they touched the ball. Did he say anything about the many Gardner dives? – nope. Then he calls Wenger a whiner and not doing anything for his team. I sent complaints to Arsenal and Fox Soccer – again…

  25. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

    Good post Tim. It’s unfortunate but this week is merely the culmination of Arsene’s last few years in charge. We’ve had horrible luck, but to an extent you create your own luck. We have to apportion a lot of blame at Wenger because he has created this team with fatal flaws.

    We have a playing style and formation that is built around a brilliant playmaker who can score and set up chances. Except that playmaker is no longer at the club and there is no one to fill his shoes adequately.

    We have bought players and then never played them in their favoured position (Arshavin, Walcott), or shoehorn them into formations that just don’t suit them, and wonder why they are so inconsistent.

    We have a style that relies on Robin Van Persie as a sole striker who has to not only score but create chances too. He’s undeniably been brilliant, yet bears too much burden in carrying the whole offence. Because we can only play with one striker at a time, it reduces the opportunities for our backup strikers to get the playing time they need. And because he’s not so good in the air, it means we are more restricted in the ways we can attack.

    We create stars and then don’t do what is necessary to coddle their rapidly expanding egos and make them stay, and allow our rivals to get them. If the current ex-Arsenal players out there (Adebayor, Fabregas, Nasri, Cole, etc) got together and made a team, they’d beat our current team easily.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1gsco

      @Eurazian, You are upset that we don’t coddle more egos? WTF?
      Besides Fabregas, the rest of your list is filled with human trash that I am quite happy to see the back of. We have been let down by these players. Even Fabregas is a disappointment and quit because he didn’t have it in him to be a leader. Yes, Wenger built a system around the greatest chance creator in Europe who signed a very long term contract with the club. If someone says they are committed in that way, what the hell is he supposed to do? But then Cesc couldn’t man up, got home sick, knew he wouldn’t have to lead to win trophies, and left us holding the bag.
      Was Wenger also to blame for not foreseeing the damage that 3 leg breaking tackles would do? How much better would we have been if Eduardo fulfilled his potential, Diaby was the player he is without injury, and Ramsey is one year further in his development?
      I am disappointed, too, but I think Wenger is trying to cope with the fact that really bad luck and unbelievably selfish players keep blowing up his team.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

        @ gsco: It’s a sad reality, but once most players reach a certain level, they need something – usually either money or trophies – to keep them motivated to stick around. Arsenal can’t or won’t compete with the big boys for wages, and can’t offer trophies anymore either.

        Yes, lots of those players are dicks. But if we keep them onside, they are OUR dicks and we still love them. Any other team of our level would have done what it took to keep Cole. Adebayor is one problematic individual, but we’ve seen how effective he can be if his mind is kept on track. If we were more ambitious and closer to contending, we probably could have kept at least one of Nasri or Fabregas. How we let Diarra leave when we so badly needed a replacement for Flamini is mind-boggling.

        You are right that some players are unbelievably selfish. I hate that too. But it’s a reality of the game, and our club is far too idealistic in thinking it can be otherwise. That philosophy of “doing things the right way” is one thing that I love about this club; but it also brings limitations and we have to question to what extent we can realistically stick to it so rigidly.

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tino

      “We have bought players and then never played them in their favoured position (Arshavin, Walcott), or shoehorn them into formations that just don’t suit them, and wonder why they are so inconsistent.”

      Are you serious about Walcott? Didn’t we just watch him play as the second striker on Saturday? How did that go? I think he got six touches in 45min. Wenger has done Walcott a huge favor by placing him in a position where he can use his only real skill(running).

      Arshavin, from what I can tell is ridiculously efficient playing where it suits the team. 15 assists and 10 goals last season out wide tells me all I need to know. As far as I can tell Wenger wants someone in that position with a higher work-rate. Rosicky and Ramsey don’t look like they will contribute the Arshavin 25 goals did but they will put in a shift.

      The people you’ve named that have left are all good players but lets get this straight, it’s not about egos. It’s about money, with the exception of Cesc.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

        @ Tino: The point is not that Walcott should be used as a striker; it’s that Wenger loves to buy players and think he can mould them into something else. Sometimes it works (Henry, Petit) and sometimes it doesn’t. Walcott was bought for his potential and a long-term in investment, sure… but when Wenger doesn’t want to buy better, established wingers out of fear of “killing” Walcott, then it’s questionable whether it’s an investment that helps the team.

        Arshavin never played as a wide midfielder until he arrived at Arsenal. He was fairly effective for a while, but his long periods of inconsistency have a lot to do with his lack of real aptitude for that position. Don’t forget he was never required to track back as much before he arrived here. This season with the departure of Fabregas he actually had the opportunity for a run in his favoured position, but Wenger won’t play him there. Clearly Rosicky and Ramsey work harder, but in a season in which we are often so devoid of spark and invention, hard work is not always enough.

  26. Vote -1 Vote +1Ian

    Some valid points but I’m not having the pitch bollocks…. these players should have the technique and skill to adapt!

    Yes the San Siro was sodden down the flanks but it didnt seem to stop the fleet footed Ibrahimovic (!) scampering down the wing to set up the second!

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