When Arsene Wenger complains about opposition teams playing defensively he has missed exactly half of the point of playing football.
A football team consists of some people who are involved in trying to score goals and some other people who spend their time trying to stop the other team scoring a goal. Its called “attack” and “defence”.
Each time I watch Arsenal these days is like (as someone once famously said) “deja vu all over again”. It is tedious and repetitive and the reason for this is that Arsene Wenger has created a team that plays wonderful football at times but simply cannot play at all against teams that have a half-decent defence.
Both tonight against CSKA Moscow and on Saturday against Everton, we had vast periods of possession, created chances galore and yet only managed a single goal in the entire 180 minutes. How does Mister Wenger expect to win anything with a team that cannot play against a defensive side? It seems he doesn’t expect to be able to – he just expects them all to change the way that they play to accommodate us. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Arsene, but they’re not going to. You might even find that teams that traditionally play attacking, flowing football and get repeatedly beaten by us (like Fulham and Charlton, for instance) will actually start to play more defensively against us.
Wenger has always stated that he wants to win the Premier League – but it seems to me now that he is only interested in playing pretty football. If that is the case, Arsene, then please own up and let us know. If I am fully aware that my expectation when I pay my £40 should only be that I see some nice passing and neat little triangles in midfield, then maybe I won’t be quite so bored, frustrated and downright angry when I leave the stadium as I do these days.
The problems are many. There seems to be no belief in the team at the moment – when things don’t magically go our way (as they did against Reading) we just seem to get worse and worse and, in particular, the pace of our game drops. Eventually, we end up relying on bringing on Theo Walcott (17) to produce the winning touch. And when the rest of the team is on its heels with its head staring at the floor, I can’t really blame the teenager for not managing it.
Thierry Henry is, at the moment, having a nightmare. It is a sad testimony of our current team spirit that we cannot play without him at the top of his game. He cannot be dropped because of who he is and nor can anyone else take on the captaincy which he cannot give us and which we badly need.
Alexander Hleb, for me, sums up the whole team at the moment – he is so predictable and lethargic that opposition defences must jump for joy when they see him coming. Will he go outside or cut inside? Inside, inside, inside. Never, ever, does he try to take anyone on down the wing. Never does he arrive at the far post to meet a ball in from the left. Never does his pass in to the edge of the area meet a player who has more than 1 tenth of a millisecond to control the ball. Hardly ever (see Reading game above) does he shoot. What is the point of him?
“Hang on Barnett!”, I hear you say. “You Gooners are so fickle. Last week it was ‘Arsenal are back on form, what a side, brilliant stuff etc.’ and now you’re all critical just because you failed to beat two good sides at home. Tuh, you want the moon on a stick, you do.”
However, this is not the case. Only the media (and some very foolish Arsenal fans) were indulging in this puke-inducing gushing, after we won 5 games in a row – beating United was a superb result and performance, I grant you. But the other 4 games were against the 3 teams that were promoted from the Championship and the team that’s bottom of the league! OK, so you’ve got to beat these sides but its hardly cause for the bookies to stop taking bets on the Premier League, is it?
This is my last rant before a 3 week holiday to a place very far away from here. I really do hope that someone in the Arsenal dressing room can sort out this malaise before I get back. The next game I will attend will be Tottenham at home and if they can’t muster up some energy and enthusiasm for that game then I will be on the verge of giving up on them.