I had a feeling Arsenal won’t win the Carling Cup final. I said that before the game. I never expected Arsenal to get past Messi in the Champions League, certainly not without Walcott. And I didn’t have high hopes from the FA Cup game as it was an away game to Old Trafford, a ground where Arsenal don’t score too many goals.
Despite that the exit from three competitions and the manner of some of those defeats left me really disappointed. I didn’t expect someone as good as Szczesny to hand the cup over to Birmingham. I didn’t expect the ref to kill the game in the manner he did at the Camp Nou. And while over the years Wenger has struggled against Ferguson at the tactical level, I expected a better performance at Old Trafford.
The disappointment was worsened by some of the asinine vitriol on the net. I know this is not a popular opinion right now but I’m not despondent about Arsenal’s squad or our chances for the League. Actually I’m quite happy with the squad as a number of issues from the past have been addressed. That doesn’t mean it is perfect. Those who have read this blog regularly will know there are plenty of issues that I’ve talked about and continue to discuss. But the key point is that Arsenal are not miles behind any other English club. If fact, they are miles ahead of most.
Over the last couple of years of blogging I have realized there are periods when the Misery Brigade will be out in full force. There can be no rational discussion with them at that time. That doesn’t mean people don’t have a right to question or criticize the manager but there has to be a degree of consistency and perspective in what is said.
For instance, somewhere in the earlier part of the season Clichy-bashing was the in thing for the doom mongers. They wanted Gibbs to start ahead of the Frenchman. After the youngster’s performances in the last few games, in stark contrast with the solidity shown by Clichy, I’d love to see someone make that claim with a straight face.
Last season there were plenty of commentators on the internet who criticized Walcott and even said Nasri doesn’t offer much. If you have a short memory you might want to revisit the past to read those opinions. This season those two have suddenly become irreplaceable!
The same thing can be said about Goalkeepers. In the summer everyone was going crazy about the need to sign a Keeper. But if you look at the performances across the whole season, Arsenal Keepers have probably been more consistent than any other. Reina has certainly made more mistakes than all three Arsenal Keepers combined. What happened against Birmingham could have happened to anyone in any game. Just because it happened in the final with two minutes to go doesn’t mean much. Van der Saar conceded at the near post from a toe-poke in a Champions League final. It happens.
After their performances this season I honestly cannot see how someone can complain about Szczesny and Fabianski. Even Almunia deserves a great deal of credit for his displays against Barcelona and United despite all the flak he has received. Why don’t people appreciate his professionalism and mentality? And what can one do about injuries? If Fabianski and Szczesny can get injured, is there any guarantee that a new singing would not have been injured? Would Szczesny have signed a new deal if Arsenal had signed a new keeper? That doesn’t take anything away from some issues that have been there in goal, especially last season, but it does show the issue is a lot more complex.
Then there is the case of Koscielny. I don’t know how anyone who actually watches the football can complain about the Frenchman. Laurent Blanc certainly isn’t complaining. Some people don’t realize the handicap of playing for Arsenal. For instance, watch the second booking Koscielny got against Liverpool. It was extremely harsh. But there are fans criticizing the player for that. Then watch how David Luiz got away with some shockers against United. Do you honestly think Luiz would have gotten away with those challenges as an Arsenal player? Or look at the penalties conceded by Koscielny and then the challenges by the likes of Neville, Vidic, or Rafael in the penalty box. Do you really think anyone at Arsenal can get away with those kinds of fouls?
I remember how many doom mongers wrote Vermaelen off last season when he was signed just because of his height and weight. Now the same people talk of the Belgian as a world class defender. They’ve forgotten the details. Vermaelen actually made a lot more mistakes in his first season than Koscielny has done so far this year. That doesn’t make TV5 a poor defender it just shows that Koscielny has been doing well as he has been adapting to a new league at a rapid rate.
What I find amusing is that people think buying big will solve everything. Some assume buying one or two players will do the trick. Others want to offload 7 or 8 players and make wholesale changes.
If you actually think about it, that is what Tottenham have done. They’ve spent around £300M pounds gross and over £130M net in the last 8 years. That has led to constant buying and selling, no stability, one Carling Cup and one top four position.
Similarly, this is not the first year that City have spent big. They’ve been spending for four years now. But what have they won?
Of course, it is not a black and white situation. Sometimes buying works and sometimes it doesn’t. One certainty is that making 7 or 8 changes to the squad rarely works.
There are those who want Arsenal to buy expensive, experienced proven internationals. Often these are the same people criticizing the likes of Arshavin.
Some blog writers and fans can’t tolerate a couple of lines of criticism but they feel qualified to talk about a winning mentality. How many players do Arsenal need to buy to get a winning mentality? One, two, half a dozen? Last season the club had a leader like Sol Campbell and even Vermaelen was talked about as a leader. But it didn’t affect the result. So two leaders doesn’t seem to be enough. Someone can ask how many leaders has Man City bought and where has it taken them? Losing against the likes of Lech Poznan and Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League after all that money spent!
Criticism is easy. Spewing venom mindlessly is even easier. There is no accountability. Today one can launch a scathing attack on a particular player. After a few weeks the target will change as someone else drops his form. The internet is a fast moving place and few have the time or memory space to remember how tunes have changed over time.
At the start of the season many said Arsenal will finish outside the top 4 if Wenger doesn’t buy a Keeper. Where are these people now? Instead of acknowledging that they were completely wrong these people have now changed the targets of their attack to suit the flavour of the week/month.
Another insanely amusing argument is that it’s the same story for the last six years. As a matter of fact, apart from the moaning fans, it’s not the same story.
In 05/06, it was Lehmann who was sent off and Henry who missed a crucial chance. Let me repeat it, Henry who missed the chance not Bendtner. It was experienced, world class internationals with a winning mentality that cost Arsenal the trophy.
In 07/08, Arsenal were running away with the league title. A horrendous tackle and a shocking, biased refereeing decision led to a meltdown. Once again it was Gallas, a proven international with a lot of trophies, who lost the plot. As we saw last season at Stoke, the players have learnt from that and responded magnificently to a similar situation.
In 08/09, it was Adebayor who flopped and it was also the year when injuries hit hard. Now If Adebayor had scored his 30 odd goals at another club in 07-08 and Arsene had signed him for big money in 08, would it have changed anything?
This season Arsenal have shown noteworthy improvement in performances against Chelsea and City. Again that is something that wasn’t there in the last couple of years.
The end result over six years is the same and I can relate to anyone who is frustrated, angry, or disappointed. But that does not mean it’s the same story. That would be the case only if one is talking like the emperor of trivialization. Over the years the club has faced serious challenges and has done well to overcome most. It’s not been enough and there is certainly an argument that it could have been better. There is no denying that. But the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I guess that is the key word – trivialization. That is where most fans lose the plot, not the manager. Of course, Wenger has his faults and weaknesses but that doesn’t justify the excessive vilification. Perhaps it’s more a reflection of the helplessness and hopelessness in some fans’ lives rather than an actual opinion based on objective reason.
Anyway, as I said, I’m not trying to reason with anyone nor am I trying to change anyone’s opinions. If you want to be miserable, it’s your life and your choice.
One thing you might want to remember is that even when Wenger goes, he’s most likely to pick his successor. So don’t dream of drastic changes. It will only lead to further suffering. If that doesn’t suit you stop watching, cancel your ticket, do whatever you think is right. I don’t have any issues with individual opinions or decisions. Those who think supporting the team is the right thing to do have my full backing. There are some big games still to come and Gooners have a chance to show they aren’t mentally lacking.