Arsenal: Wenger's Naive Tactics Have Destroyed Our Season
Being an Arsenal fan is not easy. It’s the not knowing if we’re good or shit. It’s the constant raising of hope, only for it to be categorically dashed. It’s the feeling of same shit, different year.
I was at Old Trafford for the 8-2, the Etihad for the 6-3, Anfield for the 5-1 and the most recent demolition at Stamford Bridge. It doesn’t get any easier to swallow.
I’m not going to dissect these defeats and go on a seething rant – there’s enough of those on the internet. Rather, I’m going to highlight the contradictory nature of our season. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the traits this team were lauded for up until February 2nd - defensive solidity, team spirit and attacking cohesion – now seem to be, quite rightly, the focus of much criticism.
People are justifiably slating an apparent lack of desire and bottle, yet this is exactly what kept us at the league’s summit for half the season. Our ability to grind out narrow wins and the recovery after the trouncing at City, winning eight of the following ten games in all competitions, drawing the other two, are testament to this.
Yet, since the 5-1 at Liverpool, the game that abruptly marked the end of the post-Man City streak, these characteristics seem to have largely disappeared from the team, barring a 1-0 win at Spurs and a good FA Cup run.
Per Mertesacker, the man whose leadership and passion for the club has drawn comparisons to Tony Adams, was stood on the Chelsea pitch, hands on hips, dejected. The same goes for most of his teammates.
Further testament to Arsenal’s apparent loss of desire is the 2-2 draw against Swansea. After the utter annihilation at Chelsea and consequent Arsenal media lockdown, you would have expected the players to come out fighting on Tuesday night, pumped and eager to turn things around, as usually happens following a heavy defeat. Yet what we saw in that first half was a lethargic, uninspiring performance, blighted by a lack of tempo and urgency. This brought back memories of last season. In truth, Swansea’s last minute equalizer was deserved – our lackluster display did not warrant the three points.
Moreover, Arsene Wenger’s tactical decisions, key to our success in games earlier in the season such as Dortmund away and Liverpool at home in the league, seem to be fundamental to our recent downfall. Quintessential of this is his decision to play the ageing Mikel Arteta as our only holding player against Chelsea, and, one week too late, starting Flamini against Swansea – when we should be taking the game to the opposition.
Overall, this contradictory nature of Arsenal’s season should be pinned to inconsistency, from the manager as well as the players. While perspective is needed – you only need to look at United for this – I can’t help but feel a deep sense of disappointment. As supporters do, we felt an unavoidable sense of excitement and hope when top of the league; we knew it was unlikely to stay above Chelsea and City, but we could dream. Now, particularly following the 6-0 defeat – never before have I taken a loss so badly – and our meek response, it seems like same old, same old.