Bridge over: Troubled Wenger

Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal

Apologies in advance, because this is a pun-free, humourless post. “I wonder if you could stick a gag in?” asked Mrs Lower as she read it. I’ll see what I can do.

Are sure as eggs are eggs, Arsenal sank to their annual defeat at Stamford Bridge with barely a whimper. In terms of the title – that’s all folks; though in terms of performances the writing has been on the wall for some time.

First though, Chelsea. They were fantastic yesterday and have been fantastic since September, leaving everyone – not just us – well and truly in their wake. They defend as a unit, pick off their opponents and are relentlessly good at it. For an Arsenal fan, comparing the two sides yesterday was painful, especially as – unlike Chelsea sides of yore – there are fewer players to dislike.

There surely have to be doubts about the validity of the first goal, but few pundits or commentators seemed that fussed by it. Odd, no? Bellerin was flattened by Alonso’s elbow before he headed it in and I suspect that would have been blown as a foul anywhere else on the pitch.

To add insult to potential head injury, Bellerin was forced to retire with Gabriel replacing him. It was a double blow, because while Gabriel is an OK backup central defender, he really is no right back.

Would it have been different had we taken one of the few chances we had? There was one for Iwobi early on, a very presentable header for Gabriel and a great chance for Ozil.

I suspect not. It was a day when we really needed to step up but too many of our players were depressingly absent. Ozil and Sanchez, our two superstars, were two of the worst culprits. The former was peripheral while the latter cut a lonely and frustrated (and frustrating) figure.

Walcott was ineffective and didn’t defend, Iwobi faded, Coquelin was utterly overwhelmed and to cap it all off Petr Cech picked a bad day for a howler. We were at best ineffective yesterday, and at worst disorganised, error prone and playing off the cuff.

A horse walks into a bar. The barman looks at him and asks, ‘Why the long face?’

Our 3-0 win earlier in the season – our best performance of the season – was the outlier. Because overall, when the chips are down against sides that we like to compare ourselves against, we have been poor.

And our record at Stamford Bridge since our 5-3 win in 2011 also speaks for itself. We’ve lost every time with an aggregate score of 15-2.

The title is as good as over. Even if Chelsea collapsed, we’d have to go on a barnstorming run. Neither looks remotely likely. Maybe the boss can pull something out of the hat in the Champions League? Past performance would suggest otherwise.

The fact is that year after year, irrespective of the players, we are too often making the same mistakes. We let in silly goals. We disappear too often. We aren’t prepared well enough. We are inconsistent. We are predictable. We switch off.

And that, of course, rests at the doorstep of Arsene Wenger. Martin Keown said after the game that he believed Wenger would sign a new two-year deal. The boss stands alone at being able to get us into the top four, but taking us to the next level? That now seems beyond him.

Will he really take that deal? I’m not so sure he will. To me it feels like the team needs a massive dose of the smelling salts. It needs a new broom to sweep through it and it needs new ideas. I don’t know many Arsenal fans who think Wenger will be the man to do that. But in the end, because of the incredible power he wields within the club, perhaps the more pertinent question is: Does Wenger still think he’s the man to do that?

“We want you to stay,” sang the Chelsea fans with mirth. I wonder if he heard.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Paul S

    Good succinct post Jim

    Difficult to disagree that Chelsea are worthy Champions-elect but the Arsenal squad at the start of the season appeared to to be set up to be competitive to the end of the season.

    As it is, we are now 12 points behind Chelsea at the beginning of February and hanging onto their coat tails. I have just looked back at our results this season and if you consider the relatively lucky last minute goals against Burnley twice, Southampton at home and United away, we could easily be in 7th place, just a little ahead of WBA.

    I am certainly not a fan who demands glory every year but it is surely a poor reflection of Mr Wenger that as manager of one of the 10 richest football clubs in the World, we have not been competing in the final weeks of the season in the Prem. in over 10 years, with the same failings arising season after season.

    In any rational world, it is time for change at the top.

  2. Jim

    Agreed. It’s the sheer repetitiveness that is turning many away. Like you say, if it wasn’t for some last minute goals we’d be even further off the pace.

  3. CA Gooner

    Having seen what happened to United after Furguson left, we have to ask ourselves this question – would we accept two or three years outside the top four and CL as our new manager(s) beds in. For me the answer is “yes”. Give me something different.

  4. Jim

    I think wanting something different, something to change, is a big factor. As for the CL – it’s important for player recruitment and retention. But it’s not as if we properly compete in it. We bust a gut to get in then exit meekly. Then bust a gut to get back in…

  5. Graham

    Its not about the money the CL brings in its about the fans!
    It used to be about community but thats long gone with the new stadium. So many things have gone wrong with this club, the kit, the crest….I could go on and on and on…..
    Ive had lean years, I’ve had the Invincible’s, its ups and downs, has to be that way in football, but we’ve been on a downward spiral for years now, somethings got to give and we all know what that has got be. The board need to realise its time to move on up, get smart and think about the future.
    Thanks for the good times AW, its been a pleasure……..

    Where’s the Percy Daltons gone anyway?

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