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A Dark Week – Assessing The Problems At Arsenal

After a disastrous week for Arsenal that included two humbling defeats and ended our hopes of a trophy for the 7th year, we look at where the problems lie.

A distant memory

Guest post by ClockEndView:

Our biggest ever European defeat. Our only real chance of a trophy gone. For yet another season, everything we’d been building collapsed in the Spring.

Having lost 4-0 away to Milan and 2-0 away to Sunderland, it’s been a poor week for the club. The most difficult thing to take with this is how Arsenal have proved, yet again, how thoroughly inconsistent they are, having beaten Sunderland six days prior to losing to them and absolutely collapsing in Italy despite a better away performance to a better side at the same stage of last year’s Champions League – but to be honest, we should have seen this coming and there can be no doubt we are devoid of our manager’s famed ‘mental strength’.

What’s different about this year is we never really looked like contenders at any point during the season and that’s what makes the Sunderland game even more painful than the Milan one for me; not because I made the twelve-hour round journey up there to watch an abysmal performance but as the fans genuinely believed the FA Cup was our main focus and one which was achievable.

Unlike last season, where we could have won everything rather than nothing, we came into the season with a ridiculously understrength squad and even though the 8-2 defeat was embarrassing, imagine where we’d be without the deadline day splurge to get Mertesacker, Arteta, Andre Santos and Yossi Benayoun. The foundations we laid in summer (or lack thereof) are the reason for the last two results among many, many others.

There’s been a big call for Arsene-out but I sit on the fence regarding this – I take the view (whether that’s right or wrong) that it’s not that he’s got worse as a coach which many suggest, it’s just that operating under the means he does means his mistakes are a lot more noticeable.

  • Whereas playing Gibbs in the San Siro for the first time in months was clearly a mistake, one he acknowledged by leaving him out of the squad for the Cup, God only knows why he didn’t get a fullback in on loan during January like he said he would.
  • If QPR could afford whatever loan fee Taye Taiwo has, why couldn’t go for him?
  • A lot of people also question why we’ve given Djourou a three-year contract extension but at the end of the day, if we’re going to run the club on a transfer surplus as we seem to have done over the last few years this is simply another transfer fee for a centre-back avoided.
  • Transfer policy is definitely where fanatical Arsene Wenger fans don’t have a case. Paying actual money to Park, Squillaci, Denilson, Almunia and others to play football is criminal.
  • Starting Rosicky against AC was widely criticised but it’s not as if we have a choice of Young/Nani, Mata/Malouda or Nasri/Milner like our rivals do and Chamberlain is more versatile as a substitute.

Relating this to the games we’ve lost is simple – we look a tired team without any fresh ideas or inspiration. As many rival fans have pointed out, it took a 34-year-old loanee to actually overcome Leeds at home and to beat Sunderland in the league, which is surely a damning indictment of the pressure we put on Robin van Persie up front.

With Park not making the bench these days and Chamakh a hopeless cause, it’s farcical in comparison to the options Chelsea, our main rival for fourth place, have at their disposal: Torres, Drogba, Sturridge and Lukaku show more ambition and strength in depth than van Persie, Chamakh and Park. Although everyone’s happy to see how successful Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been thus far in his Arsenal career, when you throw on an 18 year-old without a dozen Premier League appearances to his name in Milan or the Stadium of Light you know the squad must be lacking.

Arsene Wenger is definitely a world class manager. It’s a certifiable fact. As the World coach of the decade for the noughties, he brought home titles, cups, the double, the unbeatables, a Champions League final, a Carling Cup final and several of the world’s greatest players.

But when you see Alex Song fail to close down Mark van Bommel, Thomas Vermaelen dragged out of position by Seb Larsson and Robin van Persie fail to score three games in a row these are clearly out of character for truly fantastic players. No excuses is still relevant even now for results but Colney must look like the walking wounded with Wilshere, Koscielny, Santos, Jenkinson, Mertesacker and Diaby injured – what other club has consistent bad luck with injuries like we do?

In regard to what’s to come, it’s hard to say. The Milan game at the Emirates looks a total sideshow and we can fully expect a terrible attendance: hopefully Arsenal will either go for broke and win, or field a reserve team to put up a good fight, but either way the Champions League final looks lightyears away.

Arsenal’s next three league games are against Spurs, Liverpool and Newcastle and by the end of them we could look very good or very bad for fourth place, which is absolutely vital to the club. Without the money from the Champions League we can expect a wholesale clear-out in the summer because if you consider we had to sell Nasri last year (we couldn’t afford to pass up the £24 million) it doesn’t bode well, especially with Robin van Persie’s and even Theo Walcott’s current contract situations. Fourth place is not impossible but it’s equally as uninspiring in terms of targets and definitely shouldn’t be celebrated like the silverware we’re all craving.

The big question for many is Wenger or Kroenke? Is it that the board places strict financial constraints on their manager or is it that the manager doesn’t want to dip into his funds? What’s definitely unhelpful is the fact that there are contrasting reports on this issue as this anti-Kroenke and this pro-Kroenke article shows.

Roy Keane’s said this is the worst Arsenal side he’s ever seen, ESPN have reported we’re prepared for a summer spending spree and the Daily Mail have said Guardiola’s set to take over at the Emirates – not only are all of these probably incorrect, but if Silent Stan and his equally quiet board actually spoke out for once, at least the Arsenal fans would know where they stand and we could make a valued judgement without rumour and conjecture.

Probably the worst thing about runs like this is the attitude of the fans – black bin-liners, black scarves… Gooners have proven to be better at moaning than singing in support of the team. People who constantly run-down the team shouldn’t celebrate the good times because what’s a true fan if not someone who takes the rough with the smooth?

It’s difficult to feel as if you are under or over-reacting to any matches like this due to the ups and downs of football because it would be typical Arsenal to go and batter Spurs on Sunday in the derby. But make no bones about it, losing that game is totally unthinkable and not only could, but should be the last straw for the current regime.



  1. Judith Le'Strange

    February 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    I seem to remember that before the start of this season Gazidis actually said that the fans would have a big say on Wenger’s future as manager, so what’s happened, they’re still backing him and our so called owner “Silent Stan” doesn’t even talk to the fans at meetings, does he actually talk flies over to back Wenger. Does Kroenke want to sell Arsenal and make a huge profit because I would welcome Usmanov as owner then perhaps we would get what we want a new manager, new players & perhaps the odd trophy to put in the cabinet that is only collecting dust!!!

  2. karis

    February 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    And to add to that, can these arsenal players watch a replay of NAPOLI’s win over chelsea yesternight and ask themselves whether or when they will ever reach such spectacular standards. That italian team played a game i have never before seen in any league. they will go places. i compared their game and pitied Arsenal

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