Arsenal’s traditional battering away to a top 6 rival has happened early this season. We haven’t had the luxury of a couple of months or more for things to settle down and the league table to take on the familiar shape of big clubs at the top and the rest fighting just to avoid being drawn into the relegation battle.
It was six years ago today that Arsenal got hammered 8-2 at Man Utd. That was a worse drubbing than 4-0 against Liverpool yesterday, because it was so bad that Utd almost stopped trying, so as not to humiliate us any further. On the other hand at least we got a couple of shots on target then, and Utd then were a better team than Liverpool are at present.
At the time there were of course calls for Wenger to go, and many thought there was no way he could brazen it out and carry on. But carry on he did, and still managed to finish in the top 4 that season, which no one at the start of September thought was possible.
So all is not lost yet. Things look bad but will almost certainly pick up for Arsenal. There have been more hammerings and embarrassments since Old Trafford 2011, particularly the 1000th game 6-0 to Chelsea, but every time things have steadied. Even a very badly performing Arsenal team will win enough points to avoid relegation, but there is the possibility this could end up like Chelsea’s season of 2015-16. They were down around 14th and 15th in the table before recovering to 10th. Not many people seriously considered they would be relegated or even fully drawn into a battle to stay up, but if most teams were in their position you would not have thought the same – put Palace or West Brom or Swansea in 15th and the general view would be that they’re struggling; put Chelsea or Arsenal there and the general view will be that they’ll get out of it as soon as they put a run together. And the general view will be right – 99 times out of 100 anyway.
You would think it’s impossible for Arsenal to play as badly as yesterday for too long. Even if the coaching is appalling, the players themselves must be able to:
- realise that tactics, positioning and willingness to work for the team are essential
- look back at the Liverpool game and see what was wrong.
The players can do nothing about bizarre team selections or instructions (well, nothing short of going on strike or jointly confronting the manager – and I guess the latter is a possibility, though who is going to take the lead on that?), but surely they can see during a game how the other team are playing and try to counter it? Surely if they watch the Liverpool game back (and they’d better!) they will see the same things that commentators and pundits have already pointed out?
I have zero interest in any statements from players about how much they’re hurt, how much they care or even what they’re going to do. All equally meaningless. This is sport, not debating club; the action takes place on the pitch, so that’s where the ‘talking’ needs to happen.
- All is not yet lost
- Things will improve
- There are plenty of worse teams than Arsenal in the Premier League
- But it could be the first season under Wenger where Arsenal truly struggle for top 6
- Arsenal definitely won’t win the league this season
- Wenger is still going nowhere
- The players’ attitudes need to change (not all of them, but many)
My previous blog post only a couple of days ago summarised predictions for the top 6; at the time of writing that, no Arsenal fan thought their club would finish outside the top 6. It’s indicative of how quickly opinions change that a re-run now would probably have almost the opposite result.
Of course there are also bigger questions about Kroenke, the Board, transfers, who is in control, how much can be spent, etc etc. Those affect the team at macro level, but you could give the same players as Arsenal had yesterday to another manager and the perfromance and result could (and should) have been very different. That’s why the buck for any debacle on the pitch always stops at Wenger.