I normally wouldn’t have attended Sunday’s match as I am Daddy ‘Daycaring’ at the moment. I was however offered something I couldn’t refuse, a place in the Executive Box at The Emirates. I was privileged to meet with a few movers and shakers and unfortunately watched my beloved Arsenal ship 4 goals. L
I was suffering from palpitations before the start of the match; I was worried about Liverpool turning us over, as they are one of my tips to do very well this season. I didn’t fancy our makeshift center back pairings against their very experienced offensive players. Seeing the way the manager deployed Coquelin & Elneny gave me some comfort, as those two are our more defensive minded midfielders.
The team set up largely worked well in the first half until that cheap free kick was given away in the last minute and Liverpool equalized although we should have doubled our lead before the away side’s equalizer with Alexis’ free kick. I fancied him to score but it didn’t happen unfortunately. IMO The equalizer knocked the stuffing out of the boys if the words of Petr Cech are anything to go by and going by the display in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half.
I believed the Arsenal boys were told to calm down and not rush their game seeing as we were somewhat dominant in the first half and they probably took this too literally. Liverpool came out more energised, they upped their pressing game and the Gunner's midfield didn't cope well with the press.
I noticed Elneny hobbling after Liverpool’s 2nd goal and thought he should have been subbed way before he came off after their 4th. I also thought Coquelin should have been taken off as he was already on a yellow. He goes in hard and committed and with the yellow card, his game would have been hampered.
With no protection from the midfield, Calum Chambers should have been a bit more physical when Mane rounded him for the 4th. He had a chance to foul the Liverpool player outside the box but he didn’t. Yes Mane was fast, but from memory and from watching the replays, Calum could have taken him out and taken one for the team.
Also, Alexis didn’t appear to be working as the central striker as the team didn’t play to his strength and the midfielders were a bit too far behind him. There was one instance where Ramsey released a ball too early to him when a break was on with the intention of getting the return ball and probably scoring a goal. To me, this form of glory hunting is one of the recurring weakness I have noticed in Ramsey’s game.
As I am writing this, I fancy myself as a manager with the observations I have outlined above. However many who are a lot brighter than me have said, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one”.
It is easy and fashionable to assume, Wenger didn’t see the same things. Maybe he did and decided to do nothing about it. He is the manager with almost 30 years experience. I am just a football lover trying my hands at writing.
With all respect, I will never know as much as Wenger on football & Arsenal no matter how much I try. Same goes for the Gary Nevilles & Thierry Henrys of this world. The best place to be in the Premier League is on the Sky Sofa twiddling video knobs. Gary has done his apprenticeship at Valencia and is on a 'Gap Period' away from football management probably after seeing a counselor and undergoing some therapy sessions for that harrowing experience in Spain. Thierry is wiser though. He has learnt from Gary's experience and has decided to give management a swerve for now.
Wenger is not a professional pundit; he will be shit at the pundit job I imagine. Refuses to exaggerate, refuses to insult, plays a straight bat, doesn’t believe in absolutes. No he wont help the pundit industry attract its fair share of sheep and click bait swallowers. As far as I am concerned however, all the pundits combined don’t know as much as Wenger does about the inner workings of Arsenal, they don’t read the doctors’, physios’, nutritionists’’, physiologists’’ reports, they don't know what financial covenants the club has agreed with its bankers; they don't know if the club is looking to make a big bang of a signing. Wenger does.
All the fans combined in their passionate love combined cannot manage Arsenal better than Wenger at this moment. It would be nice to know which Arsenal fan is as successful as Mr. Kroenke or Mr. Usmanov. Two individuals richer than Croesus. They have both decided that Wenger is the guardian of their billion pounds investment for the next one season but BabaGrumpy, a football lover and moonlighting writer believes he is better than Wenger at managing Arsenal. Please lets be rational.
I get that our emotions as fans are linked to football. I get the loss of bragging rights, the loss of face and for many punters, the loss of their stake. Personally I spent the period after the match discussing politics with a group of 12 very senior people in the Executive Box. However I couldn’t sleep until 4.30am on Monday morning and it took me a while to feel good enough to eat. If I wasn’t looking after the young ones, I would probably have gone on a bender.
But where do we go from here? While it is difficult not to focus on these things, I will suggest fans get behind the team and Arsene. If you are convinced Arsenal are not going to make Top 4 this season, get behind the team all the same as it will be Arsene’s last. Support your team with your passion, your ear deafening clapping and singing. After all we will get a new manager next season.
If you however need a somewhat nuanced perspective of Sunday’s match, I recommend this article from a well-known and well-decorated journalist - Gabriele Marcotti.
On my part, I don’t share in a lot of doom mongering going on following Sunday’s result. Yes I was distraught but don’t forget we shipped 3 against a lesser Liverpool Team in January and 4 against a Southampton side in December.
Yes the open season on Wenger is fashionable but some perspective is necessary. True, we have structural issues that are the responsibility of the manager but are also a consequence of his philosophy. He doesn’t believe in the cynical type of play / rotational fouling common with many teams. He believes in certain type of players and I believe firmly that he refuses to win for winning’s sake. Take what you want from all that and make your conclusions. He is who is and he is not changing and as Marcotti said above, if you as a fan is upset, take it up with his owners because by their silence and non-action, they definitely find his results acceptable.