Hey lads & laddettes (or ladies whatever)… Yet another long stint of inactivity from my side, I’d apologize, look sheepish and promise not to do this again (anyone else being regressed to being a school-boy?) but hasn’t life taught you never to rely on a scoundrel? But even a scoundrel fears the ire of his boss, the kingpin, the dark persona in the shadows tugging at the strings and manipulating us poor wordsmiths! The nefarious creature I speak of is the Admin… a name only whispered in furtive whispers only in the darkest corridors of AIS. Have some pity sir! Please sir, don’t hit me Mr. Admin, OUCH. Yes Sir, I’ll be more regular. OUCH!!
I’ll nurse my bruises later, right now let me address the elephant in the room: Our shameful thrashing (yes it was thrashing. Don’t argue else the Admin will fetch that stout paddle he keeps in the corner of his office!) at the paws of the dreaded enemy, I’m still in a state of semi-gloom. The fact that the ‘other enemies’ got their arses tossed out of Europe’s biggest competition provided a few seconds of blessed relief but the good humor is far from permanent. In the aftermath of the game on Sunday, the words “shambolic”, “hopeless” and their variants have been tossed around with annoying regularity by almost every section of the media. These hyperbole addicts and gleeful doom-mongers have been predicting the “sinking” of our “top four hopes” as though we were some sort of giant red and white Titanic.
I’d love to scream “Piss off!!” to their faces but my faith has been running a little and my confidence in our ability to finish in the top four (not that I think the top 4 will be sufficient, but more on that later) has taken a rather bad ass-kicking too.
The hacks are quick to “analyze” our performance through skillful post-mortems and charts as they quickly criticize the paucity of talent in the squad and the lack of tactical nous from the coaching staff. I won’t contest the fact that Wenger’s inability (or unwillingness, whichever) to change this strategy and approach has hamstrung us on multiple occasions with unerring regularity especially over the last few years. This is set in stone and even the staunchest Wengerite wouldn’t bother defending Arsene’s love-hate relationship with formation & tactics. His own admission of “We don’t prepare for anybody,” is damning proof of our tactical impotence and inflexibility. While I’d be mad to argue that the level of talent in the squad is comparable to that of the Invincible era or even sufficient to win the league currently, I staunchly believe that this squad has more than enough artillery to secure a Champions League berth with little difficulty.
I can practically see the smirks and the upraised eye-brows, but let me explain:
Consider our forward and midfield, while we cannot claim that we possess the best player in every position, if we were to create a ‘top 10’ list for every position in the premier leagues, I’m certain that most of our starting XI would figure in every list, maybe not on current form, but on an overall scale, undoubtedly. A majority of premier league managers would sell their mothers for a chance to sign Cazorla, Jack, Poldi or Arteta. Most of that aforementioned lot would walk into any English club’s midfield (bar CFC perhaps). Ollie G, Theo, Ramsey, Coq and a couple of others are considered quite valuable too so the majority of the first XI are nothing to be pooh-poohed at. Without doubt, there is a lack of balance in the squad with the absence of defensive midfielders and a few paper swords in the form of Diaby, Rosicky & Squid, but far and large this squad is one that can “compete”. The word has been used and abused so much in the past that its very meaning has become ambiguous, loosely translated most fans would be satisfied if the club was putting up a fight for the title and occasionally winning a bit of s silverware every few years or so. But the top 4 mantra has been repeated so often and prioritized to such an extent that the current squad is no longer perfectly happy with a finishing fourth even if it meant a twenty point gap between us and the league leaders. The other tournaments are looked at as minor trifles and the will to win has been snuffed out.
Looking at the string of poor performances, I’m starting to think that another manager could probably wring more out of the squad. Wenger’s arrogant refusal to acknowledge anybody else’s ideas or methods combined with the supreme confidence he had in his own methods were once his strengths, but now it is those very same qualities that have hamstrung us. The two goals conceded against the Spuds were pretty much identical and if you watch the highlights, you’ll notice that the Spurs tried to play multiple through balls hoping to pierce our defensive line, while most were stopped, two made it past the defense and the effects were evident. Our suicidally high line has left me spluttering in incoherent rage on multiple occasions through this season but the rest question is: How has Arsene not noticed this? And if he has, why does he do nothing about it?
Comparing my tactical nous and observational skills to Bould, Wenger and the coaching squad is akin to comparing a banana to a Tomahawk missile so I can safety rule out the fact that they haven’t notice that zonal marking is just not doing it for us, but then why isn’t any variation apparent?
Tommy V is going through yet another lean phase and if I were a betting man, I’d wager that the Belgian is not too fond of the captain’s arm-band. The fact that being captain makes him ‘undroppable’ is not helping either. His constant presence means that Kos has been rusting away on the bench and I have a sinking feeling that Wenger is going to make another Djourou out of the Frenchman and that would be truly tragic as Laurent was finally able to showcase his ability last season and watching his career go down the shitter would be heart rending indeed.
Speaking of Frenchmen, Giroud too is in a bit of a mess in spite of his obvious talent and drive. The striker has managed to keep himself motivated and approaches every game with an intent to contribute if not bang in the goals directly. It is impossible to find flaw with the way he has applied himself. The real problem is that he is being made to play in a position that he is obviously not suited to. In my humble opinion, I see him as a poacher, someone who can get head/foot/knee/face/arse/chest/tooth/wiener to ball and ensure that it lands in the back of the net….provided he is given an ample supply of viable chances. A creator of goals in the mold of a certain departed Dutchman he is NOT.
But Wenger has continued to watch the Frenchman drop back into the midfield and try and create while a Theo ambles forward moronically and muff up chance after chance. I really can’t think of a good reason why Wenger has allowed this to continue, if any of you manage to do so, kindly throw some light on the subject in the comments section.
The atmosphere among Gonners world-over might be a little downcast, but all hope is far from lost; the fight for the fabled top four trophy is far from over, but the water ahead looks choppy and uncertain especially since not everything rests in our hands. A fellow goner recently pointed out the UEFA rankings for the myriad league in Europe. Currently the English league rests at second position after the illustrious Liga (stop laughing!), but I’m told that a few good games from the German & Italian lads in European competitions could change that. If the BPL drops a few notches and sinks to third, the number of teams that would be eligible to qualify for the cash rich tourney would drop to three from four. Needless to say, this would pile on the pressure on the teams in the head of the table as suddenly top 4 just isn’t “good enough”. Wenger’s favorite line will be rendered meaningless and the club will be left watching the giant check from UEFA vanish in a cloud of their own inadequacy.
Things are looking a little bleak, but miracles occur. So keep your fingers crossed, pray to the football gods and bring down the house with those chants! Stay Goonerized!