Are Arsenal learning to win, or learning to fail?

Are Arsenal learning to win, or learning to fail?

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I am not a person who regards winning as the be-all-and-end-all of football.

There are so elements to football that draw people in: the entertainment, the aesthetic beauty, the presence of team dynamics, the narratives, the tactics, the learning of right and wrong, the representation of culture.

If the result was the only thing that mattered in football then most of us would have stopped watching and playing this crazy game a long time ago. I certainly would have stopped writing about it.

Try telling these two that results don't matter

But undeniably, winning is a part of the game.

It is, in a very particular way, the most prominent measuring stick for most of the enjoyable elements I mentioned above.

Narratives of good versus evil, of right versus wrong, of a little team playing with the boundless spirit of a puppy versus a big, ugly money-making machine only become memorable if the result is favourable.

Teams that are entertaining, tactically innovative or artistically-inclined only go down in history if they achieve the success to justify their approach to the game.

Results matter because they provide the context to justify all the other stuff.

* * *

On Sunday Arsenal’s title challenge officially ended.

A 2-1 defeat to Bolton, our first loss in seventeen games, means that for the sixth season running we will end the season without any silverware.

For the third time in four seasons we saw an Arsenal team that had promised so much over the first three quarters of a campaign falter when the going got tough.

If you are a fan of the club — regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the manager’s principles, agree or disagree with the faith placed in certain players, agree or disagree with the way that the club is run from the very top — it is a very disappointing and frustrating situation to accept.

I am constantly searching for the positives in this beautiful game and that will never change. That is who I am at that is the lens that I view football through. I believe that if you can’t find enjoyment in the bad times then you simply don’t deserve to enjoy the good.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated. That doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed, or angry, or believe that things couldn’t have been better than they are.

I can be proud of our team finishing second or third whilst maintaining the principles of attacking football whilst still being disappointed that a squad as good as ours could not go one better and win the league. I can be proud of player like Laurent Koscielny for his sterling attitude and improvement this season whilst still being disappointed with his mistake that cost us the Carling Cup.

You can be both proud and disappointed with a team

This season hurt so much because, when it is all said and done, we have no real excuses for not winning the league. The team was packed with quality, neither Manchester United nor Chelsea were as strong as in previous seasons and at a time when we should have made our final charge towards the title, our squad was in excellent physical shape. Leave aside all the talk about playing the right way, about balancing the books, about what improvements we could make to the squad and you have a team that is, on paper, a match for any in the league.

As a fan I feel immense sympathy for Arsene Wenger. In reality, we should not be in a position to be as frustrated as we are. We should not be in a place where we are spending so little and challenging so frequently at the top. But unfortunately for Wenger, because he is getting so close it is reasonable to expect him to go one step further.

Wenger is overachieving whilst underachieving and that is a deeply difficult position to be in. He has so much faith in his methods and his players because they have got him so far. But the risk in his strategy is that by shunning established stars and experienced players in favour of rather more youthful prospects, a strategy backed by the Arsenal board, he is relying on the hope that his team will learn to win.

Therein lies the ultimate question: will they learn to win, or learn to fail? Will his squad develop into a group of winners or forever be destined to wait for their first win because they simply don’t know how to get the job done?

Read any Premier League news blogs or websites and you will see that supporters of every club will always believe they should have a better squad. We complain about our Eboués, Squillacis and Denílsons in the same way that United fans complain about their Carricks, Evans’ and Gibsons and Chelsea fans complain about their Ferreiras, Ramires’ and Kalous. No squad is perfect and under the circumstances, I believe ours is very good.

The goalkeeper problem has been solved by the emergence of Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou has developed into the big central defender people have been craving for a few years and Thomas Vermaelen’s return will provide much-needed leadership in that area of the pitch. His return also gives us another option at left-back and facilitating the possibility for Koscielny to use his superb interception and distribution skills as a defensive midfielder if required.

I realise that this a rather scattershot piece of writing but that happens time to time when (1) you’re writing a blog and not writing for The Guardian and (2) you’re observing and asking more questions than providing answers. So perhaps it is best for me to end with some conclusions to round things off:

  • I think with the squad we had, with the experience under the belt and the level of competition provided from United and Chelsea, that we should have won the league this season. I am extremely frustrated that we were not able to do this.
  • I believe that we are incredibly fortunate to have a team that are even capable to win the league given the principles that the manager and the club have stuck to and should be more appreciative of this.
  • The Carling Cup failure proved to be the moment that derailed our season. It was a failure that appeared to suck the life out of our squad at the worst time possible and we never recovered.
  • I firmly believe that Arsene Wenger is the right manager to lead this club forward and that he was right to believe that his players, after going so far, could make the final step.
  • Given their failure though, he has a tough decision to make regarding bringing in one or two more experienced players and hoping to make the difference, or relying on his players to learn from the failure to push on and win.
  • The squad does not need anything close to an overhaul despite all the transfer rumours. Several players made immense improvements this season and we are as full of natural leaders (people like Szczesny, Nasri, van Persie and Fabregas) as we have been in some time.
  • I still love supporting Arsenal. So, so much.

I would absolutely love to hear you thoughts on our season in the comments. But please bare in mind that if you are not capable of thinking before you write, of writing something that is constructively critical or using language that is aggressive of offensive, I will have no choice but to remove them.КартиниИдея за подарък

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65 Responses to “Are Arsenal learning to win, or learning to fail?”

  1. Enloe
    April 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    My main observation is that when I looked at the squad at the beginning of the season, and looked at the bench, I thought, “Oh there’s quality there.”

    I looked at Eboue, Squillaci, Rosicky, Denilson, Almunia, and Diaby and thought, “Those are all guys who can do a job if you needed to call on them.” And the fact of the matter is that they’ve all made the kinds of mistakes that pundits look at later and say, “What’s he thinking there?” And the answer is “Nothing.” What looked like depth at the beginning of the season turned out to be deadwood.

    As far as I can see there are three players in the squad who are really capable of digging in and saving a result, and those guys are Szczesny, Van Persie, and Jens. I’m not saying you need a whole team of them, but the fact of the matter is that one of them is ancient, one scores goals, and one keeps them out. There’s very little in between there.

    Cesc’s recent comments annoyed me. In a way he represents the lack of focus and concentration that plagues the team. Brilliant player and definitely a guy who can dictate the flow of the game, but with just that little mental handicap. That backheel against Barcelona, the handball against Spurs; he’s just as guilty as any player of throwing away leads for no reason.

    Having Vermaelen at all would also help.

    Good piece.

  2. Silas Ngozi Eke
    April 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Iincline to support what you have so far said but there is the obvious need to weed the team of some players like Emmanuel Eboue and there is more obvious need to bring in an experienced goal-keeper and some experienced players to give the team some depth and confidence. I don’t know why the team tends to collapse when it matters most. As a fan I want results and get very fraustrated when they fail where they should not. God help Arsenal

  3. North Bank
    April 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    This team have already learnt to fail. I agree with most of what you say but I don’t believe that this team can learn to win – they have had years and failed. I don’t think Wenger is the man to lead us to glory but can’t think of anyone to replace him with. We will be also rans for the foreseeable I’m afraid.

  4. John K.
    April 26, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Last week I was down, really pondering why still support Arsenal. After the 3-3 draw with Spurs I knew our title hope was all but in ruins and I’d decided not to watch any more arsenal games. I was so annoyed, I didn’t even go watch the Bolton game. I just couldn’t bear watching another train wreck. But today, as I read your blog, your words have given me something to think about.

    ‘If you can’t stick with your team through the bad times, then you don’t deserve to enjoy the good ones’.

    I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

    I watched as Arsenal sailed through an entire season undefeated. A record that will probably stay with us till I’m old & grey. I laughed at my ManU friends and they slumped in their seats and sipped cold tasteless beers in absolute silence as they watched us destroy every team that was brought before us.
    Sure it’s been awhile since we won a cup, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop supporting Arsenal. Sure our lads sometimes lose games that should be walk-overs, and even give up a 4 goal lead. But in the end, that’s just how football is. Sometimes things just don’t go your way. Chelsea lead the league and were ahead with I think 9 points. Who would have guessed that in just a few games, they would end up behind by over 10 points. As fans of the Gunners I think we should just walk with our heads held high, and wait for our turn.

    It’s inevitable. Eventually, we will win.

  5. Shard
    April 26, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    Arsenal are failing to learn.. You really set that up with your headline there
    Naah.. I don’t really believe that. Just wanted to get that out of the way early enough 🙂

    I’m inclined to agree with Enloe. At the start of the season, I really felt we had a better squad than anybody. But players have just not performed the way we know they can. I know Denilson has been derided for many seasons now, but he has done a decent to good job. This season though. Nothing. Rosicky started like he wanted to make up for lost time, and then just disappeared. Bendtner has scored us important goals in seasons past and I felt he was a reliable backup. This season. Nothing. Chamakh started the season brilliantly and made a huge contribution. What has happened to him? Even Cesc hasn’t provided much. The goals from midfield have just disappeared. For some reason, our talented squad has underperformed almost consistently. That is frustrating enough, but what makes it even more frustrating is that with some half decent refereeing, we’d be in a much much better position, both in the league, and psychologically.

    I do think we need a change. Certain players have to be shipped out, and some established, but hungry players brought in. I’d love to see a defensive coach come in too. Keown, or even Bould. This may sound weird, but I would try and get a sports psychologist on board too. It seemed to help the Indian cricket team deal with the pressure and the expectations leading up to their World Cup triumph. Perhaps it can help us too.

  6. Charlie
    April 26, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Andy, you make great points, but I strongly disagree with your sentiment that we are chock full of natural leaders. I don’t see any Rio Ferdinands or John Terrys or Iker Casillases in this squad. Yes Fabregas leads by example, but it is almost consensus that we need a “screamer” like – and I hate to use the same exact example that everyone else uses, but it’s a great one nevertheless – Tony Adams. Where is the leader of men on this team? The player who doesn’t just lead and inspire by virtue of his great play, but by getting in other players’ faces and yelling, and organizing, and showing constant and unceasing passion, and has an air of invincibility and strength about them and in their mere presence. All of the aforementioned possess these traits, which it has been shown that at least one member of a winning club must possess, are not present in Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Robin van Persie, all of whom I greatly respect as players and men (although I do have to admit that RVP does show flashes of this, and is the best leader on the team, and therefore the best choice for captain, but I digress). Jack Wilshere shows these leadership qualities, but he is not of age yet to be that central figure. Until a Ferdinand, Terry, or Casillas emerges in the squad or is bought by Wenger, I believe we will always be missing this last bit of quality that every major team possesses. On a separate note, I believe that Per Mertesacker is the best CB buy we could make, as he is exceptionally tall, disciplined, and captain of his current German side. But anyway, the central theme is that the type of leadership Arsenal FC require is currently not present, and must be if we are to actually win anything.

  7. dewsoetz
    April 26, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    I’m not much of a football fan but i’ve been followin arsenal for close to 4 years. what i’ve noticed so far is the attack gets thier job done but the defense????????? I b’liv thats one of the major problem the team is facing.

  8. Rayed
    April 26, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    This is the 3rd season in the last 4 years (08, 10 and now 11) where we have got into a good position to win the league, only to falter at the end.

    The last couple of times it was because of injuries, a lot of our key players got injured towards the end of the season. Now, we had a full strength squad and we still didn’t win.

    Why is this happening? Why can’t we finish the season? Breaks my heart.

  9. 1NilToTheArsenal
    April 27, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    It is especially unhelpful that the manager gives so much to his players in return for seemingly too little in terms of effort, will and discipline. They all seem a bit like ungrateful children to me right now, the lot of them. On paper this is as good a club as any in the world (we even beat Barca). In practice we are now in a fight for 3rd. Man up, lads! Show us SOMETHING before we close out yet another frustrating campaign.

    There is such a contrast between us and our immediate rivals right now. Whilst we slid down the slippery slope of being also-rans yet again, Man U continued to do what they do (grind out win after win and win championships), Chelsea finally found their mojo (even Torres managed a goal at the weekend!), and Liverpool are quickly climbing back to where they deservedly belong (KD is far tougher on his team than AW). Plus there’s Tottenham. Tottenham for crying out loud! And if they can finally get their act together, Man City aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    The league will continue to be ultra-competitve next year and it will be even more difficult to keep a CL spot, let alone win trophies unless we sort ourselves out. We are fragile in too many ways. We are a hot mess against set pieces. On the opponents’ counter we can be comically uncoordinated (think “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin – and we can be just about as frantic in defence as that proto-punk/metal song sounds). And I won’t beat a dead horse here, but we have about as much fortitude as John Terry has in one spare boot.

    What’s most frustrating is that except for the whole mental thing we agonize about, there is so much else RIGHT with our club that the rest is all eminently fixable. It really is. I’m so tired of feeling this way every April/May, but I do believe we have the right manager and the right core group of players to change this feeling. And when they do, it will be glorious…

    1NTTA

  10. Angie
    April 27, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    Loved it! really this post is a really great analysis of our crazy season. After reading so much stuff around the net, I also disagree abt putting AW out. But I think he has to make some changes toward few things. It’s so complicated for me to make statements, because we don’t really know what is really happening inside the team. But this is something I’m 100% sure, bringing few key players with experience, could lead the team to glory. they need to become mentally stronger. Things happens for a reason. I’m positive this horrible season will lead to something better, after good brain storming.

  11. JJ Pittman
    April 27, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    40 years since I saw my first live game at Highbury, don’t know when I became a Gooner, but live and breathe the Arsenal, my favorite team!
    We must win for pride on Mayday!
    Forget all the Wenger nonsense; he is under contract for at least 3 more years, and, unless he resigns out of shame or worry about his mental health, we have him for the near term.
    Even if we lose or draw Sunday, we have to look forward.
    Worst case: we let Cesc go sit on the bench at Barca for $25million plus; we sell RvP to Juve and lose Clichy and Nasri who leave out of frustration rather than renew them with one season to go.
    We let Almunia, Squillaci, Denilson, Rosicky, Diaby, Eboue and Bendtner go free. That leaves Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Wilshere, Ramsey, Arshavin, Walcott, Chamakh and all those future stars. Vermaelen comes back, youth program does produce: Vela, Ryo coming. Hope springs eternal.
    Sad to go out mathematically against the ManUre pile, especially when they looked so beatable this season. Hope there is no double for them, even if that paragon of virtue John Terry is there instead. C’mon Man! Rather have a Spanish side win the Champions League, preferably Barca.
    Hope Blackpool survive and Norwich Canaries make it up!

  12. dennis10
    April 27, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    Weaknesses.
    I googled Arsenal’s defensive weakness in 2006 (as set piece problems were there even then and I remember Henry going on record saying there was no point scoring goals if your defense can’t protect them), and I found a post by a member at Arsenal Mania website. This is what the quote says (it seems not much has changed since ’06:
    “A non existant defence”
    “A non existant Attack”
    “A Manager that cannot put any confidence in his players”
    “A Manager who cannot change things when things aren’t working or have a plan B”
    “A muppet of a central midfielder in gilberto.”
    “A serious case of being a bunch of complete fairys when the going gets a bit tough”
    ” A serious case of I cannot be bothered”
    ” No spark and desire when losing”

  13. dennis10
    April 27, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    Also, there are a couple of key areas we seem to be lacking in: deadball situations and quick counter attack. I don’t think we have scored even goal from free kicks this season, which was something Henry used to do with alarming frequency. And we used to have tremendous pace (invincible era) which saw the ball in the other half in under 10 seconds. But now we take too long to get to the opponent’s side, and by the time we get there, the whole opposition and their mother in law is there, which reduces to “tippy-tappy” outside the box and lose possession. We could definitely improve on these areas, is what I feel.

  14. The BearMan
    April 27, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    Arsenal has to wake up, and clean itself up from within. It is still proving to be a Club for the boys! Time for a BiG clear out!

    Players are given a trial when they first arrive at Arsenal, where they are assessed on different levels. I hope to include, balance, coordination, mobility, fitness, strength, heart rating before and after training, endurance level, agility, flexibility, speed, ability to play in a group, ball skills, crossing the ball, running with the ball, shooting the ball, passing the ball intelligence on the ball etc, etc.

    It is disappointed to hear coaches saying this player reminds me of myself when I was playing pro-football. Now that player is destined to be fast tracked to the top with that sort of mentality exists.

  15. SGN
    April 27, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    First, lemmi ask that we refrain from branding Arsenal an attacking side. Attack according to my dictionary is to threaten, with immediate capture(read score in this scenario). Ours is called possession football. Our greatest unbecoming is the slow pace in which we ‘attack’. Our opponents know this n so they will park the bus n Wenger will call that anti football all day. I also think he shot himself in the foot wen he kept Arshavin aside n put in Nasri, who BTW should be working centrally, with or without Fabregas(how the 2 of them fit in the center is not my worry). The fact that Arshavin doesn’t score doesn’t mean that he doesn’t assist, 11 so far putting in mind that last season he was very mean with the assists and this season having played 33, most of them starting from the bench, he has done that well. He adds the speed we require in counter attacking n with the lethal Van Persie I still dont understand why he starts from the bench. Nasri has become a flop from the flanks, lets not argue about that.
    As pertains the Eboue n the Diabys, I have no problem with them, they bring in a diff style of play, which is good for the team.
    The greatest flop of all is Mr Wenger, with his 4 5 1 formation in all our games, who doesnt know how to play against us including Leeds?
    Why cant we try a 4 4 2 and have someone help v Persie up front, atleast wen need be??
    Im frustrated when we lose because I think no team in the EPL has what Arsenal has, we just need someone who can bring out the beast in us.
    Dennis10, you on point man, kudos.

  16. Marvin Willson
    April 27, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    SUCH a relief to read a intelligent, well crafted, balanced piece of writing amongst the ludicrous, bilious blogs spewed by turncoats that skulk behind their keyboards and have the nerve to call themselves “Fans”.

    Real fans love their club win, lose or draw. Wenger has done wonders for this club, transformed Arsenal and aspects of british football beyond reasonable measure and only spent just over £25 million (including total buys and sales) during his tenure. And we are still competing at the very top level.

    Great positive writing, more please.

  17. Andrew Weber
    April 27, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    @ dennis10 – Interesting comments from the Mania piece but if all that were true, how could we possibly be sitting in third place and have challenged so strongly for the title?

    Without specifically responding to each of those points I think it is just plain wrong to think that the manager hasn’t addressed certain problems. We have shown ourselves to be quite physically strong when the going got tough this season — best away record in the Premiership? — and our players are clearly bothered about what is going on. That’s just two addressed, but I could find reasons for nearly all, perhaps except this notion of a Plan B. I think we have the means to execute a crossing game with Bendtner/RVP/Chamakh in the middle when teams come to the Emirates and just sit, but surprisingly that has not been used as often as I would have hoped.

    @ Charlie – Regarding leadership, I think we have a very good blend. Losing Vermaelen early, a player that lead so well last season, as well as RVP for the first half of the campaign hurt a bit there. At that time we had no Szczesny either, who was born to push guys around! You put those three in with Fabregas, Wilshere and Nasri and you have a team that should hold its own. Do you really think we need a Tony Adams or is that a bit of a modern-day myth? I tend to agree with you to a certain extent but would it transform the team? I’m not so sure the impact would be huge.

  18. Andrew Weber
    April 27, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    If I had to reorganise my post into three clear points it would be these:

    (1) Wenger is both overachieving and underachieving, which is a particularly difficult predicament to be in and is splitting the supporters.

    (2) We are so close to winning something, which is exactly what is getting everybody so frustrated. If we were further away the frustration would be intense, if we bagged just one league title it would completely change the atmosphere.

    (3) Are our players going to learn to win under the current climate, or learn to fail? Either outcome is as likely as the other, so Wenger has some tough choices to make.

  19. gunnergirl_dee
    April 27, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    In Arsene we trust.. love the club.. Keep the faith people.. Everyone seems to forget we are in the Top4..only remember that we didnt win the title..!!

  20. Shard
    April 27, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    @dennis10

    Do you also remember the clamour for signings in 2003? The defensive stalwart everyone felt we needed? The moanings during the season about passing the ball around and not killing games off? The rumours about our midfield lynchpin Vieira wanting to leave to join the Galacticos of Madrid? It seems like nothing has changed since 2003 either.. We went unbeaten the following season.

    I’m not saying we’re at that level, or even that we don’t need that defender. But you’ll always find complaints about the team. Always. Some of those issues are to do with the way we play, so obviously the complaints will be similar in their pattern. That doesn’t make them any more right, or that nothing has changed since whichever season you decide to pick.

  21. Danny
    April 27, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    I hate mediocry and its the only word i can think of to describe a team that imagines that winning comes on a silver plate. For heaven’s sake, what is Wenger still doing at Arsenal. We need a paradign shift from the old man’s mentality of the French man. I am sure he was made a big loser if not a naturally bad loser. I am sick and tired of this Arsenal product.

  22. Shard
    April 27, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    If I had to pick a key difference between the Invincible era and now, it wouldn’t be speed, it wouldn’t be strength, and it wouldn’t even be our defending. It would be our finishing. At that period, it seemed that whenever we broke for a counter attack, and especially on any one on one, we’d always score. It was almost a given. Ljungberg or Pires would not have missed the chance that Nasri missed against Bolton. Kanu would not have missed the last second chance against Barca. We just do not seem to score despite having some good chances, and THAT is what leads to us not seeming threatening, not our passing the ball about.

  23. rehan siddiqui
    April 27, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    andy like arsene you are gone bonkers. How can you justify a team with chin glass and a manager who had tried to turn donkeys into thoroughbreds and without trophy for six seasons is mind boggling. This is bull shit to say arsenal play beautiful football. How one can justify team squandering four goal lead in 20 minutes. only andy and arsene can justify. Winning in big time sports is everything. Losers have no place to hide and specially when the club is arsenal. So please just accept the inevitable that the present squad is just not good enough to even win third tier of england. Man wake up and face the reality. Time has come for men like you and arsene to accept the failure and not wish for another season. With this present team gooners will have to wait another six years. Comment from andy.

  24. Shard
    April 27, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    rehan siddiqui

    I’m not Andy obviously.. But regarding the Newcastle match. Have you ever played sport at any level? I was never good enough to play football for my university, but i did play basketball. We had a referee once, who just wouldn’t call fouls by the opposition. We would get elbowed, slapped, kneed, stepped on whenever we tried to get inside, and since our attacking game was mostly built on an inside game, that pretty much nullified our threat. What the referee did not do at least was call imaginary fouls against us. But even then, we ended up losing the game. It wasn’t down to our mental strength, it wasn’t down to our skill, it was ONLY down to the referee and how he called the game. It is near impossible to win, or even hold your own, against even an inferior side, if the person calling the game decides to favour the other team blatantly.

  25. Andrew Weber
    April 27, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    @ rehan – Saying “winning in big time sports is everything” just completely disregards my entire article. Why should I reply to a comment like this when you clearly haven’t taken time to read and think about what I have written?

    You want me to accept the failure? I’m fairly sure my comments above reflect an admittance and acceptance of failure given that I write about how disappointed I was that we didn’t win the league, and have no real excuses for it. However, football and life is not black and white.

  26. Ianinja
    April 27, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Good Job Andrew.

    First and foremost, there is something wrong with the balance of the players in the team. I say what I see not what I see others write. Andrew has some valid points as well as some dubious points.

    However I don’t get mad when I see Andrew articulating his argument well. I am just tired from Arsene’s tactical nous to be debating with other Arsenal supporters. Compared to me Arsene’s tactical intellect far exceeds mine but compared to other great manager’s it’s a grey area that can be questioned.

    I’m just a football fan no expert really, I’m just happy to see proper debate going on instead of namecalling or allegiance to any groups\cults.

    Let’s all hope for the best, if you’re tired just give it a rest, take a holiday, recharge, this is just football, don’t make it personal.

  27. gunnerrealist
    April 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    To all on this site still trying to make excuses for the manager and the board, you deserve everything you are getting right now and more. If you are happy with this bunch of failures being at our club then you should be happy with their failings also, nothing with change next season because the board is happy with the way things are and most importantly you guys the so called fans are happy too. Prepare yourselves for another 3 years of the same and give yourselves a pat on the back for ruining a great club.

  28. Nicholas
    April 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Another great piece of writing, Andy, and I gotta say, as usual what makes this blog even more entertaining and a “must read” for me is the way the comments complement your ideas. Almost every time I see people adding information, thoughts, new angles on the matters, making up for a true, healthy debate regarding almost every topic. Which leaves me, coming a little late to the party 😛 , with few new things to say. However, looking back at this season – the third since I am an Arsenal fan – I find myself in the position of trying to find my own answers.

    I’ve been really disappointed in the last few weeks, as we all have, but a few weeks, no matter how bad they were, don’t count for the whole season. So I needed a couple of days off everything Arsenal related to put my thoughts in order. There was never a question if I will still be a fan, as it’s not for any of us here. From my point of view, it is also never a question as to whether or not Wenger should leave. And this last point is not about Arsenal’s history. I wasn’t a fan when we were invincibles, I was merely watching football back then. I want Wenger to stay because in a way he is the spirit of this team. Stubborn in playing his football, stubborn in keeping his way of showing how beautiful this sport can be, stubborn in keeping a policy of promoting talents and not turn this club in a money spending machine.

    At the end of the season, looking back, I would say this: it was about winning; it was about losing; at times it was about crushing the whole team under the fan’s pressure, under our pressure; it was about getting kicked out of every competition out there. We need to be realistical about all these things. However, one thing topped them all, one powerful feeling that makes us act the way we are: the love for this club. That’s still here, will be throughtout the summer, the next season and years to come. And to be honest, I don’t think we’ll be more gentle the next season. Why? Because we’re fans of the greatest team the world has ever seen, right?. We won’t settle for the second place. Ideally though, we will be rational about our team, our chances, our manager and provide constructive criticism along the way.

    To conclude my part for now, I will point out the things I see as necessities for the next season.

    – Fabianski or Szczesny for goalkeeper. I’m a Fab fan, I admit it, the way he saved our team in the first half of the season is one of the most remarcable memories I have. I’m not sure we need to buy another GK, not with these two amazing guys in the squad.
    – for central defence we will have Koscielny, Djourou and Vermaellen, all reliable, all very good, maybe another signing could go here, an experienced player, because at some point we need to consider the injuries. I know a lot of people say we are weak defensively but I think it’s not entirely our defenders fault. They don’t have cover, you can see this when a team counterattacks and just storms through our midfield line
    – left back/center back – I think this issues can be addressed internally, with player rotation, let Gibbs and Eboue provide cover, let them step up and keep Sagna and Clichy from getting tired after playing almost every game through the whole season
    – midfield: the biggest issue, in my opinion, and I’m not saying about offensive midfielders, but about defensive, about those players that must provide cover for our defense, stop the counterattacks, position themselves in a way so they can fall back when the other team is attacking. We have Song and Diaby right now, and it’s not enough. A signing here is vital, and as important is a change in tactics. Playing defense is not the same thing with having a solid defensive line, with having strong centre backs or fast RB and LB. I find Shard’s idea really good, bring a defensive coach
    – attack: well, we’re scoring so many goals and RVP is our only true, real and most of all, efficient striker. I would say bring another player, specially if B52 is leaving, or move Walcott into that position and maybe try a 4-4-2 at times and at the same time discover or invent tactics to break crowded defenses, SGN and dennis10 really have strong points on this matter IMO
    – other things: RVP and Cesc to work on a… how to put this, complementary captainship; one of them to lead by example and the other to manifest the qualities Charlie put upfront. We really, really need this, as we need to keep our focus, to respond to all kinds of situations.

    There would probably be more things to say, but I’ll stop here, it’s a long reply already 🙂 As for the question did we learn to win or to lose this season? Well, I think we’ll find out the answer in the next season.

  29. dennis10
    April 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    @andy,
    Hi mate, my observation was that the same themes seem to be recurring over and over (not all are relevant). Set piece syndrome has been the bane for quite sometime, am not sure if it has been addressed. Well, capitulating under point reminded me of a few games this season. Which probably stems from confidence. If I were to think of a parallel, I would say it’s like making the first million and the rest is easy. And it would be a lot easier if there was a millionaire to learn from. For instance, I liked the way Jens commanded the area when he played that day, it was so refreshing to see that. It could be because they have nobody to turn to on the pitch when a crisis happens. Like I said in a previous post, a sports psychologist (Anthony Robbins apparently helped Agassi get out of the slump and win) could help.
    Sitting at 3 is ok, but we should have been, like you said in the post, way ahead, no?
    That brings me to Arsene saying finishing 2nd is ok. Last season or so, he said 3 is not bad. Maybe that trickles down to the players? Don’t know. ( I’m sure he is protecting the players and he has his own way of doing things. He is the man who has done so much and like I said earlier, I want the preening, confident Wenger back, not the whingeing one who seems to be a point of a witch hunt lately.) Losing his ok as long as the team gives everything, unlike games like the one vs B’burn where there was listlessness.
    @shard
    Yes I remember! There was always the ‘Vieira leaving this season’ saga then.

  30. dennis10
    April 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    @andy,
    btw, Andy, I like how you always manage to disconnect emotion from your posts, they are always been sane and clear, not to mention unbiased. You’ll make a good judge mate:)
    ps: A bit like Kipling’s If (if you can keep your head when all about you …)

  31. jay-jay
    April 27, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Whenever Arsenal have a bad result or difficult couple of days, I cant wait to get to this blog because I know whatever Andy has written will cheer me up and this is no exception. Our title chase is over after defeat at Bolton, although it effectively ended at the draw v liverpool IMO. But as a fan, you gotta take the good with the bad. In terms of silverware, we are on a long bad run but this 2 things this season made me happier than I have been in a long while.. The first was beating Barcelona, yes we were knocked out in the away leg, but our boys weathered the storm (strong defence) and then came back at beat the Catalans, not many teams can boast about that on their record on the other was Jack Wilshere making his England debut. At 19, the lad has got a bright future and with his and Wojiciech Szczesny’s emergence in the first team, you cant help but be happy. I am no longer nervous when I hear Szczesny is in goal,I havent felt like that since Jens was number 1.

    If we hadnt had such injury and referee problems, we would probably have the league title wrapped up by now. We can look on to next season in great confidence with the squad we currently have. If I were manager, I would ship a couple out and bring a couple in but we all know that isnt how Wenger does things, and Im still a Wenger follower. We will win a trophy, you just gotta keep the faith and when we do, wow what a feeling it will be.

  32. Emmanuel
    April 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Hello mates. We should brace ourselves for a Champions League play off if we are lucky. Man City are only 2 points behind us (provisionally). They will of course win all their remaining league matches. The same cannot be said of Arsenal. We will loose to tired Man U on Saturday, even after resting all week we cant beat them. Then of the last three games, we will possibly win only one and draw the rest. Even Tottenham have to be very stupid not to be 4th and us 5th.

  33. Lucas Quaresma
    April 27, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    At the end of the last three seasons I said that we did not win something because our best players were injuried. Now, they’re all available, but we didn’t won nothing.
    This Arsenal team need a real leader, maybe not somebody with a great football(because these players we already have), but somebody like Javier Zanetti: a man who knows what it takes to win a trophy, who can kindle the other player’s hopes.

    Send Wenger out would be the most stupid thing someone could ever do. He is a GREAT manager, one of the bests of all the time, that’s undeniable.
    I just think we should have buy players like JZ(maybe a centre-half, a striker and a midfield), and maybe finally we would be champions again.
    I will always support Arsenal, despite the distance(I live in Rio, Brazil) and the lack of trophies

  34. P MILLER
    April 27, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    A well written article it is good to see someone having faith in the team. I’ve been supporting for over fourty years, in fact probably getting on for fifty. When I started supporting them they had gone seventeen years without any trophy, they could’nt even win a teacup let alone the FA cup. A true supporter, supports the team through the good and bad, anybody can be a glory supporter,if these so called supprters dont like what they see. Then go follow Manchester United or Chelsea. They play lovely football which suits me and I would’nt want it any other way. Please I dont want to see long ball rubbish, anyway Andrew keep up the good work. Arsenal for evermore

  35. Shard
    April 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    @Graham Yates

    You’d be heard a lot more if you had any real idea what you actually are ‘protesting’. Put everything you can think of as a problem and ask ‘all Arsenal fans who agree with our views’ is simply trying to mislead people and capitalise on the disappointment of a trophyless season. All this protest will achieve is further polarisation between fans, and give the tabloid media a chance to stick the knife into our club and our manager. The statement against Peter Hill-Wood is really stupid. He never called all Arsenal fans silly. But If he were to call this protest silly, I’d more than second that.
    Oh, and who really are these ‘loyal, long time supporters’? Why haven’t they declared themselves?

  36. 1NilToTheArsenal
    April 27, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    It’s all good people, well most of it anyway.

    I just want to say that thanks to the hard work of Andrew and other bloggers, these sites allow anybody and everybody to vent, shout, sing praises, whatever on the Arsenal. And the best sites like Andrew’s are highly readable in part because they do an exceptional job of policing against dumb anger, libel and outright obscenity.

    I urge us all – especially AW – to keep up the great work that makes for a great few minutes of escape from the daily grind, even if some our results don’t:)

  37. Paul Lowry
    April 28, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    Great piece, can normally rely on you to show us the positives. There has been some massive positives this season, especially Wilshere, Szczesny and Johan Djourou.
    But what a frustrating roller coaster of a season too. But the facts are that 1 win in 9 games when it comes to the crunch and the pressure is on, is simply not good enough.

    But if you would have given me 2nd or 3rd place at the start of the season, I would have been happy as was worried by the spending of Man City and Spurs. But it goes to show, that spending money that most of us gooners want to see, does not guarantee success. I know 3rd is not even guaranteed at the moment, so wenger has a big challenge to get us out of this poor run that has ended our chance of silverware and get a win from Man U (not just a good performance).

    Andy – Must be hard at times to find the time for the blog, but I for one appreciate your efforts, you can normally get me back into a positive mindset after reading all the doom and gloom on sites like ANR.

  38. Asurah
    April 28, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    I might be a little bit late to respond here.. As I have been too late on anything for the past couple of months (been traveling through South America since January), but I still think this is worth a comment, Andrew as always is wonderful with his blogs, a great read once more that puts some things into perspective.
    I don´t know what went wrong this season. I haven´t been watching it regularly, for the reason mentioned above, and I can´t really comment on games like Bolton, Newcastle, Carling Cup Final, etc. But what I do know is that no matter what people say, the team was not good enough. They were good on some occasions, bad on others, but simply just not good enough.
    There is not a specific persona on the pay-roll to blame. Not on the field, not on the bench, not in administration. The entire thing didn´t work as well as it should have.
    You can´t blame anyone specific for drawing 10 games this season. This is the keeper´s fault as much as it is the back four´s fault, and as much as it is the striker´s and the attack mid´s fault. On some occaisions we conceded goals we should´nt have. On others, we should have scored more goals than the opponents.
    You can´t blame just Almunia for his mistakes. You can´t blame Kos for ruining this season. Can´t even blame Eboue, even though he´s been the scapegoat the last couple of weeks. No one has been consistently good throughout this whole season. Not Szczeny, not Djourou, not Sagna, not Cesc, not Walcott, not Arshavin, not RVP… No one. In December I thought Nasri was going to be the new Messi, and yet he faded back to mediocracy in February. I was the biggest Arshavin fan after his goal against Barcelona, but yet he failed to do anything significant afterwards. Szczeny took all of our hearts away when he performed like a well experienced keeper against ManU and Barcelona, but made awful mistakes in other games.
    You can´t have a realistic shot at a title if the team only peaks once or twice a season. You can´t expect every team to be the Invincibles, but you should be more on the good side than the bad side. And even when you are on the bad side, you should still be able to win. That is what´s expected from a team in the top of Europe´s elite.
    And this is the team´s fault as much as it is the Manager´s. You can say a lot of things about AW, but you can´t say he´s bad. He´s one of the top 5 managers in worldwide football these days, maybe of all times. I love the way he makes his team play, and when it works, its magnificent. B-U-T… He has also made some really big mistakes this season. He can´t be the blame when his primary 11 fails to win against Bolton. But he is wrong by making really weird subs, and for insisting not to reinforce the squad. If the squad is not strong enough, the manager should bring a stronger player in January. I´m not saying doing a stupid move like bringing a Torres when you already have a Drogba, but some changes were needed and not provided.

    All in all, what I am saying is that in this season, the team was not good enough. Next season? who knows. TV will be back, SZCZ will be one year older, there is no World Cup to break RVP´s glass legs, and maybe some new couple of players will arrive. But mainly, I hope, Arsene will take this team to one hell of a training camp, and take them one step further into being a better team. We could have had a title this season. A couple if no more. But we just were not good enough. Hopefully next season we will.

  39. Zyon
    April 28, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Just wait, the Premiere League doesn`t disappear tomorrow (: we have excelent players and i trust in my team ARSENAL. Lo dice un seguidor mexicano, si mexicano.

  40. Cisco de Tours
    April 28, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    @Shard
    http://todosobrecamisetas.blogspot.com/2011/04/arsenal-nike-away-kit-1112-eaked.html

    I totally agree with you, how could be possible celebrete 125 years of history with a ugly away shirt?
    NO new manager, just YELLOW!

  41. Gruggy
    April 28, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    A well thought, creative and constructive piece Andy, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Shard, as always your comments are like the beard on Fabregas – a quality addition and without, the blog wouldn’t look the same.

    I think our away record this season is one aspect in which the media, and the fans have overlooked. It wasn’t so long ago that our away record was mediocre at best. More often than not the side would be kicked, shunted and bossed around the pitch at places like Blackburn, Bolton and Stoke. Not to mention the absolute dominance Chelsea and Man U showed against us when playing at home. Fast forward to this season and not only were we recently unbeaten in 16 (or 17?) matches, but our away record surely has to be the best it’s been in years?

    Arsenal is like your girlfriend/wife/partner/boyfriend/Jag in the garage, at times you’ll be frustrated, hurt, disappointed and disillusioned with them, but at the end of the day you love them regardless of their faults.

    Perhaps that’s too romantic for some, but in my opinion, that’s the sign of a football fan.

  42. Kenyangunner
    April 28, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    God bless U Andy.

  43. Aman
    April 28, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Well u see this is exactly the problem, the following season always holds promise, and arsenal always start the season well, its this time of the year every year, from feb onwards where we start to fade out, consistency is key, look at utd inspite of having players like carrick, anderson etc in the squad still manage to win because of Ryan Giggs, i am sure our players in the form of song, denilison, diaby are far better than their carricks, andersons, obertans..

    Well we thought we did win PL and CL, when fab, helb, flamini,adebayor were around lost our way again in Feb, from being on top we ended up 3rd, and got cheated out of the CL QF against liverpool inspite of beating Milan at their ground (which no Englsh team had done till then) and we def had promise we would win. The last season the opening day started with a barrage of goals 6-1 to arsenal and against everton, Fab was fabolous and people like Bendtner etc stepped up and we thought we could win again we ended up 3rd. This season having a better squad than utd and Chelsea again we seem to fade out and seem to be ending up 3rd.

    The problem isnt from def, or striking or GK. People are just finding scapegoats here than looking at the real problem at hand because that’s the easier option. More than anything the management needs to look as to why this happens, utd seem to get stronger towards the end of the season, they always have a bad start to the season, also chelsea seem to putting up a few wins, inspite of having a bad mid season, thats where the problem lies, players seem to fading out, and something needs to change there IMO.

  44. theicehammer
    April 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    I would say that Wenger is the one that has learned to fail because he already had a winning formular. He promoted a good balance of players who were skillful as well as physically and mentally strong. But he realised that the Barca product looked even more pleasing on the eye than his and so decided to copy it on the cheap. I dont really blame the players because they perform in a way they were designed to and thats create and keep the ball. Wenger did improve their strength but by the business end of each season they would run out of steam and energy. During tough times the players would look at each other in order to find that person who would make a difference but they knew he was not there, A STRONG LEADER or three. If Wenger wants more or different from his players he needs a different type of player. If he does not do this the same will happen again.

  45. Paddy O'Neill
    April 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    It’s time to bring in a defensive coach and forAW to stop telling the players they have done well when they haven’t. Hasn’t he got a hairdryer. Why are people saying, well at least we’ll get 4th. I agree with Emmanuel, we won’t get 4th, we’ll be playing Europe League next season. How will AW explain that away, going for 4 trophies and within a few weeks not even getting into CL next season. It’s all very well filling the stadium each home game with supporters paying the highest ticket prices in the world. Will they fill it when they don’t qualify for CL. I’ve been a supporter for over 40 years but now I’m sick to the teeth of it.

  46. Christopher Atkins
    April 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    Unfortunately I think it is failing to learn. The team is so close to achieving so much. Decent transfer activity in the summer could take Arsenal to the next level. With Liverpool and Chelsea much improved since January and City likely to spend, next season could be very interesting at the top.

  47. Theodosis Vogiatzis
    April 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Greetings from an Arsenal fan from Greece! I have been a supporter of the Gunners since 1997 and the matches against my other favorite team PAOK FC. I always loved the way Arsenal played in the field and the attitude of the team towards attacking football. I am also a big fan of Arsene Wenger and that’s why I believe I should point out some mistakes I think he has made the past years about transfers and player choices. First of all, I think the team doesn’t have a good goalkeeper. I am sorry but this is my humble opinion. The team needs a proper goalkeeper like Neuer (Shalke), Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow) or even Stekelenburg (Ajax) and not pushovers like Lehmann. Correct me if I’m wrong but this year we had a lot of keeper mistakes that cost the team points. Also, the team needs a star at the front. I thought that Suarez would be a perfect fit with Nasri, Van Persie, Walcott and Cesk but unfortunatelly he went to Liverpool. I love Van Persie but he is very prone to injury while Chamack and Bendtner are not top level IMHO. These to players along with a third good defender (behind Vermaelen and Koscielny) and a top midfielder which depends whether Cesk stays or not. All in all, Wenger needs to put the hand deep into the pocket and bring 2-3 big players to accompany an already great squad. The team has the best potential in England and with a few additions, I believe can take everything next year.

    P.S.(1) Arsenal is a model team but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t buy some players.
    P.S.(2)Really, really impressed with Willshere this year. Keep it up!

  48. waddle
    April 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    let me starts with your final notes andrew:

    NO DOUBT i still love arsenal. NO DOUBT we should be happy that the club is overachieving with the money we’ve spent on the squad. NO DOUBT the carling cup defeat was decisive. NO DOUBT we SHOULD HAVE WON THE LEAGUE given the aberrations of our rivals. the rest i have my reservations.

    * yes, some players like koscielny and djourou improved a lot, even fabianski actually. there are players like arshavin and chamakh who are getting more sticks than deserved – they play their natural games despite their respective dip in form, which can happen to anyone. BUT there are pieces of dead wood whom wenger repeatedly protects and claimed would not be sold (unless he is lying about “keeping the squad together”). this can only be down to two things: he doesn’t know what he’s seeing in games they played, or he (still) doesn’t know how to use the players (like slur ferguson’s confession about berbatov). either way i can only hold wenger responsible. if, after another big disappointment this season, he still can’t figure out whether it’s correct to rely on this current team to win the league, it’s also a problem on his part.

    squilaci, denilson and alumnia are proven dead wood; eboue is not reliable at the back and incapable on the wing; bendtner is a round peg who thinks he’s square; diaby is somehow still not suited to the english game; rosicky is a major disappointment. seven first teamers out is almost an exodus to me.

    for leadership quality i’m waiting for vermaelen to be back, someone you’d look to when in trouble and gives you confidence. the rest i think are too quiet, perhaps not van persie but he can sometimes do stupid things such as the crazy lunges, or take wild shots that frustrates you.

    * for wenger himself, i admire his aesthetics and what he’s done to english football. but for his continuation as the manager i’ve started to have doubts. his philosophy can continue, but he may not be the perfect man taking charge in the dugout or the dressing room.

    what makes a manager click, to me, largely lies in tactics, team selections and the ability to change things around when the original plan doesn’t work. when so much work has been done, including the building of the team, the manager’s decisions can be the last piece of the jigsaw, minute adjustments that can turn draws into wins. i don’t think i need to elaborate on how wenger’s been less than satisfactory in these areas.

    he’s been complaining all these years about teams not playing football properly in the league, which have led us to losing so many points. we’ve been weak in the post-adams era dealing with long balls and set pieces, and we haven’t improved. people say even barca can have problems dealing with the likes of bolton. well, they don’t have to play such games so many times in the course of a season but we do. if we are not anywhere near a move to europe, then i think we can only adapt to route one football and learn to deal with it, but we haven’t. i can only call that wenger’s fault.

    i don’t wanna say it’s the trophies that counts. but having done so much for so long it’s just sad to be eternal challengers (not alsorans) but never winners, and there’s that final step to make. wenger “was right to believe that his players, after going so far, could make the final step” because he believes in what he has done, but this season should be a clear proof that something is wrong with his belief. i hope he can spot that and respond. if not, i hope he can be a director of football and oversees the way the game is played at the club.

  49. JayGee
    April 28, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    Win or lose, Arsenal is a GREAT Team. What we need is a MIDFIELD that is CREATIVE and DEFENSIVE. Any threat must be stopped before the 25 metre area.
    Just look at Barcelona…how many penalties do they give. They dont panic and give away unnecessary penalties. In most cases Dani Alvez is a drama queen, who tries his best at getting players sent off, by pretending that his foot has been removed from his leg.
    At times there is a total lack of communication between the back four at Arsenal. I wonder what language they communicate in.
    We have a Spanish/Polish/German/Whatever GK’s. A French/English/Swiss/Spanish or Braailian or Croatiam Midfield. An English/Dutch/Russian or French or Danish or heaven knows what.. When the team slackens, at haltime..give them the hairdrier treatment like Alex Ferguson does.
    Nevertheless..Once Gunner ,,,Always a Gunner.

  50. Giddie-nrb
    April 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    Having read the comments i think wenger should bk an appointment with malcini and ask him one question how do we play when we r 2 goals up? Then in exchange wenger can tell malcini how 2 get the 2 goals coz i think what city has is what arsenal lacks and viceversa PROTECTING A LEAD U HAV 2 PLAY DIFFERENTLY WHEN WE HAVE A SIGNIFICANT LEAD, U SLOW DOWN THE GAME U HOLD POSSESION WEN THEY R FRUSTRATED U THEN COUNTER ATTACK 2 KILL THE GAME OFF. IS THIS ROCKET SCIENCE MR WENGER? ANSWER ME WHAT IS SO HARD 2 GRASP?

  51. zulu gooner
    April 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    great blog only, one club – ARSENAL. I don’t see many reflecting on how well the gunners actually did against barca diving school, when they “outplay/outdive” real m like they did. most anti-arses seem to forget that until rvp made his exit (strange how often barca diving school seem to land up playing 10 men isn’t it?!!!) gunners were winning the draw – but that’s life as a gooner we all really love it

  52. Nija Bloke
    April 29, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Andy, you have captured the feelings of most Arsenal fans in your post. It is truly disheartening and even more disappointing when a club holds so much promise and yet falters each time just when you feel those promises are going to materialize. That has been the story of our Arsenal season.

    A lot has been said by so many and the general consensus is that our club lacks that extra thingy that should translate into championship stuff- that winning mentality. If Wenger can work on that and reinforce the squad, then we can be world beaters. No one should kid himself that we do not need replacements, even Steven Wonder can see it!

    It has been a heart wrenching one for most fans but we wait and see what the next season holds. I hear some of us like Shard making excuses with refereeing decisions esp against Newcastle and l cannot understand. There is no team that has not benefited from dubious referee decisions or lack of it but for you to pin down our inexplicable loss of two points from a game we had firmly in our grips to the ref is rather unfortunate. Was it the ref that asked Diaby to stupidly get a red card? Was it the ref that gave away the first penalty? Was it the ref that asked the team to be so defensive that the pressure kept mounting? Is it also the ref that made it possible for Tiote to score that beauty of an equaliser? Common, lets call a spade a spade! And that is even one out of so many other games we could and should have won during the season. And when you speak of the media gang up, its only a delusion. To be sure , the media respects Wenger and his team and cannot understand why we have underachieved these past 6yrs what with all the potentials to do so. That is what news items are made of! Can you imagine what would happen if Mourinho doesnt achieve anything in Spain? The media would go into over drive.

    Wenger on his own part doesnt help matters and l agree with fans who have said he gives too much comfort to his players even when they dont deliver. What stops you from scolding your player in a press conference? If Sir Alex can do it to high profiles such as Bebertov , then l see no reason why Wenger cannot do it because you know what that does for you as a player? It keeps you on your toes!
    I have been a fan in the last fifteen years and much as l agree that you must accept the bad times as much as the good, but when the bad times become a recurring decimal it becomes a huge problem not only for the fan but for te team!

  53. Shard
    April 29, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    @Nija Bloke

    Was it the ref that asked Diaby to stupidly get a red card? Was it the ref that gave away the first penalty? Was it the ref that asked the team to be so defensive that the pressure kept mounting? Is it also the ref that made it possible for Tiote to score that beauty of an equaliser?

    In varying degrees of responsibility, the answer to all of those is YES.

    Diaby and all other Arsenal players were allowed to be kicked without punishment. Continuously. I tried to get footage of a few ‘tackles’ which I had seen at the time, but the Premier League is very quick to issue copyright infringement notices on such videos. If you want to see some great goals though, no problem. They’ll be available all over the net. Diaby himself was stamped on by Barton in the first half after he went through Arshavin, and neither was called a foul. The tackle to which Diaby reacted was a potential leg breaker. Seriously, I’m not kidding. We were very close to having another leg break (Diaby’s second). When you add in the assault Diaby faced by Paul Robinson vs Bolton, and Michael Essien’s ‘reducer’, then his frustration is more than understandable. One of the primary jobs of the referees is protecting players from harm, and the referee not only failed at that, he provided encouragement to Barton and the other thug Nolan. Diaby rightly got sent off, but why wasn’t Nolan when he headlocked Szczesny after the 1st penalty when the latter held the ball for only 1.5 seconds? Szczesny got a booking for time wasting! On a dead ball, which will be in Arsenal possession. Oh and Nolan got a yellow too, which would mean that he can’t be banned retrospectively (since the ref has seen it and ‘dealt with it’) Sheesh.. That’s a long winded answer to only the first question you ask..

    The first penalty itself was a soft penalty. I can understand why it could legitimately be given, but those sort of things are not given usually. The Newcastle player made no attempt to stay on his feet, and as such was not tripped or pushed down.

    The reason we were defending so much, was because we did not have the ball. Why we could not get the ball was that whenever we touched a Newcastle player it was a foul. If by some miracle it wasn’t, then they could simply kick us and get the ball back. That is actually where the referee swung the game. It was not the highlights of the match. Not the penalties or the sending off. It was the little calls and non calls. (Of course, the big decisions came whenever required. What was the second penalty for?) (I might add that THAT is the simplest way for a ref to swing a game)

    And yes. the ref made it possible for Tiote to score by awardng that ridiculous free kick to Barton which led to it. Of course the team could have defended it better, and that is our fault. But I don’t expect my team, however well paid they might be, to have superhuman levels of concentration and ability to remove emotion from their game. They knew the referee was intent on conning them, and after consistent physical and mental battering, they wilted.

    You see, all of that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have done better. Of course we could, but that will be true even if we win the game 6-0. To go back to my basketball match analogy. Despite the ref not allowing us to get inside to score, we could have won if somehow we could manage to score from outside with say about 60% of our shots. That is not impossible, but a team that is good at that sort of game only shoots about 35-40%, not to mention that you need to get inside to open up space for a 3 point shot. Besides, who’s to say that if we were still managing to win, the referee wouldn’t have ‘upped’ his performance ( as Dowd very very very clearly did)?

    Read my posts above and you’ll find that I do not seek to excuse any failings that our team has. However, the referee, especially in the Newcastle match, quite simply cheated. If you can’t see that, then you watch a different game. One based on the absolute belief that referees can only make ‘mistakes’ and not be biased or otherwise ‘human’ in any way.

  54. Shard
    April 29, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    For those with any understanding of statistics, here is data to suggest that Dowd, Dean and Webb referee matches in a way that is biased against Arsenal.

    http://numbersgameblog.blogspot.com/

  55. Shard
    April 29, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Sorry.. Didn’t put in the entire link

    http://numbersgameblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/quantifying-bias-of-arsenals-referees.html

  56. Nija Bloke
    April 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    @ Shard, whilst l agree that the referee is supposed to protect the player, l DO NOT condone any form of indiscipline from players who put their team at risk by their lack of self control. How many times do you see Messi react to fouls even as you and l know he is one of the most fouled footballers of our time? There was no need for Diaby to react the way he did. If he felt any rage at the tackle, he should have taken his complaints to the ref! Thats my point.

    I do not also agree that the ref made us start defending because we were four goals up at the time and couldn’t have scored that much number of goals IF we had been defending all along. Fact is, after Tiote’s equalizer, the team started to attack, which is our game and nearly got a goal to the bargain. Except of course you did not watch the game till the end.

    When folks talk about ‘SOFT PENALTY’ l find it hard to understand. The rules of the game do not define a penalty as soft or hard. It is just what it is : A PENALTY. And Kos should have known better. The attacker was backing the goal and was going AWAY from goal, so l wonder why you should hold the ref accountable for our defender’s mistake.

    All in all Shard, this team has all it takes to win the EPL. It was really painful seeing us loose on all fronts this season. You needed to see the way l was screaming in disbelief after Martin’s goal in the CC final. My 4yr old daughter was crying because she thought l was upset with her. My hope is that Wenger can learn from the mistakes of this season and leverage on them to give us a glorious 2011/2012 SEASON. I think that is not too much to ask.

  57. Shard
    April 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    @Nija Bloke

    I believe I already addressed what a soft penalty means. One that is given for a ‘foul’ which is not normally called as one. If a penalty were always a penalty with the rulebook being followed, we’d have had two penalties more against Liverpool(at least). The kind I don’t expect to be given to us. (I would expect it if it were ManU..They get some seriously messed up decisions in their favour) Bringing up Messi is besides the point. I don’t think Diaby acted like he should, I just said he acted understandably. If Messi had his leg snapped, and then saw 2 of his teammates suffer the same fate, with the media proclaiming it was just one of those things and the perp is actually the victim, and the refs continued to allow such reckless if not malicious tackles, I don’t think Messi would remain so docile..

    We went up in the game before the ref could have an impact. 1st minute, and 4th minute I think it was. 3 nil up in 10 mins.. That was actually a major reason why the ref had to perform so badly. It was blatant cheating. What motive? The most benign I can think of is retribution for Fabregas’ alleged comments about Lee Mason and his offside goal less than a week before.

    Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I agree we had all the ingredients and chances to win. We have underperformed, and at times very badly. The referees have underperformed in a way that is detrimental to us usually. Part of our failures stem from their failures. I expect the team to rise above it if it happens sometimes and on one or two decisions, like we did against Everton. But it happens almost every week, while every week seemingly ManU get away with some thing or the other. I don’t expect my team to pull through that every time, because I feel it is near impossible. Please note again, I only said part of our failure. The refs and their decisions are not an excuse for our failings, it quite simply is the truth, and if you do not acknowledge that then you are not aiming at a fair assessment of our season, the weaknesses we have shown, and the solutions that will be required.

  58. kel
    April 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I think some of you guys should tell wenger to shut up, every time he opens is mouth he puts himself in more trouble and completely shows some of the glaring problems he has.

    Quotes:
    Wenger maintains the diminutive former Guadalajara frontman was ”on our radar” before his £7million switch to Old Trafford,

    Have we not heard that before Drogba, cech, and others. WHAT RUBBISH !!!!
    I think Arsenal need a shake up in the scouting system too.
    mediocrity is a bad germ and if you don’t kill it most times you get bad disease, and am afraid to say that this is the order of the day at my great club.

    Both vela and Hernandez are small quick players and technically good so why has one progressed so well (At the first attempt, almost 20 goals) and the other has not developed (and been here a while) and this has not only been the case with vela i can call a lot of name of pass and present players who have paused at Arsenal.
    Clearly something is wrong, the answer is very simple, The PHILOSOPHY!!!

    One club embraces mediocrity and for the other it is totally unacceptable.

    Don’t get me wrong, Arsenal’s PHILOSOPHY is not all wrong, it just needs some fine tuning, what makes me sad is the managers unwillingness to admit that.

    He even still calls the team young, HOW the hell can this be true , they may be young in age BUT not in games, they just haven’t got it, simple as that, and that’s wengers fault
    Most players these days are peaking around 22, 25 BUT at Arsenal GOD knows when.
    UTTER RUBBISH!!!

    And of course the great statement
    “coming second isn’t a disgrace”
    Am waiting for coming 3rd is not a disgrace and 4th and 5th…….
    What a joke

    Wenger you should concentrate on addressing the glaring problems facing arsenal and STOP making stupid comments in public. And you better pray we don’t finish fourth because there will be hell to pay in the summer.

    MAU this weekend, honestly i don’t know what to think this season has been so crazy. MAU played in the midweek so we should be fresher, or Would we?????

  59. leftcoastgooner
    April 30, 2011 at 4:33 am #

    Hi all,
    it’s been a rough old season full of woe and intrigue.
    But in a few weeks it will be all over and I for one will miss it for sure.
    COYG!!!!

  60. tom
    April 30, 2011 at 5:26 am #

    They just need some king of push to win the match. Dont give up.

  61. Terry
    April 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    I just don’t get you gloom and doom merchants. We beat Manure and the lead is just six points. Chelski beat them next week and we win our game and it’s down to three with two games to go. It’s not impossible. But then again I have consumed several beers and glasses of wine and can swear that Porky Pig just flew past the lounge room window…

    You have to take some positives out of the season. Szcesny (or however you spell it) has the aura of a young Schmeichel about him. Djourou looking comfortable in defence. The emergence of Wilshire. Home wins against Barca and Chelsea. Our two first halves against Spurs where we played some sublime football. Our away record. Nasri (at least the first half of the season).

    The negatives are too well documented, but the low point has to be the Carling Cup final. That seems to be where it all started to unravel. I still can’t believe we managed to stuff it up against that lot. You can forgive being knocked out of the the FA Cup by Manure and the Champions League by the Catalan Olympic Diving Team but to be beaten by Birmingham like that was unforgiveable.

    No doubt we’ll all be back though in August looking forward to another season. Say what you like about Arsenal and Wenger but you can never say it’s boring!

  62. Terry
    April 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Oh yeah, nearly forgot. I enjoy the blog Andy. Keep it up.

  63. Cale Pissarra
    May 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Enjoy the blog, Arsenal beat United today pity we didnt have bigger BMT this season

  64. muyiwa
    May 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    just to add my two pence about arsenal’s season, it boils down to quality without luck, the team is bursting with talents and skills, but unfortunately they get very unlucky in front of goals, how can they have good possessions, x amount shots on goal and yet they either loose the match or draw the match…………the defense is not different from other teams in the league and they work hard, my prayer is that we get more lucky next season, like other teams that play below par and can still win games

    a gunner life for me…

    and nice blog

  65. Hanrik
    June 10, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    100% support what Tony Adams just said, “Graham is far better than Wenger”. Go Wenger, we won;t stop you, train youngsters in France. Anyone, like David Moyes, can mange a better Gunners.

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