Match report: Another Fine Mess

Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Arsenal

And so, with smoke from the funnels of HMS Season Ticket Renewals visible from the quay of the port, Arsenal’s end-of-season implosion continues apace.

It’s now painfully clear that our Laurel-and-Hardy Carling Cup finale was the beginning of the calamitous end as far as this season is concerned. Since then, it’s been one league win in seven games. In all competitions, two wins in ten. It’s been Collaps-o-Arsenal on a macro scale and rather than looking wistfully northwards, we are peering southwards at the great unwashed Champions-League-coveting hordes. It’s a familiar end of season denouement.

As for yesterday, it transpires that when Wenger said the title was “completely open” after the draw against Liverpool, it was a slip of the tongue: he was referring to our defence. Two set pieces, two headed goals conceded. It’s embarrassing how long this weakness has endured. Teams know it’s an achilles heel – it has been for longer than I care to recall – and they exploit it time and again. As well as that we were sliced apart on several occasions yesterday, right through the middle. It was a day to forget for Djourou & Co, though you can spare Szczesny any brickbats. He made two or three excellent saves and to my mind, talk of summer rebuilding can bypass that department.

At least Wenger accepted it in his post-match press conference: “We were too frail defensively during the season”. Why he didn’t address it in January, when he had the chance, is another matter entirely. As he said himself, this was not a tricky run-in, but it’s one we have totally bottled. Mental strength? Spare me.

The rest of the match was Arsenal’s season distilled – or maybe just Arsenal, distilled. Loads of possession, some fine interplay, plenty of good chances to bury the game, all squandered. A glorious period of pressure that gave way to the usual frustrated encampment around the opposition’s D. Undone by poor defending and an inability to kill games off.

As he often does, he laid himself open to criticism, thus exempting his players from the blame. I’m no psychologist, but he’s always been like this and it’s served him well in the past. But their “outstanding attitude” is one thing. Their technical ability as footballers in not in doubt either. It’s the unquantifiable rest that many of us yearn for next season: Concentration, discipline, ruthlessness and a vicious will to win. And that needs to be imported, because it’s not going to happen of its own accord.

So all in all, pretty gloomy stuff I’m afraid. I was positive for as long as I could be, but there’s no glossing over the atrocious end to this season. We’re now playing for pride and an automatic Champions League place.

So I leave you with a quote from my favourite author, PG Wodehouse, which just about sums my thoughts up at the moment:

I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.


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

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Tom Tit

    As my twitter name suggests I am not the most upbeat / possitive of Arsenal fans (MRNegativeAFC) , but this was not always the case ! I said to many Arsenal fans and other supporters last summer that unless a significant amount of cash was spent and good quality experience and I meant Premiership experienced players were brought in, that we would finish 3rd at best. I do not claim to be any football expert but it seems I have got that almost spot on ! But in many ways that depresses me even more , that a humble little fan like myself could see this but no one it appears at the club could ? I have not used my season ticket this season for personal reasons but they have not once made me feel I was missing antything special ! The renewals will be out like a flash in the next few weeks and for the first time ever I am seriously thinking of leaving the club to the new generation of fans ! Maybee Wenger should do the same , and leave the club to a new generation of football management ? I really hope so now

  2. elliot

    Great stuff, what concerns me more than anything is that Wenger said pretty much the same thing about the defence last season – something along the lines of 41 goals conceded was too many to win the league – and nothing has been done about it. I am seriously concerned about his comments about the “football principles” of the team, he still seems to believe that he needs to be convinced to change these principles, surely seasons 08, 10 and this one should have told him something needs to change?

  3. Anonymous

    Has anyone looked at the table ? It is entirely possible that this time next week (having lost to MU which is inevitable) we could be 2 points ahead of Citeh having played a game more. 4th place again for a team that we keep being told have ‘matured’ & ‘improved’ ???
    You ask why he didn’t address these issues in Jan ? why not last summer ? or the one before ?
    Arsene wants us to win the league again, but on his terms only. He wants to be proved right & it is simply not going to happen. Time to move on or be moved on….a sad, depressing end to an era…..

  4. East Lower

    All valid fears and criticisms. I feel them too.

    I’m prepared to be patient, at least for another year. It’s clear something has to change and it ought to this summer – tweak the approach, ditch some deadwood, bring in a few proven winners. I’ll be really interested to see how the close season unfolds.

  5. Anonymous

    It ought to have changed last summer, it was just as clear then….Arsene was so unbelievably angry after the capitulation at Wigan last season that I couldn’t wait for the close season so that all these issues would be addressed. But not one of them was.
    I genuinely believe he doesn’t see the need for these changes. My patience has run out….

  6. Adam Elder

    I hope in his downtime Wenger starts watching old games of his title-winning sides. The entire blueprint for success is right there.

    01-02 was my all-time favorite, if he’s taking suggestions.

  7. Jeff

    I’ve watched all the matches since the win against Barcelona, I just haven’t expended much energy being upset by them. Hopefully we’ll get some good performances and results to end the season – that would be a great turnaround.

    The real joy of following the Arsenal won’t come again until the build-up to next season, though, when we’ll have it all to play for.

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