Arsenal FC: Five things we learned after Nottingham Forest FA Cup debacle
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Arsenal’s domestic season is hanging by a thread after Sunday’s FA Cup humiliation at the hands of Nottingham Forest. Read Ed Skingsley’s excellent piece on what we’ve learned from that damaging defeat.
Arsenal’s domestic season dangles by a thread
Arsenal’s domestic season is about to be put to sleep. We all hope they get through to the League Cup Final, but the really prestige options have now crumbled like dust into Wenger’s hands. The whole sorry mess can really only be re redeemed by lifting the Europa League Trophy, enabling Champions League qualification for next season.
The Premier League was lost months ago – and to be fair it was lost for everybody bar Manchester City. But there is no gallant second place these days; Arsenal struggle like hell just to keep in touch with the top four. They are a fading light and it’s hard to take.
The problem is of Arsene Wenger’s making – by that I mean he is cruelly the victim of his own success. For season upon season he set his baseline so high that when he now scandalously steers his charges to fifth position, allegations of woeful management surface usually in very unpleasant ways.
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Without rolling out all the stats, we all know how successful he has been, and how unfair it would be if any other manager lost his job for finishing fifth. However, one thing that a long stay manager brings is familiarity. I mean the type of familiarity that goes in one ear and out of the other at the daily training and tactical sessions.
A first division chairman once told a very upset manager he had just relieved of his duties, “…no matter who next comes through that door, they can’t be manager forever. Football moves along to another place.” Whether this quelled the situation, I’m not sure – but there is an awful lot of truth in that statement. Football is in a different place from where it was when Wenger was appointed. The filthy lucre now runs the show, buys the trophies and pays the players heaps of cash they don’t deserve.
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Change the record about ‘tired’ players
Along with that come the foreign ‘stars’ - footballers who mostly specialise in acrobatics. Do these players really understand the drama of what is happening at the club that employs them and how it affects the one constant factor in all this – the fans??? I watch our overseas friends and wonder do they really ‘get’ how important a derby match is, and how it literally affects fans’ lives?
You only have to listen to a couple of sentences from Charlie George on The Emirates Ground Tour to know that Arsenal blood still pumps through his veins and how much this local lad loves his club and the fans that go with it. I reckon today’s superstars love only their pay packets and don’t give a stuff about the sweetness of a win at White Hart Lane. Pampered beyond belief, they also call the tune to any longer term plans the manager may have with threats to leave for an improved contract to a rival or indeed leave the club in the lurch by walking away towards that money at the end of their contract.
Wenger can’t win. He does as people ask and brings in the big stars. They look good, but eventually their heads are turned by vast riches elsewhere. Pay or we walk. We are walking anyway. No passion for the club or that one aforementioned constant – the faithful loyal fan that pays his (expensive) dues week in, week out. It’s loathsome. Personally, I have long given up on our overseas friends.
Don’t take Championship teams for mugs
For the Nottingham Forest debacle, Arsenal embarked on a dummy run this time last year – at Preston. Same recipe for disaster – rest a swathe of first teamers, let the Championship club take it as an insult that you think the second string are too much for them, stand back and – in the case of Preston – watch as you are taken to the wire, or in Forest’s case witness a humiliating third round exit. Championship teams perform to a decent level; they should never be under estimated.
The new trend to rest the poor overworked superstar from these type of matches is plain ridiculous. I just don’t get how it’s so different from yesteryear when teams were always at full strength. Everybody knew the FA Cup was our best chance of silverware this season, so why weren’t Arsenal at full strength?
Isn’t it about time for the stars start actually earning the vast payments they receive? To succeed at this strategy you need basically two first teams to choose from. Unfortunately Arsenal’s depth is nothing so profound and gifts the opposition that extra incentive along with the initiative as the team starts to flounder.
Defence is nothing more than a shambles
And flounder we do. The defence is a complete and utter shambles. For years now there has been no cohesion, no sense of a solid unit, no sign of a leader who yells and bullies – just a seeming bunch of strangers who get it wrong week in week out. Having seen what Sam Allardyce has done in such a short space of time at Everton makes what has gone on defensively at Arsenal over the past few years an absolute scandal. George Graham had it right. Defend your goal first and foremost and take the scoring opportunity to win.
Attacking overplay is NOT what the fans want to see
That brings us to our attack. Forget the goals we score for a moment. How many do we miss through inept finishing and overplayed and now outdated tippy tappy? Hundreds! One player we have needs around 15 goal attempts before he actually converts one. It’s become soul destroying watching Arsenal skim ridiculous six yard passes back and forth across the box before weakly losing possession. Oh for the days of Supermac and Stapleton. No dithering – just clinical finishing.
Sadly, I think we have a lot more suffering ahead of us yet. Now that Manchester City have worked out the level of cash needed to succeed across all major fronts, the Premier League may be beyond everybody else’s means for years. So it’s imperative to field full strength teams in the competitions we do have a chance in, hire a defensive coach that knows what he is doing and ditch tippy tappy – forever. We may then have a team moving in the right direction.