Thursday
Nov052015

Arsenal humiliation has become normal

What’s the definition of shock? “A sudden upsetting or surprising event or experience.”

When upsetting or surprising events cease to be sudden, they’re no longer a shock, and for many, Arsenal’s annual Champions League humiliation – this year at the hands of Bayern Munich, was not a shock or even mildly surprising.

The fact that supporters, the media and the club treated last night’s battering with complete and utter indifference – as if it’s something to be expected and tolerated, shows just how low Arsenal have sunk as a European threat.

It also shows how feeble and out of his depth Arsene Wenger is as a modern European coach. This is a man that has been given carte blanche to express his footballing philosophies on the training pitch completely unfettered for 20 years – a man supposedly famed for youth development and fluid, possession football, with a wage bill and budget that surpasses the majority of teams his club faces, both domestically and in Europe (including Bayern), yet the Germans had an outrageous 73% possession at the Emirates two weeks ago, nearly 70% last night, and hammered Arsenal in second gear.

One suspects that Bayern’s statistics would have been even higher had they not sat on their lead for 15 minutes and the scoreline a lot worse had Cech not saved the majority of the 13 shots on target. One also suspects Arsenal would be out of the competition by now had Bayern shown more ambition at The Emirates – or not lost to a ball punched in the net by Olivier Giroud.

Like I said after the game, the result that night was an anomaly, the gulf in class is clear. Lose, fair enough, get torn to shreds playing like a pub team, shameful.

However, last night’s mauling was simply the tip of the iceberg as far as Arsenal are concerned. Wenger’s CL results in the last 5 years alone read like a crime sheet, shipping 5 at Bayern, 4 at AC Milan, 4 at Barcelona, and another 3 against Barcelona, Olympiakos (twice) Bayern, Anderlecht, and Monaco.

Arsenal’s recent record in the competition is barely better than Russian minnows Zenit Saint Petersburg. In the last 3 years that ZSP have qualified for the Champions League, the Russians have played 22 games and Arsenal 24 – yet ZSP only lost one more game than Arsenal during that period and let in only three goals less (29 to Arsenal’s 26).

On the topic of injuries and other lame excuses, it doesn’t take a genius to realise it wouldn’t have made any difference and most of Arsenal’s are self-inflicted. Just like Wenger’s Champion’s League record is a pattern of failure, his club’s injury record is indicative of similar outmoded ideas, lack of attention to detail and outright incompetence.

The fact is, despite almost 20 attempts, Wenger is further away from his Champions League dream than ever. His stale tactics and passive inability to think on his feet demonstrate that he’s learnt absolutely nothing, and it now looks likely that Arsenal will fail to progress further than the last 16 for the sixth year running, which is absolutely farcical.

Another Arsenal fan defence mechanism is “we’re focusing on the Premier League”, as if the club doesn’t have the resources to compete in both competitions simultaneously. However, it’s a ludicrous assertion, as if Arsenal fail to get out of the group stage, they will end up in the Europa League, which has more games than the CL and is probably more draining considering players are likely to be flown further afield, the prime cause of fatigue.

Nobody seems to care about Arsenal any more, few take the club seriously. The manager only cares about his ego and wallet, the CEO his job, the owner his dividend. Those slavishly besotted with Wenger don’t care about Arsenal; they only care about being proved right about Wenger. The more he gets humiliated, the more they dig their heels in clinging to salvation. Ex-players and pundits dribble incoherently, stuck between telling the bloody obvious and showing loyalty. Those that can’t stand the sight of Wenger ran out of caring years ago; only to hold a flickering candle for a club riding into the distance, overrun by a bunch of corporate clowns and a repugnant dictator.

Yet one thing I’ve learned about football managers is that every dog has his day. No matter how obstinate and clueless Wenger is, one day he’ll get a lucky cup run – and he did, and maybe one day all of his competitors in the PL will sink so low, the turd will rise to the top. If that perversely ends Wenger’s career at Arsenal, I hope it happens.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Wednesday
Oct212015

Giroud punches Arsenal to victory against blunt Bayern

Arsenal salvaged a level of pride last night following a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich at the Emirates. Yes, I watched the game, although it was a bit dull, with Bayern having extraordinary levels of possession yet lacking the ambition to really take advantage of it.

Was Wenger’s remit to really allow Bayern the ball and hit them on the break, or were Arsenal simply unable to win possession or hold into it when they did? A combination of the two perhaps, but it seemed somewhat suicidal to allow playmaker Xabi Alonso the complete freedom of the park, and completely unnecessary considering his age.

However, it worked, largely because Pep Guardiola refrained from allowing full backs Philipp Lahm or David Alaba to move into attacking zones at any point in the game. The result was 70% possession, but nobody overlapping down the wings and few late runs from midfield to support the isolated Robert Lewandowski.

Shorn of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, Bayern lacked ideas and sharpness in the final third – only Douglas Costa seemed capable of creating anything. Having said that, both teams had a couple of decent chances to score but were denied by top-class saves from goalkeepers Peter Cech and Manuel Neuer.

As the game entered its latter stages, there only looked like being one winner, and it wasn't the home side, but Bayern’s slow build-up play and inability to conjure up a final pass of any precision meant that they were relatively easy to stifle - although it should be pointed out that Arsenal did defend very well, with lapses of concentration unusually infrequent.

Ultimately, Bayern didn’t need the win, and were probably right not to leave themselves vulnerable to the counter attack, but you still felt that this was a team that could have done more to steal a goal before playing Arsenal at their own game.

In the end, the Germans paid the price for Guardiola’s lack of adventure, albeit due to a single lapse of concentration and a goal that should never have been allowed. Santi Cazorla’s free-kick in the 77th minute was inexplicably missed by Neuer, and in the resulting melee Olivier Giroud stumbled into space and punched the ball in the back of the net.

Arsenal then sealed the win in the final minute through Ozil, as Bayern finally left themselves exposed trying to salvage a draw.

Did Arsenal deserve to win? No, they didn’t do enough to deserve to win. Did Arsenal deserve to lose? No, they defended above themselves and played well enough to earn a draw; although with Olympiakos beating Zagreb a draw would not have been much use.

It was interesting that as the game entered the final 10-15 minutes, Wenger made no effort to change tactics despite Bayern’s enormous levels of possession. He wasn’t to know Arsenal would fluke a goal and they never really looked like scoring, so what was the plan? As we know, there is and was none - he just sat there like a shop dummy.

What does this tell us about Arsenal? It tells us that, on the rare occasion Arsenal manage to beat a top team, the result is down to an anomaly, not the masterful tactics or sparkling team play that a better manager might provide.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Saturday
Sep192015

Arsenal fail to manipulate Costa

As predicted, yet again Arsene Wenger ended up on the wrong end of a defeat against Chelsea, in what was a scrappy, ugly game at Stamford Bridge.

There was little ‘football’ to be seen, although Chelsea were marginally superior in the first half. Instead, the game was governed by controversy as numerous players let themselves and their clubs down.

First, Diego Costa. Now this is a player I really admired. Great hunger, strength and technique – a lethal finisher and a winner, but today his behaviour was offensive to the sport. Childish, unsportsmanlike and a liability to his club, his pantomime villain act is the sort of thing that turns me, and no doubt many other spectators, off the game.

However, what the whining, lamenting Arsenal supporters will no-doubt fail to compute tonight is that Costa’s behaviour was not a disadvantage to Arsenal but an advantage. Gabriel Paulista had already escaped a clear-cut penalty claim for shoving Hazard off the pitch while making no attempt to play the ball, yet following a physical clash, where Costa was lucky to stay on the field, a booking for each player actually put Arsenal in the stronger position.

It was Costa for whom the red midst had descended; walking a tightrope with every petulant gesture, but yet again it was Arsenal that self-destructed after Paulista got himself sent off for deliberately kicking out at his opponent minutes after receiving a yellow card.

As we have seen so often in the past, this is not bad luck or an accident; this is a team without a leader. Prior to Gabriel’s misdemeanour, someone in that Arsenal team should have dragged him away from the situation, calmed him down and told him to wind up Costa, sit back and reap the benefits. But no, as usual it was Arsenal’s inability to control the situation that cost them any hope of a result.

And I’m not just talking about the fact that the Gunners had to play with 10 men. As in Zagreb midweek, instead of regrouping and modifying their tactics to stabilise the situation and earn themselves some sort of foothold in the game, they let in another stupid goal from a set piece, thus playing directly into Chelsea’s hands.

Even then, there was still something for Arsenal in this game. In the second half, Alexis Sanchez fluffed a great opportunity to equalise, and with Chelsea growing increasingly desperate to hold on to their slender lead and sinking forever deeper into their own half, Santi Cazorla earned himself a second yellow for a totally unnecessary late tackle on Cesc Fabregas.

So Chelsea won the game 2-0, and while Wenger and co. will throw their usual tantrums, the fact of the matter is, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot yet again and got what they deserved, nothing. Apart from a decent spell in the first half, I thought Chelsea were terrible and Arsenal, as expected, one-dimensional and blunt, with the brainless Walcott unable to read the line, perpetually running into offside positions.

Mourinho will be delighted; the victory could be the confidence boost his players need to get their season on track. And with Man City inexplicably losing at home to West Ham, the points deficit that could so easily have spiralled out of control, is now cut, and with it, the psychologically pressure that Chelsea have clearly been struggling to respond to.

As for Arsenal? Same old, same old. Nine times out of ten on the wrong end of a result against a big club, due to their tactical and mental naivety and lack of leadership embedded at every level of the club.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Thursday
Sep172015

Hilarity at Zagreb

Enjoyed watching Arsenal get stuffed by Dinamo Zagreb last night in what was Wenger’s 50th defeat in the Champions League – a new record.

To be honest, I wasn’t watching the game that attentively. All I noticed was that Giroud missed a sitter, got frustrated, Arsenal played like they’d just got out of bed, let in a goal and then the knob-end got sent off.

Was that decision harsh? Well, what would Arsenal fans have shouted if the boot was on the other foot?

Arsene Wenger was right about one thing, however, the referee was appalling. In the second half, David Ospina ran half the length of the pitch and raked his foot down some kid’s knee, but the official let him off. Then Joel Campbell, who looked more psyched up than Giroud, got booked before violently clumping the back of a Zagreb player’s calf – another booking on most occasions.

So, yes, terrible refereeing, Arsenal should have been down to 8 men.

But trailing 1-0 they still had a chance, as long as they didn’t do anything stupid, like letting in a goal from a set piece.

Oops.

That’s what happens when you take an unnecessary risk, i.e. field Kieran Gibbs, one of, if not, the worst full backs in Arsenal history.

So why else did Arsenal lose to a tin pot Croatian club that haven’t won a Champions League match since 1999? Arrogance I’d say.

Wenger thought it would be a walkover and made six changes. Perhaps if Arsenal were at home, he could get away with it, but away from home in the first Champions League game of the season? Lunacy. Yes you can blame players, but the manager sets the tone and Wenger’s selection told them this match was no more important than a Carling Cup tie.

However, note to Mr Wenger and AKBs, just because you have a big game in five days’ time is no excuse for getting turned over by a team that cost 12m quid.

The most insightful ridicule came from Dinamo Zagreb coach Zoran Mamic:

“Arsenal is one of the best teams who ever played here and they did exactly what we agreed they would do. We thought it would be very important to close the middle, to stop the fast passes. That’s what we did and it’s nothing new.”

“We have already seen other teams who beat Arsenal use the same tactics. This is a good way to beat them.”

So there you have it, a novice manager in his first job, given to him by his CEO brother, both of whom are reportedly on bail under investigations of corruption, stuffs a manager paid £8,000,000 a year on tactics. That’s how amateur Wenger is when it comes to tactics and preparation.

On Sunday, Arsenal face Mourinho’s Chelsea. Will Wenger ever have a better chance to beat his nemesis in a league game? Nope. Do I think Arsenal will do it? Nope.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Tuesday
Sep012015

Kroenke, Gazidis and Wenger laughing all the way to the bank

Arsene Wenger loves his job. Even Real Madrid couldn’t tempt him apparently. They could offer him the cold hard cash but not an environment where no matter how dismally he performed he’d still keep his job. Only one club can promise Wenger that, and it’s been making his bed and plumping up the cushions for over a decade.

The transfer deadline has been and gone, and Arsenal are the only club in the whole of Europe to not have signed an outfield player, despite only being able to field one semi-convincing striker and having a reported £200m sitting in the bank.

Where do you think that spare cash is going folks? Reinvested in the team? Evidently not. Used to lower ticket prices? No chance.

After a terrible start to the season, where Arsenal have been lucky to earn three points in any of their opening four games, all hope of a title challenging has almost certainly dissolved, and you can bet that Arsene Wenger’s appalling record in the Champions League will only end in more tears of frustration – your frustration.

Many pundits have cited Wenger’s refusal to strengthen the squad as “bizarre”, but some have also aimed their target at the Arsenal board for not overruling the manager and ensuring that players were signed above his head, irrespective of his complete and under indifference.

However, one person will be very happy – Stan Kroenke. As Arsenal’s owner, he doesn’t give a monkeys about whether the club challenge for trophies. Sure, he’d prefer it, but he’s not going to go out of his way to get rid of a manager that earns him the sort of Champions League income that enables him to stuff his pockets with cash for “strategic and advisory services” – under any other name, a dividend.

And Arsene Wenger knows that, which is why making money - hence protecting himself - will always come above what’s best for Arsenal as a footballing institution. After all, what has Arsene Wenger to fear? Year after year he’s underachieved, and what’s become of it? Nothing. He gets to keep his job and enjoy the fruits of a lavish wage packet that is almost unrivalled among his managerial peers.

Life carries on for Wenger regardless. His dream of creating an uber team of small, technically gifted players remains unchecked and untainted no matter how repetitive and obvious the shortcomings.

When it goes tits up, the fans scream and shout a couple of times a season then get back into bed whenever there’s a winning streak. For the most disgruntled of supporters, the club has learned its lesson and disabled questions from the floor at AGM and AST meetings, protecting the manager from public criticism.

The media are afraid to push any ‘Wenger Out’ agenda too far for fear of getting thrown out of their comfy press conference hot seat. When questions are asked, they’re deflected with ease as Wenger resorts to clichés or a sudden inability to master the English language.

CEO, Ivan Gazidis - employed by Wenger, is clueless and spineless – don’t expect him to ever change the narrative, he’s too well paid and knows where his bread is buttered.

The big Arsenal websites could feasibly sway opinion by admitting the obvious and sustaining pressure on the manager, but prefer not to upset the apple cart – or their Google AdSense income. Only if there was a huge uprising would they jump on the bandwagon.

So Wenger is protected from every angle. He can fail as often as he wants to fail and will never be held accountable. A few wins and the fans, the only people that can truly make a difference, pipe down and suck the Wenger comfort blanket they always return to for fear of admitting their beloved manager has made them look like plonkers.

Arsenal is a mirror image of UK inc. A huge money-making machine, where the political establishment is untouchable and the ruling elite (bankers) plunder all the wealth and leave everybody else to suffer their tomfoolery.

Gazidis, Kroenke and Wenger have rigged the game – they all protect each other’s backs then pay each other off, while the 'Plebeians' fight amongst themselves on ArsenalFan TV.

I’m out of it. No one’s financially raping me. I don’t get hurt, don’t get upset, don’t care – but I remember when I used to and I do feel sorry for a lot of Arsenal supporters that cannot give up their fix. When will the minions ever learn? At Arsenal, never it seems.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.