Back in December Wenger fielded his first team against lower league Bradford. The players weren’t motivated, didn’t take their opponents seriously, performed badly and lost.
Today Wenger fielded his reserves against lower league Blackburn. The players weren’t motivated, didn’t take their opponents seriously, performed badly and lost.
The problem is therefore not the personnel — it is Wenger. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first team or the reserves, Wenger’s inability to instill a ruthless mentality in his side and coax a performance out of them is why we have crashed out of two very winnable cups in the most humiliating of circumstances.
I am staggered that the lesson of Bradford has not been learned. It was only nine weeks ago for goodness sake, but the same calamitous mistake has already been repeated. That is simply unacceptable.
But that sums up Wenger’s approach to managing Arsenal these days — refuse to even acknowledge your weaknesses, let alone do anything about them, and carry on regardless hoping things will magically come good.
Sold your only defensive midfielder in the summer? Play Arteta there and hope it works out.
Only got one decent keeper on the books? Play Mannone when Szczesny’s injured and hope it works out.
Conceding a lot of goals from set pieces? Persist with a zonal marking system and hope it works out.
Does the team consistently defend badly? Keep coaching attacking play and hope it works out.
Struggling to break down a stubborn defence? Keep passing sideways a lot and hope it works out.
Adrift of the top four in January and need reinforcements? Stick with the same squad and hope it works out.
(Yes we bought Monreal, but only because Gibbs got injured. Where is Song’s replacement? Or Chamakh’s? Or a decent keeper to keep Szczesny focused so he doesn’t make mistakes like today?)
Consider Wenger’s response to the Bradford defeat:
“Where it leaves our season is to focus on the next game. Sport is about that. Win the next game [and] focus on the next game.”
And after today’s match:
I think it is important to focus on our next game and it is a good opportunity to show that we have character and are men who can fight for each other.
So just move on then. Don’t even consider for one second that something is very wrong and changes are necessary on and off the pitch.
Keep doing what you’re doing and hope it works out.
It should be our new club motto because nothing ever changes. Nobody is ever held accountable, no lessons are learned and the next screw up is just around the corner. How long can it be allowed to go on? Seven trophy-less seasons has now become eight and we are far too inconsistent to finish fourth.
If only every player cared as much as this man
I’m so angry I haven’t even talked about the game itself yet. Much has been made of Wenger’s seven changes, but I think it was the right call. The likes of Cazorla and Wilshere needed a rest and the purpose of a big squad is to use it effectively throughout the season so your stars aren’t burned out by March. Besides, as I said earlier the issue is one of motivation, not skill level. Our first team fared no better against Bradford, remember. While I acknowledge our squad players aren’t great, they still should’ve been good enough to beat Blackburn if they were sufficiently focused and professional. That they weren’t is my beef with Wenger, not his team selection.
From minute one Blackburn got men behind the ball and worked hard to frustrate us. That combined with our casual approach meant we created just two good chances in a lacklustre first half. Diaby had a header well saved before Gervinho was put clean through by Rosicky. The man described by Wenger as the best player in the Africa Cup of Nations shot wastefully wide and put his head in his hands. If he was the best player in the tournament I’m glad I didn’t waste my time watching any of it.
I expected our customary improvement after the break but it didn’t really materialise. We had plenty of possession but Blackburn were restricting us to pot shots from distance. They weren’t doing anything extraordinary to keep us out, they were just well organised, committed and rode their luck when they had to. If we’d shown even half their desire we’d have been in the hat for the next round.
Rosicky was unlucky to hit the bar with a terrific long range strike before Wenger sent for the cavalry. Wilshere, Cazorla and Walcott came on but couldn’t rescue the situation. In fact Walcott was culpable in the goal when he failed to track Olsson as the Swede chased a long ball into our half. When it broke to him, his effort was parried by Szczesny straight to Kazim-Richards, who bobbled a mis-hit shot in off the post.
It was a shocking goal to give away. Szczesny had nothing to do all game, but when called upon he presented the rebound to Kazim-Richards instead of palming it to safety. Brilliant last week against Sunderland, he has shown himself to be inconsistent — much like Arsenal really.
We laid siege to the Blackburn goal but couldn’t force an equaliser. Walcott headed straight at the keeper and Arteta lashed an injury time shot into the side netting as the visitors held on for their valiant victory. Boos rained down from the angry and frustrated home support, but they won’t have worried Wenger.
His solution is simple — move on to the next game and hope it works out.
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