Arsenal 1-0 WBA | Bare minimum does the job

With fourth place secured earlier than usual this season thanks to Everton’s late collapse, Arsenal relaxed a little and did enough to edge ahead of West Brom before getting the deckchairs out for the second half and coasting to the win.

I can’t recall anything of note happening after halftime, but by then the game was won because a seriously poor West Brom outfit never looked like scoring and therefore Giroud’s header after just 11 minutes was ultimately enough. It was a flat way to finish the Emirates fixtures, but kind of poetic really — a good start which tailed off, a bit like our league campaign.

I don’t begrudge the players saving themselves for Wembley to be honest. I’d rather that than have them going flat out to win 4-0 today and picking up a couple of hamstring strains. Nobody will remember this game in a few months, but I think the mental effect of a cup final win/defeat will have a massive bearing on next season, so I’m not too fussed about today.

Thankfully, the last few games have been perfect preparation for us — little pressure from Everton and some easy fixtures which read like a well planned pre-season schedule building up to the big day. West Ham, Hull, Newcastle and West Brom enabled us to get our confidence back after the debacles of Everton and Wigan and so we really should dispose of Hull with ease. They have been playing at 60% since they achieved Premier League safety a few weeks ago and it shows. It’s hard to turn that on again for a big match and I can’t see them troubling us at all, especially without Long and Jelavic.

giroudagainstwbaAfter today’s match Wenger was banging on about injuries again as everyone fell over themselves to congratulate him on 4th place. That really narked me. First of all, with our resources 4th is the absolute minimum we should be getting, so all this praise is like someone congratulating me for turning up to work.

Secondly, playing the injury card and having everyone lap it up as the only reason we aren’t up there fighting for the title was just too much. He repeated what he’d said earlier in the week, which was something along the lines of ‘We were in the running and then injuries stopped us’. No Arsene. You should be saying ‘We were in the running and then we had to play the good teams’ because that’s the biggest reason we blew any chance of winning the league. Whether we had Walcott, Ozil, Wilshere and Ramsey available was a small factor in the grand scheme of things — after all, those four played away to Man City and look how that turned out!

Injuries don’t help of course, but they are just one of our problems and to use them as a sweeping excuse that ignores Wenger’s other deficiencies is innacurate — classic spin from Arsene as usual. Sadly, plenty of people believe him when he puts it all down to bad luck and therefore his glaring inadequacies escape the spotlight. Well, not on this blog they don’t.

I won’t rehash what I’ve been saying all season, but here’s a quick list of what has held us back (in no particular order):

1) The squad is too small with no strength in depth
2) The squad is unbalanced (not enough strikers, too many central midfielders/playmakers)
3) Not enough pace (only Walcott and Ox — Gnabry and Miyachi aren’t ready yet)
4) Always picking up injuries, most of which are muscular suggesting there’s something wrong with conditioning and/or training and/or recovery
5) Wenger not strengthening in January despite having significant funds available
6) Wenger’s lack of tactical nous, especially in the big games
7) Wenger’s unwillingness to take the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses into account, something he openly admits
8) Wenger only playing one formation and one style, making it easy for clever managers to outwit him (never beaten Mourinho — says it all)
9) Long term injuries to key personnel like Walcott, Wilshere and Ramsey

So there you have it. Here is Wenger’s list:

1) Long term injuries to key personnel like Walcott, Wilshere and Ramsey, caused by bad luck.

Anyway, the Norwich game is now an irrelevance but we need to strike the right balance of saving our legs for Wembley and making sure we stay competitive, because like I said earlier it’s hard to switch back on once you relax. Look at Bayern — wrapped up the Bundesliga ages ago and then weren’t sharp enough to deal with Real Madrid who spanked them. Therefore I don’t expect sweeping changes and a repeat of today would be just fine by me — it’s all about Saturday May 17th now.

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  1. Oguntuase Amos

    Since you are so vast in football knowledge, it would be better you take up the post of Arsenal manager come next season. Poor you theoretical expert.

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    • Gooner Steve

      Since you obviously think I am wrong about Wenger, care to point out why? Or are you just going to make sarcastic remarks without putting forward an argument?

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    • Ash

      I would take anyone else as manger, even this blog writer. He speaks more sense than wenger

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  2. mk

    what wenger said matches reality for a start.. and with ramsey, walcott and others not injured then we may well have not dropped points at swansea and stoke, let alone have taken points from one of the other top teams after they were injured which would have put as at the top of the table.

    We lost to man city 6-3 after an away cl game 48hrs before which could have just as easily been 5 all if not for disallowed goals and a dodgy penalty, are you sure your dislike of wenger isn’t clouding your judgment?

    We have strength in depth just not enough to win the title with after more injuries than any other club (who does, city almost lost it with just toure and aguero out for a far shorter period of time, liverpool would be mid table without their 3 best players for any length of time, and chelsea’s title challenge fell apart as soon as they lost hazard).

    The injuries took out our most direct and penatrative players at the same time, whenr we needed them most and so is the most significant factor in our faltering title challenge, hence why Wenger agreed it was a key factor, but if it makes you feel better to blame everything and the weather on him then feel free to continue doing so as it just makes you sound like a bitter entitled ‘fan’ with no grasp of reality.

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    • Gooner Steve

      So we lost 6-3 because of a tough fixture schedule. Not because we threw both full backs high up the pitch and got continually caught out on the break? Not because we defended like schoolboys in a tough away game as per usual? Not because Wenger didn’t have the tactical intelligence to keep it tight against such a superior team?

      If injuries to key, penetrative players derailed our title challenge, how can you explain conceding 6 to Chelsea, 6 to City, 5 to Liverpool and 3 to Everton with our first choice back four and keeper playing all those games? Those are defensive and tactical deficiencies, nothing to do with not having penetrative players. If anything we have been incredibly lucky that Szcz, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Giroud missed just a handful of games between them because we don’t have adequate cover for any of them.

      But hey, if it makes you feel better to kid yourself that not having Ramsey, Wishere, Walcott and Ozil for a few weeks is the sole reason we aren’t up there, then go ahead and ignore the other 8 points in my list which I noticed you haven’t disputed.

      I wrote: “Sadly, plenty of people believe him when he puts it all down to bad luck and therefore his glaring inadequacies escape the spotlight.”

      You are exactly the type of blinkered fan I was referring to, completely ignoring the other factors I listed and using injuries to explain away all our failings. Thanks for proving my point.

      Are you sure your love of Wenger isn’t clouding your judgement?

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  3. Shanzu

    Amos and MK, you are in cuckoo land if you think that we lost the title because of injuries! As the writer said our squad lacks strength in depth and so could not compete. Look at Man City against Everton 3 of their first squad go off injured at a critical stage in the match and they still win, whereas we crumble to heavy defeats against the top sides. Take off your blinkers and read the list above and try to analyse our position against the play of the top teams before you criticise the writer for being passionate about our club. Wenger, if he stays, MUST change his ways and keep up with the fast changing game if we are to see us winning the title again. READ THE LIST WENGER IT IS SPOT ON!!!

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  4. mk

    i never said wenger was perfect and he never said it was only down to luck. You would have to be completely deluded to think that we wouldnt have beat both swansea and stoke if not for injuries, games are only worth 3 points whoever you play against so therefore injuries played a major part in us not winning the title. simple.. or at least it should be.

    Fact..We have had more injuries than the other title contenders and, our injuries were to our key players for prolonged periods while the others had fewer injuries to key players.

    Winning a game against everton is immaterial if you then lose to crystal palace, fulham and norwich.. you end up with less points which is the only thing that wins you titles.

    We completely outplayed liverpool with our best team then were outplayed without it later on.. i guess they werent a big team when we beat them but were when they beat us? same goes for our cl group teams that we beat i suppose?

    you claim it is luck we didnt have more injuries yet wont accept that it was bad luck that we had the injuries we did have?

    while we do need to improve our team as Wenger said injuries played a big part in derailing our season and you would have to be incrediably stupid or completely blinded by your dislike of the man to not be able to admit that.

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  5. Gooner Steve

    Wow, you speak so much rubbish it’s hard to know where to start.

    Wenger has made much of injuries being the main cause of our collapse, as have many commentators and fans like you who want a quick, easy explanation of our woes.

    Shanzu quite rightly mentioned Man City as a team who coped well with injuries. Aguero has played less games than Ramsey, Ozil or Wilshere this season. Did that derail their season? No, because they had other players who could come in and do a job for them. Namely, they have a squad with depth, which is what I put at number one of my list. A list which you have ignored yet again I notice.

    Of course injuries will have an impact, and of course some of them are down to bad luck, but they are neither the only contributory factor nor the main one. When you have the same injuries year after year, it cannot be down to luck anymore and there are plenty of credible theories that point to Wenger’s lack of understanding about training and recovery as being the most likely cause of our shocking injury list.

    “You would have to be completely deluded to think that we wouldnt have beat both swansea and stoke if not for injuries.” And you would have to be breathtakingly arrogant to think we would have beaten those sides with a full team out. Since when does football work like that?

    You say we outplayed Liverpool with our first team. Yes, we did. That was in November when our squad was fresh and fit. Part of a managers job is rotating his squad and managing it efficiently so that players don’t get burnt out or injured in the second half of the season. Wenger is appalling at this. He gives himself too small a squad to start with and then mismanages it. Look at Giroud – he was on fire for the first few months, but Wenger played him every single game and ran him into the ground. By February he was shot – like the rest of the team – and that is when we blew up. It’s not down to luck alone, it’s down to poor squad management, poor fitness coaching and having too few quality players.

    And by the way, I don’t dislike Wenger. I’ve said many times in this blog that he did a wonderful job getting us through the early years of the stadium move and paying off most of our debt. He is a legend and will be remembered by me as one. But he is still managing like it’s 2004 and younger, brighter managers continually outwit him. His time, unfortunately, is up and has been for a few years now.

    I know it’s easier for you to write my views off as those of a man just saying these things because he hates Wenger, but it’s simply not true. I say them because they’re correct and naive fans like you need to read that list I wrote and understand that explaining away yet another embarrassing collapse mainly by injuries is ridiculous as it ignores every other failing Wenger has exhibited this season.

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  6. MK

    Your initial argument was that Wenger said it was ONLY down to injuries due to bad luck, he didn’t say that and you can read his comments in the article on the BBC that he mentions losing in away games as another reason (hinting that he made some mistakes) and it isn’t like he is going to write down a list of his and his teams failings in public, that is just stupid.

    He had mentioned the club was reviewing the injury situation, however the person you refer to claiming Arsenal’s training techniques are bad has no inside knowledge of the club and are basically just making things up to further their own career and a significant number of the injuries were at the start of the season, directly contradicting what that self serving fool was saying about the cause of them (or were indeed contact injuries from bad tackles).

    Of course a club like Man City with unlimited cash can cope with fewer injuries better than Arsenal can with many more, it is such a ridiculous argument that it doesn’t deserve a response.

    You also cannot rotate your players if their replacements happen to be injured, such as Podolski, Sanogo etc which does lead to burnout of players but I don’t know why you would so blatantly ignore the early season injuries we had which caused that situation in the first place??

    I’m not a naive fan, I’m just not stupid enough to blame everything on Wenger when he has done a decent job with what he has and not even said what you are accusing him of in the first place.

    So you are saying he didn’t outwit Rogers in the first game, not to mention beating them in the FA cup? yet these younger managers are ‘continually outwitting’ him because we lost in the away game to them.. can you see the fault in your logic there?

    We have the fourth most resources of any club in the premier league, have spent less in transfer fees than at least half the remaining clubs while building and paying off a new stadium and despite us finally having enough money to strengthen our squad to cope with a horrendous injury list you want to now replace our consistently good manager with what will most likely be a one season wonder like Rodgers, someone like Martinez who got Everton to about the same position they usually ended up at under Moyes? or do you mean someone like Mourinho who has won exactly how many trophies this season despite having far more resources and the ‘tactical genious’ to beat all the other big PL teams yet only likely to finish at most 3 points ahead of hopeless old out of date Wenger?

    You are writing nonsense presumably due to your current dislike of him without even thinking it through and the faults in your reasoning are so blatantly obvious its embarrassing.

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  7. Gooner Steve

    I said that he has MAINLY put it down to injuries. Of course he mentioned a couple of other minor things which were pretty meaningless, eg we must do better in big away games. What does that mean? How are we supposed to do better? What are the reasons we didn’t do better? The answer is in the list I wrote – they are the reasons we didn’t do better in the away games and that is the point of my rant.

    I really have better things to do than bang my head against a brick wall and continue this debate. For the third time you have blatantly refused to comment on the list I made in my article, and now are putting down Rodgers and Martinez despite the wonderful jobs they’ve done this season. You’ve even had a pop at Mourinho, who although is a complete wanker is also a far better manager than Wenger with a far better record. Meanwhile Wenger escapes any culpability which tells me pretty much everything I need to know about where you are coming from.

    You are obviously happy to come 4th every season and maybe win a cup every 9 years while over £100m sits in the bank untouched and our small squad reaches breaking point every February without fail, over and over. I’m glad you can enjoy that. Me, I’m looking forward to the day a better, more ambitious manager comes and we can realise our full potential.

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  8. Nico

    You can not dispute that had we had the injured players Walcott Ramsey Ozil and Wilshire actually playing we would have picked up more points ? Or at least had a better chance of picking up more points at least 6 additional points which would have put us on 82 points now! Having one key player out is one thing but having 4 key creative players out at the same time is another. This is a legitimate argument having said that I do agree with the writers initial analysis and points raised about the inadequacies of Wenger and the team/club. There mus be something not quite right with our coaching methods and or the training pitches as these injuries are happening far too often every year.

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    • Gooner Steve

      Every team can say ‘If so and so wasn’t injured, we’d have won this game and that game giving us an extra 6 points’. How many goals would Aguero have scored if he’d played more than 20 games? How many points would Liverpool have if Suarez hadn’t missed the first five matches of the season, or Sturridge not been out for six weeks over Christmas? Would Everton have collapsed if Jagielka hadn’t been out for the last 2 months, or Distin for the last few games, robbing them of their first choice central defence?

      You can’t give us an extra 6 points and ignore other teams!

      I said injuries didn’t help, but my point is it’s an easy excuse and because everyone is fixating on the injuries, Wenger’s other shortcomings are ignored. That’s what has annoyed me.

      “Having one key player out is one thing but having 4 key creative players out at the same time is another.”
      Like I said to MK, how does having creative players missing explain our appalling defending and shocking tactics in the big, defining matches of this season? The matches when the pressure was on and a bit of backbone and mental strength was required.

      That answer cannot be found on the injury table.

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  9. mk

    Well no you didnt or you would have put more than one item in Wenger’s list. I’ve made my points but you just keep referring to your list which i never said doesn’t have some vaild points where we need to improve , though some are overblown along with some anti-wenger nonsense.

    There you go putting words in peoples mouths again, I’m not happy with 4th i just happen to respect what Wenger has done for us enough to give him a chance to show what he can do now he finally has resources, this year we will hopefully have an fa cup and only be a small number of points off the title despite having so many injuries along with some very poor refereeing that surely contributed to these.

    Yes we need to improve our squad, yes we need to do better this season, but in your need to bash Wenger you seem to conveniently ignore the fact that this is the first season our club has spent significantly more than it has made from transfers since building the stadium so every season till now Wenger has been hamstrung and not been able to fix the deficiencies in the squad as he had to spend all the money he was actually given (not the amounts claimed in the media or obviously we wouldnt have needed to sell our best players) to replace our best player which we had to sell every season..

    Martinez, Rodgers and Mourinho are all good managers but the way you overly praise their abilities while you denigrate your own manager’s without taking into account the circumstances each manager is working under shows everyone all they need to know about the type of ‘fan’ you are.. perhaps if you stopped bashing your head against a wall you might be able to see that.

    Nico i agree the club needs to look into the cause for the injuries and they said they are so hopefully they can reduce these and find the root cause, however if it was just the training methods as some suggest then i think that would have shown up in Wengers earlier seasons esppecially since he is ‘so out of date and is still managing like it is 10 years ago’

    Anyway i think this has gone on long enough…

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    • Shanzu

      I think you and Nico should hold hands together and go and play in Wenger’s cuckoo disney land …………. cos you are just indocrinated dreamers not proper passionate Arsenal fans that care for the future of their club. Once again study the points raised and learn! MK you go on and on about us bashing Wenger and you are totally out of line cos we love him for what he has achieved we merely wish for him to address the points listed so that we can once again enjoy watching our team and to have a better chance at winning the title again. That’s all we want but he is stubborn, doing it his way and without success for the past 9 years!!!

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