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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Embarrassing and humiliating - Wenger presides over another capitulation

One of the few to put it in last night


I hope Arsene Wenger went round to the Borussia Dortmund changing room last night and thanked them for their charity. Had it not been for their own Welbeck-ian finishing then Arsenal would have been on the end of the sort of hammering we've had at Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge in recent times. Make no mistake, this should have been the most humiliating thrashing in Arsenal's European history. It would have made the 4-0 in Milan, and the early 80's dismantling by Spartak at Highbury, look like close games. Yes, we missed chances at the other end but it would not have flattered Dortmund to have got close to double figures. The most worrying aspect for me is that, insert Debuchy for Bellerin (and possibly Theo Walcott for Ozil or Wilshere) and you had Arsenal's first-choice team on the pitch. Dortmund were missing about five of their usual selection through injury. 
We shouldn't really be surprised as we've seen this so often in the past. Klopp is certainly no mug and he had identified, as every other decent Manager has, that you need to get at Arsenal early on and pressure the ball (you don't even need to kick our players anymore). We were like rabbits in the headlights playing a game of hot potato with a football. More than anything else it proved yet again that Arsene Wenger has no idea about tactics and how to make his team difficult to beat. We won a European trophy in 1994 with a midfield nowhere near as talented as the one on the pitch last night (with the exception of Paul Davis) and yet they knew how to hold the ground in the middle of the pitch because they were drilled by a Manager who was tactically aware. They were organised. Selley and Morrow wouldn't be anywhere near Arsene Wenger's squad, but I know who I'd rather have had out there last night. You can sum up Wenger's lack of tactical nous in the decision to play Ozil on the same side of the pitch as a young full-back making his debut. Bellerin was never going to be provided with any help by that lazy so and so. Any Manager worth their wages would have put the non-stop running of Alexis out there to help him. But what do I know? After all I've never worked even one day in football.
It's not the defeat that makes me angry - I don't expect Arsenal to beat every opponent. What upsets me is the nature of the defeat and the fact that we keep seeing the same thing whenever we play a top opponent away from home. Alexis Sanchez struggled in the first-half when on the ball, but he never hid - unlike plenty of the others. He always wanted the ball. He was always running to fight for the ball. At one point he was tackled forty yards from our goal but he raced back to make the challenge that put off the player taking a shot and allowed Szczesny to push it behind for a corner. Contrast that with Ozil and Ramsey. I actually thought Ozil made one or two runs off the ball last night that deserved better service, but when he did get the ball to feet it bounced off him like he was a Sunday League footballer or something. And having lost it he stood there with his hands on his hips. The man is a £42.5m waste of space. Ramsey was equally disinterested and walked straight down the tunnel at the final whistle, failing to acknowledge that 3000 Arsenal fans had spent their money to support the over paid prima donnas. He than had the gall to Tweet, shortly thereafter, that the performance "wasn't good enough". You don't say! Empty words that mean nothing when you've shown a complete lack of interest since the start of the season.
The first goal summed us up really. We have a throw-in deep in their half and end up getting caught too high up the pitch in large numbers when the clock is ticking down to half-time. From there we see Mertesacker too slow to get to the loose ball and do anything to stop the break, while Mikel Arteta (who seems to be the target of the abuse for some reason) is expected to be the defensive lynch pin in midfield. And then there's Koscielny running alongside the goalscorer for forty yards and neither forcing him wide, nor making a tackle. I would scream at my 8 year-old for defending like that in his matches, never mind an international centre-back in the Champions League. He then did it again late in the second-half and Mkhitaryan blazed another over the bar. Amateurish doesn't cover it.
You hoped that half-time would lead to something of a change. But again it seems to have been a showcase for Wenger's failure to do anything other than the same old thing. Within a minute of the second-half starting Koscielny was scrambling to clean up a mess of his own making, and Jack Wilshere (who at least tried last night, like Sanchez and Welbeck) had smashed a simple pass over Gibbs' head and in to touch. Within 30 seconds of that it was 2-0 as Dortmund drove a double-decker bus between the centre-backs and Szczesny came flying out to no effect on the edge of the box. I'm not going to pan Szczesny too much though as without him we'd have been 5 down at half-time.
When we finally made changes Wenger at last got around to taking off Ozil and Ramsey - a substitution that should have happened at half-time on Saturday, yet took until nearly the hour mark last night. Within ten seconds Oxlade-Chamberlain had done more than Ozil has since we played Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final. A combination of Chamberlain's direct running and strength, the determination of Alexis, and Dortmund maybe easing off just slightly, saw us actually get a couple of chances. Sadly Welbeck showed the full range of his problems last night. He is very good at getting in to the right positions, but very bad at sticking the ball in the net. He had FOUR clear-cut chances last night, something you rarely get at this level (especially in a game where you've been played off the pitch) and he completely mis-kicked two of them, scuffed one wide, and hammered the other over the bar (after a great turn on the edge of the box). Just imagine the stick Giroud would be getting for missing those chances.
After the game Mikel Arteta told Sky we were unlucky because we could have drawn 3-3 on chances. Sadly this sums up the problems. It seems that nobody at Arsenal actually believes there are any. 3-3 Mikel? Regular readers will know I have no time for Paul Merson on TV, but he was right when he said (after Arteta's interview) that nobody in the Arsenal dressing room will give anyone a rocket. He said that Tony Adams would have been going crazy at people for not doing their jobs last night. Instead of that we had the Arsenal Captain on TV bemoaning a lack of luck in a game where he and his team were completely outclassed in every facet of football. Wenger, meanwhile, described us as "average". Understatement of the year there Arsene.
Last night was totally unacceptable, but then so have been many defeats in recent times. We have another three years of this as Arsenal will never sack Arsene Wenger. We certainly won't be challenging any time soon in the Premier League or the Champions League because we have neither the personnel, the system, the tactics, nor the Manager to do so. But we have a lovely bank balance.

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