2010-11 Season Review: The Broad Picture

The Gunners ended the season with relegation form – 2W,3L,6D – in the final eleven games of the season. The fact that this form came straight after a horror fortnight that saw heartbreak in all the Cup fixtures, including the Carling Cup final, means that even the most positive of Gooners are finding it hard to sustain the faith.

The uncertainty surrounding some key players’ contracts and transfer rumours aren’t helping matters. Fans are looking for a glimmer of hope but so far, unless you count the departure requests of Denilson and Bendtner, there hasn’t been much encouragement.

However, I do believe this season wasn’t a complete failure and there were a number of positives. If we can shake off the memories of the last few weeks from our minds – it’s not easy, I know – we can look at the season more objectively.

Up until February 27, the season was going above the general expectations. Arsenal were in the Carling Cup final, challenging for the league title, and had just beaten Barcelona at home – something many never imagined possible.

While it wasn’t perfect, it’s only fair to say that till that moment the positives were outweighing the negatives of the season.

Nasri and Walcott delivered more than most expected, Fabianski and Szczesny did more than a respectable job in goal, Arshavin was making meaningful contributions even when his work rate wasn’t always up to scratch, Chamakh and Koscielny performed admirably in their first season, Wilshere was a revelation, Djourou had a very impressive run in the side, the rotating triangle in midfield provided better solidity and link play than the sole DM from the previous season, Wenger rotated the players more than he had done in previous seasons, the number of counter attacking goals conceded had been reduced, and Van Persie was just getting into top gear.

There were some problems as well. Cesc was struggling with fitness and never consistently hit peak form. Wenger was learning about rotations on the go and his 8-9 player changes often backfired resulting in needless replays and a second place finish in the Champions League group phase. The Gunners had already thrown away some points at home in games that should have been won.

On the whole it was looking like a good season in the making.

Normally, it’s hard to pinpoint at one or two pivotal moments that affect the course of a season. This time it’s the exact opposite. The 89th minute mix-up between Koscielny and Szczesny at Wembley dealt a severe blow to the psyche of the players. I believe the negative impact was amplified because everyone (players and fans) had sort of assumed this game will be won and the monkey will finally be off their backs.

As if that wasn’t enough, the red card for Van Persie at the Camp Nou completely killed the spirit of the players. After that it got progressively worse.

I believe the hard work and determination of the players was masking some of the inherent systemic weaknesses up until that moment. Once the joie de vivre, so to speak, was lost the team unravelled and some of the systemic problems came to the fore. The defence was exposed more often and rather easily; the attack seemed to lack sharpness; and the possession game felt laborious and tedious.

The Gunners conceded 16 goals in the last 10 games while accumulating 11 points. I haven’t checked but I won’t be surprised if that turns out to be the worst run of form in the Wenger era.

It is easy to blame the players’ mentality, their manager’s tactics and choices, and so on. But if you really think about it such things are very difficult to control once they get out of hand.

Just look at Chelsea. They got off to a flying start and looked destined to run away with the league. From the middle of November though, they had a two month period in which they actually did worse than Arsenal’s relegation form! In nine games they managed – 1W, 4D, 4L – 7 points while conceding 14 goals.

They had the same experienced, proven players with winning mentality that won them so many titles over the last few years but it didn’t help.

What it shows is that there can be times when something goes horribly wrong with a team. It’s hard to pin point just what the problem is and solving it is that much more difficult. For some fans it’s easy to vent their frustration by blaming the players’ effort or attitude, the manager’s policies, etc. For those who are actually trying to do something it is a lot harder than that.

Of course there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. I have my own thoughts on the perceived problems and have shared them all through the season. I will also try to summarize some of those issues in the coming days. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about protecting Wenger or the players. I wish they needed my services but they patently don’t. This is about being objective and rational. Any balanced analysis has to explore reasons behind the problems and must look at the issues from all possible point of views. I am just trying – trying being the keyword – to do that.

Wenger recently mentioned that in 2003 Arsenal had the best away record but didn’t win the league. In 2004 they were able to improve on certain issues and we all know the result. In 2011 we have again finished the season with the best away record (although not comparable to 2003). If 2012 comes anywhere close to the performances from eight years ago, it will be a memorable season.

For that to happen Wenger has to achieve something he hasn’t been able to do in the last few years. The team has to take two steps forward without taking a step back. In the last few seasons the Gunners have toggled between various states. For instance, this season Arsenal topped the mini-league of the top four sides. Last year they were bottom. Last year the Gunners had a very good home record but this year it’s been dismal. Arsene has to ensure the away form and the performances of the big games remain constant while the home form improves and fewer mistakes are made. Now I’m getting into a discussion of the next season so more on this in the coming days.


31 Responses to 2010-11 Season Review: The Broad Picture

  1. G4L says:

    I knew Chelsea had a tough period, didn’t realize it was that bad. They had the blip in the middle so they could recover. We slipped at the wrong time but to be honest it wasn’t a surprise. There had been too many ‘poor’ performances before the Wembley disaster. The writing was there for anyone who wanted to see it.

    Wonder if bringing in a sports shrink after the Barcelona defeat would have made a difference?

  2. Yang says:

    Actually. Team progress a bit, if you look at some games like versus MU, Barca and Chelsea, you can see most of players actually try hard to press and defend.

    That is why team keep players for certain amount of time to see improvement of performance. for example, Samir improve his work rate a lot, involve defense job a lot more than before.

    People talk about mentality but this mental stuff come from experience and confidence which need take long period of time. You need to know what to do in certain situations to cope.

    MU suffer a lot defensive mistakes this season, no surprising they try to include new young center half and wing backs, this kind of rebuilding stuffs are supposed to take pain to watch but no team keep going without rebuilding.

    I think Arsene made many mistakes and do not exactly know how to build new team but it is not easy task.

  3. Andy Moore says:

    Okay, not the disaster some might suggest, and on the whole a fair summary, but come on, Koscielny performed admirably??? That’s pushing it a bit, he had some good games but plenty of cock-ups too. I can’t remember anyone giving away so many pens in a season. Needs to show improvement even allowing for the fact it was his first season in a new league.

    • richie says:

      AM can’t agree Koscielny’s season was at least admirable, taking everything into consideration. The amount of games he played in his first top flight season, not being eased into things as was originally planned. The pens given away were mostly through his naivety and overeagerness. Next up the Ref’s targeted him because not all were pens. I’m saying this not even thinking about anti-Arse bias in the press or amoungst Ref’s.

  4. Phil23 says:

    There were many aspects of last season to think about. Some things were new while others were the same old. For example Song started off looking like a completely new player but faded out like many others due to exhaustion. Arsene relies too much on certain players and then runs them down too much. Koscielny, Sagna, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Chamakh, and others were exposed to too many starts in certain periods of the year. If the back up isn’t good enough to trust 100% then it should be shipped out. Imo at all times during the year we should be blending our squad players in with first players otherwise it creates an attitude of first team/second team rather than the competitive squad needed.

    • Tim says:

      Yes, you are right.Wenger did not rotate enough. Especially Song(for the last 3 years) and Wilshere.Van Persie was never rotated from end of December till the end and thank god he did not get a serious injury.
      I have no idea why Desi says he has rotated a lot.He needs much more rotation.He plays Song-Wilshere-Fabregas-Nasri-Walcott-Van Persie until they get injured.Ferguson changes his rubbish midfielders every match and they keep getting results.

      • URAHotSpudInDisguise says:

        Sir F also changes Refs at every game and still they get results. Ever thought of that? Like could you get result for Arsenal with Dowd or Mike officiating? You have to factor in the ‘external’ forces that are so subtle yet plays such a monumental role in ‘result’s. Ask the bookies if you don’t believe me.

    • richie says:

      I too can’t agree with you enough those in the squad should all be good enough. I’ve never liked the idea of team A and team B the squad needs strength in depth. No club has 22 top flight players with 2 ready made teams, but we should be bedding in the young understudies at every opportunity. Its not true that Arsene isn’t ruthless (he can and has been in the past) he needs to be, if he isn’t sure of the players ability’s then either give the chance to another one of the kids or strengthen the squad when the transfer market is open

  5. Tim says:

    It looks like Barcelona are going to buy Rossi from Villareal for a lot of money(30M euros) this summer so Fabregas is going nowhere. Great news for Arsenal.
    The thing I do not get is why they want Rossi. What are they going to do with Pedro,Affelay,Bojan and Jeffren?
    Also, they want to give Thiago a lot more chances next season so by the end of next season, no one of barca will want cesc.

    • max says:

      if they really want to go for cesc this summer they could try a money + player deal. as you mentioned, they have plenty of high quality fringe players.

      also i think that they have their arab sponsor come next season, so money shouldn’t be a problem.

  6. alphie says:

    desi as usual ur blog is just superb.it means alot to sane fans to be able to express varied opinions whether agreeable or not in an amicable manner.

    interesting points…but when you do further reviews i’d also like you to do one based on a different category

    big name players
    upcoming/inconsistent players
    squad players
    loan players

    surprise packages in the packages in the above categories.

    example being…i’d pick walcott for most improved player of the season. especially at the start of the season before his injury he was running wild…cutting in the channels at pace…defenders couldnt read his game..he was unpredictable.

    van persie,wilshire,kos,sagna have been the most consistent players.
    shezny had a good run when the defence was playing regulary and well.

    the reason for me wanting this anaylsis is to kind of gauge what the manager expected from the players and whether they delivered.

    i am not hating but the most inconsistent player for me was nasri…i’m not hating. apart from going off-form…in big games he just seemed to totally disappear. on the other hand diaby is a big game player in my book.

    infact in this whole team the one player i really wish was consistent is diaby. he has so much to offer this team that when he messes up as he does we forget. a good example was the turn-around at everton….yes arshavin scored and kos but the turning point was diaby’s influence,his running ,passing and decision making were superb.

    THAT ASIDE….hope you’ve gotten my request vaguely.

    CONSISTENCY….HOW IS THE PROF LOOKING AT IT?

    1.TALLER PLAYERS.
    2.TEAM ORGANIZATION…..THE FIRST TWO ARE EASY TO CORRECT LIKE HE SAID.

    3.PLAYER MENTALITY…IS TRICKY?…..tied to many variables like personal life/fans/form etc.

    e.g when is the last time arshavin celebrated a goal with that ugly assasin smile of his instead he’s been doing the silent mouth assasin celebration.he doesnt even make clown faces anymore.it shows u how everything at the time was going against him.

    4. flexibility…wenger obviously knows.
    5.fans….desi covered that to the full extent.no comment
    6. referees….what can the team do to reduce that bias?

    7.attacking crosses with atleast 3 players in the box. its somewhere where van persie can learn to variate more but he’s greatly improved on it this season.some wonderful headers,i’m sure chamakh and bendtner must have had a go at him:-)

    8.TRANSFERS OUT WILL DEFINETLY AFFECT INCOMING TRANSFERS AND HOW THE TEAM SHAPES OUT.

    9.INCOMING TRANSFERS THAT DONT DEPEND ON OUTGOING TRANSFERS. (a.) a defender seems to be on the books.(i am personally surprised as i thought its not personnel but rather the system)

    (b)….i dont know:-)

    we could do with a 6’7 pyschologist though:-)

    • alphie says:

      i forgot something too….

      our system should play to theoretically each player’s strong abilities.

      a very good example is either DEFENSIVE POSSESSION OR PRESSING HIGH UP THE PITCH(although we cant press the whole game but the current team isnt good at soaking pressure)

  7. Arsenal4 says:

    Superb and mature thought.

    For me there’s one pivotal moment in the season: Cesc Fabregas injury in Stoke game. (Feb 23)

    From that moment on, everything went horrible. Cesc out at 15′ due to injury, luckily we scored before hand. After that, except the Man U game, we were never convincing. We were sluggish, couldn’t get the engine moving. The mixed up on CC final is just one of the result. Even when the 4-4 Newcastle game happened, we were spectacular in first half with Cesc pulling the strings.

    So, my heart was a little bit broken when everyone start blaming Cesc and put the idea to sold him. That would be the most ridiculous idea. With Cesc around, even Chamakh can become a ruthless assassin in front of goal.

    To me the priority would be
    to keep Cesc in the club.
    To keep Cesc healthy.
    And get 1 cover for defender, Defensive Midfield & Winger.

    Next year, with TV, DJ, Kos & Woz healthy – we look quite solid in defense.

    I agree 2011 is bitterly disappointing, even more than 2008. So much hope, so the falling even more hurting.

    But i continue to believe. With a bit of luck, we’ll turn the corner next year. If we can keep Cesc.

  8. richie says:

    I ‘ve never liked the idea (put forward by many fans) of buying players that are the finished article. Because when you buy a player at his peak normally they’re 27, if it then only takes the player a year to acclimatise to our sytem, potentially we’ve only got that player for another 4 years. If we are going to buy a player then I’ve always thought we need to buy younger players that fit into the system and our style of play. Building a team is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle its far more important to have pieces that fit than have pieces that stand out. Sir Taggart knows this better than anyone IMHO his league winning side this year was full of worker ants that all did (as they were told) their jobs well enough, without being stand outs, and they kept it together when it counted.

    • Steve says:

      I think we can get a proven player at 24. And he should ideally perform from the start – that’s the whole point of the proven player. I think Vermaelen and Arshavin (although older) are a good examples of the kind of quality they bring to the team. The problem is in finding such players. It’s no longer easy and damn near impossible at the right value.

  9. Steve says:

    The keyword is consistency. Wenger and the players have struggled to perform consistently over the course of the season. They have done better than the hyped up pikeys down the streets but not as well as we expect. There can be many reasons for it but in the end performance matters. Didn’t Wenger say judge me in May? Well the report card doesn’t look so good.

    • richie says:

      True,we didn’t pass any of the exams we took, and our attendance level was down too, and and with all the money awash in the prem it ain’t gonna get any easier. Arsene said judge him in May, well my judgement is I still can’t name anyone I’d rather have as manager and I still like the direction he’s steering us in, even though we ain’t won anything.

      • Steve says:

        I am not from the so called AAA. There is no one better than Wenger to steer the ship. But leaving aside the preposterous notion that he should be sacked, we do have to look at ourselves critically in order to improve.

      • richie says:

        Agreed Steve, but when I look critically at our team I see just about everything different from the many posts made. For example I always want better players (Who doesn’t)? But I don’t think the defense is where its all gone wrong, unlike 90% of those who post, in fact I think the defense was adequate. Its in our attack that I see the faults, RvP with only half a season under his belt has been great! But where is his strike partner? Where is the competing forward? The fact is if we’d clinically converted our chances and the same persentage as Manu’er we’d have probably been crowned champions in March. I don’t hold with all this mental weakness either, if we’d have been bagging our chances we’d have been winning games, that would’ve give everyone on the team the confidence they needed and prevented the collapse.

  10. Kushagra India says:

    Nasri was very poor in the last nite friendly at Belarus….is it a surprise ??..

    • Steve says:

      Did you even watch the game? See it again if you did. Benzema was poor. Ribery was rubbish. Nasri was the one who kept France ticking.

  11. Kushagra India says:

    and only God knows why Diaby is still playing..

    • Steve says:

      I guess you’re saying Blanc is an idiot. Fool doesn’t know even you would have done better, right?

      • Kushagra India says:

        Did you see the match(go footytube) he was the worst player on the pitch and when was the last time he played 4 matches in a row….

  12. Phil23 says:

    I agree that Diaby seems to be injured a lot but sometimes Arsene turns things into “injuries” so that it doesn’t look so bad on the players. Mostly he is just injured a lot though. You are wrong about him though, he is a tall technical player with strength to boot. I’d say hes one of the faster players in the team and can glide past people. Is that not a good player? I just think Diaby needs to play in a more technical league so he doesn’t get people jumping in at him wildly for a while and gets some games. A loan to buy deal with Ajax could be good. They are in need of player swaps for their good players as it is difficult to attract players to the Dutch league at the moment. This is surely a changing thing though as many players must start realising the amazing talent from that league. Ajax is capable of becoming a very good side again. I would prefer that players departing from Arsenal leave to these kinds of clubs. I know many would follow the players careers if this were to happen. What do you think Desi? Where would you want our departing players to go? Who do you think is in danger of going?

    • Phil23 says:

      Actually it turns out Ajax have signed Theo Jansen from rivals Twente. This is a massive move so there may or may not be a place there for Diaby. I do expect him to stay though but it would take something big to get players away from Ajax at the moment and we are more likely to see a good player leave than a massive sum but I could be proven wrong. Maybe we are leaving our transfers late again? I expected a signing by now but I guess it depends 100% on outgoing players? I hate not knowing!

  13. SoCal_Gun says:

    I have to agree with you

    Up until the Kiddie Cup fiasco everything was looking Pretty good

    Then the terrible mistake late in the Cup final put all those old fears and doubts into the players’ and fans’ heads…..and the travesty at the Nou Camp really affirmed all of those doubts

    …..Theo and Nasri both had good seasons, as did Arshavin statistically. Cesc struggled for long periods of time, but Jack and Song stepped up in a hugely surprising and encouraging way

    Diaby and RVP played pretty damn well when they were healthy as well

    Also…..I’m very quick to point out to all my friends that Arsenal were the ONLY team to beat ManU and Barca this year. And that Madrid and United were destroyed by Barca and that Arsenal kept it close (and should have won if the refs weren’t corrupt blind FIFA idiots)

    The squad has the talent, and with 2 idiots leaving this Summer (Denilson and B52) hopefully some real talent will be brought in….I’m more confident of that now than I have ever been.

    Considering how low media expectations were for the Gunners the did exceptionally well……until the wheels fell off at the end

    A few tweaks…..and this group of Gunners can dominate the rest of the world

    • Phil23 says:

      I agree completely that personal wise we are very close to having a world class squad. I hope that the right people leave the club but more importantly, I hope that if we get rid of 6 or 7 players, we sign 3 or 4, as this way we will be able to afford better contracts to the players we get in as well as have enough left over for players like Nasri, who I believe we should just sign up no matter what the price and then at least we are in the position of power. Simple to me, pay him what he wants so he is on a 5 year deal, then if Arsene really doesn’t want to pay the wages we can just pop him on the transfer market for 30m+ rather than lose him for 10m or less. Other wise we have one of the worlds next superstars in our ranks. People saying he was crap on the right wing have really pissed me off. His best didn’t come at attacking mid it cam when he was on the right. He even said he prefers the wing. If next year we line up with Cesc and Nasri I think we will have a very good season. Of the 6 or 7 I would expect ALL to be going because there is room for improvement in that position or because they can’t wait for there place. Who do people think are the two players with media bans? I havn’t heard much from Clichy or Almunia but then again I haven’t heard much from Squillaci either.

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