Saturday, 18 October 2014

Why Arsenal will specialise in failure until Arsene Wenger is replaced

Jose Mourinho suggested that had any other manager pushed another manager in the middle of the match, as Arsene Wenger had done to the Chelsea man in their recent game, he’d have been treated more harshly.
It’s probably true - but the reason is more damning than some kind of pro-Arsenal bias
Arsene Wenger
It’s more likely to come from the fact that Wenger, and by extension Arsenal, are no longer really seen as a threat.
In the past, Wenger’s Arsenal side would have been happy to exchange more than glances on the pitch, and now you know there’s going to be little more than a shove.
Arsenal are a spent force, forever playing catch up, but at a pace far slower than those ahead of them are moving.
Before the match against Hull City, when the side were gearing up for yet another disappointment due to yet another injury crisis, Wenger said he would move for a defender in the January transfer.
For reference, we are now in October, and Arsenal started with Nacho Monreal in central defence.
Monreal is an adequate back-up full-back for a Champions League team, and yet under Wenger he is regularly considered as a worthwhile option in the middle for the next three months.
As the transfer window closed, Arsenal weighed up making some kind of move for William Carvalho, the Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder, but with Wenger abroad refereeing a charity match, the side were only able (or perhaps truly willing) to sign Danny Welbeck, unable to break into United’s first team as a striker.
This came after Wenger elected not to sign Cesc Fabregas, who has proven himself to be perhaps the best midfielder in the Premier League at the moment, firing Diego Costa and therefore Chelsea to the top of the table.
Carvalho and Fabregas: neither arrived, and instead the risible show of Jack Wilshere andMathieu Flamini took over duties against Hull.
In the previous summer, Flamini was training with Arsenal, a favour to him from Wenger despite him leaving on a free transfer to AC Milan in the past.
He impressed Wenger with his training ground performances and managed to secure a contract on that basis. In the first season he was a usefully cynical presence, but an increasingly invisible physical one.
For all the training ground numbers, he was a player that could be played around and ignored by the best. This season, against teams like Hull, he can be easily outmuscled.
So it proved when Mohamed Diame burst through Arsenal’s midfield, and then grappled with Flamini’s shirt and neck to get ahead of him.
It was an obvious foul, but in previous years Flamini, or the more physically resilient Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira or Daniele De Rossi would not have stood for such interference.
They’d have fought back, at the very least, but in this instance Flamini simply gave up. Diame was provided with the chance to equalise not just because of the referee’s lenience, but because of Flamini’s slackness.
It wasn’t a rare example, it is now part of Flamini’s game.
Flamini and Mertesacker
Alongside him, Jack Wilshere showed why Paul Scholes regards him with borderline contempt.
He looks nice on the ball, flattering to deceive, but too often his important passes are underhit. With Hull sitting deep, that failing became increasingly apparent. It is not that Wilshere cannot pass well, is that he just does not do it enough, just as Arsenal cannot play well as a team often enough.
With more than 20 minutes remaining, Wilshere showed the other side of his play, injuring himself with a rash tackle on Gaston Ramirez. For all his tough guy posturing, he remains most likely to breakdown. In the past, Arsenal would intimidate and follow through (figuratively and literally). No longer.
Danny Welbeck’s late intervention should be celebrated by his old fans at Manchester United, and his current ones for England and Arsenal. He has proven that he can be a regular goalscorer.
The problem, again, is that it is not enough now. He rescued a point where he should, given the confidence he has in his own ability, be winning them. He missed an early chance to put his side ahead when his team were on top, demonstrating Arsenal’s lack of clinical edge.
It was reported today that Arsenal recently invested a couple of million pounds in a data analysis company, aiming to extract the most value from current and future players.
That’s all well and good, but there’s a very obvious statistic that needs addressing more than anything else.

For a decade, Wenger has been specialising in failure. It is time someone else got a chance.

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