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I hate Stoke City. I despise everything about them. That's why I find the lack of effort yesterday even more unforgiveable than what has gone on in other defeats this season. Before the game the Manager spoke of the need to fight until the end. We can only assume that the players no longer bother listening to him. With the exception of Jack Wilshere (again) did you see any fight in any of the Arsenal players yesterday? It was summed up during one of the second-half flashpoints when Wilshere fouled Pennant (and was then taken out by a flying Wilkinson - nothing said about that). As the Stoke players got around Jack, and showed their team spirit, where were the Arsenal boys? Robin Van Persie stood back and watched from a distance, despite being the man supposedly Captain of the side. The only other player to raise an arm in anger was Nicklas Bendtner who got himself a fistful of Shawcross' shirt and pushed him backwards with enough force that the son of Herman Munster backed away. Can you imagine a similar type of incident had people like Keown, Adams, Campbell, Lehmann, Bould, Rocastle, Thomas, Vieira, Steve Williams or Lauren been around? This is as disparate a group of players as you will ever have seen in an Arsenal shirt. Given the immediate history of Arsenal v Stoke matches the performance of the team representing Arsenal Football Club yesterday was not befitting of our Club. They should be collectively ashamed of theirselves and any wages donated to Arsenal's charity of the season.
There really isn't much point in talking about the way we defended. If you haven't seen it and want to know what happened then just check through the archive down the right of the screen and read the Bolton (a) review, or Newcastle (a), or West Brom (h), or Wigan (a) - it really is just the same stuff over and over again. After the game Arsene lamented the fact that we defend so badly at set-pieces, and then stated that it's "the easiest thing to put right." Well, forgive me for asking the obvious question but, why don't you do something about it then? This is not a new problem. Our issue with set-pieces can be traced back to the very first game in the new Stadium when Aston Villa scored from a corner - their only attack of the game. Since then the pattern of Arsenal possession football, punctuated by headed/bundled opposition goals from set-pieces has become a familiar pattern. Yet the Manager believes it's easily sorted. Well that's a relief, I thought it would be a long-term problem.
Today we have had more useless soundbites, this time from Bacary Sagna. In recent weeks we have heard from almost the whole squad with their "view" of what is wrong. Sagna, it must be said, has been largely blameless for the defensive malaise throughout this season (he has been quite outstanding, in fact), yet I really do wish someone would gag the players and stop them from coming out with this stuff. According to Sagan we are "too soft" in defence. You don't say, Bac. If there is one positive to be gained from a player saying this it is that perhaps they are now questioning what is going on at the Club, rather than blindly following the Manager who talks them up as something they are not. A few home truths are exactly what is required, but actions really do speak louder than words. Now, could someone please tell Wenger?
As regular readers will know I am a "Wenger out" person. I have wanted him out for over two years because of his failure to address obvious areas of weakness, thus costing us opportunities to win trophies (as well as his willingness over the past few seasons to "sacrifice" - his own words, not mine - the two domestic Cups). There are very few people I speak to now who do not, at the very least, begin to question just what is going on in Wenger's mind. It was a surprise, therefore, to see the result of the latest poll on this site. Posed with the question, "Should Arsene Wenger be replaced as Arsenal Manager?" we were split 50/50. This shows that there must still be plenty of support for Arsene, and perhaps that is no bad thing. There are certain elements of the "support" that plan protests against the Club this weekend at the Villa game (one in particular is largely aimed at the Board, rather than the Manager) but I can see there being trouble. I can see Arsenal fans fighting amongst themselves on Sunday as the factions of the support oppose one another. I have no time for these protests as I see them as simply individuals trying to get themselves a bit of publicity. I will be joining no such protest as I believe such things are the preserve of mickey-mouse outfits like Newcastle or West Ham. As with the actions of the players yesterday, such behaviour from fans is not befitting of Arsenal Football Club.