Bound to be a square pass available...
Another season is over before the end of February. I do not count a battle to finish to fourth in the Premier League as being anything to play for, as such. Arsene Wenger may have created a false economy in the eyes of the Arsenal Director's, and for those who still wish to back him, but in the real World finishing in the top four really is no measure of "success."
The performance yesterday was listless and clueless. I saw little heart and even less desire. I thought Alex Song battled manfully as he, once again, played all alone in Arsenal's midfield. It says it all for Arteta and Ramsey that Song was still our most attacking ball player even when he went to play at centre-back. The disgraceful excuse for a pitch (the FA really should be taking action against Premier League Club's who produce such a shocking playing surface - Mertesacker, Squillaci and Ramsey have all suffered injuries as a result of its state) certainly didn't help Arsenal in any way. However, the Manager and the players should have realised they couldn't play their football on that cabbage patch and adapted their style accordingly. They can't say that the state of the pitch surprised them as they had to play on it only seven days earlier.
Arsenal were so outplayed again yesterday that the cheating of Howard Webb (he denied Van Persie two stonewall penalties - yet again) has largely gone unnoticed. This is because, as against Milan in midweek, Arsenal were so abject that the result of the game could not be argued with. I felt sorry for Song, whom I've already mentioned, and Oxlade-Chamberlain for the fact that they were surrounded by a bunch who seemingly went through the motions.
I said above that we didn't attempt to adapt our style of play. I have become increasingly frustrated watching Mikel Arteta. I hear all the stats monkeys telling us how he has more passes this season than anyone else, and how his completion rate for those passes is 157% and all that nonsense, but when you only ever go back or sideways, and never pass the ball more than ten yards it's no real surprise. Arteta slows us down something chronic and never goes forward. It's like watching a combination of Ray Wilkins and David Batty. His "effort" to dispossess Sessegnon in the build up to their second goal was simply embarrassing and lazy. The way he threw himself on the ground, rather than chase his man was a disgrace. Arteta is not alone, however. Sadly Aaron Ramsey is unable to hit the heights. In Ramsey's favour is the fact that he still a youngster, but his lack of pace is a massive issue. I have heard rumours that a new dance has been invented in honour of Arteta and Ramsey where the steps are very simple: Slow, slow. Slow, slow, slow. Then simply move sideways and repeat over and again. I apologise for jesting over something so serious, but if we didn't laugh...
In a more serious point I have to question our substitutions. When Coquelin got injured I expected to see Song move in to the back four with someone else coming on in midfield. As it was I didn't think Sebastien Squillaci did too much wrong, and he certainly was not at fault for deflecting the ball in for Sunderland's opener, but Arsenal gained nothing from that change - it was a wasted substitution. The double substitution in the second-half was just bizarre. Firstly I couldn't work out why, at 1-0 down we bring on a midfield player who hasn't scored in two years (though at least Rosicky tries to play forward) and even less why Chamakh stayed on the bench. I know Chamakh is in woeful form, but his height and the outlet it gives might have got us the odd chance at goal. Walcott was even more anonymous than ever when he came on, and not necessarily through his own fault. It was simply the latest in a long line of inexplicable Wenger decisions, and each one seems to be more costly than the last.
I don't know how many out there still have their blind faith in Arsene Wenger, but his inability to now motivate his players is the most worrying thing of all. George Graham and Terry Neill both "lost" their dressing rooms. Both men were then dismissed from their role as Arsenal Manager. There can be little more room for doubt that Arsenal can not recover without massive change. That means the Manager must be replaced. Next week we play Tottenham at home. As it stands I think our only chance of a result in that game is with someone else in charge of the team. Without this change I can see only another humiliation on the cards. If that happens then not even Wenger could survive - a hammering at home by Spurs and he would surely be gone. The poisonous atmosphere such a result would elicit within the stadium could not be ignored by the Board. I hope it doesn't happen, and part of me still wants Arsene Wenger to be Arsenal Manager, but I fear things have simply gone too far.