Once upon a time Emperor Wenger paraded around north London naked, trying to convince everyone his team was as good as any in the land. Some folk were doubtful, but wanted to believe him so much that they were easily placated by talk of ‘mental strength’ and the return of Prince Henry.
One day little Swansea pointed at Emperor Wenger’s team and said “But they’re shit. Here, I’ll show you.” And ninety minutes later the rest of the people could see — Arsenal were just not good enough.
Emperor Wenger shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he growled “The penalty was a complete imagination. It was a dive. We have lots of injuries…” and carried on walking even more proudly than before.
The sad thing is, there are still plenty of fans out there who continue to believe him. People who think that once our full backs return we’ll climb the table. Or that the referees keep robbing us. Or that Henry will roll back the years and save our season.
Well, I’m not buying it. Why? Well, although I accept we have lots of injuries and many refereeing decisions do seem to go against us, I keep seeing the same mistakes repeated every week, no matter who’s playing.
Mistake 1: Lack of desire
Today we were outplayed and also — unforgivably — outfought by a team who wanted it more. How can that be? Why weren’t we chomping at the bit to take advantage of Spurs’ draw yesterday? I saw Swansea players work their nuts off to close us down at every opportunity. I lost count of the times Song casually dawdled in midfield, turning into trouble as the white shirts descended on him. Did I see the same commitment from Arsenal? No. Despite the big talk from the likes of Walcott about how we want to emulate Barcelona’s high pressing game, I didn’t see enough effort from those in a red shirt to regain the ball. That’s why we ended up with 45% possession and they were able to play around us with embarrassing ease — Swansea played more like Barcelona today and I take my hat off to them.
Mistake 2: Under-estimating supposedly inferior opponents
Is it just me or are we only properly focused on the big games? Think of our really good performances this season, ones which made you proud to be a Gooner. I’ve got Man City away, Chelsea away and Udinese away. I suppose the 4-0 win at Wigan was pretty good too, so that’s three of our four best games which were against top teams. Coincidence? Think back to the disastrous ending to last season. In between losing to Stoke, Villa and Bolton we managed to raise ourselves to beat Man Utd at home. That defies logic, surely?
Something is wrong with our attitude. We are not focused enough against inferior sides yet we put on a good show in the glamour games.
Mistake 3: Persisting with players who are clearly not good enough
A few years ago Wenger put the likes of Denilson, Diaby, Almunia and Bendtner on huge wages, gave them far too much playing time and then had trouble offloading them. And he’s still doing it now. Djourou, Rosicky, Arshavin and Squillaci have been kept on when they should have been sold ages ago and replaced with quality signings. When we have to turn to these players in times of need (like today) they are found wanting.
Mistake 4: Lack of a killer instinct
Today we scored early, took our foot off the gas and dropped points. Ditto Fulham and Wolves. Not forgetting the debacle at Blackburn of course. Where is the ruthless streak that every good side needs?
To be fair I think the latter is also linked to our lack of goalscorers. Only van Persie hits the net with any sort of regularity and our striker shortage brings me nicely to the key, most important reason we will continue to underachieve.
The club’s misguided transfer policy.
Dyer shows Arshavin how its done
Whether it’s decided by Wenger, the board or a combination of both is irrelevant. The fact is our ethos of the last few years has been to buy as cheaply as we can to finish fourth.
Consider this example — a couple of years ago we needed a striker. We targeted Chamakh because he was nearing the end of his contract and so we waited a year to get him on a free. While we were waiting, we only had van Persie and Bendtner as strikers. When they got injured Arshavin had to go up front for a while, remember? All because the board/Wenger was too tight to buy a decent striker and wanted to wait to get Chamakh on a free.
Fast forward to the present day and the same thing is happening again. Wenger needs a striker, so we bought as cheap as we could (Park) and when he turned out to be worse than anyone thought possible we took another cheap option (Henry). Forget Podolski, we’d have to pay the going rate and that isn’t how we operate.
It is this false economical policy that is causing our club to fall behind not only the Manchesters and Chelsea, but even Spurs too. Our chances of a top four finish are now slim which means van Persie will leave next summer. How is that good management of the club?
I wrote on Monday that Henry’s goal against Leeds had papered over the cracks. I was accused of being negative, as I have been all season because I keep pointing out our flaws, but unfortunately I’ve been proved right. Not only did the cracks appear today, but they were a lot wider than people thought.
So please Wenger — abandon your skinflint ways, wake up to the reality that you must speculate to accumulate in modern day football and buy yourself some proper clothes before it’s too late.
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