Monday, 10 November 2014

Swansea 2-1 Arsenal: Farce

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Farce. There's no other word to describe what we've seen.

Swansea have given us a lot of mental strain over the years. There's the obvious example of the Flamini own goal in the 2-2 draw a few months ago and the 3-2 loss in January 2012, where Thierry Henry had a heated row with an exasperated supporter. Perhaps the most volatile of most for some was the 2-0 loss at the Emirates which left fans wanting for blood and the manager's job nearly untenable. For me, however, this one undoubtedly takes the cake.

Right from the team selection to the post-match presser, yesterday was a neat example of everything wrong with Arsenal Arsene's Football Club. How many times have we sat here hoping for some minimal rotation in the lineup? Heck, I had given up on it in the build up to the match, I was so sure. And it wasn't exactly a startling fact to get right - yet again we saw Sanchez, Welbeck and Cazorla overplayed.

I can understand the situation with the defence - even though it's ultimately a problem of Arsene Wenger's making. Our hands are forced with overplaying Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal and Gibbs. But what about the attack? We all know Santi Cazorla has been substandard this season. We know Welbeck could use a bit of rest. The whole world and its dog knows that Alexis Sanchez is pushing himself too much to carry the team. Yet Wenger does absolutely nothing about it, persisting with the same team over and over.

In the meantime, the likes of Rosicky, Podolski and Joel Campbell rot on the bench. Campbell doesn't even have that luxury anymore, for he's faced the all-time ignominy of being dropped at the expense of Yaya Sanogo. Oh, and there's no way you can convince me that Sanogo is better than Campbell. He may be in the future (and I take a huge pinch of salt as I say that), but at the moment he simply isn't.

Counter him to a young, genuinely exciting and versatile player who's gained tons of plaudits from his seers along the way, and there's almost no argument. Except from Arsene Wenger. Honestly, if Campbell leaves for Italy in January, could you blame him?

The first half itself was turgid. The fact that we were cautious against a side like Swansea spoke volumes of our confidence - never mind belief. Chambers had a rare bad game against the menacing Montero. I remember listening to one of the Bergkamp Wonderland podcasts where a fan was saying with absolute conviction that Chambers would make mistakes. We all know he's a terrific prospect and a great find by the manager, but he's inexperienced as well. A "new guy" like him finding his feet is bound to make errors along the way, it's only natural. Wenger's job was to not heap too much pressure on him. Instead, by not buying the requisite number of defenders, Calum has to find the balance between form and fitness.

The moment when we stopped showing Swansea too much respect and started knocking the ball about was when we finally started to fashion some chances, but they came right at the tail end of the half. Too little, too late.

The goal we did score was from one of the only genuine attacks we created. Oxlade-Chamberlain, one of the silver linings of yesterday's debacle, stormed down the centre and poked a pass to Cazorla. Santi one-two'd it to Welbeck, who cut inside and squared it to that wonderful man, Alexis Sanchez, who tapped it in. In truth Alexis didn't have the greatest games yesterday, but he was certainly handy when it was needed.

However, as he has done all season, Arsene Wenger let him down again. Can you imagine having 8 players in the other half of the pitch when your team is holding a 1-0 lead? It's reckless, treacherous, and - judging on the events of our last CL encounter - downright stupid. How many different kinds of moronic do you have to be to repeat the exact same mistake twice in five days? In a situation such as this, it's the manager who's supposed to bring composure to the team. Much as I loathe that guy, I'll be damned if I ever saw a Jose Mourinho team do that.

I'm not imploring Wenger to park the bus - just for him to cut his losses for one game and be a lot more cautious. However experienced the team may be in terms of age and experience, out there we seem to be making the repeated elementary errors. How is this not the effect of having a shoddy tactical approach?

Much similar to Anderlecht. Five days ago.

Sigurdsson's goal was a fine strike, and I don't think Gibbs had his chance to commit a "tactical foul" on Barrow around the halfway line. But what we should have done instead was not throw an array of men forward, or give the ball away carelessly. Sometimes we really behave like toddlers. "Tactically clueless", as one would put it.

Right through the game it was obvious that Chambers was struggling to deal with Montero. Perhaps over time he would learn how to deal with such tricky customers, but yesterday wasn't that day. Instead of either telling Chamberlain to track back and help his mate, or bringing Bellerin on to handle his pace, Wenger just sat there watching paradise fall apart. Was he even aware that Chambers was having a tough time out there?

Apparently not, because our messiah mutely saw Montero zoom past Chambers and lump a decent ball in. Monreal couldn't win the header (how could he, he's a 5'9 left back!), Ramsey clattered into Monreal, and Szczesny - instead of helping his makeshift defence - foolishly watched Gomis rise above all and head the ball into his net. What a mess.

It is said that managers earn their money through their substitutions. Garry Monk certainly did - he brought on Barrow and Gomis who changed the game. Wenger's substitutions, well, less said the better. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were anonymous. It was hardly the kind of easy return Theo needed from his ACL, thrown right into the firing line. And when we needed a goal or two, Wenger brought on Yaya Sanogo. A complete joke of a substitution, even Wenger's last resorts are embarrassing.

I remember watching the game and trying hard to remember Fabianski looking perturbed during the last 10 minutes. I also tried to care, but I'm finding it increasingly hard to. A couple of years ago whenever Arsenal used to get a bad result such as this, it used to piss me off like hell for the rest of the day. Now it's almost so repetitive that I feel immune to it.

I do feel some frustration, but that's in no way connected to an opportunity we missed to climb up the table, or to the fact that this team isn't nearly performing as well as it should. The frustration lies solely in the fact that there seems to be no hope at Arsenal. No desire to improvise. The reaction to not being able to beat Swansea was apocalyptic, but Wenger could still royally balls-up another game in the not-too distant future and not bat an eyelid.

Wenger looks like he does not care anymore. There's no desire to improve things, no desire to consciously not repeat the same mistakes, no urge to augment Sanchez... just the same old fuck-ups, the same old moaning on the touchline and same old backlash towards perfectly legitimate comments.

His post-match conference was another sign of millions as to why faith in him is at an all-time low.
 
"We lacked some spark."

"Why did you lack spark?"

"Because they didn't give up."


How are the two variables connected I'll never know, for I don't know of any team that gives up when they're 1-0 down. So we didn't play well because Swansea refused to lose?

"It's difficult to explain how we lost that lead."

Oh, I don't know Arsene, maybe it was because you didn't sign a defensive midfielder and two defenders, and you didn't focus on consolidating the lead by keeping most of the players in your half and getting Chamberlain to work tighter towards Montero? Oh deary me, I'm sorry, that was an opinion, and as we all know, unless we've managed half a day in football they're all worthless.


It's this ego and condescension that has become the fall of him. The smart, visionary and revolutionary man has gone, only to be replaced by this shadow of a man who refuses to accept he's not good enough and keeps sucking eight undeserved millions from Arsenal's paycheck. Remember when he said that he had "righted the wrongs" and that Paul Merson's comments were farcical? Wrong - this is farcical.

Wenger has ruined the fanbase as well. A horrible irreparable fissure has been created with Gooners abusing each other. I absolutely hate seeing it. If there's one thing that makes my stomach flip, it's two Gooners having a row at each other - whatever their views on Arsene Wenger. If Wenger had the humility to take the fall for what he's supposed to, we wouldn't be hurling abuses at each other. Wenger is literally killing the joy of being an Arsenal supporter. Even trading banter with a fellow Gooner becomes an exercise in treading lightly.

It's quite amazing that I have to repeat this for the zillionth time, but Wenger needs to go. And we need to get him out before the talented bunch of players we do have get fed up and leave.

There was an Arsenal before Wenger, and there will be one after him.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]