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Thursday, December 13, 2012

If it were a boxing/mma match - Arsenal would have won a unanimous points decision

Watching Arsenal at a freezing Valley Parade was an excruciating experience for any Arsenal supporter. From 7:45pm to 10:35pm we endured deep frustration as Arsenal monumentally struggled to break a Bradford resistance effort that was reminiscent of an Arsenal team of the late George Graham vintage.

As every minute went by without the deadlock being broken, you could almost sense the Arsenal family of management, players and fans progressively despairng with the inner-thought: What is going on!

It was a negative cycle which ended appropriately with a defeat by the lottery of the penalty shoot-out method. To have won the penalty shoot out would have felt incongruous given the three hours of football torment that all followers of the Arsenal had just just experienced.

Expectedly, the media and assorted vacuous football pundits drew their daggers and went for Arsene following the defeat. This is to be expected, and is not worthy of further comment. The more worrying aspect of the Bradford aftermath for Arsene Wenger supporters, was the growing call from Arsenal fans for Arsene Wenger to depart.

Given Wenger's extraordinary achievements for Arsenal in his time at the club, I don't accept that being knocked out of the League Cup on penalties by Bradford is a compelling reason for him to depart. Any dispassionate observer of the match would clearly mark that Arsenal were overwhelmingly the dominant attacking team, and were there an alternative to the penalty shoot out method for deciding the tie which reflected the balance of play, the team progressing would have been Arsenal.

To draw an analogy, I have watched many boxing or mma matches were the clear favourite has been unable to knock out his unfancied opponent - but has nonetheless had his hand raised in victory after a disappointing but dominant performance. A fairer alternative to the penalty shoot out method woud have seen Arsenal progress, with the opportunity to put on a more clinical finishing performance in the next round. (I would like to reiterate that I hope the penalty shoot out method is abolished - a link to my post from years ago on this in the eft sidebar).

Clearly, Arsene Wenger has not got the formula right in his assembly of players for this season. However, it is also clear that he has recognised this, as he has prior emphasised his willingness to recruit next January. World class players - Cesc, Nasri, Clichy, van Persie and Song - have left (all too prematurely) in the past 16 months - and Wenger recognises they have not been adequately replaced. He has surely earned the right from all Arsenal fans to have the opportunity to rebuild what will be his fourth generation squad: his first three have achieved and competed remarkably in the modern era.

Wenger needs to match his declarative ambition of Arsenal going for titles with heavy investment in his squad. Arsenal must show ambition by persuading Walcott to stay by offering him terms where he can get elsewhere, and recruiting players who will undoubtedly improve the squad like Huntelaar, Baines, Fellaini, Zaha, etc. Instead of lauding that they run a financially good business, Arsenal in 2013 must show they now mean business off and on the pitch. Arsenal must not just talk ambition, they must also palpably demonstrate it.

I trust that Wenger has the proven expertise, intelligence and desire to put things right - but significant investment in the Arsenal squad is now paramount.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I think it's largely the timing of the defeat, much more than the performance, that has got people so riled. Every major side has lost to lower league sides in the cup in recent years, and it's never been such a big deal.

12/13/2012 11:19 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the problem has been the big rich clubs who have corrupted the transfer markets.

If City/Chelsea had not been financed by sugar daddies then we would likely still have Cesc, RvP, Nasri, Clichy, Ade, Toure, etc..

Is always harder to be the first to jump ship, once more players start doing it then if anything it becomes harder to stay than to go.

A lot of players in Chelsea/Man C were Wenger's targets but Arsenal cannot compete with wages and transfer fees compared to those clubs.

And even at present there are tons of players at many clubs not getting play time but they rather be earning £100k for sitting on a bench than £75k for playing.

Football has changed, Wenger hasnt... and his philosophy of overachieving with less than others cannot work in modern football because modern football mainly relies on one thing... money.

Whenever Wenger discovers a rough diamond, that rough diamond will have his head turned by money and instead of that diamond relishing success with Arsenal they'll be more concerned with personal success than repaying the team/manager that had faith in them.

That's modern football and Wenger's philosphy, while it was ahead of its time when he arrived, is no longer applicable due to the money factor.

We need a sugar daddy, that simple.

12/13/2012 12:51 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All well and good stating that if the game was run on a points system then Arsenal would have gone through. It would be nice for Arsenal fans to maybe swallow a piece of humble pie and give Bradford a bit of praise for abiding by the rules of football and knocking them out fair and square.
Bradford didn't make the rules the FA did and Arsenal went out. Simple! Nothing to do with boxing.

12/13/2012 8:45 pm

Anonymous RedsMan said...

Superb passionate article, T, speaking truly from an Arsenal heart. I sense something that is uneasy with myself regarding some of the AFC fans - when Arsenal are winning, they are content; and yet, the moment a defeat arises, it's time for Wenger to leave. Kneejerk reactions, and not only are they without foundation, they're simply babyish. Through thick and thin one supports their club, highs and lows. I'm an LFC fan, we've experienced this on a regular scale over the seasons. Nonetheless, I despise when it happens that Wenger's name is called for the chop after a defeat. It could be anyone else, would still be the same. Mark Hughes had little to no chance of survivng once the media got hold of his name, like a falcon upon its prey.

The point was made that an alternative ending to the penalty shoot-outs would have been preferred. However, Arsenal had the class of players to overcome Bradford, not forgetting the vast distance between the two in English football. It's the same point I make when Chelsea fans go on about that 'goal' of Luis Garcia in '05 in the CL semi-finals 2nd leg at Anfield. Chelsea had mere minutes before that goal to score, and plenty of minutes after that goal to not only equalise but win. They too had the class of players to overwhelm us, but didn't.

In the end, we overcame Chelsea on that day. We went on to overwhelm AC Milan, eventually, in the finals, where, once again, class (and extra-time) did not make the difference, although the penalty shoot-out did. It's the same with Bradford v Arsenal, the class, the 90mins and extra time, was available for Arsenal to eventually make their Premier League mark. The penalty shoot-outs are just the last resort to gain a finish, a result.

Arsenal still have other competitions, do the fans calling for him to leave want him to do so NOW?! OR is it a small number of them who are only appeased by the winning of a trophy, which would change their minds?


12/14/2012 8:05 am

Blogger T said...

Thanks all for your comments - much appreciated.

Redsman, as ever you have words of reason!

12/14/2012 9:25 am


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