Sunderland 2 – 0 Arsenal: All time low…

It’s a cold day in February… and it’s a cold day for the Arsenal.

Having lost 4-0 to AC Milan midweek and then 2-0 to Sunderland yesterday, as an Arsenal fan, it really does feel like an all time low. It was a weird game. We started well. We seemed to have a lot of gusto, will and our formation was solid, but it seems “self-destruction” is the ailment of the moment. We played Fabianski ahead of Szcznesy, as it was a cup game, but the rest of the team seemed line a decent collection of players. Gibbs missing out, meant that the fit again Coquelin took his place at left back and we lined up as follows:

Fabianski

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Coquelin

Arteta – Song

Oxlade – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

We did start really well, but 8 minutes into the game, Coquelin got injured. Not good considering our options on the bench and his injury meant the return of Squillaci to the team, Vermaelen out to left back. And with Djourou and Squillaci (our 4th and 5th choice centre backs) at the back, we literally lost the plot. The worry down the centre of defence was very bad, Vermaelen playing out of position also unbalancing the team – and honestly, we never recovered. Morale was very low considering the Milan game, and Sunderland capitalised on that fact by “having a go”. They were over physical and the referee was very lenient on them, but that is something we have come to expect. In reality, when we had the ball, we didn’t do too much with it.

Arsene said a fair bit in the press; he seems to have felt that we were totally committed and gave 100%. I’m not too sure. I think we carried over the poor attitude and poor performance from the Milan game. But the boss did say this – very worrying that Arsene has to say things like this. You know it’s bad!

“At the moment it is best to let people talk, criticise, analyse and destroy and on our side it is important to show internal strength and resilience and come out with a strong performance in our next game.”

It’s been 24 hours (or there abouts) since the loss, and you’ve probably read it all – well about the game at least. But the problems we have at the club are quite big at the moment. It’s obvious that there is a serious lack of confidence and a seriously low morale. We feel sorry for ourselves and it’s not a good place for us to be. But the interesting thing is that we have a mismatch of random and not so good players. The fact that we’re buying players on the cheap and paying them loads is a really detrimental type of management. And that where it all starts. The board’s lack of desire, the manager’s new style of management and the excuses that come out.

Yes, we have a stadium debt to pay off – but that has got nothing to with the lack of self motivation in Europe last week. I mean, have you ever seen 11 players more disinterested in a game? And the question you have to ask yourself is where does the severe lack of desire come from? As a player, on tens of thousands of pounds a week, and a club that accepts poor performances and mediocrity, where does the desire to win come from? It has to come from within and without leadership and inner desire to win, it leaves us short of something – and that something is what has caused us to lose so many games this season.

The next question is how do we fix it? Well, really, it’s an attitude change. If the board and the manager don’t change their attitude and approach, we will soon turn in a very mid-table club. The board need to want to win, there needs to be the desire to push forward. The pressure to win and want to win has to come from the manager too – the philosophy of the bargain, or the hope of potential, is something we need to abandoned. Arsene brought in Benayoun this summer after the fans called for experience. But that’s not what we meant. We meant someone who can win games and has experience of leading teams to victory.

We’re out of the Carling Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League. We’re fourth in the Premiership and we’re lucky that we are fourth – it’s not down to us that we’re fourth – we’ve been lucky that other teams below us haven’t been great this season either – but that’s not for us to worry about. This season has been a shambles and it’s pretty much all lost. We have to play for fourth. But then we have to rebuild properly in the summer. Attendances at the Emirates are at an all time low, the performances do not excited. We literally only have one world class player in Van Persie.

We have 6 days until the North London Derby. Arsenal owe us a performance, simple as.

  • arsefan101

    The question is – will anything change? It feels like deja vu – like we’ve been here lots of times before and nothing has changed.

    I doubt we will finish in the top four this season too.
    Sp*rs will beat us again. It’s going to be a nightmare season!
    That I can tell you!!!

  • Aussie Gooner Dave

    AW should resign this week. There is no other option. A complete clearout is needed. We need to start from scratch.
    From the bootroom to the boardroom.

  • prime

    if we lost to spurs, then nothing to angry anymore

  • bergChamp

    @ Aussie Gooner Dave:

    But who will take over?

  • yemi

    Its funny how we go from challenging on 4 fronts to fighting for 4th position. We have spurs, the liverpool, ac milan, newcastle, villa, qpr as our next set of games. I fear for the rest of the season

  • fenno1

    if tottenham beat us this week. wenger is looking at a hammering. the team has been booed off before. but i can begin too imagine what will happen should arsenal be behind when the ref blows the final whistle. maybe not this week, but at the rate were going one day thousands will rip the seats of thhier hinges and pelt the ground with missiles. the club charg the highest ticket prices in europe, record pre tax profits of 57m which lets face it is the fans money. yet the club fail to invest the money on players and sqaud – its not only wrong its immoral. especially when you consider ticket prices were raised (and wont be reduced if we are the europea league next year). its one thing to be let down, but when it coincides with being taken advantage off. it leaves me deflated rather than angry. this goes for all fans. the club treat us as customers and not fans. i support arsenal – i dont have to support those who run it, nor certain players who play for the team. the notion of ‘supporting the team at all costs and in all circumstnces ect ect’ is outdated and doesnt sit with me.

  • Leroy

    It’s 8 years since we’ve won the league. Before Wenger’s 1st title it was 7. Before Wenger joined our last 3 titles were in 91, 89 and 71 (an 18 year gap). Our last 2 FA cups before Wenger joined were in 93 and 79 (a 14 year gap). Between 79 and 89 we won the league cup in 87 (8 years without a trophy). Why do I get the feeling that the fans who talk about this clubs high standards weren’t around during this drought, or the ones before. I wasn’t, but I’m not one of the fans that feels the name of a club should carry any weight. Success comes in cycles. If you don’t believe me, have a look in the Nottingham Forest trophy room. And Liverpool’s, Leeds’, Villa’s. Once the players cross the white line, for 90 minutes, the past becomes irrelevant. Fans who want to compare the team we have now to the teams that won us trophies will be forever disappointed. Henry didn’t come into emulate Wright, Lehmann never tried to be Dave Seaman. I want to see this Arsenal team succeed. But that means accepting the reality of our CURRENT situation.

  • sistable

    The club and Wenger are obviously under the microscope as we continue to decline and at last his flawed financial management skills are being exposed. Wenger’s supporters and the man himself have said we cant compete financially. Well maybe we cant match Citeh and Chavski or Manure with £30m plus purchases but what is now clear and something I pointed out a few seasons back was that we do have plenty of money but it is badly spent. Wenger pays too much to fringe and young players with “pwotential” rather pay the real stars the money they deserve. For example VanP is on £80k per week and Theo is on £60k and being offered £80k. Is this logical. Walcott should be on half he is getting now. Thats how Manure run themselves. About 3 seasons ago our wage bill was close to Manures and Chavski. Yet they had better squads. Wenger’s project has failed. Anyway even if the board gave Wenger £100m and said go for it I am not sure he is the right man to take us forward. Tactically and motivationally we look terrible. The club and the team lacks heart – there are no leaders on the pitch. It could be messy on Sunday if lose to the Spuds but i dont believe the board will do anything. Having Stan as our owner is a disaster. We need a passionate and committed owner not a profiteer running the club. We need to follow Liverpool fans and get Stan out. I offer our first protest cry – “Put Stan in a van”!

  • jeff -fulham

    It’s not just the cup exits that have created the need for change. Teams go out of cups all the time. It’s the manner of the exits and the feeling that we have all been here before, but that every season, the chances of success seem more and more distant. Arsenal, as the quality of the players at the club has slowly declined, seem to be slipping out of contention generally. Change is needed to re-invigorate the players. If Bould did take over, then it gives some breathing space for the club to approach a decent target in the summer, and if he did excel, then he could be given another season to prove it wasn’t a flash in the pan. It has to be better than what we are witnessing now, which is desperately sad.

    Can you imagine the reaction if Spurs win the north London derby next weekend? Perhaps, before we get to that horrible stage, it might be worth accepting the need to move on. The board are not going to sack Wenger because of the economic implications. But if the man from Alsace is big enough, he will know he’s reached the end and will hand in his notice on Monday morning. With him being as stubborn as a mule, I’m not holding my breath.

  • edison

    not a truer word spoken @Leroy.

    And of course what can anyone expect after Wenger sold almost half of his first team players. Something which I don’t think the rest of the squad has seriously moved on from.

    Wenger continues to try and get the team to play the same game he always has, the passing game, but that relied on players he has got rid of. And because other teams know this, our current squad simply can’t play it fast enough, making us predictable and easy to beat.

    With Nasri and Fabregas, gone in the centre of midfield – its left their understudies Ramsey and Rosicky lost and overburdened with responsibility. Both of which aren’t up to the quality of Arsenal Football Club. Ramsey has had as many chances as Arshavin to prove himself, and has disappointed just as many times. Funny how he looked world class when he had Fabregas to assist. Rosicky is even more disgraceful, a player who has real experience and know-how of the game, and he can only produce the ‘look busy, the boss is watching’ role in midfield and have his obligatory ‘at least I tried’ shot at goal.

    Then in defence, after buying 5 new players in the last 2 seasons – Kosielny, Squillaci, Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Jenkinson our problems have managed to get worse! Through injury or being out of position, we are killing all of them off.

    Whats more the sale of Clichy and the loss of Sagna to injury has completely changed the way we play football, remember almost 50% of our attacks would be crosses in from our fullbacks? No wonder Chamakh has been put out of a job !

  • bergChamp

    I am depressed

  • jeff -fulham

    think the most disheartening part of the defeat – which was tough enough in itself because we all know the consequences of that – was the fact that you looked at the players on the pitch and found it tough to see anyone, bar van Persie, who might make a difference. But even the best strikers in the world need supply, very few (maybe Messi), can make something out of nothing.

    As time goes by you can see the enormous creative hole that the departure of Fabregas has left in the side. Tight games like this might have been turned as he picked a pass which created an opening but there’s nobody like that now. When teams play like Sunderland played – and surely that’s now going to be the blueprint for any team when they face us – we end up passing it around with little or no end product.

  • jeff -fulham

    It feels like we’re lost at sea a bit, rudderless, directionless, with Arsene trying to paddle furiously as Stan sits back and lets it all happen. If people suggest to the manager that his team lacks leadership, and not without merit, isn’t it also a case that the club, as a whole, lacks it too? I think many this morning will think that something’s got to give, changes have got to be made as you cannot keep failing the same way over and over again, but where is that change going to come from?

    From an owner who doesn’t go to games? From a board whose passive acceptance of the club’s problems on the pitch seems borne out of their contentment with good financial results? Will it take a hit to the balance sheets for them to wake up? It’s all well and good talking about 2014 and increased sponsorship deals, but surely those will be affected by a team that lacks success, by empty seats, by Europa League or no European football. Try selling those corporate boxes then.

    It’s all well and good shouting for change – something I am not opposed to if it can make things better – but without real leadership and direction from the very top, without drive and ambition, you wonder what effect it would have and whether or not it’s being made for the right reasons

  • afc4life

    Heard today that AW’s job is safe for the next two years.
    Whilst, I don’t want him out, I do think this sends the wrong message to the team.

    We need to get the team motivated and get them fighting. We look burnt out and idea-less.

    Not good!!!

  • jeff -fulham

    The board don’t give a toss whether we get rlegated mate. as long as they get their cash they are happy. that’s why wenger needs to be booted out ASAP and mass REVOLT IS NEEDED

  • edison

    Wenger isn’t the problem here. Insert any manager in charge of Arsenal and our group of players still couldn’t hold themselves together for 90 minutes. If you’ve actually watched any of the last 3 games, which Im sure you have, you can see that. A loss of direction.

    Here is a definitive fact for you: All it will take is one player to turn the team around. It doesn’t matter if they are a defender, midfielder or striker – the team needs a leader. You see glimpses of it with Henry and Van Persie, but neither of them are in a position with in the team to be in charge of everyone.

    Arsenal doesn’t have one and when we eventually get one, we seem to be good at selling them on (Gallas, Fabregas).

  • Berth

    Fab wasn’t exactly a true leader. Gallas was but the Board doesn’t want anyone harassing or questioning their man (Wenger). The club is a big mess

  • jeff -fulham

    Why have our financial goals become president over our footballing goals? I knew arsenals season was over from the summer and my opinion hasn’t ever been moved on here, win or lose this season. We might be able to afford to be out of the champions league for one year but how about if we do a Liverpool? Has the penny dropped? Refusing to spend money over the last five years has only meant you now have to sell, and buy big in the summer which if were honest, may be to late as your reputation is weak and others burgeoning (the fact Eden hazard even whispered tottenham tells a story) Plus the odds of arsenal showing the likes of theo walcott and arshavin the door is highly unlikely with Wenger the father adamant the fans our speaking with thier feelings and not with their brains. So was all that interest gained on the hard earned cash of the fans worth it? no wonder they don’t let fans into the AGM meeting anymore, there’s way to much to answer for

  • sistable

    Everyone said we will lose around 45M if we lose to qualify European Champions League. How’s about Spurs and Liverpool? Liverpool has not been in the Champions League a couple of seasons and Spurs is not always in the League. If they survive, we shouldn’t have any problem. I would love to see us to be Champions League next season but we should be much more realistic on next season. We all know AW very well. I don’t think he will spend much. He is AW. No one can force him to do anything he doesn’t want. In fact, we are not losing money so the board won’t push him to do that. As long as they can see some profit every year, they don’t care. They are a group of businessman. No more and no less. No one like David Dein who can help AW in the club at all. David has his heart to help AW. I don’t see that from anyone in the club got that at all.

  • shard

    The words “mental strength” have been so preposterously used by Arsène Wenger to explain our many defeats that they now evoke the same sort of mockery which followed his “I didn’t see it” line. At a certain point, the point must beckon to him that this has nothing to do with mentality, rather that it is footballing quality which the current team lacks in spades. One cannot simply will to win a football match; otherwise, third-round FA cup-ties would all be won by the underdogs. Attitude and mental strength are important, but they are more generally the factors which tip the scale when two big competing teams meet. Anyone who follows Piers Morgan on twitter (an action which, in itself, is some form of self-abuse) will see his constant calls for Wenger’s head and will have to decide which side of the line they actually fall upon. The cross-roads have been reached; do we want him to stay or go? Now, it is natural to feel defensive of Arsène. I am not one who will ever be able to lead the call for his head, but the evidence in support of his continuing becomes far slimmer with every passing season. The goodwill he has gathered from being the founder of the modern Arsenal, the stadium, the Invincibles and the Double teams preceding that, has all but run out.

    This cannot be a knee-jerk discussion. One defeat should never condemn a man of Arsène’s stature. The whole operation of Arsenal Football Club must be understood to see why Arsène’s time may finally be up. There are some false arguments floating around which disguise the real and far more damning issue. Firstly, some critics say he can’t organise a defence. I find this a somewhat shallow argument. They suggest that he inherited an incredible defence for the first half of his reign (which is true), but he still had to guide those teams into playing the best football the Premier League has ever seen. Critics also forget that, on our Champions League Final run, we produced one of the finest defensive displays that that competition has ever seen. The problem for me now is not so much in the organisation of the team, it is something far more systemic than that. It is the quality. The quality has gone, season by season, year by year; players have continually left and this coming summer will prove no different.

    I cannot believe for one second that Song, who continually flatters to deceive, was not told before Wednesday’s game to stifle Ibrahimovic when he flittered between the lines of our defence and midfield. Too often, Ibrahimovic’s touch went unpressured and, on a night where the slight shift in personnel in the defence left us off-balance, he should have known better where to be. Let’s be frank, the far bigger problem was that there was only one area of choice for Arsène yesterday – to play OC or not. That was it. Whether he got that question wrong is slightly immaterial given the larger worry, which was that that was the only choice he had to make! Seven substitutes and only one of them we really wanted to see (excusing le king obviously). The idea for the game was to retain possession, dictate play, keep things tight, and, when Milan tired from chasing the ball, put on OC to exploit the pace and Henry to exploit the lack of concentration which tired legs bring. None of this happened because there wasn’t the quality out there to execute the plan.

    Last season, there was still high quality in the side, but there wasn’t enough quality (the second-half-of-the-season implosion is evidence to this fact). Back then, we were 2/3 players away from strengthening into a title-winning side. Now we are what, 5/6 players away from even being able to compete again. Project Youth has failed. It has failed for two reasons; some of the players never fulfilled their potential and the ones who did left. Ironically, the ones that did make it left partly because they couldn’t stand the thought of playing with the ones that didn’t make the cut.

    Arsène’s idea behind Project Youth was to forgo the stupidity of the £30/40m signing when big players can as equally flop as inexperienced youngsters. The lavish money spent at Chelsea and Liverpool on Torres and Carroll are testament to this fact. The €35m plus Samuel Eto’o which Barcelona dispensed in order to sign Ibrahimovic in the first instance, only to discard him for a knock-down fee a couple of seasons later, are further evidence of this. The preference for Arsène (and this has nothing to do with any FFP laws, which may or may not make any difference) was to play youngsters and watch them grow into superstars with an attachment for the Arsenal. Yet, after watching Flamini leave on a free, Arsène was acutely aware that, to ensure a proper return from these youngsters, they would need long contracts. However, to get a player to sign a long contract, an equitable wage near to the established stars already in the squad is required to maintain harmony. Thus Project Youth was a plot of numerous small investments made in order to create huge returns.

    Arsène is an economist, never forget this. His calculation is that you can spend £18m on Anderson, as United did, or use that in wages to groom several in-house prospects. The transfer market can and will sink clubs which don’t have the commercial power-base of United or the oligarchy ownership of Chelsea and City. In an era when Leeds and Portsmouth have been washed into memory and where currently we are seeing Rangers fall into administration, the bank balance is an important asset. The flip-side of this positivity is that we, the fans, really pay the price for this good bank balance and we have seen absolutely no return on our investment. We are completely within our right to ask huge questions of the club because of the huge cost to us personally of supporting it.

    The problem for Arsène became that some of these would-be stars are worth the investment and wage while others become impossible to offload because their contracts are too high. The likes of Denilson and Bendtner (etc, etc) must go on loan because of these wages, possibly for the remainder of their contracts, and Arsenal must still pay a good portion of them. Arsène, it could be argued, was simply safeguarding these players so they could not run off for nothing if they came good. £25m for Nasri, after all, is far from a poor transfer fee. Arsène believed these youngsters would come good and he believed this very strongly. In his fierce loyalty for those in the kingdom he has created, he misjudged how those he was nurturing might never be able to reciprocate that loyalty in performance terms.

    Players like Eboué never deserved the manager’s faith, but, in giving it comprehensively, Arsène was subsequently blinded. For all of Mourinho’s faults, he would not abide some of the mistakes our players make. Arsène has too often forgiven players their shortcomings and spoken consistently about his belief in them, a belief blinded by an approach he thought as logical, economical even, and a loyalty to his players which boarded on selfishness on his part. After all, it is not their fault they are picked. It was incredibly sad that Rosicky spent longer on the sidelines then Eduardo, but it is clear he is not up to the competitive standard needed to compete at the top. It feels like Gibbs has been out for about five years. Despite this, Arsène was confident he could be our starting left-back this season. The list of players still at the club who can contribute next to nothing to the playing side is as extensive as it is soul-destroying. Yes, some of them might be alright for the Aston Villas or Evertons of the world, but this is the club of Bergkamp, Brady and Bastin; we need better.

    Quality of sort is not enough. To be at the top, you need top quality. Arteta is a good player but he is not close to Cesc or Nasri. We lost these two top players because Arsène was unable to rid the squad of those that were unable to meet the level. The wages were definitely a stumbling block to selling on and replacing those players, but that’s where a man like David Dein would come in handy. A person at the club who understands the ins and outs of the market, not the global merchandising market, not the Asian market but the transfer market! An individual who could ensure Arsenal were in a strategic position to make possible signings for players like Mata when it would be very necessary. The club is very well run from a financial point of view, but this seems at the moment to come at the expense of the footballing side when they must not be mutually exclusive. The inability for anyone at board level to pressure Arsène into making the tough decisions on his players is a major failing.

    Six months after Bendtner came back from his loan spell at Birmingham, someone should have said “Yes or No; is he good enough?”. The pressure-free position that Arsène has been in has made the squad untenable. Cesc loved our club but he couldn’t stick around and watch us falter anymore; it was too painful for him. For all the comments of greed that can be poured upon Nasri, he joined a club that are so many points ahead of us, one might need a calculator by the end of the season. And why spend the transfer fee now when to buy another big player would be to “kill” Ramsey. Arsène seems to forget that competition can be good for a squad. He trusts them and he believes they should trust him back. Defeats followed by defeats do not make great ties to bind players to their clubs.

    There is a reason why even the most loyal of players leave their home town clubs for pastures new – everyone eventually gets tired of losing. Henry left because he couldn’t see out the growth of a new team and RvP will do the same as Cesc did the summer just gone. Arsène’s comments last summer speak volumes, “You can’t sell Fabregas and Nasri and claim to be competitive”. On this occasion, Wenger was spot on but was too blinded by loyalty and stubbornness even to understand his own position. He genuinely believed they would stay in the same way that Henry and Vieira in their pomp used to pass up the overtures of Real Madrid each summer. The difference in quality of the squads was easy for everyone to see but Arsène. It was a mixture of naïvety, arrogance and misplaced loyalty from him. It was a summer that called out for change and strengthening. We got change but only to weaken us, and not only our team but our stature in world football. It is hard to argue against the claim that we are now a feeder-club.

    Project Youth also came at the expense of keeping older players on larger wages. It is only a passing thought, but one does wonder whether, if Pires, Vieira and Henry had seen out their playing time at the Arsenal, it would have born similar fruit to that seen at Manchester United with Giggs and Scholes. Chelski currently struggle as the money pumped into their team bought them one squad and one squad only. Transition between old and new is key; the young mixed with the old is needed in order to keep constant rejuvenation linked with established success. Some of the complacency that has seen Arsenal needlessly lose home games to the likes of Newcastle, West Brom, Hull and West Ham in years gone by would most certainly have been rectified by having seasoned pros who could ensure that winning remained a commodity you earned rather than something you’re entitled too.

    On the side of the tactics of the team, these now seem even further off-key. The Cesc role now enstrusted to Ramsey is too much to bear for the young lad. Ramsey, a raw talent recovering from a devastating injury, has no quality, experienced midfield to guide him in this squad. He is in a role that requires too much. The role is pivotal to the way Arsenal play as it has to link the defensive and attacking phases through top-notch passing to create a counter-attack through one expert pass onto the flanks, or when in front of a bank of four to find that killer/unlocking pass. Unfortunately, the sideways pass appears quite sadly to be our raison d’être this season. The lack of goals over the winter months displays quite clearly a lack of incisiveness which accompanies our defensive frailties. When a team can neither attack nor defend, change is the only option. For Arsène, a change of tactic and approach is akin to admitting defeat; a wholesale change of personnel would equally be a defeat for him. In fact, it seems the only real squad-changes of significance have come as a result of player-power. Even Clichy, someone no Arsenal fan really wept for when he left, had an unsigned contract offer on the table for a long time.

    Arsène now resembles something of a parody of his former self. The assured openness of attacking freestyle play of which his philosophy began is now a distant memory of his old Arsenal. Now he holds a rigid stubborn principle, a mixture of loyalty and ignorance which recreates the same mistakes. The continual decline in quality in the squad could possibly see Arsenal drop from the echelons of Europe’s finest competition, and for good reason, as our record against top opposition over the following seasons has been dismal. This season, including Milan, it reads as P9 W1 D1 L7 GF9 GA23. Losses in the next two games could see most of us finally decide that usurpation, or regicide, is the only option. For Arsène is now like a King whose people now go hungry, a prophet whose proclamations turn out all wrong, a magician whose tricks are poor and tacky. He still wants the same as us, and he has given us so much, which makes this all too painful to write. We want Arsène to succeed but we want Arsenal to succeed more. Perhaps he will see that he is a leader who has lost his way and he may yet abdicate gently, but I fear the mob will demand its lynching long before that happens.