The reason why I started this blog initially was because I had a lot of football opinions and Twitter doesn’t provide me with enough characters to put across my opinions in the depth I want, that and a University module. Now I simply post a link where you lovely people can see my opinions and I don’t need to write 1,000 tweets about the subject in question.
As you know I am an Arsenal fan (if you don’t, you do now) and this season has proved to pan out upsettingly similar to the rest – it starts off with much promise and slowly (or in the case of this season IMMEDIATELY) starts to go downhill.
I have listed 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me. Now I could probably list you 23 reasons why Arsenal make me happy, but after a 3-1 home loss to Monaco that one isn’t likely, so keep an eye out and that one could come out soon when I’m feeling more optimistic.
1) Unfulfilled Potential
Arsenal are a team a lot like the players they have at their disposal, one that has/had buckets of potential yet has failed to live up to that potential through one way or another, whether it be through injury or lack of form etc. The one which is currently sticking out in my mind is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox has had many injury setbacks in his time at Arsenal and we are still saying he could be one hell of a player, which there is no doubt he can, but it’s something that we’ve been saying for the last two or three years.
Arsenal are of a similar mould. Injuries and lack of form have meant that they have failed on multiple fronts. In the league since they last won it in 2003/2004, they have held a leading position many times yet always seem to lose grip and bottle it with many of the key players ending up injured for a long period or out of form at crucial times.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all players in the current squad who have been hindered by injuries, cutting short their progress. Obviously there is still time but fans patience is running thin as we have seen it all before. The point can be summed up by Arsenal’s trophy drought – one trophy in nine years when in fact it could and should have been so much more.
I saw a stat the other week which shocked me. Arsenal players missed a combined 1716 days through injury last season alone. This stat was published the same time that it was announced Aaron Ramsey would miss more time out with his third hamstring strain of the season – I’ve seen the Arsenal physios and medical team so I do know they exist, but due to the amount of injuries suffered by players in the club it’s hard to see whether they do anything.
I believe a lot of it does come to Wenger and how the players are pushed further than their bodies can take. Last season, Walcott missed six weeks with a muscle injury, he was pushed back into competition and last January picked up a knee injury which saw him miss 10 months – a renowned German expert claimed that this injury was one which could have been avoided had Theo not been rushed back.
This season it’s the same old injury story. Koscielny, Debuchy, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud (to name a few) have missed chunks of the season through injury. Also, don’t get me started on Diaby, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve forgotten he’s an Arsenal player.
3) Selling big players
Arsenal have sold one of their best players in each of the last ten years. Last summer they did stick to another trend too, the trend where we sell the club captain. I’m starting to think that the captaincy means nothing at Arsenal anymore (more on that later).
Joining the “captains” who were sold despite being key players in the team were Alexander Hleb (remember him?), Bacary Sagna, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Alex Song among others. Arsenal were never going to build a successful team when there are so many incomings and outgoings of key players in the squad.
4) The Wenger Hokey-Cokey
Now you may think I’m drunk due to the way I’ve worded this, but trust me, it’ll make sense when I say this – #WengerIn #WengerOut – are you with me now?
The social media age (particularly Twitter) has spawned the introduction of hashtags and the amount of people who switch allegiances between Wenger In and Wenger Out is astounding. He is a manager who has not just changed Arsenal, but has also changed English football, so can we please show the man who is behind the Emirates Stadium, an Economics Masters Degree, six languages and the Arsenal Football Club as you currently know it a little more respect please? His tactics and selections are a little off at times but it would be better to just stick by him until he leaves because what he has done for Arsenal deserves the utmost respect.
Arsenal are perhaps the most inconsistent team out of the top teams. This can be summed up as such – Arsenal go to the Etihad Stadium, a stadium where they lost 6-3 the season prior, a stadium where nothing was expected due to their inability to beat top teams away from home (let alone at home) and beat the reigning champions of England 2-0 in a brilliant display, just over a month later and they are outplayed and beaten 3-1 at home by Monaco.
This is just a flash into the inconsistency of Arsenal as a team, an inconsistency which means over the last ten years they haven’t been able to effectively and consistently challenge for the big trophies in a serious manner, always falling short (FA Cup 2014 aside). You can’t be inconsistent in a 38 game league campaign or in a competition with the quality of opposition as in the Champions League and expect to win it.
6) Poor Discipline
It has taken until Francis Coquelin for Arsenal to find a defensive midfielder that will keep his discipline and sit in front of the back four – I’m not asking for Claude Makelele (OK maybe I am) but it would have been nice to have a good and mobile out-and-out defensive shield for multiple seasons prior.
Arsenal defenders sometimes seem to forget that their main job is defending, there was a graphic of player heat maps I saw from a couple of seasons back and our full backs were predominantly further forward than our midfielders – a problem which has become frighteningly familiar meaning we’re susceptible to counters. We have Steve Bould as an assistant manager, a no nonsense defender in his day, surely he’s been giving support and advice? Had it been heeded? Another story.
Now onto the defensive midfield problem. Arsenal’s attacking full-backs (which has been a symbol of Arsenal since the dawn of Wenger) means that the defensive midfielders should do just that, defend the midfield. But all too often they have been caught too high up, their lack of pace and legs exploited and goals conceded, games lost.
7) Poor tactics
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point; Wenger’s tactics can be a little questionable at times. I thought that we’d started a new chapter in Arsenal against Man City, Wenger got the tactics spot on in a big game, however a few weeks later against Tottenham in the North London derby he got them horribly wrong again.
Wenger has to take tips from big game managers and know when to stick with what we have and when to really go for it, also if we are 1-0 down in a big game, don’t go gung-ho in the 53rd minute and be caught on the break to go 2-0 down. But we’ll come onto that later… All I’m saying is a little bit more tactics and patience would go a long way over 90 minutes.
8) Poor performances in big games
This is a point which has plagued Arsenal for years. The big teams in the Premier League always seem to relish encounters against Arsenal. In recent years Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have all beaten Arsenal comprehensively. Arsenal used to be a fixture which was feared by the fellow big teams but it’s now a fixture that they seem to look forward to because it usually means easy points.
I point at last season as the main culprit; 6-3 loss away to Man City, 6-0 away to Chelsea and 5-1 away to Liverpool which had carried on a poor run of form against big teams years prior. Let’s have a look at stats from a team who were considered Arsenal’s main rivals for much of their most successful period, Manchester United. Arsenal have only beaten United once in their last 12 meetings which was way back in 2011. Even recently when Man United visited the Emirates in November with their worst team in recent memory they performed well and ran out 2-1 winners.
Until Arsenal beat Manchester City they had gone a remarkable 14 games in a row against fellow Premier League members of the Champions League that season without a win. Hopefully the win against City was a turnaround in mentality otherwise Arsenal’s no longer surprising deficiency against top teams will become an even more worrying habit.
9) Susceptibility to counter attacks
Arsenal used to be the Kings of the counter attack, with Henry, Pires, Ljungberg or whoever it may be turning defence into attack in a matter of seconds resulting in a goal. Now it has become all too familiar of a story when Arsenal have a set piece or possession in the attacking third and the opposition break to score, making The Gunners look a little bit foolish.
Firstly, it always seems to be our slowest midfielder or defender (that isn’t Mertesacker) who is on the halfway line guarding. How many times have I seen Arteta, Flamini or Monreal looking horribly exposed and their lack of pace taken advantage of. Back to the Arsenal vs Manchester United game in November, where the point is proven. Wayne Rooney’s goal where Arsenal lose possession on the edge of the United box and a matter of seconds later are 2-0 down, a sight which has now become too familiar to fans for too many years.
10) Poor set pieces
Zonal marking, ZONAL MARKING!! Zonal marking is a format which is only best utilised when a team of physically robust headers of a football attack the zone which they have been assigned. A leader barks orders and the orders are heeded and carried out. When Arsenal concede from a set-piece, every single player in the box looks around in confusion as if to say “Whose man was that?” then fingers are pointed and blame passed.
Recently Harry Kane (who is currently on form one of the best strikers in the country) was left unmarked at the back post to slot in a relatively easy finish to level the North London derby – if you want to be winning the Derby then do not, I repeat DO NOT, leave their best striker unmarked from a set piece. All too often I have seen players not jump with a player or not clear a cross because they believe it to be someone else’s duty or not in their zone. Take responsibility!
It must just be Arsenal marking from crosses in general because they have conceded 10 headed goals, 2nd most in the Premier League.
The weirdest part is that Arsenal have scored the second most goals from set plays in the league (16) yet can never seem to defend a set piece!
11) Poor defending
Pretty much everything I’ve said about Arsenal’s defending summed up in one point. When Gael Clichy left for Manchester City back in 2011, he came out and claimed to the press that Arsenal simply did not practice defending in training. As the years have gone by I’m slowly starting to think that he was right and it should have been some kind of premonition and warning to us Arsenal fans.
Steve Bould became Arsenal assistant manager in 2012 when Pat Rice retired. Bould, in his playing days, was seen as a no-nonsense defender and was a member of one of Arsenal’s most formidable back lines in their history. So how can a man whose history is so good, who has so much contact with the team in training, make little to no difference in regards to how they perform? The answer: Steve Bould is not utilised to his maximum potential as a defensive co-ordinator.
All Arsenal defenders seem to have a weakness whereas most teams will play defenders to their strengths Arsenal seem not to. Too many times I have seen Mertesacker, who has the turning circle of a cruise liner, up against the fastest member of the opposing teams attack – could we please leave the foot races up to Bellerin, Koscielny or Gibbs and not leave Mertesacker isolated?
12) Poor boardroom
Stan Kroenke is the largest shareholder in Arsenal Football Club and I have not seen the man speak about the club once; forget that, I’ve never seen the man speak at all. So his nickname “Silent Stan” starts to seem very appropriate.
A man who is sorely missed at Arsenal since his departure in 2007 is David Dein. Dein is former vice-chairman and his role saw him take part in football matters such as player contracts, transfer negotiations as well as the hiring of staff – which saw him appoint Mr Wenger who at the time of his arrival was relatively unknown. Dein’s extensive range of footballing contacts and influence made Wenger’s job a hell of a lot easier, not to mention the backing that Dein gave Wenger in the transfer market.
Arsenal miss someone like Dein, someone who is known to really get involved with the day-to-day running of the club because Ivan Gazidis (who overtook Dein’s roles) doesn’t seem to have quite the same impact.
13) Faith and backing of deadwood players
Arsene Wenger is a manager who is known for his (sometimes blind) backing of his own players (“I didn’t see it”). But his relentless faith in players who had rarely ever shown themselves to be good enough became tiresome.
Everyone remembers Nicklas Bendtner. A player whose insufferable arrogance became the butt of ironic jokes everywhere, he became the scourge of Arsenal fans. To his credit, Bendtner did score some important goals for Arsenal, but his terrible attitude and maxed out potential soon meant it was too late. The man who claimed he was off to Barcelona or Real Madrid when his Arsenal contract was up is now playing for Wolfsburg. Bendtner’s story is one of many, one that started with great potential boom but ended with a comical ability fart. Denilson, Djourou and Senderos are all other names who stick out in my mind – at one stage made some great performances and could have made a name for themselves, but now are just whinces in an Arsenal fan’s memory.
As for Abou Diaby, I’m not sure why he still has a shirt number. 16 league appearances in four seasons is awful reading for anyone and unfortunately his injury problems mean he will soon be released but it is a couple of seasons too late.
14) Fatigue of players
In recent years, Arsenal’s thin squads have meant that come February time (a.k.a the business end of the season) all of their star players are either knackered or so burnt out they have picked up a two or three month injury lay-off. The first eleven has rarely been the problem, it has just been the sheer fact that there was never any strength in depth. It was sort of the same story this season. Due to Arsene’s reluctance to buy any more defenders, Arsenal were forced to play makeshift back fours week after week early on, which fortunately has now subsided despite yet another injury to Mathieu Debuchy but we now have the cover after the emergence of Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers and now, more centrally, Gabriel.
Last season, Mesut Ozil became an enigma in the Premier League. Signed for £42million and renowned as one of the best playmakers in the world, Ozil made a good start to his Arsenal career. But after a few months, not used to the physicality and relentlessness of the Premier League schedule, poor old Mesut burnt out. He was running the highest rate of any Arsenal player but when he got the ball he could barely ever do anything with it. Why? Mesut was fatigued and burnt out. He needed a break, he had never played without a winter break before. He then went to the World Cup with Germany and failed to set the league alight again upon his return. Since coming back from a three month injury layoff and putting on double his body weight in beef, Ozil has recorded three goals and three assists since his return from injury and looks to be picking up both form and confidence.
15) 11 years ago, we were Invincible
Remember those days? The glory days. We had the best striker in the world in Thierry Henry, a supporting cast including Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires and we were the best team that England had ever seen. Arsenal went 49 league games unbeaten between May 2003 – October 2004. An achievement higher than any other in English league football.
Now we celebrate finishing above Tottenham.
16) Failing to build on star signings
If you had told me in July 2013 that within two years we would have had Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in our team then I would probably had asked you who else, with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. But the fact is that if you look at true world-class talent, Arsenal don’t have anyone else.
I’ll admit that we do have good players in our squad, players who given the opportunity could be world class. But as an Arsenal fan I’ve grown impatient of would and could, I’m looking for world class now. So the marquee signings of Ozil and Sanchez are obviously most welcome, but we still need the major signings in key areas before we can mention anything on the Champions League or Premier League.
17) Mismanagement and playing players out of position
Do you remember poor old Emmanuel Eboue? Here was a right-back who showed a lot of early promise in his career, also one of the most popular characters you will ever see in a football dressing room. But Wenger, for some reason only he would know, would go on to deploy Eboue in both left wing and centre midfield. Go figure. Andrey Arshavin lit up the world as a creative midfielder, given a free role to wreak havoc. His future? Shunted out on the wing and made to look out of place and extremely poor.
The buck doesn’t stop there as it has recently happened to Podolski, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla and many more who have been pushed out of position and made to look half of the player they are. Arsene needs to stop trying to plug gaps and must put players where they are most effective consistently, otherwise more talent will go to waste.
18) Mockery of the captaincy
The sale of Vermaelen to Barcelona (Which I admit was good business due to his injury problems) was the latest in a line of captaincy sales which means the idea of a captain and the role itself has diminished. Prior to Vermaelen’s departure; Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Vieira and Robin Van Persie have all been sold while under captaincy, meaning Arsenal have sold five of their captains in the last nine years. This doesn’t bode well for current club captain Mikel Arteta whose contract runs out in the summer.
Arsenal’s mockery of the role of captain can be summed up as such – club captain Vermaelen was an unused substitute in last years FA Cup final. Could you imagine Chelsea playing a cup final without a fit John Terry? Or Man City without Vincent Kompany? Absolutely not.
19) No leadership
My main problem here is Arsenal haven’t had a proper leader or general since Patrick Vieira. Someone who really has the ability to change a game and drag Arsenal through hard games with true grit and determination – the captains since Vieira have all been star players/the most senior player in the squad, but none with the same leadership qualities as the Frenchman.
In Arteta’s absence, Per Mertesacker has covered as his deputy but Mertesacker has nowhere near the qualities to even be a vice-captain. In December, when Arsenal drew 2-2 against Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal were 2-1 up in the closing stages of the game. Martin Skrtel jumped up and beat a cowering Mertesacker who seemed to be afraid of the aerial challenge to equalise and claim a point. Mertesacker was rightly berated for his part in the goal as for someone who has made over 100 international appearances and played in three World Cups, winning one in the process, he looked very faint-hearted to go for a ball which could have been the difference between one point and three.
20) No desire or passion
In every big game I have seen (bar Man City), Arsenal always seem to lack desire and passion when it comes to the rougher side of the game. 50-50’s, second balls and loose possession always fall in favour of the opposition and the reason why is simple: Arsenal just don’t want it as much. It even happens in games against the smaller sides a majority of the time too.
It was all too apparent in the recent game against Monaco which summed up the lack of passion. Whenever a ball was given away, hands went on hips, heads looked to the sky and crowds groaned in anguish. There was no desire to win the ball back, no desire to undo the mistake and keep us on the front foot. In defence there was no desire to make tackles or blocks, it’s like we didn’t even want to take our best chance of getting to the quarter finals in five years.
21) Repeated mistakes
Imagine seeing points 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, as well as others, once or twice. Then you don’t learn from them because of stubbornness, so you get punished by them TIME and TIME and TIME again. So much so that the fans start to lose patience in you, let alone start to question your entire reign and legacy. Come on Arsene, you’re much, much better than that.
22) Pre-season buzz
For Arsenal fan’s pre-season buzz is the likes of which you will see at no other club, but it quickly turns to mid-season despair and this season is no different. Arsenal mostly signed the players they needed (apart from defensively), there was a marquee signing in Sanchez, striker in Danny Welbeck, Debuchy and Ospina to replace the outgoing Sagna and Fabianski and a bonus of Chambers. But early season form quickly meant that Arsenal slipped down the table and were out of the Capital One Cup, now they look to be going out of the Champions League too and the FA Cup looks bleak with a tough trip to Old Trafford.
Arsenal fans would have wanted to build on the FA Cup of last year (which should have been so much more after 120+ consecutive days at the top of the table last season) but at the moment, it is looking very unlikely and they will no doubt get the same pre-season buzz this summer.
23) Some other Arsenal fans
Mainly here I’m talking about the people who booed Wenger at the Stoke-on-Trent train station, I’m also talking about the idiots who appear on Arsenal Fan TV who have made other clubs fans enjoy our dismal displays even more, so much so that people who aren’t even Arsenal fans have subscribed to Arsenal Fan TV.
Arsenal’s stadium is a 60,000 seater stadium, the second largest club stadium in the country, yet our stadium has garnered the reputation of being a library. This needs to change, opposition players should be nervous to come to the Emirates but they’re not because opposition fans usually cheer louder.
Arsenal fans also seem to be serial offenders in leaving matches early, even in situations where the game is incredibly tight – you’ve paid to watch 90 minutes, so watch them.