Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gloom and Doom in the Arsenal Camp

Morning everyone. I could definitely use some coffee. Hang on I'm going to go make some. Alright, got that going now. On to Arsenal. Arsenal have been a bit puzzling lately to me. We'll start with two weeks ago at Manchester United in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. The lineup we sent out onto the pitch that night was one that none of us would have picked in a million years. Putting Nasri in the center wastes his skill that he has the chance to use out in the wide spots, putting Cesc as a support striker wastes his ability to pick out a brilliant pass, and Diaby is just a waste period. United ran us into the ground with a lineup clearly designed to defend, and only some brilliant work from Manuel Almunia kept us in the tie. Yet we all know what happened in the second leg. In between those though, we played Portsmouth away in the league. With what you'd probably consider a "reserve lineup" with all eyes on the second leg against United, we wiped the floor with them 3-0. I know it was only Portsmouth but when you see how well players like Vela and Bendtner played, it makes you wonder why on earth they didn't get a chance against United. You can't tell me that Vela doesn't bring more to the team than Diaby does, and you can't tell me that Adebayor (even though I still do support him, mind you) is in better form than Nicklas Bendtner right now.

In the second leg, Kieran Gibbs made a crucial error at the beginning of the match that allowed United to score. I don't blame him at all though, it happens to everyone. The problem I have is that Gibbs was having to play in that match in the first place. An 18 year old should not have to start at left back in the Champions League semi-final facing off against arguably the best player in the world. If Wenger didn't want to bring in someone as cover for Clichy, then he at least could have used Eboue at left back, who played well there against Portsmouth and has shown himself to be quite a capable full-back against top opposition, including the clean sheet streat in the 2006 Champions League. Silvestre as well, is not someone who I'd ever dream of lining up to face a team like United in such a big game, yet a refusal to buy last summer when everyone knew we needed to left us in such a position.

My main issue with how Arsenal have been managed though in the last few weeks is Arsene Wenger's prioritizing of competitions. He seems to be quite willing to give up some competitions to have more of a run at others. We already know he plays a bunch of kids in the Carling Cup, and I'm fine with that because I like to see what they can do against some top clubs and it is good experience for them. The FA Cup being pushed to the side though, is something that does not sit well with me. Wenger's quote to Sky Sports was this:

For me there’s two trophies really. The Premiership and the Champions League.

It shows why, even though Arshavin couldn't play in the Champions League anyway, he didn't play against Chelsea. Alex Song, who has been in the best form of his life, was left out in favor of Abou Diaby. We were in the FA Cup Semi-Final. A match that all of us were excited about, with the hopes of our first trophy in four years if we could just win the last two matches of the competition. Yet Arsene never cared if we won the cup at all. His thoughts were on the Champions League, which we went on to get crushed in anyway. So instead of having the FA Cup to still look forward to, our season, yet again, must be marked as a failure.

I've always enjoyed the FA Cup. It was the first trophy I ever saw Arsenal win live. It isn't like the Carling Cup where nobody really cares and not many teams put out their best sides. This is a prestigious competition that has gone by the wayside for Arsene Wenger's dream of winning the Champions League. When you prioritize competitions, you need to make sure you are winning the ones that you make a priority, or else your strategy was a waste. If we are not going to play our best team that gives us the best chance to win a trophy, why not just send the team out to lay down on the pitch? Because that's essentially what we were doing.

This isn't a bash Arsene Wenger post, but the signs are worrying that his stubborness has gone too far now. His refusal to buy in the summer when it was SO clearly needed still irks at me, and probably at the rest of you too. Imagine if we had bought Arshavin in the summer, so he wasn't cup-tied in the Champions League and we had had him against United. Does anyone think that that tie wouldn't have gone differently with him in the lineup? Yet we waited till January so we could save a few quid and we couldn't use him for our most important match of the year. In fact, we didn't use him in our second most important match of the year either, the FA Cup Semi. If we bring in some players for next season, should we expect them to start the year or just wait until halfway through? The youth project is not a failure, but it is not a success either. Success would be titles and trophies, none of which we have since the old guard left and was never replaced.

The upcoming offseason troubles me greatly. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't worried about the potential of Cesc Fabregas leaving. He clearly needs and wants help in this team, and even asked for it in the for of Xabi Alonso, but help was never given to him. Lose Hleb, lose Flamini, lose Gilberto, and replace with only Nasri. That's never a good move, no matter how good you think your team is. If a bid comes in for Adebayor, I'd expect him to be sold. I've always thought he was a good player, unlike the majority of Arsenal supporters, but a decent offer for him won't be refused. I don't know that Bendtner is good enough to lead the line for us, which means we might need a striker in the transfer market too. I'm at the point though where I don't expect one to arrive. I don't really expect a midfielder, or a defender either. I'm getting to where I'm resigned to sending the same team back on the pitch to watch them fall short yet again.

It's painful as a fan, one who lives and dies with the club, to see them continually miss out on it's goals and nothing be done about it. We had to sign Arshavin just so we could finish in the top four this year, and that just isn't how it should be. I don't buy that this club has no money for signings, it just doesn't make any sense. It's just stubborness that says this team is good enough, and Wenger wants to prove every doubter wrong by winning with this young team. The problem is, when these young players get sick of not winning, they won't be in this team anymore. Just like Flamini, they will be seeking greener pastures. The time to win is the year that you are in. You can build to the future and still have a great squad. Look at what United have for example. They play a 35 year old in Ryan Giggs, who is a cunt of course but they still get the best out of him, and also have young players like Nani who can play in his spot. It gives them options and versatility that we don't have, and allows players to develop in training instead of on the spot like Kieran Gibbs had to. I'm sick of the excuses about how he doesn't want to stunt the growth of the young players, because competition only makes you better, not worse. And if bringing someone in the compete DOES crush their development, than they weren't good enough to play for Arsenal anyway.

It could be a tough transfer season this summer yet again, but I hope, for the club's sake and for the fans' sake, that Arsene Wenger decides enough is enough and makes some changes. Cheers.

Leave your thoughts. I'm going to try to do a podcast later today too on the new computer, so I'm hoping for some good quality. If you have any ideas or things you want to hear on there, leave them in the comments or email me. Peace.


Mike said...

I am trying to figure out where Arshavin was against Chelsea, how can he not even make the bench? I haven't read anything about an injury. It seems unlikely, but is it possible that he did not want to play against Hiddink or that Wenger thinks Hiddink will somehow be able to stop him? He came in for a few minutes in the FA Cup Semi I think, so I don't know what is up.

We really hurt ourselves a lot by not playing him. We had many chances, but lacked good finishing. It makes no sense to have the best finisher in our squad not even on the bench.

Anonymous said...

I d0n't think that put in bendtner t0 be the 1st line-up..why n0t arshavin were in the 1st eleven last weekand when facing chelsea..it might give a better result..

Anonymous said...

arshavin fell ill with the flu a few days before the chelsea game and consequently missed all the training prior to the game. he would have undoubtedly started against hiddink.

Vertino Aleci said...

the flu excuse was a bit mysterious to me. I mean, I never heard of it until friday evening...I seriously hope Hiddink doesn't stay at Chelsea beyond this season. One he's a damn good manager (albeit lucky but u make your luck i guess) but also, thats two games where arshavin hasn't started against chelsea. If this carries on, andrey will miss 2 games for certain next season...

Kenneth said...

"For me there’s two trophies really. The Premiership and the Champions League."

I agree, although I would also like to see the team going well in other championships as well