Monday, 1 September 2014

Leicester 1-1 Arsenal: Wenger is wasting an excellent team and an excellent opportunity

Match report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

For the fifth time this season we've looked unconvincing. Our main striker is injured for half a season. Our FA Cup legend Ramsey is looking lackluster and lethargic. Formation and tactics are ruining Mesut Ozil. We need three players, but it seems Wenger won't even buy one. It's definitely time to panic now.

I concede. On deadline day, I concede that the optimistic proclamation I made, on seeing a bright future. Somewhat foolishly, Sanchez, Forsythe and Jonker sold me an untrue gleam of hope. I believed that we were two inches away from the glory days, and that this season would cement our status as a top club. I was wrong. It was all a lie.

We really have everything in place. Forsythe has got Gibbs, Walcott, Arteta and Ospina fit for Manchester City. Akpom stole the show in the U-21s vs West Brom, maintaining our unbeaten start. Perhaps Jonker had a hand in that. We were (and are) only three players away from properly competing in the league and in Europe, and we had little over a month to buy them. Yet, unbelievably, we're crashing.

Perhaps the only silver lining is that this time, Arsene Wenger has been held properly accountable. He has no smidgen of excuse to hide behind like before. Lack of money, forcing reduced ambition, nine-year monkey, FFP, interference from the board; all of the excuses have vanished. The circumstances have changed, and Arsenal have been dealt a royal flush hand. However, yet again, the fallen legend has made a right mess of it.

All of the issues surrounding the club are of Arsene Wenger's making. Refereeing decisions or lack of funds do not influence squad management, tactics or formation. The manager has hid under the excuse of less funds for too long (while the Fabregas and Nasri transfer fees sit in the bank). Finally, he's caught guilty.

Wenger did the hard part well in bringing Alexis Sanchez, away from the jaws of Juventus and Liverpool. Backroom changes and proactive purchases meant that the club had a much solider foundation, ideally poised to strike. But once more, with increasing predictability, Wenger faltered at the last, easiest hurdle.

Let's focus on the on-field problems. Even with Sanogo up front we had enough quality to comfortably see of Leicester, but formation and tactics greatly held us back. I hope this match categorically shuts out Wenger's attempt to switch to a 4-1-4-1, for reasons I'll never know. Our defensive midfielders were suspect enough even with Ramsey and Wilshere supporting them on the side, but leaving them completely isolated is plain stupid. Flamini had a mare yesterday, Arteta would have too.

Ramsey looks unconvincing, to say the least, in holding one of those attacking midfield positions. Cazorla looks really good (as he should, that's his natural position), but I'd rather see Ozil play there. Speaking of whom, Mesut looked totally anonymous and out of place on the left. As I said around 9 months ago, he's in danger of becoming the next Arshavin.

But what undoubtedly takes the cake is Sanogo's inclusion. I've written so much about him that I'm running out of adjectives to describe him. Simply put, he's reckless, unreliable and not good enough for a Championship side, forget Arsenal. I reserved judgment last season, but there is no defence for him now. Yaya has to go.

But he won't, and perhaps that's the most frustrating aspect of this debacle. I, as many others, can accurately predict that Sanogo will never make it, but Wenger always sees it two to three years too late. As he did with Traore, Sunu, Almunia, Merida, Chamakh, Bendtner and oh-so many others.

We can analyse, we can debate and we can come to the obvious outdated conclusion that Wenger is shockingly schoolboy in tactics, but it won't make one iota of difference to Arsene's mindset. Like it or not (and let's face it, we don't), we will play 4-1-4-1 for the rest of the season. One of the best number 10s in the world will stay mispositioned for too long. Yaya Sanogo will be Giroud's replacement, as Podolski and Campbell watch on angrily.

Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey will be overplayed to injury. The team will fall short of one or two players. The bank balances will remain bright. Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League. Supporters will say "Give Wenger another season". Nothing will change.

We're stuck in a cycle of stagnation for years to come, and unless we educate fellow Gooners and overthrow the Wenger rule, this will continue for years to come.

We're three players short - a central defender, a holding midfielder and a striker - but I don't think that matters anymore. Even if Wenger signs Hummels, Pogba and Cavani we won't win the league. Buying players only does half the job. You also need a manager who can bring the best out of them. Wenger has messed over Arshavin, Ozil and (whisper it quietly) could do the same to Sanchez.

However good our bench may be and however depth our team may have, Wenger won't use it. He has Joel Campbell, Podolski and Chamberlain to call upon - but he'd rather play an out of form tired Ozil out of position. He won't rotate unless it's a Capital One Cup game.

Deadline day predictions? Despite Ornstein saying what he did, I think Wenger will buy one player, most likely a CB. He'll perhaps make late derisory attempts on a DM and a striker, but I don't think he'd be serious for them. He did the same on past deadline days with Draxler, Kalou and Demba Ba. Financial escalation or not, he'll always chuck in two embarrassing pennies for players much more worth it.

And we, as fans, will have to endure.

I don't know how much more of this sameness I can bear. Something's got to give.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz , I'll be giving transfer updates over there]