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Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/17/2012

I'll start this blog with some honesty. I don't like Wigan. I went there in 2010 and saw Arsenal lose 3-2 as another hopeful title bid spectacularly crumbled and for obvious reasons didn't enjoy my trip to the DW as much as I'd hoped. I don't really like that Wigan can't get more than 200 fans to come to an away game. I sometimes feel that there are clubs that would bring more to the circus of the Premier League than Wigan Athletic.

However I have nothing but the upmost respect for Roberto Martinez, and Dave Whelan as their chairman. Whereas other chairmen might have sacked a manager that was in charge of a team that seemed in free-fall, Whelan stuck by Martinez and it's paying off at this stage of the season as they are now looking like a good bet to avoid relegation. Loyalty can go a long way in football. Martinez hasn't just got Wigan playing boring, functional football either. They play with ambition and he has developed a different formation that is hard for anyone to play against. Martinez is getting the best out of a limited squad at the most important part of the season.

• Wigan blog: Great escape on for giant-killers

However the best thing about the way Wigan Athletic are playing at the moment, and thing Arsenal really should learn from, is to pressure the ball high up the pitch, to play with freedom and without fear. A classic Wenger-ism to say that we have the handbrake on; Wigan's was non-existent at the Emirates whilst ours was firmly on. With so few games left this season, that shouldn't have been the case.

The match was a reminder that, as much as Arsenal have been playing well recently and have been on a good run of form, we're still a long way off winning the league. We're still not consistent enough when playing against lower teams. This season, we've lost to Blackburn, Wigan, QPR, Swansea, Fulham, and dropped points against Bolton. That tells its own story as to why we haven't wrapped up a place in the top four with four games to go.

The Wigan match in particular was frustrating because the early signs were that we could win the match comfortably if we didn't allow the visitors to settle. Vermaelen had a shot go wide, Benayoun had a header saved and Arteta hit a free-kick into the wall. We were on the front foot and should have stayed there. We were undone by our own naivety and a good counter attack from Wigan.

Mikel Arteta was clearly struggling with his ankle injury when Wigan broke away for the first goal, but no-one covered for the Spaniard by busting a gut to get back and help those few who had chased back. To be so open from our own corner against a team that have someone like Victor Moses to lead the breakaway was strange. When the ball reached Franco di Santo in the middle, I think Wojciech Szczesny could have done better by not committing himself so early by going to ground.

Having gone behind, we still had Mikel Arteta off the pitch, and should have been more careful with possession straight after conceding. Wigan showed more fight and more desire to hound us down, win the ball back and attack again. It would have been easy for them to immediately drop back and have a flat back five sitting on the edge of their own penalty area, but given their need for points, they didn't do that, and we weren't ready for it. Victor Moses did well on the left, and put the ball into a good position in the box, but both of our centre backs shouldn't have been going for the same ball at the near post. Szczesny again wasn't decisive enough, and we conceded another needless, scrappy goal.

Arteta went off, and even though we had more possession, we looked unbalanced in midfield and lacked drive in the middle of the pitch. Rosicky worked hard, but Alex Song looked like a different player without Arteta next to him, and Aaron Ramsey seemed to be trying too hard and often delayed passes when we needed to inject pace into the game. When Arteta went off at 2-0 down, there is an argument that we could have brought Oxlade-Chamberlain on, however with over 80 minutes left, we shouldn't have needed to make a significant tactical change in midfield. Those on the pitch should have been good enough to drag us back into the match.

Whilst Wigan were really organised, passed the ball well when they had it and weren't afraid to attack, Arsenal looked short of ideas on how to break down a team with three centre backs. Gary Caldwell was able to follow Robin van Persie's every move, whilst having two other centre backs there to sweep up other players breaking forward. Theo Walcott didn't continue his good form on the right when we needed to stretch the Wigan defence, and Yossi Benayoun cut inside too much.

We could have utilised our full backs more to create chances and stretch the defence. Bacary Sagna was covered by Jean Beausejour for much of the game, and it was difficult for him to push too far forward because of the danger of Victor Moses on the break. On the other side, Andre Santos drifted inside far too much, both when attacking and defending. He is capable of whipping in some great crosses, yet he didn't stay near the touchline to be dangerous. Thomas Vermaelen didn't seem to be in the defence for most of the game, and as he showed with his goal, his presence going forward did cause problems. Numerous times however, he swept the ball out wide, continued running towards the box but the move slowed down so momentum was lost.

It's hard to know whether the team were complacent, but they didn't seem ready for Wigan to show ambition, actually play good football and attack us at the Emirates. Even when we were chasing the game in the second half, there was a lack of imagination and shape to side. Without Arteta anchoring everything, the team always looked suspect on the counter attack and we didn't have anyone make themselves available to receive passes to make space like the Spaniard has done for us this season.

We now go into Saturday's Chelsea game with a lot of pressure riding on it. Since the 8-2 at the start of the season, we've not performed badly against the bigger teams, and there should be no danger of complacency now. I'm concerned by who'll replace Mikel Arteta with him likely to miss out with injury. Aaron Ramsey is being made a scapegoat by some fans, and he is out of form, but he had an excellent game away at Stamford Bridge when we won 5-3. Abou Diaby might be available but won't be fit enough to start the game, so I'd like to see Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle. He played there when Arteta was unavailable against Milan at the Emirates in the Champions League, and he absolutely bossed the midfield. Chelsea could be tired after facing Barcelona, so having the pace of Oxlade-Chamberlain could stretch them.

Regardless of who plays, we'll have to show the same desire and willingness to close the opposition down, as Wigan did against us on Monday. I'm not suggesting we play three centre backs (we'd never have enough fit to do that anyway!), but we need to be more flexible when faced with something different. As with the QPR defeat, we shouldn't have needed the kick up the backside to improve, and it's these lapses that have meant we haven't won major trophies. Take Wigan's attitude against us when we play Chelsea, and we can get a grip on third again.

It remains to be seen if we'll be without Mikel Arteta for the rest of the season, but we definitely won't see Jack Wilshere in this campaign. He is a player that can make a difference in tight games, so it'll be beneficial for us that he won't go to the European Championships and be part of England's inevitable inglorious exit and risk another potential injury setback if rushed back into action.

Finally, if you want to see an Arsenal team that have won a lot of trophies in recent seasons, I recommend heading to the Emirates on Thursday 26th April as the Arsenal Ladies are playing Chelsea in the Women's Super League. The domestic season has just started, and Arsenal are in the semi-final of the Champions League. The WSL also have digital ambassadors to increase followers of the league, and Arsenal's is Steph Houghton, so follow her on Twitter @StephHoughton2 to keep up with the Arsenal Ladies.

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Comments

Posted by GoonerBear on 04/17/2012

*sigh* I am still annoyed by the lost... but not shocked. As soon as Arteta got injured, I expected this may happen in spite of all our comebacks.

Benayoun wanted a goal, and was intent on going inside/forward but not covering nor staying to his wing. Santos did the same. After the break, you could tell that they were told to stick more to the wings but this ended fast.

I could not figure out if Walcott was on the field half of the time. Sagna seemed to have a hard time with Moses and Walcott did not lend a helping hand.

Ramsey might be a scapegoat but he just overdoes it. He does not make the simple pass and always waits too long to shoot.

The one relief I have is that Koscielny comes back. I hope Gervinho will start and his pace will be exploited. As you pointed out, the Ox did amazingly in Arteta's role against Milan and I hope to see him there.

Sam, Sp*ds has the easier end of the season compared to Newcastle and Chelsea or us. What's your prediction for 3 and 4?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think we can still finish third as we'll have to react against Chelsea, and I have a feeling Newcastle might sneak fourth because of the run they're on.

Posted by Dan on 04/17/2012

Sam,

You are absolutely correct. Form inconsistency like this is most worrying. We had an opportunity to go eight points clear of the chasing pack of shadow dwellers - and now there is a good chance that that will dwindle to two before we kick off against Chelsea this weekend; a negative result against the Blues, and, all of a sudden, we are no longer sitting pretty atop the table in third place, are we? Is it proper for us to be pessimistic - having had an opportunity to wrap up that final automatic Champions League qualification spot...and failing to capitalize on it?

You mentioned player fatigue in your piece. Is it really showing? Have we been overworking our top dozen or so lads too hard? RVP is the first name that comes to mind, of course. Miguel Delaney, of ESPN Soccernet, wrote (quite convincingly) recently that Tottenham's demise over the past several months can be attributable to precisely that - might we be in similar danger?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Fatigue is definitely an issue, as we haven't really been able to rotate RvP because of the lack of depth up front. Compared to Chelsea however, we've not got a fixture pile-up to the end of the season so it should be manageable.

Posted by Phil Stevens on 04/17/2012

Sam:
Thanks for the compliments regarding my club but lay the hell off my home town pal. You live in the London area and you all think you hung the moon down there. I was born in Ruislip, Middlesex. I moved away to the north at the age of 3. I'm glad. I grew up among people who are real. People who appreciate the natural beauty of the north. Something you don't have in the south! I bet you’ve never even been north of the Watford Gap have you, other than to watch football. Never had anything against Arsenal. Matter of fact you have one of the best managers in the game and I hate the French. You are complacent. You don’t appreciate what it means to come from nowhere and in actual fact Wigan Athletic’s story is one of the most successful stories in the game. Surviving in the Premiership is important to the club but the average Wigan Athletic fan would be just as happy seeing us as an average Championship side. BTW, we are funded by local grass routes money, not Arab money. SOD OFF!

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. My negative view of the place is mainly down to seeing Arsenal lose there, and I don't hold anything against people from the North of England. Plus there are many places within London that I like less than somewhere such as Wigan so it's just unfortunate that I had a bad experience there.

Posted by Pawan S on 04/17/2012

thats ramsey is useless...enuf said!
wenger started wrong he shouldve subbed arterta with gervinho and pushed benayoun into the middle.No need for ramsey.

Posted by titansgunners12thman on 04/17/2012

Poor game all around. The sickening part about it is all our problem areas are surfacing again. With or without Djourou in the game, our defense is still prone to make 1 or, in this case, 2 costly errors. I do agree with Sam, we will not suffer the mental loss of edge against Chelsea that occured to Wigan. But we have to have some way to breech a defense. Chelsea can be beaten at the back, and it's high time to pull a double on them.

Wenger is the biggest clown I have ever seen. Shake the man's hand. They are playing with a limited budget, actually play good attractive and attacking football, with less than top quality players. Of course they time wasted. They have to try to win anyway they can. Nobody owes Wenger anything. Why does he expect the world to play football the way he does?

Arteta is out Sam? Who does Wenger play and why?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. As I mentioned in the blog, I'd like to the see the Ox in there after his performance there against AC Milan.

Posted by Southernmost Gunner on 04/17/2012

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ram just hasn't lived up to expectations. It's good that you point out the last time we played Chelski, seeing as how that's the last time I haven't wanted to reach through the TV and give him the hook myself.

You're spot on with the call for Arsene to give the Ox the start in the midfield. Ox seems to shine the brightest when we throw him into the deep end of the pool (United, Milan, etc). And you're also right that Chelski will probably be knackered from chasing Barca all over the pitch in midweek.

We need a strong performance from everyone this weekend; and we need all three points.

Great blog as always, mate.

Cheers.

Posted by Raza on 04/17/2012

Great blog Sam. Couldn't agree with you more, especially about the AOC part. I would personally expect Arsenal to pull this off, but Arteta's unavailability would be a huge blow. Like you said, this game is a strong reminder that we're simply not title material yet; and need to think long and hard about which players we need to sign who can provide us that steely edge and experience.

Posted by lawbacker on 04/17/2012

1 of 2

In this match it was loyalty (plus the defensive gaffes you noted) to a system when it was clear by halftime at the latest a change in tactics was needed. Having the lead at 2-1 Wigan were bunching in. In fact the commentator on the FSC broadcast said Wigan was comfortable allowing the crosses in their box, all we had in the area was RVP who while capable with his head is not known for winning air battles. The situation called for a taller stiker to pare with the golden left leg (C. Ronaldo can point and lavish his right all he wants). Unfortunately rarely does the Prof allow for a plan B in such matters. Sometimes, as with the recent Tottenham and the cup comeback against Villa, perseverance is rewarded. However, at other times its like sending out Charlie Adam for another pk! True an in form stilt walker was not on the bench, so I would've been happy with keeping TV forward (he tried to do so anyway). We essentially gave up crosses as they were fruitless.

Posted by lawbacker on 04/17/2012

2 of 2

Another possiblity of scoring when facing the "lockdown" defense seems quizzically lost on our players. The teams around and bove us all o draw penalties. I don't mean diving or "simulation" but actual fouls in the area. I can't fathom why we abandon our speed and craftiness when inside the keeper box. Yet it seems that only the Ox (and the little Russian when he was here) is willing to run at defenders in the box. This would be my focus on individual player training for next year for all our wings and mids. Maybe not Song, who I support when others gripe, but he needs to be reminded where the midfield line is and stay closer to that than the box.

A last look back, I love Arsene but not shaking Martinez's hand was beneath him. Someone get him a mirror to remind him the class he represents. I'd rather Martinez remain up and McLeish lead to a drop again

Sam, thanks for the write-ups. Do you expect Blues to play open or cagey? "Cheer" Mata if you're there

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Ordinarily, I'd say Chelsea will be cagey, but they need the points to get in the top four, so I think they'll be more adventurous, which should play more into our hands.

Posted by Aussie Jack on 04/17/2012

We learn a lot from every defeat it seems fixing it is the problem.....

Posted by Hussam on 04/17/2012

Im sorry but this is a negative comment & its only my second..
Top four is a hope atm & next year.. no thinking of titles.. No depth in the squad(AT ALL).. conceding the silliest goals, just cause we didnt track back..(just like the Saha one).. Djourou is terrible & shouldnt be playing for arsenal(should take up a spokesman job because i do like him as the insider)
Kosceilny was missed & Arteta(a subpar replacement for nasri)
Silly goals tend to happen (wolves,fulham,tottenham,SWANSEA..) too often in this team(the back 4 are totally unreliable) Santos believes hes a winger(no defensive contrbution) Vermealen goes up too often & leaves the rest who cant defend stranded.. Short of a total rejuvination of the defense & extra strikers to help with goals we can say goodbye to top4 next year let alone trophies.. I say this knowing Wenger wont do much & will stick to his "ideals" & we'll b singing the same song this time next year.. cont..

Posted by Hussam on 04/17/2012

This was at home to Wigan, i mean cmon.. They wernt any good just organized.. They made us look like the weaker team just because we didnt even run after the ball the first 10 mins.. Early goals are those that set the game.. Im really sorry Sam(truly) & everyone else but Im frustrated..Thoroughly frustrated..

Posted by Jamie Lyon on 04/17/2012

Like Phil says I don't like it when people jump on Wigan's back just because we have a small fan base. In fact when I started watching Latics it was considered a good attedance if we got more than a few thousand, and I'm only 21 so it wast really all that long ago. Other clus are just as badly supported but nobody even comments when quite a few top Championship clubs can't even manage to fill 50% of their stadium.

Not got anything against Arsenal, in fact they are one of my favorite teams to watch with easy on the eye attractive football. All you need to do is keep it tight at the back for the first 10 minutes!

Posted by uuro on 04/17/2012

whatever the outcome between barcelona vs chelsea, we fully expect Arsenal to be at their top of their game against Chelsea this weekend. We don't like to see silly mistakes around coz we hated them definitely. It was quite hair-pulling to see Arteta got injured. It was hard-wrenching to see it happen coz he was a vital cog of a team almost all the time. I hope the Ox can truly step up his game in Arteta's shoes. Last I heard of him, he was in leg cluthes right now. Hope his recovery is better than expected. A win against Chelsea is very very important. It can push Chelsea to 6th position and not getting UCL next season is to teach them a lesson that money is not everything. I can't stand the Chelsea owner to do what he likes and spends huge money as carrots to entice potential suitors ...

Posted by david fitch on 04/17/2012

I would like to say i was surprised or shocked at the loss to Wigan but after i watched the Wolves game i expected a loss.Wigan got it's tactics right they stopped Arsenal using space behind the defense which take's Walcott out of the game they got ten men behind the ball waited for the mistake and scored on the break replay of the QPR game.Arsenal have had the same problem's they had all season the defense does not defend as a unit so get pass one defender then you are on goal does not matter were you are as was Wigan and City goals given away from an attacking corner that cleared quickly.The problem now is that they must win the next two games or face finishing sixth rather than third this is why Arsenal are not in title race because they fail against teams they should beat but fail to do.Arteta injury could be the staw that breaks this seasons chance's of a top four finish,they need the midfield to maintain the tempo and stop making so many silly passes that just give the ball away

Posted by chuckles on 04/17/2012

Another concise analogy of our inept defense, thanks Sam. Do you think AW will eventually hire a defensive coach so we don't continue with these schoolboy Benny Hill-esque catastrophes at the back?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. A defensive coach could be one solution to it, but it would have to be the right man. Martin Keown is always a name mentioned and I think he'd be good.

Posted by Kenneth L on 04/18/2012

Sam mentioned we should make the deal of Benayoun permanent in his last post and i strongly objected to that idea. now Benayoun proved me right once again. it was his fault that we gave away 2 goals and he is not creative and fast enough to play at the left midfield. Song once again showed that he is not the anchor midfield we expect him to be. look at how easily opponent took the ball away from him. look at how many time he passes the ball to the opponent rather than our own players. as for walcott.....i still said we should sell him. a mini revival from him and for the past week, ppl keep saying we should keep him. but playing well in 3 matches in a season is not good enough for him to be in arsenal team. once a team put a quick left back on him, he is gone. he also lack confident to take on defenders. please, i hope we will not see these 3 players next season.

Posted by Mohd Fauzi on 04/18/2012

Hi Sam, fair stuff this time (LOL)since horror defeats.

Agreed with you that Wigan was 1 of the boring team in EPL and I was really hope they will get relegate since after their impressive 1st season (05-06 if not mistaken). But still wondering when it could be happened.

Ramsey and Rosicky absolutely can't play together in central position and was proven in couple of matches whether for Arteta role or behind RvP. I still remembered your article about them (not sure which match) that Ramsey seems to forget his role of Arteta. So for Chelsea match, I hope (even all fans) that Ox and Gervinho will get into starting 11 and place Ramsey on the bench (Benayoun ineligible). What do you think??

As my comment and your answer on previous blog (Wolves), we really hope that Newcastle will end up on 4th (we are 3rd). So both Spurs and Chelsea will suffer in Europa League that must play on Thursday night and effect their performance in the league. Agree??

GUNNERS for LIFE

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Definitely agree that it'd be good to see Newcastle finish 4th and us 3rd. As I said in the blog, I'd like to see the Ox start against Chelsea, and Gervinho should add pace to the left.

Posted by Anonymous on 04/18/2012

Arsenal team,please win against Chelsea.

Posted by bbfmt on 04/18/2012

Hi Sam.I admire your write-up alot becos u r a true fan and not a fanatic. you are always objective in your views and that as kept me glued to your blog...lol. Anyway, this is the first time i will be posting a comment and that comment is a question. Dont you think that Wenger is very wrong to always display such behaviors especially when Arsenal loses? I am an Arsenal fan and that is becos we have Wenger as our Manager and i have deep admiration for him, but I hate it when he makes statements (more like complaining or whinning about oppositions' tactics) or refuses to shake hands of some other coaches especially someone like Martinez's who appears to have a lot of respect for him(Wenger).I dont like it when the press/people write bad stuffs about Wenger.It upsets me like my father is being insulted but Wenger does not help matters at all with such behavior.Why will Wenger not Shake Martinez's hand?Should this be accepted?I felt really upset when i saw that and i felt let down by him

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Without meaning to sound like Wenger, I genuinely didn't see whether he shook Martinez's hand or not. Some of the time wasting was bad but ultimately we weren't good enough. I think Wenger says those things in the media to protect the players and not have a go at them in public.

Posted by arsenal fan on 04/18/2012

that was a very very frustrating defeat. actually, we have 82 + 5(injury time) minutes to respond but we failed and we lost. we need a response against chelsea. but if we want anything from the game against chelsea, we need Ramsey to stay out of the game. he never learned didn't he? he is the last person i want to see in midfield, if Arteta can't make it. unless we don't have any choice anymore. but now we have Chamberlain who can play there, Diaby if he ready. Ramsey... when will he learn anything? i never noticed a single creative move or pass from him as a so called attacking midfielder. as an A/Midfielder, he need to be creative, he need to think before received the ball where to pass after that, and all he do was wasting that chances and do a lot of meaningless passes. go and ask Rosicky how to do that. that cross he made to Vermaelen for the goal was a creativity. he have Wenger, Van Persie, Arteta,... ask them all. learn, think, if you want to stay in the Arsenal team.

Posted by Anonymous on 04/18/2012

please,win over chelsea

Posted by mustafa on 04/18/2012

Just like you Sam, i try to be positive about Arsenal, always. But sometimes we need to face the reality, we are not good enough to challenge for top honours if we keep losing to teams at the root of the table. We dont have like-for-like replacements for our top performers (Djourou for Koscielny, Ramsey for Arteta), this is a joke. Do you remember 2001-2002 season when Pires picked up a serious injury and Ljungberg came back to replace him in the squad? I dont need to remind you the outcome of that season. We dont have the depth of quality and consistent players in our squad. Couple that with Wenger's stubbornness in the transfer market and you realize we will be fighting for a top four finish again next season.

MY VIEW: Arsenal need a massive clear out of under performers (including djourou) and the signing of at least 7 world class players (gk, cd, a holding midfielder, 2creative midfielders and 2 strikers) to land trophies. WHAT IS YOUR VIEW SAM?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. We do need to move some players on, although we had a big turnaround last summer but haven't moved too far forward. I don't think we need as many as seven players, we just need consistent players who are proven at the top level.

Posted by Wale on 04/18/2012

Oh, to be a gooner, though it be injurious to your physical and emotional health. So consistently inconsistent has this team been it's so damn frustrating. And it doesn't look good with Arteta likely to be out for the rest of the season though AOC is an interesting prospect. He's been such an integral part of the team you wonder why it took so long for us to get him. I look forward to Chelsea more in hope than in earnest that we will produce another comeback performance to haul in the points we so desperately need for third place ( 8, I think it is from this point on).

Posted by Dipt on 04/18/2012

Sam, a few points.....
1) Song has been great this season no doubt but in between those occasional excellent passes to Theo and RVP, has he forgotten his fundamental role? I notice that he plays too high up the pitch. The problem is that when then opposition sits back, Song crowds and already crowded final third.
2) Re: Wigan's 1st goal, you mention that Scz came out too early. Me thinks, Santos charged towards the ball too early and left the entire center exposed.
3) Do u think it makes sense to have Yossi, Rambo and Rosc on the pitch at the sametime? it absolutely murders the width that we need.
4) I think most of us fans have been very hrsh on Rambo. He is short on confidence and i blame it on that horrific injury. Prior to that injury, he had the potential to be better that Cesc (seriously). I think fans shold give him more time and Wenger should not rush him in.

Posted by Sab Haida on 04/18/2012

A blunt and precise comment indeed, Sam. I love you realism.

Over the years, in my opinion, besides always having the bad luck of having the back 4 injuries, I think consistency is our enermy No 1. Until we can overcome that, winning the Premiership will always slip out of our hands. We need to learn from our adversaries especially Man U. I am an Anything But United. However, I have utmost respect for their consistency. Perhaps, we are too soft. I don't like United for their arrogance but I think it is for that attribute that they have a stronger belief in winning their games. We need to be mentally like them but stay humble as we are now. Otherwise, we will be up at one moment and fall in the next. The past few weeks with QPR and Wigan is a very good example. We lost valuable hard-earned points when against bottom teams.

Posted by Mark on 04/18/2012

Sam,

Why are you unhappy that Wigan only took 200 fans (on a Monday night) for a televised game 220 miles away? What has it got to do with you anyway? Wigan has a population of 80,000. London has 8 million. Do the maths. Your 60,000 fans is 0.75% of the catchment area. Our average home gate is 15,000 which is 18.75% of the catchment area. So get stuffed. Not everyone earns £90,000 in the City pal and can afford to travel to London and pay £40 a ticket. Leave Wigan alone, we are a small club exceeding everyones expectations and we are in the Premier League on merit. We haven't bought success like the teams at the top. You need to stop supporting a team like Arsenal and start off with a team in the lower leagues like I did in 1982. And look where we are now.

Posted by Sean 0 on 04/18/2012

Ramsey for quite a few matches has been terrible. He loses possession far too easily and can not make simple passes.

How many times did Ramsey, Song, Walcott and Chamberlin just dribble into 4 wigan players and lose the ball.

Djourou is a nice guy but he does not have the skill to be an Arsenal player. With Koscielny back I could see us beating Chelsea providing Ramsey does not start.

Posted by Avopeac on 04/18/2012

I've read your blog many times and this is the first time I'm commenting. First off i disagree with you about Wigan and the premier league and adding to it. At this time of year Wigan is the most entertaining team to watch as they seem to do the impossible every year...... my friends and I call them the Relegation Kings.... cause just when you thought they were down they rise again. Some of you may disagree with me when I say this but I don't care, it has to be said... It is Wenger's fault for our downfalls. I agree the players have some to answer for but my belief is if Wenger never allowed mediocrity they would never have to shoulder some of that blame. If you add the points from the games we lost this season against weak opposition we would be in the title fight but because of such mediocre players look where we are. Wenger's inability to formulate a plan B is disgraceful for a manager with such vast experience, we have a Barcelona style of play but certainly not Barcelona quality.

Posted by VDB on 04/18/2012

Hi Sam! Great post as always. The midfield was all over the place once Arteta went off. Ramsey was trying too hard to prove himself, Rosicky was pretty good in the first half (was he even on in the second?)We all know Song loves to go forward and I love him for that. Benayoun and Walcott did not do enough defensively, specially Walcott who shouldve been putting pressure on the Wigan defense rather than running around like a 7 year old on steroids!!

Im probably thinking too far ahead but just wanted to know your first choice XI next season (assuming everyone is fit), what positions would you strengthen and who would you bring in? Conversely who would you let go? Cheers

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Obviously it's hard to know who we'll have in the squad for the start of next season. Of the current crop the strongest XI is Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen. Gibbs; Arteta / Wilshere, Song; Walcott, Rosicky / Wilshere, Gervinho / Ox; van Persie. We need to strengthen up front to cover for RvP, and we need to get people fit to be in midfield. I'll do more in depth analysis of the squad at the end of the season.

Posted by James on 04/18/2012

Sam great write again and on Song, I agree with Dipt, Song who has been given a bit more creative freedom with the introduction of Arteta and has excelled with the role, but he was allowed to make those passes because that was a surprise aspect of his game. Now that teams are aware of the threat he possesses with his passes our opposition have seemed to close down the space and simply not have allowed him the time he was getting before. Song (in my opinion) should return to the role of covering the defense and being the man who connects the defense to the offense.

Posted by Alexander on 04/18/2012

I watched the match against Chelsea and Wigan was very good. I get the impressions that Wenger does not study other teams and plot how to match them ahead of time. He appears to keep to his style of play nomatter who he plays. Martinez did his homework very well and it worked well.I have not seen Sagna play so bady. Victor Moses was in complete control. I was hoping that Santos would take over from Gibbs but I have changed my mind. I would prefer to keep Gibbs playing unless injured. Rosick has improved in speed and passing but his flop in scoring goals even when he gets sitting duck chances. Walcott was nowhere to be seen. Once I say Ramsey and Jourou in the field, I lost hope. Wigan exploited the sides manned by Santos and Jourou. Hill wood started counting the chicks before they are hatched- talking of extending Wengers time.It will be 8 years without trophy. Arsenal is struggling to qualify for Champions league while Man.U and others win trophies?

Posted by blave on 04/18/2012

Good fair assesment Sam.

Frustrating given that we really wasted the opportunity to solidify 3rd spot. That said credit to Wigan and apparently they will pull another Houdini act this year. I was always concerned that might give us trouble.

To me the lesson is the importance of staying focused for each game and for the full 90 min. Certainly we need to become more consistent and clinical.

We did start off well but two quick, needless, mistakes then changed the direction of the match. The team showed good urgency and fight but lacked the cutting edge.

Frustrated but still not sounding the alarm bells. Great timing with Chelsea vs Barca. Should work to our benefit. Beat them and we should still be in good shape.

Newcastle have some tough games and will slip up and hopefully Spurs continue imploding. Regardless it's all in our hands still. Come on Arsenal!

Posted by RLS on 04/18/2012

Great post as always, Sam. Disappointing result but I hope it's just a small blip (QPR) and we'll bounce back in a big game. Should we be worried that RVP visited the barca hotel?
I think it's pretty innocent but it wasn't great timing...
Eden hazard seems to be man utd #1 but with gatian already coming I hope they don't bid for him.
Hernanes linked as well, seems like a good move.
Rumors also claim inter want song

What are your thoughts on the current transfer issues:
Should we make a double bid for vertoghen and erikson?
Should we sell Walcott To make room for hazard?
Is a double bid for giroud belganda smart?

Lastly what's your prediction for the Chelsea match?

Thanks a lot:)

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. The RvP story is some newspaper rubbish. He was there, but to see Cesc (a good friend) and Ibrahim Affelay (a Dutch team mate). Andre Santos was also there to see Dani Alves, but no-one in the media made anything of that.
I don't think we should make a double bid for Vertonghen and Erikson, I don't think we should sell Walcott, and I don't think we should make a double bid for Giroud and Belhanda.
For Chelsea, it'll be tight but I think we could win 2-1 or 3-1.

Posted by Aaron on 04/18/2012

Sam, I totally agree with your assessment of the squad. I think at this point 3rd place is still within our grasp as, remarkably, we have one of the easier schedules of the teams in places 3-6 going in, but I also thought Wigan was a match we should win at least 2-0.
As far as next season goes, on defense, I think we should look at bring Ignasi Miguel more into the 1st team and sell Djourou to someone who needs a CB willing to make horrible mistakes on a regular basis. A 2nd central striker is a necessity to give RVP a break, especially since Park hasn't seen the light of day in who knows how long, and Gervinho only has 4 goals...even Walcott has more than that. I'm looking forward to seeing the midfield back in its full form with Song, Wilshere and Arteta all healthy and ready to go full speed. Wings are still a question mark, but I could easily see Ox supplanting Walcott on the right. It seems he's been more effective at injecting pace and energy into the squad consistenty. AC

Posted by Tyler on 04/18/2012

If AW doesn't find a replacement for Arteta, this season could go down hill quickly. Arteta has been the signing of the season. Whoever said that he's a mediocre replacement for Nasri is right, because he's not a replacement for Nasri. He is a replacement for Jack Wilshere. Nasri was supposed to be replaced by Gervinho, but honestly Gervinho is driving me insane. All he does is get the ball, go sideways and then lose the ball. I once was excited when he was in the squad. Now I'm sort of like, great a fast winger who can't score and loses the ball too often. Sounds like Walcott.

While on the subject, Walcott will never be a world class winger. He needs to be in the central role as a pure poacher to succeed. Right now, we don't have that place for him in the team. At best he should be used as our cover for van Persie, or in a dual striker role as a poacher.

And why doesn't TV just go ahead and move to the midfield? I mean, then at least we can put another D on the field.

Posted by Chris on 04/18/2012

Sam,
Good points as usual. Consistency seems to be a problem this year. With just a few games left, it's still possible Arsenal will qualify for Europe again. Considering how poorly they were early this season, finishing 3rd or 4th is a major accomplishment. But this team needs to perform better week in and week out. If only we could develop a greater will to win.

Posted by Arsenal Army on 04/18/2012

I think Arsenal already learned a lot from previous games with bottom teams either in this season or previous season.Sorry to say but again as what I keep saying this about Arsenal is about mentality issue.I hate so much MUtd but I have to say that they are really good mentality and I don't know how Ferguson able to train them to be so dedicated and discipline in their games.
This a the main issue that I haven,t seen yet from AW.If we able to maintain the performance then definitely not because our mentality but from other factors.I think we are still not a winning title team and a lot need to reform or adjust.With this current team,we are just good enough for good challenger or contender.For the title,we need to be more realistic.
On scripts,we should win on Chelsea after they had very tight 2 important games this week but with our lost-morale down and their 2 motivated wins - Who knows?I also see Chelsea is far different better teams from what I seen when they were under Villa-Baos.

Posted by Sam, Jakarta on 04/18/2012

If Chelsea play as well as they did in their last two games ..against Spurs and Barca ... I feel they will beat us this weekend. Then, they will go on beating everyone else in the remaining season. If that happens, chances are, come May, we will be pushed out of top four.

It may sound scary, but it's a possibility, isn't it?

Posted by Arsenal Army on 04/18/2012

This game again proved my concern was right that Arsenal-1]Not consistent to bottom teams especially end of the season 2]Word is louder than action-not play like final games as what they committed 3]Cannot create goal when opponent tighten the defense[Arsenal only good when open game] 4]Creativity getting lesser when we are rushing time-we waste more ball control.We are good when time is not against us.
All above situation tell us that we are not ready for title campaign.AW-do something brilliant than what you had done as we are not at a very right path for glory yet.I still thanks what had we gone so far to stay at 3rd but we need to tune more if we targeting for the title next season.
We still have 3 more high stakes games with Chelsea,Stoke and WBA.However remember Norwich beat Tottenham in their recent away game.
Lastly my comment against Wigan-Sagna is way out of pace & strength to Moses.Luckily he failed to score 3rd goal.At the end we were more lost temper than looking for goal.

Posted by Arsenal Army on 04/19/2012

Analysis next 4 games -
Arsenal -3 tough games and 1 easy with 5 points ahead-should able to get 4th place and 3rd is possible if can beat Chelsea and no more stupid careless mistake that we kept doing at the end of season.
Newcastle -have the toughest next 4 games among other teams but at very top form.Possible to get 4th if they can do it right.
Tottenham -easiest next 5 games and on script, they could overtake Arsenal at 3rd but with their current form-likely they should easily take 4th but I predict 5th.
Chelsea -quite tough to grab 3rd and they have 50% difficult-50% easy games in hand plus with CL and FA cup tight schedule but their form are now getting better and stronger than ever in this season.It could be an astonishing achievement if they can hang on with all these difficulties.I bet they will.They can overtake Tottenham at 4th.Final prediction-
3rd - Arsenal
4th - Chelsea
5th - Tottenham
6th - Newcastle
Why I got this feeling that Arsenal will lost points on Stoke and WBA??

Posted by teebone on 04/19/2012

Mmm Sam you sound like Nial Quinn who commentated on the game you would have thought we were playing Barca,do you need a Wigan shirt? Wigan were so good blah blah,please do me a favour.Arsenal have an annoying habit of making average teams look great.This game showed us the usual things.Wallcott plays hot and cold,and can hardly cross a ball,Ramsey is far from ready,were lost without Arteta and Arsenal need of a defensive midfeild player is strong,"but we have Song" yes he is good and i like him but he's a glory seeker this is about the 3rd or 4th time we have conceded from our own corner this season and Song is playing upfront the furthest man forward if he was were he should be he could have been moping up i still don't know why we only have 2 defenders back when we do have a corner.I know Wenger will buy attak minded players as always but for balance he has to think of the defence 10 defeats this season tells it's own story.

Posted by kevin on 04/19/2012

Arsenal should beat Chelsea comfortably this Saturday for the reasons: 1. Their key players are too tired; 2. They probably will rest their key players in the hope of beating Barcelona in two legs for an UCL final berth; and 3. Arsenal enjoy the home ground and psychological advantage having beaten Chelsea 5-3 at SB (though it didn't work against Wigan).
Nevertheless, soccer is always a funny thing and Liverpool did everything right except scoring and they were duly punished by Van Persie's injury time goal. It happened again last night in which Barcelona had 70+% possession and did everything right but scoring and at the end they were duly punished by Chelsea too.
It is a game that Arsenal are not allowed to slip again and other than conjuring up ways to break the solid Chelsea defence they would better guard their backyard properly.
As I believe that Barcelona will turn the table on Chelsea at Nou Camp Arsenal shall beat Chelsea to consolidate the 3rd place.

Posted by saurabh on 04/19/2012

Sam-wat is wanted to ask..is arsenal luk incomplete widout arteta?
though hez havin his first year...his impact in d team is terrific
nd the example was d second half..wen wigan got d ball..
nobody cud rob dem of possesion..
arteta really does press well nd works very hard to get d ball?
ur comments on dis one sam?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I agree that Arteta has been vital to our side this season, both in winning back possession and using it well. We really missed him on Monday, and we're in danger of suffering at the end of the season without him.

Posted by Hong Kong Gooner on 04/19/2012

Sam, great article and agree with your pick of our strongest XIV (your reply to VDB). Would also add Ryo when he gets back from Bolton, as he has played consistently well for them so far. But this is far from being a team capable of winning the PL, in my humble opinion. In fact, this team may struggle to even get us the league cup, which will be very, very sad. Given the players he has, Wenger has done a fantastic job. I do not agree that Rams is a scapegoat, as he's played a great deal of games this season, and showed that he is truly.....ordinary (and that's being positive). If he has some quality, it would be good to see a little of it before the end of the season. Not too much to ask, is it?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I wouldn't add Ryo in yet, needs to prove himself more. Not too much to ask, but Ramsey is out of form so hopefully he can turn it round quickly.

Posted by Live Gunners on 04/19/2012

The only defensive coach to get is GEORGE GRAHAM. He will fine tune the defenders into a solid rock.

Posted by jogu on 04/19/2012

Hi Sam,

I also think our problems will already be half-solved if we get a defensive coach. We've dropped too many points this season because of defensive lapses, even without injuries to first-team players.
Midfield? Please no Ramsey, not now.

Posted by On the Top on 04/19/2012

Great title!

Posted by colin on 04/19/2012

Well said... I have a very similar view on Wigan, except I don't hate them anymore. Martinez has made me like them. The guy has limited resources, his team is in a dog fight every year, and they keep surviving. Oh, I skipped most of the bits about Arsenal though... Come on you Spurs!

Posted by Live Gunners on 04/20/2012

Soccer is about right strategy - using the right tactics to negate the opposition & win the game.
AW is a very stubborn man - insist on players who is not functioning properly, eg playing KANU instead of Bergkamp until Bergkamp speak up openly, the following season he play Bergkkamp & Arsenal become the "invincibles", often playing players out of position, only know how to play "beautiful attacking" but not knowing how to defend; not knowing how to defend, AW is unable to unlock opposing team playing with tight defend for years. Very often lose the game, come up with lame excuses & statistics.

Posted by Adrian on 04/20/2012

I can't stand seeing all this stuff from other fans saying Ramsey is garbage etc. Let's not forget that he was out with a broken leg during a very important period of his development, and he is now having to go through that stage. I hope Arsenal fans don't turn on Wilshere when he gets back and works his way back up. Great blog and I agree about playing the Ox!

Posted by Shad on 04/20/2012

Sam,

Great piece as always.

With 4 games left to play, indeed 3rd spot looks reachable. The squad tends to raise their game for the high profile games but as you rightly pointed out, we still need some level of grit and consistency in knocking off the mid to lower table teams.

Couple of questions:

1. Do you see RVP renewing his contract?

2. What are your thoughts on bringing back Arshavin to at least be played in his preferred CAM free role? I think he wasn't given enough time to prove himself there , and he feeds a lot on the confidence of those around him and the stadium.

3. What are the most probable summer signings?

4. Ramsey is being used as a scapegoat indeed but he's had a clutchful of poor games. Wouldn't it be better to loan him out since he can't play LM and is still not adjusted to the intensity and decisiveness needed for a CM role?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment.
1. Yes
2. I think Wenger has lost faith in him, plus Rosicky has been awesome there so I doubt he'll ever get a run of games there for Arsenal.
3. Hard to know at this stage. Strongest rumour is that Podolski will sign.
4. We could loan him, but I think he's better getting games at Arsenal. We're usually short of central midfielders with injuries that we wouldn't be able to afford him going on loan.

Posted by uuro on 04/20/2012

We really have to think how RDM's strategic mind works. Hmm...let's say Torres will start ahead first and both teams start playing. Arsenal will attack relentlessly and slowly Chelsea will start parking the bus. For Arsenal to have a chance for victory, they have to play at full strength tomorrow coz they can get a full week's rest anyway. First, score a barrage of goals against them by using beautiful long range shots especially rosicky. AOC, RVP and whoever in the midfield can do the same. Verminator should head a merciless ball against them and kick in a long range if he can. These long range shots cannot be wasteful coz every second is precious. from what I heard, *Daroga will not start against them Arsenal due to knee injury. But I believe it's a rue so that he can play against Barcelona at full strength.. By barraging with more goals, chelsea will lose the self-confidence against Barc next week. And Barcelona by the way loved to look at video replays of the teams in the...cont

Posted by uuro on 04/20/2012

*in the champion league and putting up all kinds of statistics or whatever it is behind closed-door how to defeat their opponents. That was what happened between Arsenal vs Barcelona in that very champion league FINAL sometimes ago. They are bound to look at Chelsea in the same way. So put in more goals in so that Barcelona will find weaknesses in their last game. It was very important to maintain 3rd place and above. Arsenal should maintain 3rd place and above next season coz 4th place is actually a lousy slot for a play-off for UCL. I hope incoming famous Steve Bould will become assistant coach next to wenger next season. With his wide defensive knowledge of the game, he will steer the ship with 3 future champion league matches next season before wenger comes back.

On the other hand, bring in experienced midfielder m'llva so that there will be more rooms to rotate around in the midfield coz Arteta mayl be injured again next season as he had been playing many important games...cont

Posted by uuro on 04/20/2012

cont...I can't remember what was my last few words in my 2nd comment. Anyway, he will be a good mentor to those like Ramsey in the midfield squad. Plus another another thing, bring Italy striker Del Perio to be part of our coaching staff. It will be nice for coaching staff to have diversity at Arsenal. He will add massive amount of experience to the squad. From what I heard, he will like to go to New York Bulls to see out his twilight career. I hope not. Additionally, we have few senior Dutchmaster advisors at Arsenal. We don't have the calibre of legend Johan Cruyff as a advisor coz he preferred Barcelona.

SAM, PLS PASS THIS UP TO WENGER OR ANYONE U KNOW. ARSENAL, KEEP FIGHTING ON AND WIN A VICTORY FOR US TOMORROW. WE WILL BE WATCHING U! VICTORY THROUGH HARMONY...

Posted by Mike on 05/17/2012

On Wigan the difference between their position in the table and Arsenal's is all down to one player at Arsenal RVP.
With out the goals he scored this season we would be down there with them. If you look at the teams that beat Wigan and the teams Arsenal beat it was not because we stopped the teams that beat Wigan from scoring it was that Arsenal and Mostly RVP scored more goals. We let in 2 vs Chelsea so did wigan but we scored 5 and won they scored 1 and lost.
And they had plenty of chances to score in most of their games as well but they just finished less chances with goals (kind of like Arsenal during those games RVP failed to find the net) We could find ourselves battling at the bottom should we fail to secure the signature of the dutchman this summer. As we let in enough goals to join the bottom table teams fighting relegation without RVP our next top goal scorer is right there with Wigan's top producer or should I say down there.

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About
David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

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