Monday, 5 November 2012

United 2 -1 Arsenal | Santos Didn't Do Anything Wrong| Wenger's Tactical Nous In Question


Saturday's visit to Old Trafford was an opportunity to bury the ghost of the hiding we took in the same fixture last season. But within three minutes of kick-off, no other than the Dutchman we've come to hate hit our net and there was that feeling that if weren't careful we could be on the end of another hiding. Truth be told, the final result was respectable and flatters our overall performance considering the penalty miss and the number of clear-cut chances that United missed on the day. We could so easily have been buried -again.

The greatest harm the club's self-financing policy and in effect that unsuccessful youth development  program the club embarked on after the move from Highbury to the Emirates is that it has denied the team of players who understand historical rivalries and what it means to wear the red and white colours of Arsenal FC. That is why Andre Santos would think nothing of exchanging jerseys with the most easily identifiable "enemy" mid-way into a "battle" -a battle we were losing.


But who in that squad could have let him know what was at stake? Who in that squad has historical knowledge of the rivalry between Arsenal and United? Who in the squad lived this feud? Who could have shouted, "THIS IS SPARTA!" to the rest of the team at half time while we were a goal down so that everyone gets back to the field and treats this particular game like a bloodsport?

No one! Not one single person. We sold the only person left in the squad who lived that feudal era to the other side last summer -effectively arming the enemy for the fight against us and did they use that amour? The Dutch piece of shit understands what the fixture is all about that's why he made that tackle on Sagna that earned him that yellow card. He knew this was war. Our side didn't.

As far as Santos was concerned, it was just another day on the job and exchanging jerseys with the opponent even if the opponent is beating you is a perk that comes with the job. The people who should have taught him different failed to do so. To him this was just another routine game.


The never-say-die spirit required to take on fixtures like this is characteristically passed on from generation to generation. But we didn't do that. Year after year for the past few seasons, we sold off players who saw Lauren grab Phil Neville by the throat and threaten to strangle him, players who saw Patrick Viera and Roy Keane brawl and spar from dressing room to tunnel to the field of play, then brawl and spar some more after the final whistle and if necessary hurl pepperoni when you've run out of bullets. That old spirit is dead. Now we just roll over and die.

We may have developed an inferiority complex that comes to the fore when we face United but I think it goes much deeper than that. We go in disadvantaged against a team that's armed with a winning mentality which they draw on for the big occasion even when everyone says their defenders are aging and will struggle to prosecute the campaign. Even though everyone says their midfield is shitty. They still have in their ranks veterans of the feudal days who can pass on the meaning of going up against the old enemy; who understand that failure is not an option. Who understand the meaning of wearing their stupid colours.

Without that same winning mentality, we are never going to win a thing. It is an intrinsic characteristic required to prosecute a title campaign and win it. Without it, you can only be an also-ran when the season wraps up. City and Chelsea didn't have it and have had to buy it off the shelf to become successful again after decades of not winning a thing. We had it and we sold it off one at a time. Problem with buying it off the shelf is it costs a bundle and we just won't/can't spend that kind of money. So what to do?

Arsene Wenger's Red and White Army and His Tactics

Arsene Wenger's red and white army is an oxymoron these days given the kind of performance we saw them put up on Saturday and the last few games in fact. This particular army doesn't seem to have the stomach for a fight these days.

Against United on Saturday, it was not until the dying seconds of the game that we mustered a shot on target. We created little and never even threatened United's lead at any point in time. Against Schalke and Norwich City, it was the same thing. We couldn't create chances and barely had any shots on goal. What the hell kind of army is that?

I think Arsene made a really big tactical error in his selection Saturday. I predicted his selection in Saturday's post to the last man not because I thought it was his best squad despite the injuries but Arsene is becoming increasingly predictable and conservative in his team selection. Like the team that took to the field he did not take any risks in his team selection.

It was exactly the same team he had started with last week that struggled to break down QPR. What chance did they have against a more talented and organised United side?

Ramsey has been largely ineffective on the right wing in all three games he has been deployed there. Why did AW expect anything to change against United? Why wasn't Theo started out there?

Andre Santos' defending has always been questionable and seems to have worsened this season since he has had to relieve the injured Gibbs. His position had been exploited by far less inferior teams since then; why did we expect different from United with the talent at their disposal? Sagna has enough experience to have filled in at left-back while Jenkinson would then start at right back where he has excelled this season. This would have offered us pace down the flanks and these full backs have shown the ability to help offensively and still do their defensive duties.

I questioned why Wilshere was left on the field after his yellow card. Why didn't AW react like Fergie did when he took off Cleverly who was on a yellow card and the most logical assessment of the situation was made by Arseblog,
"We were 2-0 down and needed to get back into the game. Had the scoreline been reversed I have no doubt Wenger would have hooked Wilshere for the more defensively minded Coquelin and a manager has to have some trust in his players too. You can’t take someone off every time they get a booking."
I ordinarily balk at questioning AW's tactics because I believe he's one of the best but questions will be asked when a tactics that has been used repeatedly has not worked and yet it continues to be deployed. Nobody questions a win but a loss will be questioned especially when it happens as often as we are having to endure.

Wenger has had to be innovative in his approach to the transfer market over the past few years given the budget he has to work with. Since he can not afford to bid for the established players, he has had to take chances on prospects. It's been hit or miss. Where he has missed he has had to draw on his tactical genius to find the necessary balance to keep the  team competitive. Problem is the bar keeps getting raised every season. The gulf between us and those who spend money to achieve success is growing while those who have had to chase us are closing the gap. A lot more than Wenger's genius and innovation will be required to keep hanging unto that fourth place trophy that we keep targeting.

Finally

It looks to me like a pipe dream to expect that come the end of the season, we will be popping champagne. It is a conclusion that I am very pained to come to with twenty-nine games to go yet. We are cast seven points adrift of the league leaders presently. Not an insurmountable lead but we have not shown the necessary consistency to take advantage of any lapse by those we chase. Neither have we shown the winning mentality and spirit of potential champions.

It is too much to expect three good teams to stumble consistently enough for us to fumble and wobble ahead of everyone to the finishing line.

A lot of noise was made after a few games at the beginning of the season about the Steve Bould influence. Now it seems it was a bit premature. We have a captain that has gone from Voltron to a combination of Squillacci and Djourou rolled into one. And because he's the captain he can't just be dropped and replaced. But replace him with who? Koscielny who is on a mission to finish this season as the top scorer of own goals? Are we in trouble or what?

I hated to dwell on Van Persie and make him the focus of this fixture along with everyone else but he is what he is -a lethal weapon on any given day and he came back to haunt us. When his goal went in, I was mad that the headlines after the game will be all about him once again. Anybody else in that team could have scored and it will be okay. Why did it have to be him?

The most annoying part of Saturday's loss for me was how easy we made it for United. Without really getting out of first gear, United calmly kept us in check for the duration of the game and never really felt threatened by our less than cohesive efforts to build any attack that's worthy of note.

Thumbs up to Per who was outstanding once again on Saturday. Can't believe the much maligned big German is now the most consistent and dependable defender in the team.

And thumbs up to Don Vito Corleone Mannone too. Can't fault him for the goals we shipped. He did well to keep the scoreline as respectable as it was at the end.

Should we lower our expectations now, Gooners?

Follow on Twitter@naijaendgooner

7 comments:

  1. Disgruntled Gunner5 November 2012 at 10:42

    What tactical genius can Wenger claim these days. That particular ship sailed seven years ago. There's nothing tactical about his team selection these days. There's nothing tactical about his substitutions. There's nothing tactical about the team's approach plays. Wenger has completely lost it and it will do him good to take a job in the upstairs offices at the Emirates while a new manager is engaged

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  2. Wenger is slowly but surely ruining this great club. A while ago it was his stinginess that was the main reason fans were asking for him to be replaced, now he cant even square up with the best coaches tactics-wise in addition to that. He insists on using a nokia 3310 when everyone is switching to ipads. His days are numbered. God help us

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  3. I remember Viera shouting 'THIS IS SPARTA!' and giving Roy Keane a flying kick in the chest back in the days. That must have inspired that scene in the movie. Those days are gone. Now Santos imagines it's a picnic when we face Manure

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  4. Wenger must go for Arsenal to move forward. He has run out of ideas. Nothing new to offer

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  5. How is it that when our defense showed some solidity in the beginning Bould got all the credit but when they fall apart Wenger takes the blame

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  6. Santos is a joke. How Wenger let him back on the field for the 2nd half is something I'll never understand. But then that tells you something about the state of mind of those we expect to win this club a trophy

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  7. Its Wenger's genius that has kept us competitive over the years despite the less than level playing field created by Ibramovitch and the Arabs at City. No other manager can achieve what he has with the means available to him at Arsenal

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