So what else can anyone say about the damn Arse v Mancs game that hasn’t been hashed out in excruciating detail? Still, let’s give this a shot….ten things that come to mind…
- Is Wenger insane? You could make a fair point after this game. With his first team weakened to such an extent the correct response is to play with a more conservative formation and approach. Instead, the man persists with his standard high line and almost zero effective pressing. This is with 3 CMs against Manyoo’s standard 4-4-1-1 setup at Old Trafford. You couldn’t get away with this in Spain, much less England.
- Why is fitness such a huge issue for Arse? The general consensus is that Coquelin was taken off because he was completely empty in the tank, despite being their best player. (Try to parse that, the complete newb outshining all the other senior clowns because he had some positional sense and did his job adequately. It’s like the Frimpong game redux.) I can understand if Arse were playing a high-speed pressing game, but they did nothing of the sort. Even in attack they were barely pass-and-move, and setups almost always consisted of the standard static passing triangles. This shouldn’t take Herculean stamina reserves.
- For a team that was ironically well-known for its offside trap in the 90s, the current state of affairs is pure schadenfreude for non-fans. Almost every time it was sprung 2 defenders were out of position, sometimes by miles. It borders on the surreal when the much-maligned Jenkinson was seen giving lip to Walcott when the latter tried to tell him to get back in position properly and is a sure sign Wenger has lost control of his dressing room. Rosicky was also the very picture of disinterest, moving away from his wall position with his back to the net even before Rooney’s deadball got to the corner! No one really doubts now Wenger’s disdain for any kind of defensive drilling.
- Wenger’s favorite fallback excuse has always been the age of his team. Well, that excuse is looking very threadbare now when Fergie fields an even younger side. Fergie takes an excellent approach to easing his youth talent into the squad by ensuring they’re introduced in dribs and drabs around a central core of experienced (and more importantly, experienced in the art of winning things under high pressure) older players. More importantly, they have to fight to demonstrate they can step up to the 1st team when the few opportunities there are pop up, and you can see the results in games such as the Community Shield match this season. As for Arse, the chickens have come home to roost after six years because there’s no one senior in the squad for the younglings to look up to when order is needed. Players such as Rosicky and Arshavin are supposed to belong to that category due to their age, but their form is so uninspiring that whatever respect they can command must be thin indeed. Wenger’s Arsenal looks like a mass swim or sink exercise, with the ducklings being chucked into the deep end to fend for themselves. Jenkinson, who got a red, was asked to play an away game at OT when he barely got a game at Charlton. IN LEAGUE ONE.
- Arse fans have been screaming about getting rid of the “dross” players in team for several years now. Yes, Eboue is sold, Denilson is on loan and Bendtner might be off soon, but you can’t waste hundreds of games on them and then get rid of them en masse. At the very least, you need STRONGER replacements to fill up the void to maintain the status quo, otherwise the squad is actually weakened, not made stronger. Wenger has his work cut out for him over these three days, because teams will raise their asking prices now for players since they know Arsenal are desperate for reinforcements.
- Pretty much every team in the PL has taken the Webb partiality to Manyoo at OT for granted these days. So it’s just like Arse to have their heaviest defeat in 116 years when Webb actually favored them. Arshavin could easily have been sent off as well.
- Arse fans think the wage bill is the anchor around their neck, even though it’s supposedly less than their top 4 counterparts. Most of their players (even the underperformers) have been given lucrative contracts and assured starting places just to tie sync their professed emotional loyalty to Wenger’s project with their wallets. All this does is to increase the level of complacency on the pitch. Given their debt management constraints it’s restricting their ability to make a marquee signing that pushes their wage ceiling in moments when such a player is desperately needed.
- The club’s injury issues are legendary and have been ongoing for most of Wenger’s reign at Arsenal. The whole point of a squad is to have the replacement players when the 1st eleven are not available. When your team is sprinkled with injury-prone players like Gibbs, Diaby,Vermaelen and van Persie you can’t trot out the injury excuse card because they simply can’t be depended upon to be fit when needed.
- Wenger needs to blood his players with loan deals without throwing them headfirst into the woodchipper that is 1st team football at Arsenal. He is notoriously loathe to do it. I’ve always thought he doesn’t like sending them out because he wants them ideologically pure about the brand of football he’s advocating. The reasoning is that any “bad habits” they pick up have to be unlearnt, making the whole exercise a waste of time in his eyes.
- This is what Wenger said years ago:
I am a servant of the game. I want to do well for the game I love and the football I love. My obsession is not whether people say I am great or not. My ‘project’ with my young players is an obsession.
This is pretty much his one-man war with the current state of football, especially the English club variant where billionaire owners running their clubs like playthings. Like he admits, it’s an obsession with him and there’s very little doubt he’ll ever change with his double-or-nothing management style while he still runs things at Arsenal. So short of sacking him and/or him leaving on his volition (and foregoing that severance payoff), Arse fans should get used to it. Heck, it’s been six years so they should have plenty of practice.