Joel Campbell was fantastic last night...and substituted
I've been trying to formulate this post in my head since the final whistle last night. I wasn't sure, walking away from the ground, that I could be more angry with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Being a passenger in the car I was able to keep up with the after-match press stuff and Wenger succeeded in winding me up even further. The lies the man tells are abhorrent and show a total lack of respect for the supporters who pay their money to go and support the team. And make no mistake, the fans do support the team during the games. If their is hostility then it is being directed at the bench more than the players. I'll elaborate on the lies a little further down the page.
Arsenal started reasonably well last night and most of the first-half saw us dominating a poor Swansea team, especially down the right flank. Joel Campbell was ripping them apart every time he got the ball - good passing, running with the ball, beating his man, getting the odd shot away - Joel was simply too good for the young full-back faced with marking him. This also allowed Hector Bellerin to get forward at will as Arsenal flooded that side of the pitch. Unfortunately Bellerin has become totally unable to pass the ball to a red shirt when he gets in good positions out wide. His crossing of the ball has become every bit as ineffective and embarrassing as every other Arsenal player. Nonetheless, with Campbell's ability and desire to work hard in defence as well as attack their partnership down that side was back at its best, as it was before Campbell was unnecessarily dropped for the Bournemouth game.
It should have been no surprise that it was Joel who opened the scoring, after Alexis had already hit the post when he should have scored (twice) following more good work from Campbell and Ozil. The goal itself was a sublime finish following a fantastic off-the-ball run in to the penalty area, and a great chipped pass (just about the only really good thing he did all night) from Sanchez. From there we should have destroyed a team battling relegation, who had made six changes (including three in the defence) and had seen their boss taken ill earlier in the day.
Of course you know with this Arsenal team that one goal is not enough. They have the "ability" to concede a goal to any opposition at any time. Yes, there was a clear foul on Mesut Ozil that led to the equaliser, but the whole team stopped. Ramsey was sleeping (all night) in midfield, and Routledge had simply wandered away from Bellerin to go through and score. The team are amateurish at times. Francis Coquelin was visibly angry at times with the people around him as the game wore on and he was having to chase down opponents at both ends of the pitch as the others (except Campbell, and Ozil to an extent) did little more than go through the motions. There was still time before half-time for Giroud to miss an open goal when smashing a volley against the bar from about ten yards, but the fact that Mertesacker had chosen to nod the ball down to him instead of heading in to the empty net he was faced with summed up the way in which Arsenal play their football. Nonetheless it was a criminal miss by Giroud who has not scored a goal in his last ten games.
How can a man be the centre-forward at a club like Arsenal and still be getting a start after ten games without a goal? Only Wenger would have a squad where he failed to realise that Giroud is simply not good enough to win you a Premier League Title. Neither Giroud, nor Walcott, would have got anywhere near the previous Wenger Champions teams that included Wright, Bergkamp, Anelka, Kanu, Wiltord and Henry. They would have played the Chris Wreh or Jeremie Aliadiere roles at best. Giroud does have qualities, but most of the time he is not interested. Last night he spent virtually the entire game standing still in an offside position. We couldn't lift the ball forward because he would have been flagged for it. When he did come forward to receive the ball he didn't once hold it up as he had against Leicester. Quite simply he wasn't bothered about playing for Arsenal last night, and he wasn't alone.
Swansea City had Fabianski in goal last night. At no point did we pepper him. We know what he is like and yet we failed to put him under any pressure. The one long-range shot we had (from Bellerin) saw him spill it, only to be able to recover the ball because Giroud and Ozil weren't following in. At set-pieces we allowed him to come and punch the ball clear or catch it - it wasn't until the last second of the game when Cech came forward for a corner that anyone stood in front of Fabianski - are our attackers so inept and so lacking in football instinct that it took our own goalkeeper to identify the main weakness of a man who played for us for years?!
Swansea's winner was again our own fault. Alexis gave the ball away with another stupid and awful ball that he totally mis-kicked across the midfield. From there, yet again, Gabriel dived in to a tackle around his own penalty area and gave away a free-kick. When Sigurdsson came on at half-time I said to my Dad that we can't afford to give away stupid fouls close to our goal. How did Wenger not convey that message to his own players? If I can appreciate the danger an opponent can bring then why can't our experienced boss? The free-kick was whipped in very well and, while Williams was marginally offside, we were marking space as usual and Cech made a rare error to allow the ball to be bundled in to the goal. The game effectively ended there and then. There wasn't a single player whose head didn't go down. Wenger's ridiculous assertion of the previous day claiming he had "leaders in every position" (or words to that effect) was shown up for the hot-air we already knew it was. We never threatened the Swansea goal thereafter.
So how about these lies I mentioned earlier? Joel Campbell was the best player on the pitch last night. There can be no question that that was the case. When he was taken off by Wenger (most regular observers will have called this change, as I did, in the first-half - as I said the other day Wenger does not run a meritocracy) and the crowd erupted in anger. The booing for Wenger was as loud as I have heard it. It was totally deserved by a Manager whose arrogance doesn't allow to him to see his own ineptitude. The decision to take off Campbell on the night, while leaving Alexis and Aaron Ramsey on the pitch, was despicable and totally beyond reason. So what excuse did Wenger give when questioned by the press?
"Campbell hasn’t played for a while and he started to tire. He played against a very young left back and I thought Welbeck could give him some problems with his runs in behind. These kinds of decisions don’t mean that Campbell did badly. I think he did quite well tonight. I also think that there was room on that flank to be very dangerous."
Just about every bit of this direct quote is founded on a lie designed to defend the indefensible. It shows inexcusable disrespect for the supporters - he honestly believes we know nothing about football whatsoever. Let's take it from the start with the idea that Joel "hasn't played for while" - he played ten days earlier at home to Hull City in the FA Cup, and he was substituted then too! "He started to tire" - no, he didn't. Just a minute or so before he was taken off he had once again roasted the young kid at left-back. To say Joel was tired is a total untruth. "I thought Welbeck could give him some problems with his runs in behind" - Bellerin had been making those runs, beyond Campbell, all night so why make this change? Welbeck was then almost immediately shifted to the left before he'd even seen the ball come to the right - he was replaced by the totally ineffectual Theo Walcott who neither made runs in behind, nor took his man on as Campbell had. Bellerin, meanwhile, was no longer able to get beyond his winger as Waclott was constantly in his way as he tried to come forward. More lies. "I think he did quite well tonight. I also think there was room...to be dangerous" - by virtue of claiming there was room to be dangerous down that side he was totally ignoring the contribution that Campbell had made. Wenger is claiming that Joel Campbell hadn't done enough on the night. Was he actually watching the same game as the rest of us inside that stadium? When Joel went off our attacking threat almost totally disappeared. Wenger has lost the plot.
I'm sick of the lies. I'm sick of the disrespect. I'm sick of watching Arsenal throw away what should have been our Premier League Title (again). We all know where Arsenal are short in this squad, but the one man able to change that decided to sign only one outfield player in the last year - a player who doesn't get in the team and, from the little we've seen of him, is nowhere near being a top Premier League midfield player. It would be excusable if last night was a one-off. However, in the last three to four seasons this group of players (the core of this squad has hardly changed) have lost games like last night time and again. They've been humiliatingly thrashed at Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge, Etihad etc. On Saturday there is every chance now that they will complete the set with a hammering at White Hart Lane. One man is to blame for this and he is now running out of support. The blind still want to place their faith in him, but more and more are seeing clearly what the problem is. The likes of Steve Bould should be ashamed for becoming the kind of "yes man" that allows this nonsense to happen while sitting there in silence week after week, game after game. We should be Champions-elect this season. Instead we are now looking over our shoulders at the teams behind us. It is a shameful situation and the saddest thing of all is that it isn't going to end any time soon.
I hate writing these words about Arsene Wenger. It is not meant to be this way. He created the best football team we've ever seen. He then destroyed it. He forced us to leave Highbury "to compete" and we are not competing. His legacy should have been to be remembered as Chapman and Whittaker are at Arsenal, Ferguson and Busby are at Man Utd, as Shankly and Paisley are at Liverpool, as Bill Nicholson is at Tottenham. Instead his legacy will be to be remembered as a man who destroyed it all by his own actions. Time will heal the wounds when he eventually goes, as it has for George Graham over the years. In George's case, however, we had a board who knew when to call time. Arsene will simply be allowed to keep going as long as he wants to all the time he's delivering a good balance sheet. Every bad result simply lengthens the time it will take for him to be remembered with the fondness that he should have always had in his favour.