It's taken me over an hour to begin this blog post. It's been almost impossible to know where to start after Sunday's demolition, humiliation and disgrace at Old Trafford. Losing 8-2 in any situation, in any match, at any level, is simply unacceptable by the high standards set by Arsenal Football Club. It's not like we have a divine right to not get thrashed as reputations in sport ultimately mean nothing, but no Premier League side should just accept losing 8-2 as a bad day at the office.
For Arsenal, the infrastructure of the club, the fans, the stadium, the reputation, the recent record in the league, the manager and some of the players are of an extremely high standard. However, such a defeat as we received on Sunday has been coming for a while. Despite playing well last Wednesday and raising optimism amongst fans, there are underlying issues at the club that need addressing, both in the squad and higher up the Arsenal hierarchy. It's tough for all fans to have to face the reality of the situation we're now in as a club, and we can only hope that this result is so embarrassing and humiliating for those inside the Arsenal, that those issues are now properly addressed.
It's easy to play the blame game and single out certain individuals. However that doesn't help in these situations. The club as a whole has to be looked at. It isn't the fault of the players that they're picked to play for Arsenal, that's down to the manager, the coaching staff and those who scout the players in the first place. However once on the pitch, the players should take some responsibility for it themselves. We've seen some of them do great things with a ball in the past, but for some, greatness is seen all too rarely.
Then there is the board level. I definitely prefer the way Arsenal are run compared to most clubs in the Premier League, and the manager is rightly given almost complete control of the squad. There is still a sense that Arsenal do things ‘the right way’, and I love that about the club. However, I think they’ve got caught up in the ‘Arsenal way’. As much as I respect the work the club do, I think they became complacent about always being in the top four and staying near the top of the Premier League. Whilst other clubs have been strengthening, we’ve gone backwards. I’ve got a sense that the board could have assumed that Arsene will just work some magic and therefore they wouldn’t have to engage in money wars with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.
With the wage structure, I think it’s important that it exists at the club, although we’re effectively holding ourselves back against our rivals’ uncapped wages. We can’t compete from that point of view with those around us. Instead of demanding immediate and rash spending, should there be an evaluation of the wage structure? It’s all very well offering big amounts for players, but with big transfer fees usually comes big wages, and realistically that doesn’t fit into the Arsenal structure. Obviously the case of Fabregas was different due to his emotional attachment to Barcelona, but with others we aren’t seeing the benefit of our development of them due to higher wages being offered elsewhere. So as much as people will moan at Arsene Wenger, he can’t just alter the internal structure of the club on his own overnight, that has to come from those above him. Unfortunately, it seems like they haven’t been active enough in supporting Arsene to compete in the modern market.
In most football clubs though, the manager has to bear the brunt of fans’ anger towards the team. So far, Arsene Wenger hasn’t been active enough in improving the squad in the transfer market. Whether that’s solely down to him, only those inside the club will know. Ultimately though, he has the final say on who we do and don’t sign, and who is needed to improve the squad. There are two days to go before the window shuts, and the three key areas that need improvement haven’t been addressed. I don’t have any other strong memories of any other managers at Arsenal, so will always praise and respect Arsene Wenger for what he has done for the club, although everyone could see what was missing from the team at the end of last season. That has become even clearer during pre-season and into the start of the campaign following player sales. Why we’re leaving it this late to improve the squad, I don’t know.
Whether it’s the club not wanting to spend big, Wenger being too stubborn, or the manager believing too much in his young players, the fact is that Arsenal are being left behind in the Premier League. If we want to compete at the top of the league, we have to spend money. Wenger and the board may not like it, but the reality is that we can’t stay at the top without spending more. The Manchester United game was an all too graphic way of seeing this.
I’m not saying the manager should be sacked, not by any means, but he, along with the rest of the club, have let Arsenal fans down this summer. As much as we were optimistic after the Udinese game, a top class team like Manchester United were always likely to beat us. The manner of the defeat and the capitulation in the second half were disgraceful, and were it not so close to the transfer deadline that we couldn’t sell a lot of those players, they can count themselves lucky to ever get the chance to wear the cannon again; a cannon that means a lot to vast numbers of people, but clearly doesn’t mean a lot to some of them.
It’s hard to analyse the match in too much depth as there was so much that was wrong with it.
Manchester United did score some excellent goals, but all were avoidable defensively. Most teams would struggle to face Manchester United with three of their first choice back four missing, but they wouldn’t ship eight. Wojciech Szczesny in goal didn’t even have a bad game. Carl Jenkinson looked out of his depth, Armand Traore was frankly awful and the centre halves didn’t cover themselves in glory. Given they were our first choice pairing for most of last season, you wonder how we even finished in the top four.
Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin looked disinterested, Aaron Ramsey was swamped in midfield and Robin van Persie couldn’t hold the team up on his own, plus his penalty was poor. Theo Walcott, although he scored, didn’t get enough of the ball and make enough of an impression against Patrice Evra. One of the only men to come out with any credit was Francis Coquelin, and he was only there because of Song and Frimpong’s indiscipline.
As mentioned earlier, we should not be in a position that, with two days to go before the window shuts, we have no idea who will be in the Arsenal squad for the majority of the season. Nicklas Bendtner, Sebastien Squillaci, Manuel Almunia and Armand Traore could all go, meaning we need at least four players to sign in two days. It appears South Korean captain Park Chu Young is close to coming, along with left back Andre Santos from Fenerbahce. Whoever comes in must show like they want to be at Arsenal, and must improve the squad.
The Manchester United defeat was so bad, it appears to have kicked Arsene into action in the transfer market. As painful and horrific as it was, it could have been necessary to get the club moving forward again. If an 8-2 defeat isn’t a kick in the backside for the players, the manager and the board, then I don’t know what is.
Sunday showed all areas of the club need improving, bar one. The fans in the away end were fantastic. They were a credit to the club, and to Gooners everywhere. The offer of the club to pay for another away ticket was the correct one, as those there should be rewarded for their loyalty, and they’re the sort of people we want at away games in the future. If the players showed half the commitment that lot did, then there’s no way we’d have conceded eight. Those fans at Old Trafford should be examples to all of us as Arsenal fans, that no matter what the situation your team is in, you support the club. Criticise, analyse and scrutinise afterwards, but during the game, support the team and let them know how much you want those with a cannon on their chest, to succeed.
In a massive straw clutching exercise, and something that isn’t really a consolation after the weekend, but it does at least raise half a smile, a glance at the league table does at least show Tottenham below us and at the bottom. Relegation six pointer at White Hart Lane on the 2nd October? More performances like the Manchester United one and it’s a strong possibility.
We have two days to sort the squad out and make sure Arsene Wenger doesn’t come to an acrimonious end at Arsenal. Get on with it Arsene.
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