August 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Ok, so the title isn’t too imaginative, but let’s be totally honest, we did lose, we looked lost on the pitch and we appear more and more lost as a club.

I am sure that you all saw the “game”, but a quick recap should get us all on the same page. I think that we can literally do this by the numbers:

8-2 – That was the final score today at The Theatre of Dreams.

Ok, I know how much fun it is to call it “The Theatre of Debts”, but I am actually going to pay a far superior, far more willing, far more cunning, far more organised and far more talented Manchester United side the minimum respect of actually using their correct and full names. Maybe it will be just for today, but they have earned my respect with their performance. Anyway, whilst we enjoy nothing more than having a good laugh at them roaming around winning trophies and titles, the following two sets of numbers may actually tell a rather important tale:

18.3, 16.5, 16 – This is how much United have spent on players this transfer window, depending on which sources you believe.

1.1, 4, 7, 34, 25 – This is how much Arsenal has reportedly recouped in the transfer window.

This means that United have spent 50.8m on players whilst we have sold 68.1m. If they are a “spending club” that surely, beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt, must render us a “selling club”.

28, 22, 42, 64, 67, 70, 82, 90 – Those were the times of the goals for Manchester United. The exact moments where we contrived to allow them the courtesy of recording the heaviest league defeat of our fine club since the “bad old days” of 1896 and the very same moments when they gladly, ruthlessly, joyfully accepted our kindness.

45, 74 – Those were the times when we showed that, once we could actually get the ball to either the wasted on the wings Walcott or RVP, we could actually appear slightly dangerous.

27 – That was when our frankly nervous looking captain scuffed the ball from the penalty spot – gifting the fairly ordinary looking De Gea a penalty save to add to his scrapbook of footballing memories – choosing to take a run up that started closer to the touchline than the goal and never looking like he wanted the ball in the first place.

77 – That was when Carl Jenkinson got the obligatory “red card for the new boy” that all Arsenal players strive so hard to get in their first game or three. Surely this means that he is simply a Gooner legend in the making? After his performance today, an appeal has been lodged and the jury is back out. Udinese and Manchester United proved to be two totally different prospects after all.

More numbers? Ok, let’s try these for size…

253 & 260 – Notice anything odd about these numbers? No? Well you should because those are the total ages of the two teams that started the match. Yes, that’s rights folks, even without the injured “experienced veterans” Song, Gervinho, Vermaelan and Sagna, (23, 24, 25 and 28) our frighteningly young team got thrashed 8-2, and damned well thrashed they were, by a YOUNGER TEAM.

So, excuse Number 1 in the Arsene handbook of excuses goes right out of the window never to return, one assumes.

I for one am glad. Honestly, I am sick and tired of hearing about experience or lack of it, it confuses the issue and, when push came to shove, we got shoved.

So what actually went wrong? Well, the following is my opinion and mine alone. I do not ask for your confirmation and equally I do not ask for your condemnation. This is a game of opinions after all!

Traore is not ever going to be a great left back, defend, track back, mark or get organised appear to be a little out of reach for him. The trouble starts when you realise that he cannot actually beat his man, either with the ball or just for pace alone, and he cannot cross it either. Whilst not being able to cross a ball has been a basic requirement of Arsenal full backs for some years now, it isn’t enough to convince me that he should be anywhere near our squad, let alone the ONLY back up to the injury prone Gibbs who, let’s be fair, isn’t exactly showering himself in glory when he DOES get out of the treatment room.

Coquelin played today and, quite honestly, showed why he does not appear to be in the short term plans of Arsene. I am aware that there are others who claim that he is better than Frimpong, almost as good as Song, ready for a taste of first team action, but today was not that day and certainly proved as such. In his defence (about the only effective defence Arsenal had all day) he should not have even been needed to play after the warning signs of about 4 seasons ago showed us the desperate need for a couple of top class centre backs. Had we had one of those at least, we could have thought about playing Djourou in the DM position saving Coquelin from walking into his debut shirt and out onto the killing field.

Arshavin is going backwards. His pace left him and he looked simply dreadful for it. Now he appears a little leaner, a little fitter and a little faster again and, guess what, we have the old Arshavin back again. No, not the Arshavin clone that turned up against Liverpool, the Arshavin that runs into blind alleys, refuses to pass the ball, can’t shoot and can’t track back. Quite frankly he was lucky to even be on the pitch after his assault on Young came quite so soon after his high and late effort on Phil Jones had already earned him a well deserved yellow.

Ramsey is looking like a player not yet ready to take on this level of responsibility. When Vieira left we wondered how we would cope, but a little Spaniard showed that boys can be men and stepped up to the plate. Ramsey clearly is not of the same mentality as Cesc and I genuinely believe that we are risking his confidence in the longer term by continuing to play him in such an important role.

Rosicky, oh dear, Rosicky. I love Tomas Rosicky, let’s make that clear. A fabulous player on his day but that day may well have gone down sluices of the treatment room. I feared that playing the full 45 minutes against Udinese and then asking him to play at Old Trafford so soon afterwards may be a step too far. I did question whether or not this may be the case in my previous article, although I am bitterly disappointed to have been proven correct.

Now, there are those that will point to the injuries and suspensions list – Gibbs, Sagna, Vermaelan, Song, Gervinho, Frimpong, Diaby, even Bendtner if you like, but in reality the majority of them would not get in the Manchester United side. Seriously, Vermaelan and Sagna would almost certainly get some games as squad players, but I do not see their Manchester United counterparts getting dislodged by either of them…And they are the BEST of what we had missing.

I am not calling for the heads of any of our players as such; I am simply saying that looking at whether or not we have sufficient cover for them is NOT going to solve the problems. We need players that are going to COMPETE with them. For example, Traore cannot push Gibbs to perform better under threat of losing his place. This is true all over the team.

Similarly, I am not going to call for the head of Wenger, the buying out of Stan or even the return of David Dein. These are not the solutions that we need- What we need is better quality, more experienced winners to push the youngsters along and help get us some dearly needed stability and points in the meantime.

What I and many other Arsenal fans like me ARE calling for is some common sense and less BS. The quality players ARE out there, the need IS there, the squad is NOT so young and inexperienced that we should expect less of them and the experience being gained by those young players right now is NOT invaluable.

And that my friends, is exactly what I have been working my way towards throughout this missive. These youngsters have been getting their souls and their hearts broken year in, year out, tournament in, tournament out, and, aside from an average Italian side that it appears we may well have helped to look better than they really were, right now week in, week out. Does ANYBODY think that is good for the development of a young player? Seriously, can it be helping any of their careers to be on the end of an 8-2 trouncing, the worst defeat in more than a century of league football? They are in the Arsenal history books now, and for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, we have Jack to come back, but why is he out? Apparently and unsurprisingly, he was overplayed last season. So, even when he comes back, are we going to ask him play 50-60 games this season? It would not make a lot of sense to do so, so where is the backup? I don’t mean playing Song AND Frimpong either, I mean REAL backup. I am talking about a first class central midfielder with the ability to pass the ball and tackle hard. All the top class leagues in Europe alone and we seriously, with over 100m to spend, cannot find ONE?!

That Juan Mata chap looked ok yesterday it has to be said. Weren’t we linked with him?! Oh yes, that’s right, we were waiting until we lost our best player and captain and a little French muppet BEFORE buying in a replacement.

Wesley Sneijder would have been a perfect fit in my opinion but the wages cap seems to have put paid to that. That would be the very same wages cap that seems entirely responsible for the loss of Clichy, Na$ri and to a certain degree, Fabregas. I have it from a reliable source that Wenger wanted to offer him 120k a week and the board turned down his request.

And that, in essence, is what I believe is wrong with our fine club right now. We are reactive and not proactive. We are looking for the replacements after we lose the player, not before. We have a wages cap that literally stops us from being able to compete. I know, I know, it is a business and we don’t have a sugar daddy, but we do have a painfully large amount of money in the bank and have taken a large chunk off of the wages bill. Surely there is room for a little movement from the board, or are we in the middle of an asset stripping session by Stan? Could it actually be that all the years of laughing at Manchester United and the Glaziers was just us ordering up our very own serving of just desserts? The Glaziers do not appear to be affecting Sir Alex Ferguson and his ability to buy great and fairly expensive players and they certainly do not appear to be sliding down the league table faster than Arshavin can waste good possession either!

There are already those fans out there claiming that this result will just give the “doomers” more ammunition. Guys, we got stuffed 8-2 today by a younger team and clearly much better team…


Frankly, it holds the gun for them too.

Time to let them have their moment. Don’t worry, they will all have their broad grins and their singing voices when we win the Premier League and Champions League double this season…

…or maybe, just maybe, they have a point.

Anyway, to finish up, this was what Arsene said after the game:

“No (I will not quit). Of course it hurts. It’s humiliating. But you could see we had not recovered physically from Wednesday. They had class and they punished us. I know that in England when you lose a game signings are always the solution. We had eight players out today. You feel always humiliated when you concede eight goals. It was a terrible day for us. Man United had class but every single shot in the first half went in.”

To which I would offer these responses:

4 of the players that started on Wednesday were not available today so that is 4 fully fresh players you had in the side. Is it our fault that the replacements that we have aren’t good enough (yet?) to play n the Premier League?

Not recovered from Wednesday is a result of not buying the players that we so obviously needed last year and thus inviting the inevitable end of season collapse that required us to play on Wednesday in the first place.

Of the 8 players we had out today, how many would actually be first team choices? Sagna, Vermaelan, Song, Gervinho and Wilshere. Two of those are out suspended and we have had three red cards in three league games so maybe it would be a good idea to try and instill a little discipline in the side?!

Manchester United did see a lot of their shots on target today, but surely that is the inevitable result of giving away a free kick on the edge of the penalty area just about every single time they attacked! Again, some discipline is clearly required. Maybe having somebody experienced enough in defence to know that you simply cannot go flying into every single tackle, especially in and around the box might help!

As for feeling humiliated, I do not even want to get started on that one. And I won’t. Because this has gone on for far too long already!

So, until the next time when we will have filled at least three key positions on the pitch and everything will look rosy again.

Ooh to be a Gooner!