For Nadim Naaman the really bad news is that nothing has changed at the top since the Carling Cup debacle
Let’s have that hideous statistic one more time. Since the Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham back in February, the club’s league form is as such: played eighteen, won four, drawn seven and lost seven. That’s nineteen points from eighteen games and a possible fifty-four points, which works out at approximately one point per game since that infamous defeat. If you include the teams that have been promoted, that kind of form puts Arsenal firmly in the bottom four or five clubs in the division, in terms of average points per match. Three games in, and it might be labelled a sluggish start. But as we approach the magic milestone of ten games – after which the table can start to be taken seriously, and after which we usually see a rough guide as to how things will end up come May – not much appears to have changed, and we are languishing near the foot of the table. More worrying than the start to the season, not much has changed since that rainy February afternoon at Wembley.
What is arguably more staggering than these depressing statistics, is the fact that between today and nine months ago, not a whole lot has changed at Arsenal Football Club. We lost the cup final, only to fall into a downward spiral that has never really eased up, without much in the way of change being able to take responsibility. Sure, we have lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and to lesser extents the likes of Gael Clichy and Niklas Bendtner. These transfers aside, we are still the same club that we were nine months ago – a club that was the only domestic side challenging for four trophies, and a side oozing flair and confidence. We had beaten Chelsea, and were about to beat the best team in the world, Barcelona, and whilst we may have been predictably fragile at the back, we certainly always looked like scoring. What’s more, any pundit would agree that the likes of Arteta and Benayoun are far more reputable, proven and experienced than the players they replaced; most notably the likes of Denilson, Eboue, and yet another player who’s not good enough but we keep paying called Vela.
The overwhelming conclusion to be drawn here is that Arsenal has fallen foul of the most monumental mental crisis. The squad are bereft of optimism and belief. The very same group of players who did so well without their eternally injured captain Fabregas last season, and without their over-hyped mercenaryin-the-making colleague Nasri for long spells, are now looking like relegation fodder, despite the fact that we endured the busiest transfer deadline day in years. Remember Ramsey’s comeback goal in our victory against Manchester United who were closing in on the title? That wasn’t that long ago, but it feels a lifetime. Cesc only played half a season, whilst Nasri’s reputation is now based entirely on one good half-season at the club. His statistics between August and his winter injury last season were rivalled by Chamakh’s, and over the course of the season. Fabregas and Nasri’s goal/assist numbers are by no
4 onlinegooner.com means outstanding when compared to the likes of Walcott and Arshavin, who are often much maligned by the media and fans.
My point is straight-forward. The Arsenal squad is individually one of the best in around. Almost any club would have Szczeny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Sagna, Wilshere, Ramsey, Song, Arteta, Walcott, Van Persie, and maybe now even Oxlade-Chamberlain. Others would certainly take Benayoun, Chamakh and Arshavin too. We have used the departures of Fabregas and Nasri as a giant scapegoat to mask the deficiencies elsewhere and a total lack of organisation and strategy. We performed very well on occasions without them last year, and often without the likes of Van Persie or Vermaelen too. Our plight evolves from a failure to toughen up mentally, to ignore criticism, to take responsibility on an individual basis, and a perpetual state of denial of any wrong-doing that permeates through the club from the boardroom to the bench. In essence, all the problems are in the minds of those who wear the shirt, and also those who make the decisions off the field. You might even think to include the mental condition of the fans, too, which has certainly taken a bashing.
As is the case with all football clubs, regardless of their level of competition, mental and behavioural issues stem from the top, and flow downwards. In other words, the club’s mentality, ambition and attitude stem from that of the board and the management. So long as these figures at Arsenal are paid so handsomely to deny any wrong-doing, responsibility and the possibility that they have made a mistake or two over the last few years, the performances on the pitch will continue to frustrate and remain abject. The players have almost become brainwashed into believing that
We have used the departures of Fabregas and Nasri as a giant scapegoat to mask the deficiencies elsewhere and a total lack of organisation and strategy by turning up and doing things ‘the Arsenal way’ they will become winners. This is obviously not the case. They instead appear frightened, tense, and therefore error-prone. The nervous actor is the most likely to fluff his lines. And nerves come from feeling insecure and out of your comfort zone.
I believe that Wenger and the board’s inability to own up to mistakes, and their consistent propaganda-like statements that Arsenal are winners and wonderful, leaves the players feeling less responsible for their actions. It’s one thing to protect them, but being in such denial as to the club’s flaws and lack of cuttingedge makes it highly unlikely that they will improve. Everything is swept under the carpet, there is a lack of shared responsibility, and as a result, nothing changes. You cannot challenge problems unless you are able to admit they exist and face them. If Arsène Wenger would only admit how his squad might improve, they might just do that. Instead, he onlinegooner.com 5