Sunday, 18 August 2013

This wasn't the chickens coming home to roost. Villa match report and thoughts.

Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 3

To quote Rudyard Kipling, "if you can keep your head when all about you are losing their and blaming it on you […] you'll be a man". The reaction to yesterday's Arsenal match has been so over-the-top you'd think we'd lost our first ten games of the season, not one match. Fortunately, we have a manager who doesn't view one match as season-defining.

If you predicted us picking up three injuries in one match and the ref having an absolutely appalling game then perhaps this was a case of the chickens coming home to roost and the summer having been mis-managed to the nth degree.

Otherwise, you can look back on a football match in which we utterly dominated for the first quarter, gave away a soft penalty and two enforced substitutions left us relatively few options to change it from the bench when the game slipped away from us in the second half. In addition, a match in which the referee not only gave Koscielny a second booking for what was frankly a complete dive from Andreas Weimann, but also consistently let Villa's persistent fouling go, despite it completely disrupting our rhythm. It wasn't just a case of Anthony Taylor getting the big decisions wrong; it was also a case of him getting the small decisions wrong over and over again. He had no idea what was a foul, let alone what was a yellow card. To my eyes, he completely lost control of the game and we're unlikely to see a worse refereeing performance at the Emirates this season.

And that's the crucial point. You can talk about signings as much as you want, but Arsenal were 2/5 with the bookies to win the match yesterday (implying a 70% chance of victory) and most people expected Arsenal to win.

That's the problem with results-based thinking. The squad needs strengthening. But it needed strengthening irrespective of the result yesterday, and there's no doubt that the team that was put out there was good enough to win the game.

As to why the squad hasn't been strengthened until now, there seems to be a large proportion of the fan-base who genuinely believe that Wenger doesn't want to spend any money so he can wallpaper the walls of the training ground with fifty-pound notes, completely ignoring what has gone on this summer.

I don't view our transfer window as a success, but I don't view it as the unequivocal failure most people seem to. There's a hell of a lot of people who'd be happier if Yaya Sanogo had cost 10 million pounds so they can say we've spent some money.

But if you look at the players we've actually bid for - Suarez, Rooney, Bender, Fabregas - a clear pattern emerges. What the club have tried to do this summer is sign players who could make us challenge for the League once again. Amidst all the talk of how Arsenal regularly come either 3rd or 4th, what's overlooked is that in both 2008 and 2010, we had strong challenges for the title, something we haven't been near for the previous two years.

Of course we could have gone out and bought players of the calibre Spurs have bought this summer - Capoue, Soldado etc - and consolidated the squad to a position where it could definitely achieve fourth place, but the impression I had from almost everybody who I spoke to was that they were tired of not winning things every season and wanted to strengthen to the point we could challenge for the title and maybe even the Champions League.

If another week or so passes and we still haven't signed anybody except Sanogo, I expect the the proverbial net to widen, as the need to sign players who would keep us above Spurs, rather than challenge Chelsea and City increases. But I have enormous sympathy with the club: when Fabregas left Arsenal it was on the 14th of August; when Nasri left Arsenal it was on the 24th of August; when van Persie signed for United, it was on the 15th of August; when Song signed for Barcelona it was on the 20th of August. What all of these deals have in common is that they went through towards the end of the transfer window. When you're signing one of the best players from a club, and the player is going to be in the Champions League anyway, it takes a while for these deals to go through. People talk about parsimony as if it's a good idea to spend more if you can spend less. We can't force deals through with huge money as Man City do, because we don't have that much money.

For sure, Arsenal can afford to spend some money this summer - but it's not worth buying assets who will rapidly lose value while being on high wages, meaning we''ll struggle to make top signings in 2014 and 2015. There's an important middle ground to be struck, which I'm confident the club have tried to find.

So, yes, we could sign players like Ashley Williams and Michu and guarantee 4th place once again, but I applaud the club's strategy of aiming higher than that. People need to be a little more detached from individual results and look at the bigger picture.

Keep the faith.


Ahmed yusuf said...

Nice article. Wenger can only redeem himself if he signs a couple of world class players. The squad needs quality depth. I suspect the injuries happened because some players were already pushed to their limits with preseason and international games. Some players were not even 100% for the game.

Anonymous said...

I utterly disagree.If AW had spent quicker and earlier, and been decisive in the market we would have 3 points in the bag already.the midfield is a shambles without a strong DM which leaves the two CBs exposed and unprotected.the pens yesterday resulted from the lack of a stopper in used to be the guy, arteta now, but without arteta we just cannot win games and we, this isn't one game we r talking about, its ALL last season as well

GoonerDog said...

Deluded! As a manager you plan for injuries by having sufficient depth in the squad (in addition to having the best possible first 11 that your resources can afford you - which we don't!) . We now have one CB for next weekend! Lets blame the refs for that shall we?

Anonymous said...

Yesterday’s result has shown that Wenger has lost the plot. I persisted with Wenger out of respect and nostalgic belief in exploits now, sadly, too far gone to be relevant to his current managerial choices. But enough is enough. The team he’s assembled is mediocrity personified and that is not what Arsenal Football club was, is, or ever should be.

Wenger must go!

And the mediocrity that he hopelessly persists with must go as well. Start with Aaron Ramsey. Then sell Mertesacker, Podolski, and Sagan…for a start. The wholesale dismantling of the team must take place as well as the managerial change. The team Wenger has assembled was designed solely to win 4th place. And it won’t be strong enough even to do that this year without a thorough overhaul.

I’m sick of this great club settling for 2nd tier talent. I’m sick of 2nd tier players running around desperately chasing 4th place. We need to regain our dignity as a club and revitalize this team with 1st tier talent. Wenger is not the man for that job. Nuf Sed!

myde4real said...

Nice article, but you fail to realise that its not about signing that the fans were complaining about, its about preparation for every new season, since 2005, the preparation has been to sell our top players if they don't sign new deals and receive cash and neglect bringing in new addition to fill the void. I hope you are happy by having your hope dashed every season if you ever have one.

Anonymous said...

Wenger has lost the plot. Time the board grew a pair and said adios. He is not prepared to change even though it clearly is not working. He was ahead of his time but now he is stuck in a timewarp with the board eating out of hand and the club going backwards fast. #WengerOutBergkampIn

Anonymous said...

I have to be honest I have mixed opinions. In many ways i can agree with your article, yes we don't want to settle for players who will consolidate 4th when really everyone wants Arsenal to push for the very top.

On the other hand he has had the whole summer to go out for high quality players, look at the calibre that have moved already (higuain, cavani, falcao etc)...they are amongst the best in the world and they moved early, it shows you can get world class talent early on.

This transfer window has been nothing short of a massive cock up built upon false hope.

Also in response to "anonymous post number 4" what you are suggesting is ridiculous. Although you may not regard Mertesacker, Podolski etc as 'world class' they are incredibly good footballers....just look at the partnership Merte formed with Koscielny in the run in to the end of last season, very solid, and you dont have in excess of 100 caps for Germany for being average. To sell them would be ridiculous, you want a squad built on players of that calibre with a couple of exceptional players in it also. To have a team of world class players is to be honest a ridiculous proposition. Not even teams like Barca are all world class (valdes *cough*).

The sad thing is Arsene knows what it takes to build a winning team, and this current team is a good foundation from which to build into said team. I believe this is why we are all so miffed.

Anyway that's just my opinion

Adam said...

@anon at 20:20.

I don't disagree that top players have moved but look at the individual circumstances - Cavani went to play with Lavezzi again, Falcao went to a tax haven.

Suarez and Rooney are still available - we'll see what happens...

Anonymous said...

World class players graduate from some humble starts...I personally don't blv in a one or two world class players,(BVB)readily comes to mind. I want a team that can challenge for silverware,not just spending lavishly on a player. Still believes Arsene knows.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but new top quality signings most certainly would've affected how we handled that game. And quite apart from signings, there were a whole set of problems with the team itself that no new signings will solve. Those problems exist even without a poor ref. This piece explains it far better than I could:

arsenalfan said...

Ok, the ref had an absolute shocker, but we can't blame him fir losing the game. Arsenal once went unbeaten for 49 games, you can't tell me that we didn't have a game where the ref was poor in all that time. If there is enough quality in the squad, it doesn't matter about the performance of the ref, that quality shines through and the team get the result.
At the moment this squad doesn't have enough quality, like many have said we are 3-4 very good signings away from having a squad that can challenge for the title and/or domestic trophies.

This transfer window has been a complete failure so far, yes we may have been targeting players that have the quality to push on, but how many of them have we signed? None.
Wenger is now apparently after Michu, who while I respect and think is a decent player, he's not going to win us the title.

How a club can go into a season with 3 centre backs, one injured fairly early on in preseason and not find some cover is almost negligent. We have 2 first team defenders available for the game in turkey, which means that Arsene is going to have to throw on some young kids, which us not fair on them really is it?

I don't think Wenger's entirely to blame, there is something wrong at all levels of the club, whether the scouting staff are poor or the board are lining their pockets, until it is fixed, we're not going to win the league!

Meddie said...

Thanks for this piece. I have been talking to friends about the same, and how i wish I articulated the issues as you have so ably done.

I believe that in a way, the media has over reacted to Villa match and connected it with the usual narrative. It has got to Arsenal funs big time. But I get it.

Yes, we have 3 central defenders. There was a time (last year) when we had 5 but only 3 would play. What is the difference? I know that we loaned one central defender because he didn't enough/any games at Arsenal.

Folks talk about who we should have bought or missed... Gustavo, Bender etc. What they don't say is if the player wanted to come, would accept our offer ( not at 150K salary as Gustavo went for) or the club didn't want to sale ( bender's case).

LG said...

Enjoyed this. Tim Stillman directed me here and I'm glad he did. I personally only expect a versatile midfielder and versatile creative forward. (though that may be hoping for too much). The idea that the players being approached are of the highest quality to help for a title bid is correct in my opinion. Lovely to read a balanced analysis!

Timothy Cassidy said...

Well said! I agree that it is easier for Tottenham to bring in players at their level than it is for us to bring in players for our level. There are simply more middle of the road players available. I like the players we have and believe that we are missing a couple of game changers. Imagine us with Vieira or Henry or Adams or all of the above. Those guys were class and they are definitely not the low hanging fruit that find their way into Spurs shopping basket.

Anonymous said...

sack arsene now.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the post but can't necessarily sympathize with the manager.. what it means is that the manager and his team had the right ideas but couldn't execute their plans.. that still counts as a failure and at this level, when you are getting paid a ridiculous amount of money, only having the right ideas doesn't make the cut... in any other job in the world u'd get straight fired for a failure of this magnitude...