Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Arsenal: Wounded by time

On the backdrop of the pitiful defeat in the hands of Swansea City at the Liberty stadium last week, people have actually started to question if this is the time when Arsenal will no longer be seen as a title contender to the league trophy, this or in the coming years. While a few argue that the 13-decade old club still has the resilience to atleast compete for the title till the very end, the major part of the football world claim that Arsenal has succumbed to the very painful yet prevalent sight in football these days - stacity. Currently teetering at the 6th position in just 11 matches, Arsenal have already provided a 12-point lead to the leaders of the table Chelsea and the recent statement by Arsene Wenger asserting that there is no competition to Chelsea this year only adds to the despair.

Wenger's faithful have played a strong role in maintaining the dignity of the Frenchman who recently completed 18 eventful years at Arsenal. They have securely upheld the notion that Arsenal still remain a top club fighting its way through the storm upto the top 4 every year, while gradually strengthening itself to one day accomplish that mark of obtaining the silverware that Arsenal have only dreamed of in the last 10 years. However, the statistics of the last 4 years do not remotely seem to be standing by them.

Since 2010, Arsenal have finished 3rd once and 4th three times in the Premier League. While this may seem substandard for a successful club as Arsenal was, the results in the Champions League are further more astonishing. In the last 4 years – Arsenal have never managed to go past the Round of 16, while it’s Premier League competitor Chelsea have managed to win the CL and reach the semi-finals of it once each in the same time! Shocking as that might be, the Frenchman has hardly shown any change in his game tactics and transfer spending to bridge the gap. The contract signing of midfield maestro Mesut Ozil and one of the most promising South American talents Alexis Sanchez in the last 2 years was a dream come true for the Arsenal family, but while Arsene Wenger has managed to deviate from his what is commonly known as ‘Money can’t buy class’ principle, he still falls far behind his competitors in the transfer market, even though clearly the team is in dire need of some horse power.

Barring Alexis Sanchez, all the transfers that have happened atArsenal in the last 3 years have made little impact to the team. The value addition seems to have reached an impasse. Arsenal have made 4 striker signing in the past 3 years and yet the replacement of the role of former captain Robin Van Persie seems to be a distant dream. What’s worse is that the striker problem Arsenal are facing is prevalent for 2 years (and four transfer windows!) and little has been done to solve it.

While the signing of Manchester United benchwarmer Danny Welbeck may seem like a light at the end of tunnel, truth is that he does not seem to be capable of getting Arsenal to the top position. With only 2 goals in 8 Premier League matches, the Englishman has a goal scoring rate of 1:4 at Arsenal - even worse than what he had at Manchester United.

Clearly, poor transfer decisions have reflected the score sheets to an even greater extent. Arsenal have time and again shown that however good they may be against some teams in EPL, they become an injured soldier against worthy opponents. Arsenal have managed to win only 1 game out of 21 played against the Top 4 teams in EPL. Last season they only won once against their top 4 rivals. The lack of confidence was evident in the away matches when Arsenal was handed a merciless drubbing by the likes of Chelsea, City and Liverpool last season, conceding an average of 5.6 goals per match.

Arsene Wenger's unimpressive "performance" in the transfer windows have not only replicated in the output of the team, but has also splashed in the shadows of the club fans. The club’s performances have inculcated a sense of complacency among the fans, who now celebrate a good performance by Arsenal like it would never be seen again!

A tie with Manchester City at home was seen as a positive sign. Gooners rejoiced in the wake of the 4-1 win against Galatasaray at the Champions League this year more than what the Chelsea fans did after the 6-0 debacle! Even a player like Danny Welbeck (whom the Arsenal fans thought of as a mediocre player till last year, lest we forget) is being compared to Thierry Henry just because he showed a good performance against a weak team. Roll back the years, and you'd recall that these things never happened back in the days.

If there was to be change at Arsenal, it would have happened long ago. A decade without a Premier League title is acceptable only if the club competes for it till the very end. But it doesn’t seem so for Arsenal in any season!

The once Invincible Arsenal, known to the football world as a robust team, is now being written off for the title even before the league starts. Performances are deteriorating, yet the manager seems to be unperturbed, satisfied with a Champions League qualifying position. This will leave us with the likes of Chelsea and City dominating the Premier League for some time before an actual change is carried out at Arsenal.

A shame for the Premier League, in all honesty.

-Vib_H [Follow me on Twitter @Vib_Hafc ]

Monday, 10 November 2014

Swansea 2-1 Arsenal: Farce

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Farce. There's no other word to describe what we've seen.

Swansea have given us a lot of mental strain over the years. There's the obvious example of the Flamini own goal in the 2-2 draw a few months ago and the 3-2 loss in January 2012, where Thierry Henry had a heated row with an exasperated supporter. Perhaps the most volatile of most for some was the 2-0 loss at the Emirates which left fans wanting for blood and the manager's job nearly untenable. For me, however, this one undoubtedly takes the cake.

Right from the team selection to the post-match presser, yesterday was a neat example of everything wrong with Arsenal Arsene's Football Club. How many times have we sat here hoping for some minimal rotation in the lineup? Heck, I had given up on it in the build up to the match, I was so sure. And it wasn't exactly a startling fact to get right - yet again we saw Sanchez, Welbeck and Cazorla overplayed.

I can understand the situation with the defence - even though it's ultimately a problem of Arsene Wenger's making. Our hands are forced with overplaying Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal and Gibbs. But what about the attack? We all know Santi Cazorla has been substandard this season. We know Welbeck could use a bit of rest. The whole world and its dog knows that Alexis Sanchez is pushing himself too much to carry the team. Yet Wenger does absolutely nothing about it, persisting with the same team over and over.

In the meantime, the likes of Rosicky, Podolski and Joel Campbell rot on the bench. Campbell doesn't even have that luxury anymore, for he's faced the all-time ignominy of being dropped at the expense of Yaya Sanogo. Oh, and there's no way you can convince me that Sanogo is better than Campbell. He may be in the future (and I take a huge pinch of salt as I say that), but at the moment he simply isn't.

Counter him to a young, genuinely exciting and versatile player who's gained tons of plaudits from his seers along the way, and there's almost no argument. Except from Arsene Wenger. Honestly, if Campbell leaves for Italy in January, could you blame him?

The first half itself was turgid. The fact that we were cautious against a side like Swansea spoke volumes of our confidence - never mind belief. Chambers had a rare bad game against the menacing Montero. I remember listening to one of the Bergkamp Wonderland podcasts where a fan was saying with absolute conviction that Chambers would make mistakes. We all know he's a terrific prospect and a great find by the manager, but he's inexperienced as well. A "new guy" like him finding his feet is bound to make errors along the way, it's only natural. Wenger's job was to not heap too much pressure on him. Instead, by not buying the requisite number of defenders, Calum has to find the balance between form and fitness.

The moment when we stopped showing Swansea too much respect and started knocking the ball about was when we finally started to fashion some chances, but they came right at the tail end of the half. Too little, too late.

The goal we did score was from one of the only genuine attacks we created. Oxlade-Chamberlain, one of the silver linings of yesterday's debacle, stormed down the centre and poked a pass to Cazorla. Santi one-two'd it to Welbeck, who cut inside and squared it to that wonderful man, Alexis Sanchez, who tapped it in. In truth Alexis didn't have the greatest games yesterday, but he was certainly handy when it was needed.

However, as he has done all season, Arsene Wenger let him down again. Can you imagine having 8 players in the other half of the pitch when your team is holding a 1-0 lead? It's reckless, treacherous, and - judging on the events of our last CL encounter - downright stupid. How many different kinds of moronic do you have to be to repeat the exact same mistake twice in five days? In a situation such as this, it's the manager who's supposed to bring composure to the team. Much as I loathe that guy, I'll be damned if I ever saw a Jose Mourinho team do that.

I'm not imploring Wenger to park the bus - just for him to cut his losses for one game and be a lot more cautious. However experienced the team may be in terms of age and experience, out there we seem to be making the repeated elementary errors. How is this not the effect of having a shoddy tactical approach?

Much similar to Anderlecht. Five days ago.

Sigurdsson's goal was a fine strike, and I don't think Gibbs had his chance to commit a "tactical foul" on Barrow around the halfway line. But what we should have done instead was not throw an array of men forward, or give the ball away carelessly. Sometimes we really behave like toddlers. "Tactically clueless", as one would put it.

Right through the game it was obvious that Chambers was struggling to deal with Montero. Perhaps over time he would learn how to deal with such tricky customers, but yesterday wasn't that day. Instead of either telling Chamberlain to track back and help his mate, or bringing Bellerin on to handle his pace, Wenger just sat there watching paradise fall apart. Was he even aware that Chambers was having a tough time out there?

Apparently not, because our messiah mutely saw Montero zoom past Chambers and lump a decent ball in. Monreal couldn't win the header (how could he, he's a 5'9 left back!), Ramsey clattered into Monreal, and Szczesny - instead of helping his makeshift defence - foolishly watched Gomis rise above all and head the ball into his net. What a mess.

It is said that managers earn their money through their substitutions. Garry Monk certainly did - he brought on Barrow and Gomis who changed the game. Wenger's substitutions, well, less said the better. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were anonymous. It was hardly the kind of easy return Theo needed from his ACL, thrown right into the firing line. And when we needed a goal or two, Wenger brought on Yaya Sanogo. A complete joke of a substitution, even Wenger's last resorts are embarrassing.

I remember watching the game and trying hard to remember Fabianski looking perturbed during the last 10 minutes. I also tried to care, but I'm finding it increasingly hard to. A couple of years ago whenever Arsenal used to get a bad result such as this, it used to piss me off like hell for the rest of the day. Now it's almost so repetitive that I feel immune to it.

I do feel some frustration, but that's in no way connected to an opportunity we missed to climb up the table, or to the fact that this team isn't nearly performing as well as it should. The frustration lies solely in the fact that there seems to be no hope at Arsenal. No desire to improvise. The reaction to not being able to beat Swansea was apocalyptic, but Wenger could still royally balls-up another game in the not-too distant future and not bat an eyelid.

Wenger looks like he does not care anymore. There's no desire to improve things, no desire to consciously not repeat the same mistakes, no urge to augment Sanchez... just the same old fuck-ups, the same old moaning on the touchline and same old backlash towards perfectly legitimate comments.

His post-match conference was another sign of millions as to why faith in him is at an all-time low.
"We lacked some spark."

"Why did you lack spark?"

"Because they didn't give up."

How are the two variables connected I'll never know, for I don't know of any team that gives up when they're 1-0 down. So we didn't play well because Swansea refused to lose?

"It's difficult to explain how we lost that lead."

Oh, I don't know Arsene, maybe it was because you didn't sign a defensive midfielder and two defenders, and you didn't focus on consolidating the lead by keeping most of the players in your half and getting Chamberlain to work tighter towards Montero? Oh deary me, I'm sorry, that was an opinion, and as we all know, unless we've managed half a day in football they're all worthless.

It's this ego and condescension that has become the fall of him. The smart, visionary and revolutionary man has gone, only to be replaced by this shadow of a man who refuses to accept he's not good enough and keeps sucking eight undeserved millions from Arsenal's paycheck. Remember when he said that he had "righted the wrongs" and that Paul Merson's comments were farcical? Wrong - this is farcical.

Wenger has ruined the fanbase as well. A horrible irreparable fissure has been created with Gooners abusing each other. I absolutely hate seeing it. If there's one thing that makes my stomach flip, it's two Gooners having a row at each other - whatever their views on Arsene Wenger. If Wenger had the humility to take the fall for what he's supposed to, we wouldn't be hurling abuses at each other. Wenger is literally killing the joy of being an Arsenal supporter. Even trading banter with a fellow Gooner becomes an exercise in treading lightly.

It's quite amazing that I have to repeat this for the zillionth time, but Wenger needs to go. And we need to get him out before the talented bunch of players we do have get fed up and leave.

There was an Arsenal before Wenger, and there will be one after him.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Swansea vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Preview | Pre-match conference | Team news

Short post from me today.

We need to take this match very seriously. It'll be the last time in a long time that three points are guaranteed. In addition, Manchester City, West Ham and Liverpool slipped up. The growing sense of feeling is that we can finish second at most. We need to keep our heads down and win matches. I'm confident that we have the quality to overtake City. They seem as mentally distracted a team like ours.

Anyway, our fixtures after Swansea away read:

Manchester United (H)
Dortmund (H)
W.B.A (A)
Southampton (H)
Stoke (A)
Galatasaray (A)
Newcastle (H)
Liverpool (A)

All winnable matches but certainly a testing point of our ability. West Brom and Newcastle provide some breathing space and scope for rotation but we all know that Wenger won't look into alternation so there's no point debating it, really.

Onto the game - I'd hope we employ a conservative 4-2-3-1 instead of a 4-1-4-1. I'd hope we play Ramsey alongside Flamini and discourage him from bombing forward too much. I'd hope we get the burden off Santi, Alexis and Welbeck and bench at least a couple of them. Rosicky, Podolski and Joel Campbell are eagerly awaiting on the sidelines, but if Wenger makes them wait for too long, they may lose their eagerness. We could even give Walcott a go. Roy Hodgson has already included him for England - so it's best to give him some playing time before sending him on internationals. It reduces the chances for an injury.

But, yeah. This is Arsene Wenger. Even hoping for him to induce a bit of rotation or conservativeness is daft thinking. The man only changes decisions out of fear of the crowd turning on him. If the pressure on the manager leading up to Matchday is huge, then we might see 4-2-3-1 or Rosicky/Podolski given a go. Otherwise, forget it.

Koscielny's prolonged injury puts us on thin ice. The likes of Mertesacker and Monreal looked like they were aching for some time off, but they won't get it. Again, we can only hope they don't lose focus. Our defensive situation is farcical enough.

That's me done. Here's to three Arsenal points and Gibbs not pulling another hamstring. Later!

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Arsenal 3-3 Anderlecht: 2016. Just repeat 2016.

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Honestly, it was hard to feel overly upset at this result. Not because it has little consequence on our chances to qualify for the Round of 16, or that we had a couple of excuses to fall back on - pertaining to an injured Arteta and an offside goal. For me, though, the collapse was too repetitive and predictable to feel any sort of aggrieve or frustration.

There's always a barrier to how much one can tolerate. After a point, upon seeing old habits hit the reset button with little signs of progress, collapses and breakdowns become almost inevitable. Even for me, a person as emotionally and financially invested into Arsenal as many, the exercise of sadomasochism comes to a halt.

It's pointless repeating the same issues over and over again. Lack of leadership, lack of rotation, tactical naivety, witless substitutions at the wrong time, quotes contradicting facts, yadda yadda, we've all heard it before. I know it'll be exasperating for my regular readers to hear the same issues trotted out like a broken recorder again and again. To be frank, it's tiring for me as well.

We all know that the malaise of complacency must be really deep if the team falls like a pack of cards at the slightest hint of trouble. We all know that experienced players at Arsenal mean little if they do nothing to prevent a mental and tactical disintegration. We all know that the manager played a decisive hand in another fiasco - by not keeping his team focused at half-time or by throwing caution to the winds by allowing Chambers and Gibbs bomb forward.

89': Five players at the other end of the pitch when they should have been
guarding a 3-2 lead. If that's not tactical immaturity I don't know what is.

However, we all know that little will change unless the manager leaves. We know that every time tension builds around the Emirates, the manager knee-jerks his way out of trouble. That's how Ozil came to Arsenal and that's how we panic-purchased 5 players in 2011. That's also part of the reason why we switched to 4-2-3-1 for a couple of games.

Unless large-scale action is taken or a majority of the fanbase is convinced that Wenger is the root of all malaise (which, at this moment, is not the case), the manager stays. I foresee that the supporters will realize Wenger's ineptitude by 2016, which is why there's no virtue trying to convince anyone of Wenger's true nature right now. If there's one thing I know about the AKBs (apologies for the labeling), it's that the more you try to explain the situation to them, the more they dig their heels further into the ground and resist change.

Change has to happen of its own accord. If Paul Merson had called Arsenal "tactically clueless", a year ago, he would have gotten a lot of stick. Yesterday though, not one AKB (again, my apologies) came to Wenger's defence. That's change. It will take a lot of time for even Arsene's staunchest supporter to question the direction we're heading under him, but it will happen. I'm afraid the WOBs instigating quarrels and abusing Wenger's backers will serve to change the subject and delay the process.

For now, I'm ready to play the waiting game. If there was anything I could do to speed up the process I'd be game, but there unfortunately isn't. As far as possible, I try to rationally argue with any Arsenal supporter and try to show them the light, but I'm of the opinion that they need to see it themselves. Without us trying, yesterday convinced more supporters. It was another nail in Wenger's coffin.

However, I can only hope the likes of Sanchez, Welbeck, Ramsey, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Walcott, Wilshere, Szczesny and Joel Campbell are patient enough to not leave before Wenger does. At least then the next manager can pick up the pieces.

Till Swansea.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Anderlecht Preview + Schar the solution?

Preview | Pre-match conference | Team news

Champions League action tonight with Anderlecht coming to the Emirates in what should be the most straightforward match in our group fixtures. This isn't a game wherein we have to struggle or dig deep to get 3 points out of. Of course, you can legislate for our team's recent performances as a sign that we're as untrustworthy as they come, but it will still be a huge ask to drop points tonight.

You can be certain that despite their relegation form, Dortmund are getting maximum points out of Galatasaray, and we need to keep pace with them if we want to make amends for our 2-0 defeat at the Westfalenstadion. Our fate in the CL is ultimately in our own hands. If we defeat Anderlecht tonight and Dortmund 2 weeks later we'd be in pole position to finish top of the group regardless of their results, which is obviously preferable to depending on other teams to slip up and make your day.

It goes without saying how important it is to top the group, for we do not want to face any more Bayerns or Barcas to halt our Champions League campaigns. True, despite finishing first in 2012 we had the ill-fate of AC Milan on our way, but that was a problem not of our doing and, lest we forget, a beatable opponent. The fact that we lost 4-3 was down to us, not the draw.

Arsenal in particular badly need a good run in the Champions League. Our hopes always seem to end in March because we tend to mess up in the first leg and leave it too little too late in the second. Our record in entering the knockout stages may be perfect, but we don't really do anything once we're in the room of the crème de la crème.

Bearing in mind that this would be our easiest group fixture, we should be looking into resting our main men. I hope we look to rest at least one of Sanchez, Welbeck or Cazorla, because we won't be as utterly reliant on them in a match like this. Ideally, I would go with a starting XI of Szczesny - Chambers - Mertesacker - Monreal - Gibbs - Arteta - Ramsey - Rosicky - Chamberlain - Podolski - Alexis; but I know the manager too well to know that he'd persist with Welbeck and (probably) Cazorla. The man has no idea of the concept of rotation.

I wouldn't even have many issues with resting Mertesacker for Bellerin and changing the back four to Bellerin - Chambers - Monreal - Gibbs; assuming Bould and Wenger practiced with such a unit these previous days; but we all know that's not going to happen either way.

Tonight may be another time we can give Theo Walcott another good cameo from the bench because despite our recent levels of performance, this game should be more or less over by the 65th minute. Walcott is a great option that could lift the burden off Alexis, and god knows Sanchez needs a breather. If things go well tonight and it's not too rushy-rushy, we could have Walcott starting against Swansea and Alexis gasping for breath on the bench.

It isn't a lot to ask this Arsenal team to get maximum points from this fixture, and it isn't a lot for them to deliver it. So let's do this!


There had come a time when we would have been pleased with anyone with a body and a pulse in defence. Schar, a centre back from Basel, offers much more. And judging from his recent quotes, he's available:

"Basel are open to negotiations. My dream remains to have an experience abroad. I'd like the Bundesliga, Premier League or top Italian clubs like Inter, Milan and Juventus. I couldn't say no."

He's young, affordable, available, a short-term and long-term answer. With his contract expiring next summer, surely we can take out £10m out of our pockets and get him in January? In all honesty I've never seen him play, but he sounds a good enough option on paper.
A Switzerland Gooner mooted that he's is the best center back in the Swiss league and the first choice in the national team, with good attacking rates, big body presence and a superb header. Sounds like a no-brainer for me.

In other cases I'd scoff and make a Kim Kallstrom-esque joke pertaining to our winter transfer businesses, but something makes me not rule this transfer out categorically. Maybe it's because Wenger openly said that he would be on the lookout for a defender in the AGM. Now, I know that trusting Wenger isn't the most wisest thing one can do, but those quotes were too direct to be passed off as false promises.

But then again, remember this from Gazidis?


Right, that's an argument for the long-term. For now, let's just focus on Sanchez scoring four tonight. Till tomorrow.

P.S. This is awesome.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Arsenal 3-0 Burnley: Sanchez is masterclass

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Gooners, in particular, have been guilty of overrating players. We tend to accentuate the positives and conveniently filter out their negative traits aplenty. Perhaps it's because most of the fanbase - loyal to Arsene Wenger - want to justify the Frenchman's persistence to his puzzling decisions. They'd hail every Mesut Ozil tap-in, touting him to be worth every £42m penny. They'd figure the reason for Giroud's constant inclusion lies in his "remarkable" hold-up play and pinball passing.

Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment that our claims lay completely unfounded, but sometimes we do tend to hyperbole a player's strengths. Theo Walcott, in his absence, has turned into Arsenal's most important player. Mesut Ozil, in his absence, has become the reason why we struggle to open up defences nowadays. Our tendency to put players on an unnecessary pedestal in a vainly attempt to find an answer to our current hardships has, in turn, put undue pressure on the player to perform once he returns.

The same, however, simply cannot be said of Alexis Sanchez. He is a player who I find nigh on impossible to criticize. The guy has firmly planted his stocky feet into the ground after a precarious start. Once he rocketed that volley against Manchester City, the guy has been flying. Sure, his passing and ability to strike the ball is immense, but his perseverance, out of all, has caught the eye. He could start as a full-back and not look one jot out of place.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott could learn a thing or two (or ten) from him. I'd argue that the former has already been inspired. Chamberlain had one of his best games since that run in February of this year. I really thought 2014/15 would have been the year he stepped his game and became a preferable headache for the manager. Until yesterday, he had disappointed. Against Burnley, though, he did well. He used his physique well, created pockets of space for himself and caused trouble through crosses and cutbacks.

Chamberlain has plenty of the attributes to strike oil in the league. He's quick, hefty and versatile. His early days at Arsenal also suggested a very potent right foot and an eye for goal. What he lacks is consistency, something which may or may not come in time. I hope that Wenger looks at him and carefully manages him throughout this season. He's a valuable asset who could, and would be a massive player. Whether it's for Arsenal or elsewhere remains to be seen.

The pairing of Sanchez and Chamberlain, added with a touch of Welbeck and Santi were all over Burnley. It must be noted, though, that the latter pair were wasteful. For obvious reasons it was Cazorla's misses that were highlighted for they were more noticeable (and the fact that he has been wayward for a long time), but Welbeck was equally frustrating as well. He couldn't really complain about a lack of service or the team underperforming "as a whole". When the team was in full flow, he was still anonymous. Perhaps it's fatigue.

Our first goal typified what Alexis is all about. His constant pressing and tenacity cuts him a leading, talismanic figure. Chambers only had to cross it in and Sanchez did the rest - hurtling like a motorbike and guiding home a header after rising highest to the ball. Even height isn't an issue for this guy!

The second goal came before I had a chance to feel its imminence. Welbeck shot a corner straight at an impressive Heaton and Chambers slid home the rebound. The fact that it was such a likeable and hardworking guy like Calum who had scored simply added to the feelgood factor surrounding the stadium.

And if that had the fans buoyant, Theo Walcott's entry sent them ballistic. Now, I still don't believe that he'll create any season-defining moments until December, but having a player who - until doing his ACL - has consistently produced the goods had to be a huge psychological boost.

Me? I was just pleased that he hadn't lost much of his pace!

Meanwhile, Podolski said "Hey look, I came on too" by almost scoring a brace. Should we manage to find a position that works for him and the team, words can't fathom how instrumental he could be. There are aspects of him which understandably frustrate many - his unwillingness to track back, his declining workrate, or his general anonymity when things aren't going right - but his positioning and left foot makes up for it. For obvious reasons he's a very likeable guy, and I'd be very sad the day he leaves.

In the post-match presser, what I found particularly intriguing was Wenger's quotes on Alexis, saying:

"It looks to me that he’s really dangerous through the centre of the pitch because he’s in full confidence, he’s physically strong, he likes to take people on as well and he makes perfect runs."

Add that to his previous quotes of "Alexis can play as striker all his life" and it's reasonable to believe Wenger will play Sanchez as a center forward once Walcott has found his feet. Assuming everyone is fit, perhaps a front three of Walcott - Cazorla - Sanchez is what the manager would prefer, because I reckon the manager would be averse to playing Sanchez and Walcott on both flanks. It'll be interesting to see what Wenger makes of our various options.

With our luck, though, I doubt a day will come when we have all of our forward options available at the same time.

All in all a good performance, but one I won't get carried away with, simply because it was only Burnley. It's understandable to still feel worried about our attacking potency (despite having so many quality choices) after we struggled to break the worst team in the league for 70 minutes. Of course, most of it could be put down to luck, but we've been playing that card for too long to know that there have to be other factors at hand.

Hopefully they're sorted before we meet Anderlecht, because that's a game we could use three points out of.

Right, that's that. Time to troll a Liverpool fan. Enjoy the Manchester derby!

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Arsenal vs Burnley: Match Preview

Preview | Pre-match conference | Team news

These set of easy fixtures were meant for us to gain some confidence and fluency in our performances, not scrape past them and dread the Dortmunds and Uniteds.

Anderlecht away and Sunderland was the first time we won two consecutive games this season, if you consider Manchester City to be an extension of pre-season. Pretty much everyone knows how we had to struggle and were lent a kind hand by fortune to seal those six points, but in the end they're six points all the same. Hopefully they're enough for us to find some belief and set a good run in the next three games, after which two home games to United and Dortmund loom.

Against Sunderland, even though we had an unfamiliar defence (to say the least), the team managed to keep a clean sheet. However, even a layman could notice that despite the depth and the technical quality, our attack was as rudderless as they come. Perhaps the return of Theo Walcott could instigate something, but as I had said in my previous post, I remain dubious.

Wenger has lost almost all of his traits that made him an Arsenal beloved in the first place. Our team has lost its attacking sheen since Fabregas and Nasri left. And even though the replacements for them (namely Ozil and Cazorla) are arguably better, the manager has lost the ability to make them click.

I don't think Wenger is ever going to make this team a freeflowing attacking cohesive unit again. If he's too afraid or ignorant to bring Rosicky or Podolski in the starting XI in an attempt to change our attacking dimension, then there's no way he's adapting to wing play counter-attacking football over possession football. That's just not the kind of manager he is.

I doubt Wenger even knows he's the problem. Jacqui Oatley of all people showed how the manager reacts to being questioned. Even Sir Chips Keswick said that the board keep their heads down when the manager doesn't have a plan. There's no one in a position of authority to demand more than 4th of Wenger, or to recognize the reasons why the team are tanking and hold the manager answerable.

Which is why I'd be surprised if today was the day Wenger solved our attacking woes. Knowing him, he would stick with 4-1-4-1 and Ramsey and Cazorla and Sanchez and Welbeck, even though the latter pair are mentally and possibly, physically exhausted. Even though Cazorla and Ramsey are my favourite player, I know that Santi needs to be given a time out and Ramsey should be played in his proper position, yet Aaron will occupy one of those attacking midfield spots and Wenger will choose Santi over Rosicky in the pecking order.

(To be fair, I appreciated Wenger easing Walcott into the pitch and not throwing him on against Sunderland. Asking him to be patient is completely justified.)

The logic behind overplaying certain starters and religiously benching close substitutes is - well, there is no logic. The players who keep playing every game get jaded and their mathematical probability towards getting injured increases dramatically. Conversely, the players almost always benched lose interest and feel like they've fallen out of favour with the manager. They enter the Vermaelen stage where they angle for a transfer and leave the club short on depth. Once again I ask, what's the point in having able players on the sidelines if they aren't going to be rotated into the foray?

From the manager, it's negligence of the highest order. It's the reason why Fabianski and Vermaelen left this summer window, and the reason why Podolski and Rosicky may be the future casualties.

Even though the manager sends them match-after-match tired and unfocused - not to mention tactically unaware - once again we have to hope they somehow find the stomach to find a win. It's unfair, yes, but that's the Arsene way, apparently.

Burnley is most definitely the worst team in the league at the moment. Should we struggle to beat them (AT HOME), it would speak volumes of where the team currently stands. We need to trash them instead of nick it by a goal or two.

Hopefully Sanchez doesn't overdo his body and find himself with a torn hamstring. Oh, and we win.

P.S. Apologies for not having a post in midweek, but Vib_H had other commitments to attend to.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]