The Everton game for many represents a kind of Nadir for the club and explicitly the Manager. If it’s unfair to blame the Manager for a string of humiliations at the homes of the ‘big boys’ who is to blame? After all Arsene Wenger selects the players to bring to the club, he coaches them, oversees diet and exercise, picks the team and makes substitutions. This current squad was created by Wenger: no one else, and this squad has not been good enough to cope with our usual injuries. Our manager is too inflexible to adapt to the situation both tactically and in making additions during important games when things are not going our way. Don’t agree? Fine, but I'd simply ask this questions; what has he done in a big game in the last few years to positively affect the result from the bench either in terms of substitutions or advice and motivation? Losing the big games is a habit, a bad habit. If opinions can be debated, and thankfully in the most part they can without resorting to abuse, then let’s look at some facts.
By and large you could say that Cup Finals are big games so let’s look at these facts
Wenger's Cup Final record- Played 9 Won 4 Lost 5
In the elite tournament that we have qualified for on a regular basis when it has come to the crunch these are the scores on the doors
Champions League Semis/Quarters- Played 3 Won 1 Lost 3
As I previously said, in the ultimate big game I believe Arsene Wenger got it wrong:
“Not withstanding that we lost to a very good Barça team I think that Wenger made 4 critical errors in the 2006 Champions League Final. 1. Breaking up the best defensive unit in the history of the Champions League to accommodate a soon to depart Ashley Cole. 2. Withdrawing the experienced and predatory Robert Pires rather than Reyes when Lehman was dismissed. 3. At 2-1 not bringing on Bergkamp/Van Persie and going for broke. 4. The quality of Lehman's replacement: both Barça goals conceded by Almunia at the near post. Cometh the hour Wenger's choices were found wanting.”
Assuming that we don’t win the League this year then going into the FA Cup Semi-final Arsene has failed on 35 consecutive occasions to win one of the four trophies available.
If there aren’t the players, then that is ultimately his area of accountability. I would contend that too often in the last half a decade he has bought badly.
No manager is perfect but how about some of these additions to the ranks of the Arsenal: Squillacci, Luzhny, Tavlaridis, Stepanovs, Vivas, Bischoff, Merida, Clegg, Denilson, Silvestre, Wright, Jeffers, Caballiero, Aliadiere , to name but a few, all were just not up to it yet many of them were first team regulars. Then there are players like Santos and Gervinho, poor judgement or poor management and coaching? Let’s also not forget that recently we had possibly the worst Goalkeeping squad of any team in the league in Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone, how did that go unremarked upon?
Some Arsenal players have stood still and some have failed to adapt to being round pegs in square holes. Arsene Wenger’s eye for the mercurial has been out of focus for a while now and it is showing.
When we embarked on this season in which we were going to be competing in four tournaments we did so with Giroud, Bendtner and Sanogo as Strikers: yes one could argue that Walcott and Podolski are strikers but they don’t play fully in that position, which meant that we were disadvantaged from the get go. Now I think that Giroud is a decent striker but not of the calibre to win big games, Bendtner is as unpredictable as he is confident and Sanogo was and is an unknown quantity, how was this ever going to be good enough? Certainly Ramsey’s superb pre-injury form took attention away from our lack of that all-important commodity: a ‘world class’ striker. Getting to January clear at the top of the league and not making additions was suicidal but we heard the mantra from Arsene that he believes in the mental strength, attitude and ability of his squad and therefore by definition thought they were good enough to go all the way. He was wrong yet again.
Mental strength and belief are indeed fine traits but I have to say I didn't like the 'Selfie' nonsense from Sczeczny et al at the end of the victory at Spurs, but I guess young people do idiotic things. That swagger was not translated to performances when it mattered though.
I would digress and note that Rosicky being an adult did a much better thing at the end of that game which was lost on much of the media, and because we are a side that they love to hate, guess what got the most coverage? The frustrating thing is that after that victory at White Hart Lane our form went out of the window and we have no answer to the scorn heaped upon us: we have not been able to do our talking on the pitch.
Our performances have simply not been good enough and the Manager has to look in the mirror as much as the players do. We didn’t strengthen when we should have, we didn’t have any tactical responses when we needed them, we didn’t show pragmatism when we should have and too often it looked like we didn’t take into account our opposition in any way. If a manager has a job to do it’s prepare the team, but there has been little evidence of preparation too often.
Some players can cross the line and win by just being better like the Arsenal team of the late nineties and early noughties, some need a Manager to give guidance and show them a plan to follow. This squad need to be better and failing that they need to have a strategy. The manager chooses them and the manager appears to have no strategy.
The sight of Giroud grimacing as he looks to the skies following a goal opportunity spurned, Cazorla lying prostrate after being bundled off the ball beseeching the referee to give a free kick : from which we seldom take advantage. These sights have become more common as the season has trundled on, there is something wrong and perhaps it’s that a team ultimately is forged in the mould of its Manager and that Manager has been running on fumes for a while now and I think that the conclusion has to be for any realist that he has now run out of gas.
Those that make accusations of knee jerk reactions in today’s game are often justified but I would have to say that Arsenal supporters have been the opposite: we’ve been misled with false promises when we moved to the Emirates of being able to compete with the best in Europe, we’ve been subjected to price rise after price rise on Season tickets, we’ve had to put up with poor service and exorbitant pricing on a match day, we’ve seen money sitting in the bank (our money) rather than being spent on players and alongside that we’ve seen our achievements decline and our bubbles burst on a regular basis for nearly a decade so don’t accuse supporters of The Arsenal of making knee jerk reactions. No I am not putting all these negatives on the head of our manager it is more about an entrenched belief at all levels of the club that we the supporters will put up with anything but sometimes in life enough is enough.
I don’t think I have unrealistic expectations all I want to see is our club achieving on a level commensurate with the funds and status of our club. I want to see our players giving it their all win lose or draw, I want us to turn up for the big games and I want to see our highly paid manager earn his money out there on the pitch. As things currently stand? Well maybe I am being unrealistic but that has to change and this summer, I believe, is the time.
I would wish for an FA Cup victory and a dignified departure from Arsene which would be nice and it would also be in keeping with the dignified way in which our club do things. It really would be The Arsenal way to say goodbye.