“Forwards, not sideways”

Arsenal 0-2 Swansea

This time, the broken crests are merited. Arsenal are all at sea after a performance so dispiriting, so lacking in any redeeming points, that the only conclusion you can draw with any confidence is that something is very wrong at the club.

I was, for the second game running, prawn-sandwiching it up in Club Level. It’s ambitious, impressive, organised, attractive. And then the game began.

A bird’s eye view from a central location – this is normally a good thing, a selling point. But yesterday it merely served to highlight how lacklustre Arsenal were, how short of ideas and energy and movement. Pass, pass, pass, sideways pass, pass back, pass sideways, pass. But where was the incision? Where was the speed of thought? Where is the danger? When Arsenal are like this – and we have been like this three, four or five times this season already – it is boring. Boring. I don’t think we once truly stretched the Swansea defence, not once did we put them under sustained pressure. It was as if they were merely going through the motions.

“We’ll sing when we want”, blasted the visitors from south Wales, which was a good thing because nobody else was much. I do remember a chorus of ‘Giroud’ going up in about the 48th minute, which says it all. There is nothing to sing about. It’s all very well saying that the fans have a duty to raise the tempo of the players, but it’s nigh on impossible when the ball rarely goes into dangerous areas. Play with some verve and energy and the crowd feeds off it.

Incidentally, props to Swansea who look a fine side. They were more dangerous in front of goal and had it not been for Szczesny, the game would have been wrapped up sooner.

All in all this reminds me a bit of late 1994, early 1995, when Arsenal were turgid, a shadow of the old swashbuckling George Graham side of 1987 – 1992. This season’s Wenger side – a few good results aside – has been a pale shadow too, shorn of its goals-from-nowhere man, who was sold in the summer for £24m.

Back in 1995, an ‘unsolicited gift’ made the board’s decision to dispense with Graham easy. Wenger’s future is harder to ascertain. He won’t get the push. Will he walk? He always said he will judge himself at the end of the season. That sounds fair to me.

The frustrating thing is that these players are mostly decent. Man for man, we have a good defence, some hugely dynamic midfielders, youthful vigour on the flanks. Some people say we have for a while been punching above our weight – scraping top four through various miracles. I’m not sure I agree with that. I look at these players and I see very good players punching far below their weight. Players who can put in dynamic shifts against City away, Spurs at home, but the very next game not manage a shot on goal.

Sure, we need to strengthen, that is obvious. But beyond that, and more importantly, they need reinvigorating, a new approach. They need to believe. Can Wenger turn this round again and make it happen? He did last season, (if you buy into the notion that scraping third is ‘turning things around’). But this season performances have been worse and more worrying. In the short term, he might just do it. Long term? Well I’m obviously not the only one doubting.

It is clearly the biggest challenge of his 16 years.

“Forwards, not sideways” – overheard yesterday. No doubt mirrored elsewhere with similar or different words.

8 thoughts on ““Forwards, not sideways”

  1. I think that Wenger ‘turning it around’ last season had more to do with having the best striker in the Premier league that could conjure something up out of nothing. We don’t have that this year and look where we are.

  2. Wenger’s only option is to leave. He supposedly has the money but will not spend it. Does he expect to win with ordinary players. The players do not want to stay. He must now give someone else the opportunity to make it work. Mr Wenger has performed miracles assuming always there were no funds. Do we believe that??

  3. Well certainly, the longer the money we are told we have is not spent, the more likely it is there is no money. If so, where is it?

  4. True. Any team would miss his 37 goals. Just as Utd are now benefitting, we are suffering. Idiotic to sell him in hindsight.

  5. In all the fallout since the weekend, I have not seen much reaction to this quote from Arsene on arsenal.com : ‘At the moment it looks like, away from home, we are quite consistent and our results are positive. But at home we have not produced the performances since the beginning of the season that you would expect from us, and that is where we have to find the solution.’

    Surely I can’t be the only person that thinks this is the most bizarre comment he has ever made & is extremely worrying ? In 8 away league games, we have won 2. In our last 4 away games, we have just 2 points. 1 decent performance v Everton, 1 average (at best) one v Villa & two simply appalling performances at Man Utd & Norwich.
    It makes that a quite extraordinary statement. I simply cannot comprehend what he was trying to say or who we was trying to fool. Just incredible.

  6. It is bizarre and clearly disingenuous. But I don’t really blame him. What else is he going to say? “We’ve been as bad away as we are at home”? He’s trying to deflect criticism and raise moral I imagine.

  7. But why even mention it ? There wasn’t a leading question at all. Why not just say ‘our form needs to improve’ ?

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