Most of the headlines post-match have been about that substitution and that’s where I want to start. There was anger, boos and chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing!” from sections of the crowd when Wenger replaced our best performer with Arshavin straight after we’d equalised. It was a ridiculous decision and all our momentum was lost, but it summed up our increasingly stubborn manager and here’s why.
When Gervinho left for Africa after the Fulham match everybody was clamouring for Oxlade-Chamberlain to be given his chance in the next league game against Swansea. We’d had enough of Arshavin by then with his woeful form and casual attitude and the Ox looked ready. But Wenger decided to give Arshavin yet another chance and was rewarded with an ineffective display (who’d have thought!) as we lost to a team more spirited than us.
Today it seemed the penny finally dropped and Wenger gave Oxlade-Chamberlain his first league start, claiming he was now ‘ready’. If he was ready now then surely he was ready just seven days ago? Judging from his performance today it’s a fair bet the result may have been very different if the Ox had started in Wales.
This sums up one of Wenger’s key flaws — sticking with players who aren’t good enough for way too long. Arshavin has been useless for over a year now but Wenger keeps on playing him. Just like he kept playing Denilson, Almunia, Bendtner etc until he realised long, long after everyone else that they were finished at the club.
So seconds after Oxlade-Chamberlain sets up van Persie for the equaliser to cap an excellent display, he is yanked off for Arshavin.
UNBE-FUCKING-LIEVABLE! Not only is our best performer replaced while the likes of Walcott stay on, but Arshavin get’s another chance!
And what happens? The lethargic Russian makes a lazy, half-arsed attempt to stop Valencia and seconds later the ball is in our net. Who could have predicted that? Well actually, 60,000 people inside the Emirates and a few million at home. But not, it would seem, the man paid £7m a year to make easy choices like leaving our most dangerous player on when the momentum is with us and United are vulnerable.
I think a large number of supporters lost faith in Wenger after that and the boss didn’t help matters with his comments afterwards:
“We lost the game just now and I do not have to explain to you what I do. I have to stand up to the result and the subs. I’ve been 30 years a manager and made 50,000 subs and I have to justify every decision I make to you? I stand up for it. I do not have to explain to you every single decision I make.”
That’s typical Wenger — stubborn and arrogant. His attitude is ‘I know better than you, don’t dare to question me’. He went on to say:
“I can understand the fans are upset about the substitution, especially when it doesn’t work. It means I made the right decision at the start of the game [to play Oxlade-Chamberlain].”
It was also the right decision to start him last week and probably even before that but you didn’t, so don’t congratulate yourself too much. He continued:
“He had started to fatigue. He was sick in the week. You have an 18-year-old kid making his first Premier League start and a player who’s captain of his country and they are querying the substitution? Let’s be serious.”
When the captain of his country has been off-form and disinterested for months and the 18-year-old kid is the game’s outstanding player, then yes, we are querying the substitution. Interestingly, Match of the Day 2 interviewed the Ox who said physically he felt absolutely fine so I don’t know where Wenger got his ‘he had started to fatigue’ information from.
'Am I bothered?' No Andrei, we can see you no longer are
While I’m having a rant about Wenger talking rubbish, I want to mention Arsenal.com because it seems like the site is an extension of the bullshit we are being fed by Wenger. I’m fed up with the propoganda and patronising spin they put on everything. For example, there’s a story on there now called ‘Wenger – Walcott is on the way back up’. Yeah, of course he is. We saw that today with another confident, dazzling display. The humdinger though is the main headline, which at the time of writing is: ‘We played our game but weren’t rewarded.’
Excuse me? If that was ‘our game’ then we need to go back to the drawing board. It makes it sound like we were robbed when the truth is that Arsenal were outplayed for most of this match. The only time we were competitive was for half an hour straight after halftime when we created five excellent chances of which only one was put away — more frustrating profligacy.
If we’d played like that in the first half the game would have been different, but we were all over the place defensively and only Oxlade-Chamberlain was offering any threat going forward. Much has been made of our missing full backs and Ferguson was clever in targeting Djourou, who endured a torrid 45 minutes at the hands of Nani and Evra. For some reason he then stood off one of the world’s best crossers and allowed Giggs time and space to pick out Valencia, who beat Vermaelen too easily for 1-0.
It was no more than the visitors deserved. Koscielny and Szczesny apart, we looked hesitant and nervous at the back with Song offering little protection as his poor form continued.
The second half was much better, with our improved attacking play forcing Man Utd onto the back foot. RVP missed a sitter, Ramsey blazed over, Rosicky had a good chance blocked and Oxlade-Chamberlain shot just wide as we carved them open.
Man Utd still looked dangerous on the break though — Mertesacker cleared off the line after being embarrassingly skinned and Szczesny saved well when Evra burst through.
Still, this was more like it. With the crowd roaring the team on and the sparky Oxlade-Chamberlain at the heart of everything, he ran at the defence before setting up van Persie’s neat finish. 20 minutes to go, 1-1, Man Utd deflated and Arsenal in the ascendancy — this match was there for the taking.
But then Wenger made his fatal error, van Persie publicly voiced his disapproval and all the momentum fell away. Man Utd regrouped and when Valencia eased his way inside Arshavin, both Song and Vermaelen made poor efforts to rescue the situation and Welbeck finished off a crisp passing move.
In desperation we brought on Park and moved Mertesacker up front. It didn’t work. It’s sad, but after our goal on 70 minutes we didn’t create another decent chance.
So was “You don’t know what you’re doing!” a fair shout? As an assessment of the substitution, I’d say certainly. As an assessment of the season so far? I’m beginning to think so.
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