Another defeat and its doom and gloom from all circles. Every time we concede a goal, there is an inquisition as to our ability to defend. If we look a little bit closer we can see that luck has deserted us and we have a tendency to self-destruct.
Game one against Newcastle saw both Gervinho and Song pick up three match bans which affected us for the next three games. Against Liverpool, the game was heading for 0-0 when Frimpong got sent-off and Liverpool capitalised with a goal that should have been flagged for offside. The Manchester United game was an nightmare which we have all forgotten. Against Blackburn, a game that we dominated, we lost due to two own goals and an offside goal. Moving on to the Tottenham game, a match that Spurs fans were rubbing the hands with glee, looking forward to a 4 or 5 goal hammering, Arsenal controlled the game but fell behind to a handball goal from van der Vaart. We lost through a wonder goal from Walker, a goal that he will never score again.
This is the difference between a good start and a poor start to the season. If the officials had spotted the offside and handball, we could be sitting with a completely different picture now.
Our luck has run out with injuries. Out of 6 centre-backs, five are injured, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Djourou, Squillaci and Miguel, no other team in the league can suffer the same fate and carry on and still look solid. Yes I say solid, because our weakness yesterday was with Sagna not tracking back, Song and Mertesacker played well. Having announced that Wilshere will be out until February, we can now add Sagna to that list of long-term.
It is not all down to bad officially and poor luck, but success hinges on decisions being correct, it makes such a difference.
The media love to hit Arsenal at all times. Look at last week’s Champions League matches. Manchester United throw away a two goal lead and snatch a draw at the end and United are lauded for resilience! Chelsea lose a lead in the last minutes and nothing is said. Arsenal win a game, yet the emphasis is on the chances created by Olympiakos!
Arsenal are for a rough ride this season, even when we win the media will find a story to hit us with, look at last weekend, we beat Bolton 3-0, the headlines? Van Persie will leave Arsenal for Manchester City!
Things have not been great, but we have the resolve to fight back and challenge for a Champions League spot, that I am certain. Wenger will bring in two or three players in January, that is a guarantee, and we will kick on in the second half of the season.
We have a torrid start to the season, let’s not get deluded we have lost 3 games and are now languishing at the bottom of the table. This is not acceptable for the fans nor is it acceptable for Wenger. His comments after Saturday clearly show his frustration with what is happening at the moment, more so is his inability to do anything about what is happening.
Our problems have been rumbling under the surface for some time now, we have year after year papered over the cracks, but fundamentally we have been on the downward slide ever since we move to the Emirates. We have sold or lost good players and failed to replace these players, no team can lose the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Vieirra, Cole, Campbell and Ljungberg and expect to maintain the high standards set by that team. Recently we have lost Adebayor, Fabregas, Toure and Nasri and yet again the replacements have not been of the same standard. As a team we have been getting weaker and weaker every season and this season all of our chickens have come home to roost.
We must ask ourselves how this has happened. Think back to when we talking about moving to a new stadium, the rationale was that with the increased income streams we will be able to compete with the best teams in Europe. The reality is that over the last six years we have spent £130M on players and received £185M in sales. Whilst spending does not always equal success or mean attracting top players, which top stars have we bought in the last 6 years?
There are fundamental problems at the club in terms of attracting players or even in securing our main targets. This summer was a classic case. The club identified our weaknesses and decided upon targets to rectify these problems. What actually happened was a farce.
Every Arsenal fan knew that Fabregas would leave once Barcelona showed any interest in him, we also knew that if Nasri had not signed a new contract by the end of June, then the club had to sell him, that is everyone except Arsene Wenger, who decided this was his summer of imitating an ostrich, stick his head in the sand and everything will be ok.
In Malaysia Wenger stated, “Imagine the worst situation – we lose Fabregas and Nasri – you cannot convince people you are ambitious after that. I believe for us it is important that the message we give out – for example you see about Fabregas leaving, Nasri leaving – if you give that message out you cannot pretend you are a big club. Because a big club first of all holds onto its big players and gives a message out to all the other big clubs that they just cannot come in and take [players] away from you.”
This statement was made on 11 July, within 6 weeks both players had left and by Wenger’s own admission we were not long a big club.
We spent the whole of the summer trying to negotiate the transfer out of two of our top stars and we neglected any replacements, why? Surely Wenger had a plan to cover the sales of Fabregas and Nasri? Gervinho was not a replacement for either player.
The same day Wenger stated that Arsenal had no need to recruit a left-back following Clichy’s move to Manchester City. “The plan for left back is that we have Kieran Gibbs, Armand Traore and Thomas Vermaelen can play there too. So we have what we need,” said Wenger.
Everyone who had seen Traore’s development at Arsenal over the years realised early on that he was never going to be top left-back. Yet Arsene thought otherwise. In the same context was it sensible to move our best centre back to left-back?
Having decided that we did not need to recruit replacements for Nasri, Fabregas or Clichy, our transfer policy for the summer started to blow up in our face.
Linked with Ricardo Alvarez we failed to land him for a reported difference of £1.7M. We then moved on to Juan Mata, but we failed to make a bid for him before 31 July, so his fee went from £13M to £23M. Centre backs were targeted, with Arsenal prepared to spend £13M on Jagielka yet not prepared to spend more than £10M on Cahill. Wenger then realised, having stated this was the case all summer, than Bendtner was going to leave in the summer, so a striker became a priority.
Following total humiliation at Old Trafford, where not only were our defensive frailties exposed, but also the lack of players in our squad became apparent when you saw the bench. Arsene or the board forcing Arsene, embarked upon a supermarket sweep style spending spree. We recruited a left-back, Andre Santos, centre-back Per Mertesacker, striker Ju-Young Park and two midfielders, Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun. Whislt it was good to see the club address the issues of defensive frailties, in-experience and sheer numbers, what Arsenal fans want to know and have a right to know is why weren’t these players bought in July, given a proper pre-season with the club and bedded in to the Arsenal way before the season started.
The further exacerbate the problem we decide to get Ryo Miyaichi an special talent work permit a player who has had only a handful of professional games instead of utilising this option for Joel Campbell a striker of greater promise and potential than Miyaichi.
This calamitous transfer window has led to this disastrous start to the season, the players did not know who was coming in and who was staying. We started our pre-season with one set of players and all of sudden five more are brought in once the season has started. This has been a completely disjointed transfer window and someone needs to explain how we got to this stage, when all the fans knew who was going and where we needed to strengthen.
The transfer disaster is one reason why we are where we are.
As Arsenal prepare for a crucial Champions League encounter in Italy, Wenger needs to throw away the blueprint for Arsenal games and get Arsenal to play ugly.
Arsenal’s cavalier style of football will not work in Italy, Udinese are team that will play on the counter-attack and from the first leg experience, and they have the ability to tear us apart. Wenger needs to set up a team that will be defensively minded, but unlike the capitulation against Barcelona, they need to have the ability to counter attack at pace.
Wenger needs to play Vermaelen at centre-back, any attempt at moving him out to the left-back slot will expose our weak middle. Both full-backs have to resist going forward, our priority is not to concede a goal.
It was no coincidence that against Udinese Arsenal looked more solid at the back and created more chances once Wenger introduced Frimpong. The Frimpong-Song axis is what is required from the outset. Young Frimpong has hopefully learnt from his rash challenges against Liverpool and could provide the steel and stability that is required. Both Frimpong and Song should sit back and protect the back four, which needs to be their prime duty. This is a departure for Arsene who always gives his plays licence to roam forward, even his so called defensive midfielders.
The third member of the midfield should be Ramsey. He has the engine to play box to box football and is creative. His last two games he has been anonymous, but today he needs to step up to the plate and be counted. Rosicky has been played in this role, but Tomas is one dimensional, has no peripheral vision and does not track back.
Going forward we have few options, van Persie, Walcott and Gervinho. That is it for today. Wenger will only play Bendtner or Arshavin as a last resort; he wants neither player to be cup-tied as I expect both to leave before the end of the transfer window.
The bench will consist of Bendtner and Arshavin, whom I have stated Wenger will be reluctant to play, out of form Chamakh. This player is an enigma, he started off well last season, then as van Persie came back from injury, Wenger intimated that Chamakh is burnt out, and Chamakh took that literally and has stopped playing. The other substitutes will consist of Oxlade-Chamberlain, whom Wenger, due to circumstances, has not been able to play and Rosicky, who in all honesty cannot be relied upon to play a whole game.
This is a game we cannot afford to lose, I know we can through on away goals if we lose by one goal, but who is prepared or even wants to take that chance. Arsenal need to change tactics, play more defensive and take any chances that fall to us. This game will define our season, it will determine what players Arsene will sign and will either destroy the morale of the players or give them the boost they need before the Manchester United game.
It’s now or never for Wenger. The squad is the weakest since Arsene’s reign started that there is no doubt. Suspensions and injuries are mounting and we have only played three games. Our squad for today included two players who are outward bound and contained 8 youngsters.
Whilst we could see the potential in both Frimpong and Miguel today, trophies are not won with potential, but as Wenger told us in May with experience.
Our attack was blunt today with the only Nasri showing any inventiveness. The defence was on the whole solid but Jenkinson looked exposed on several occasions.
Arsene has insisted that the players he has brought in Gervinho, Jenkinson, Ryo and Oxlade-Chamberlain are good quality players and by implication adequate replacements for Febregas, Nasri, Denilson, Vela, Eboue and Clichy. I think Wenger is either deluded or lying to the fans. Defence is the main area to strengthen, yet Arsene has refused to move for any of our “targets”, why? Is it that he thinks they are not good enough for Arsenal or does he think they are too expensive? We have had bids turned down for both Samba and Jagielka within the last 12 months, so they must be good enough, but Wenger appears to refuse to spend. Arsene needs to spend money and strengthen our defence there is no other option.
Midfield is devoid of players with invention. We were missing Gervinho and Wilshere, but that is no excuse. Wenger is culpable allowing this situation to develop. Everyone know that Cesc was leaving, Denilson wanted out and Nasri was not prepared to sign a new contract, so why were so indecisive in the transfer market? If we go back to Ricardo Alvarez, how did we let this one slip away over a reported £1.5M difference in valuation? At the end of July we were about to sign Mata for £13M, but failed to lodge the bid before his buyout clause expired and now Chelsea are favourites to sign him for £28M.
In attack we have let Carlos Vela go out on loan and Niklas Bendtner is due to leave, this leaves us with van Persie who only plays 50% of our games and Marouane Chamakh who looks like he’ll never score again.
Frankly our squad is too weak to compete this season, not to challenge for the title but too weak to even try and make a fourth place finish.
Why has this happened? The board needs to accept some of the responsibility. They have, since David Dein’s departure allowed Wenger to dictate and conduct transfer negotiations. This adds pressure on Wenger in terms of spending, he is fearful of spending say £17M on Cahill and then the player not producing the goods. The situation at Arsenal is calling for a Director of Football who is responsible for transfer and contract negotiations. Wenger hands this person a list of players in priority order and he then goes out and buys the player within the transfer budget.
Arsenal now have two vital games, away to Udinese and Manchester United. Defeat in these games will be disaster; we will have Europa League football at Arsenal and potentially out of the title race by the end of August.
Unless Arsene brings in a minimum of three players this week, Arsenal fans are going to have a very long and frustrating season.
Today saw swarms of fans leave the ground once Liverpool took the lead, there was dissent from fans calling for Arsene to spend the money and for the second game in a row there were hundreds of empty seats. The latter has prompted the club to stop announcing the attendance during the games.