Arsene Wenger’s attitude problem
OK, let’s get the Wenger stuff out the way first.
There was no excuse for him not to shake hands with Mark Hughes after last night’s 3-0 loss. Just as there was no excuse for his ridiculous comments about Didier Drogba after the Chelsea game.
It’s smacks of being a sore loser, something we’ve known Wenger to be for a long time, but worse than that it rubs off badly on Arsenal as a club. It is unfair on the players who were more than happy to shake hands with their opponents after this one and are usually more than happy to admit when they’ve been beaten by a better side.
It frustrates me to see Wenger acting in this way because the reason for our recent downturn in form has been nobody else’s fault than our own. Sure Robin van Persie and a whole host of others are injured but it’s up to Wenger and the players that are available to step up and make that happen.
Against Sunderland a number of players inexplicably underperformed. Against Chelsea we were simply not good enough to beat them. And against Manchester City, we lost again because they took their chances in the final third and we missed a player capable of doing the same.
It’s nobody’s problem but our own and it would be nice to see the manager approach that problem with some dignity rather than blaming all and sundry for our issues and refusing to shake hands with opposing managers.
Get your act together, Arsene.
The scoreline once again read 3-0 yet just like against Chelsea, this was hardly a disgraceful performance by the players on display.
The manager chose to go with a typical Carling Cup team, mixing first-teamers Tomas Rosicky, Alex Song, Emmanuel Eboue and Aaron Ramsey with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Craig Eastmond and Fran Merida. Mikael Silvestre was surprisingly partnered by Song at the back (where was Philippe Senderos?) while Armand Traore and Carlos Vela also got starts as left-back and up front respectively. Fran Merida and Lukasz Fabianski completed a line-up that I felt would give a full strength Manchester City their fair share of troubles.
It turned out to be true.
In the first half City had a lot of the ball as Wenger attempted to utilise Vela’s pace up front by instructing the midfielders and defenders to play through passes as often as possible. The more City pressed the more our nippy Mexican was given opportunities, the best coming when he just flicked over with the outside of his boot from a beautiful Wilshere pass.
We lost possession a little too often in the first half but a lot of that was down to City’s pressure. The home side fashioned the best chance of the half when Craig Bellamy fired wide as Shaun Wright-Phillips posed a consistent threat to Traore down their right flank. 0-0 it ended at the break, City shading it but Arsenal looking very decent on the break.
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The game’s pivotal moment came five minutes after the break when Carlos Tevez whacked home the opener. Rosicky was at fault as he gave away possession cheaply and no Arsenal defenders got neither the Argentine as he dribbled into the area and fired home of the woodwork.
From that point on City decided to employ a “defense first” strategy meaning our gameplan of looking for Vela on the break became impossible. We had some good moments and enjoyed a lot of the ball but just like at Chelsea on Sunday and Sunderland the week before we desperately missed some physical presence up front.
The game was put beyond doubt when Wright-Phillips took advantage of Silvestre’s lack of pressure to score another belter before City substitute Vladimir Weiss scored a third with a minute to go. Merida hit the crossbar in time added on but City ran out deserved winners and progressed to the semi-finals.
Arsenal fans will forever be split on Wenger’s decision to stick with the younger players in the Carling Cup at the expense of going all out for a trophy. While his explanation at the end of the match about developing young players is hard to fault, I think he got it wrong today: not because I desperately wanted to win the game or win the Carling Cup, but because I think it is desperately important that a couple of our senior players find some form.
Players like Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Eduardo need to find form as quickly as possible to help our league ambitions and this was another opportunity to get some football under their belts. Alas, it was not to be as Wenger went with the kids.
Stoke will be an interesting contest and one we must win. We’ll be without Alex Song who received his fifth yellow card of the season for a non-existant foul on Wright-Phillips though, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the team react. I remain nervous.
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