That’s all folks…

*Originally posted 25th April 2011

For another season our hunt for the title, our search for a trophy & our chance to silence the doubters and detractors has gone and once again rather than at least hanging in there until the last and going out in a blaze of glory Arsenal have almost retreated into submission.
The 2-1 defeat against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium yesterday was almost a ninety minute summary of our season and our team, with our continued failure to defend set pieces as well as our ineptitude of taking advantage of our own dead ball plays being a case in point.
You have to wonder if during training sessions the players, manager & coaching staff wrongly view the equal measure of poor defending and attacking of corners & free kicks as some kind of prowess in this department and are then left scratching their heads when we come up against genuine opposition & continue to concede headed goals?
It is the same basic errors and frailties that cost us again and again, we don’t seem to learn from the mistakes we make, we don’t seem to be able to pin point where we go wrong and we don’t seem to be able to try any other approach. When questioned about a possible change to the teams principals the boss said –
“I feel we try to play football the proper way. When you don’t win, your principles are questioned. You always have to take the right distance to see what is right and wrong in what you do. I think if something is wrong in our team, it is not the principle of playing our football”
Personally I think that something is wrong in the ‘principle of playing our football’, if it isn’t then why do we keep coming up short in the same manner? Playing expansive, open, attacking football is fantastic, it’s what every purist wants to see, but just passing a team to death isn’t enough, if it was then we would win every title every year. Attacking in that manner doesn’t have to be lost it just needs to be counter balanced with better, solid defending but then Wenger seems to know that –
“I am convinced we are a very good footballing side. We have not been stable enough defensively. The numbers are the numbers, we have conceded six goals this week at a moment where you cannot afford to conceded six goals in three games and win the championship. We were too frail defensively during the season”
So either this isn’t being worked on enough which squares the blame at Wenger’s door or the players are either not getting it or not sticking to it, in which case personnel change is needed.
I spoke a few days ago about the core of a team being in place at the club  but yesterday we fielded what is arguably our strongest XI, with the exception of Vermaelan coming in for Koscielny, and those players proved as culpable as Almunia, Eboue,Denilson & Bendtner are so often made out to be, so what does that tell you?
Wenger has shouldered the blame for the title pursuit collapsing, saying –
“The players are not to blame – it’s me. I pick the team”
That blame is only to a point perhaps. If he has not attempted at all to improve the defensive frailties of these players and has provided them with little in the way of tactical change and/or improvement then yes Arsene you are to blame.
However as  Isaid before, if these players are not heading the advice they are being given then they are due a bigger slice of the blame then they are currently receiving. That said I personally feel that the players are shielded from a lot of the deserved criticism by Wenger, because he is always willing to defend them always willing to step in to the firing line. Much of the Frenchman’s loyalty to this set of players is to be admired but now is the time for that loyalty to end because it is not being repaid.
I don’t think it is time for Wenger to go but I do think it is time for him to change his principles, time to reassess who deserves continued loyalty. There is little to play for now except and automatic Champions League qualification spot,
which is by no means, guaranteed at this point with Manchester City only eight points behind us with two games in hand.
The only other thing this team can aim to salvage this season is pride and that starts against Manchester United at the Grove on Sunday.
Ferguson knows how to play against us, the United players know they are more than capable of embarrassing us on our own patch and there is little more they would love to do next weekend, little more would give them greater satisfaction especially as a win would set them up nicely to clinch the title at Old Trafford against Chelsea.
What Wenger and the players need to do is ensure that we compete against the Champions elect in the same manner we did against Chelsea earlier in the season. The way we played that night was the blue print of everything this
manager and this group of players say they want to achieve when they play a game of football. It is also vital that the fans back the team and the boss from start to finish no matter what the result, not in an attempt to paper over the
obvious cracks and deficiencies. Neither the crowd’s nor the team’s response and performance should be seen as such because we all know that a job of work has to be done in the summer.
Thanks for reading.
Up The Arsenal!

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