Monday, 29 August 2011

A defeat leaves questions for the players, Wenger, Kroenke & the board

Morning Gooners.

This is a long and rambling post today. I'm not in a very positive mood and just want to get how I'm feeling out of my system after yesterday's result. I think my over riding feeling this morning is one of anger. How could the club let it come to this, an 8-2 humiliation at the hands of one of our fiercest rivals.

Pre-match
By my nature I'm always positive about our chances going into any match. I can always see us winning a game no matter the situation. However yesterday I think it's fair to say that I didn't give us much chance of getting a result when I saw the team announced.

Losing Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen to illness and injury respectively further weakened an already inexperienced line up. I expected us not to come away with a win but never predicted we'd come away well and truly beaten like we were.

The Game
Despite the nervous openings I thought we did well. There were scares of course and we didn't have much of the ball but grew into the game. Then we let ourselves down with a sloppily conceded first goal.

Johan Djourou lets the ball bounce in the area and is then out muscled by Danny Welbeck who heads the ball over Wojciech Szczesny. The goal was all the fault of Djourou's. Why didn't he deal with the danger? Very poor defending. I don't know what's happened to him. He's regressed after all the progress he made since returning to the team last season.

Theo Walcott is brought down in the area in the 26th minute and Robin van Persie steps up to take the penalty. You'd expect him to score. Instead his weak effort is easy for David De Gea  to push round the post.

Minutes later the home side add to their advantage when Ashley Young curls home from outside the area. Armand Traore fails to clear his lines properly and the ball falls to Young who whips in a fantastic shot which beats Szczesny, who had no chance.

Wayne Rooney adds the Champions third in the 40th minute with a superb free kick. Carl Jenkinson had brought down Ashley Young as he was bearing down on goal.

And just before half time Arsenal pull a goal back. Theo Walcott strike going through De Gea's legs after a super through ball from Tomas Rosicky.

At half time it was 3-1 and it was fair to say the home team deserved their lead. However had van Persie scored the penalty. The Captain also had another chance to score when Arshavin shot from distance but he couldn't beat De Gea from the rebound. It was fair to say we had our chances but couldn't take them. The home team on the other hand were fair more ruthless in front of goal.

We seemed to have tightened up more after the break and United had few chances to add to their lead. However Szczesny had to be in top form to keep those United attacks which did break through out.

And we could have given ourselves a better chance had Arshavin not scewed his shot wide of the post in the 56th minute.

For me the momentum of the game changed in the 62 minute when Arsene Wenger decided to bring off Francis Coquelin and replace him with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A defensive midfielder for an attacker.

Now I've yet to mention Coquelin, that's because he didn't stand out as one of our poor players. He did his job quietly and effectively breaking up play and distributing the ball well. On his debut I think he can feel relatively happy with his performance.

Within minutes of the change, Rooney has the ball in the back of the net for his second of the game. Djourou bringing down the England international on the edge of the penalty area. The resulting free kick is curled home aplomb.

Nani adds United's fifth. Koscielny is caught out trying to attack the ball and leaves space behind himself which Rooney passes the ball in for Nani to chip Szczesny.

When the home team go to make a change it's two experienced players coming off in Anderson and Nani to be replaced by two experienced players in Ji-Sung Park and Ryan Giggs.

And Park adds United's sixth. Playing a one-two with Ashley Young and firing low into Szczesny's left hand corner.

Robin van Persie pulls another goal back for the Gunners after persistance from Carl Jenkison. But then minutes later the young defender is sent off for a second booking when he brings down Hernandez on the edge of the box.

The home team have a penalty of their own with ten minutes to go as Walcott playing at right back brings down Patrice Evra. Rooney scores his hattrick from the spot.

And Ashley Young compounds the misery wutha goal in the 90th minute.


The Team
We were down to the bare bones. Our squad is threadbare at the moment. We've lost our best player in Cesc Fabregas and not replaced him. We've sold another good player in Samir Nasri and not replaced him. We've sold Gael Clichy and replaced him internally with Kieran Gibbs and Armand Traore. We've allowed Mexican internaional Carlos Vela to leave on loan. We've sold the Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue and replaced him with Carl Jenkinson who was playing non league football last Christmas.

We've made sweeping changes to our squad but have not brought in the players we needed. We knew at the end of last season that this squad needed improving by the addition of experienced quality players but the only signing we've made who can fit into that bracket is Gervinho. All the rest of our signings have been young players who have got exceptional talent for their age. However they aren't going to win you trophies or help you with a sustained challenge for the league.

And the players who were out there yesterday who let us down weren't the youngsters per se. What has happened to Johan Djourou? He's regressed. And how can Armand Traore be our second choice left back when it's clear he can't defend. I feel sorry for Carl Jenkinson. He shouldn't be left in a position where as an
inexperienced player he's one player away from the first team.


The Manager
Got it all wrong yesterday. He should have at least tried to make us that much more defensive. We wouldn't have shipped so many goals had he tried to compact the play by changing the formation to 4-5-1. The game was far too open. I know he had little choice with the players he had out but Arshavin and Walcott weren't helping out the defenders behind them at all.

It has to be said that the manager has got his transfer policy totally wrong this summer as well. As I said previously, why have we not brought in the players we need to strengthen this squad? Even if Fabregas and Nasri had not left we needed to add experienced quality players to the team. We've not done that and are now left with three days to do the business we should have done in June.

The manager said he's still looking to sign a midfielder and defender after we sign Park Chu Young. Even if we make those signings our squad won't be strong enough to compete with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

The manager admitted in his post match press conference we couldn't compete with those three clubs over salaries.


The Owener / Board
Stan Kroenke has had plenty of time to get his feet under the table at the Grove, In fact he's already been at the club nearly three years yet we're still to hear from him. He's been the majority share holder for a number of weeks now and he's still unable to give us his vision for Arsenal Football Club.

Are we here to compete with the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea for the league or are we this season expected to scrap it out with Liverpool and Spurs for fouth? No one knows because no one has told us what we are aiming for.

Why has the owner allowed the club to stagnate in his first summer in charge? Why has he allowed a scatter gun approach to transfers when a clear policy of what we needed should have been drawn up at the end of last season. It's clear to me that we are leaderless from the boardroom. The present board are only there because of the agreement Kroenke made with them under the terms of the sale of their shares to him.

What is clear to me is a shake up is desperately needed. This is the first summer for 25 years when neither David Dein or Danny Fizsman have been involved in Arsenal Football Club. And it shows. Where is the drive? Who is pushing us forward?

You have to question why make season ticket holders pay 6.5% more when you're not going to invest in the squad?

A decision has to be made about whether we continue with the admirable but flawed route of self sustainability or we are helped financially by one of our two billionaire owners.


The Away Fans
I thought our travelling support were superb yesterday. They didn't give up their role as Arsenal's 12th man. I'm glad both the manager and captain saluted you in their post match interviews with Arsenal Player.

The Future
It seems we have to lower our expectations on where we will be finishing the season after yesterday's result. We have three day to do a summer's worth of business and even then if e get three new players in I don't think the squad is strong enough to compete.

I would love to be proved wrong but I fear we're in for a very rough season.



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