The day after the day after the day. The manner that we played 2 days ago still hurts doesn’t it. It’s going to get a whole lot tougher for us before it gets easier. In case you doubt that, we will be facing up against Shalke tomorrow and the corresponding home match just 2 weeks ago was another one where we got completely beaten. There will be a fuller preview of the game in tomorrow’s post but I’m under no illusion of the enormity of the task at hand.
Having said that, Arsene Wenger might be under and illusion of his own, describing the game against Manchester United as one where we had the “illusionary domination”. I adore the boss but 4% more than the opposition hardly amounts to any form of domination. We only got the additional time on the ball because United sat off our two centre backs, which allowed Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertescaker to pass it within each other. Once again, a team have shown that by cutting the supply and space to Mikel Arteta, we are hapless in trying to build up attacking moves.
However, that wasn’t the only part of Wenger’s remarks that didn’t sit well with me. The one about how Jack Wilshere was undeserved to receive the red card is really a mind numbing comment. There’s nothing harsh about it at all. Unless Wenger is referring to the view he got from the bench, during the game. Without the help of television replays, it would have been an acceptable comments. Every manager defends their players, it is that simple. Yet, in calling the referee naive, I think we are naive ourselves.
It is not a new thing. Referees allow players to accumulate fouls (that are not dangerous) before flashing the yellow cards to them. Referees will also ensure that they tell the players that this is the final offence and the next one will warrant a card. This is common and known. We see it in almost every game. It’s an unbelievable Wenger comment. Of course teams will take advantage of it. In the case of a full back on a yellow and walking thinly on the red, the winger will run at him hoping to get another foul. It’s not foul play, it’s not bending the rules. Even then, no matter how poor a human being Patrice Evra is, he didn’t goad Wilshere into the challenge. It was a poor mistimed tackle.
This is not a post dedicated as a dig to Wenger, let’s all be clear on that. For those who know me or have been following me on twitter or here, will know that I have massive respect for Wenger and still very much prefer him to be running the ship at Arsenal. It is just that those comments felt like irrelevant and barking up the wrong tree. That wasn’t the reason that we lost the game. We lost because we didn’t turn up. We lost because we didn’t play as a team.
Compared this game and the one that we played the last time we were in Manchester, that 1-1 draw against the reigning Premier League champions. Why did we look so much more purposeful in the that game compared to last Saturday? Where did it go wrong or what changed? Yes, Kieran Gibbs would have been in a better position/condition to deal with the threats down our left hand side. I don’t think you could count losing Carl Jenkinson for Bacary Sagna as step in the negative side. I also would not accept that Olivier Giroud and Wilshere for Gervinho and Abou Diaby makes us a worse team.
You can’t say that the tactics weren’t good enough. The only thing that I can think of is from an psychological point of view. The results of the last few games dictated that we were at the very least, not psychologically at our very best. We went into the game at Etihad Stadium riding on the wave of our unbeaten start. We went to Old Trafford having lost 2 out of our last 4 games. The quality doesn’t change from September to October nor does any footballers lose their ability to play within a period of one month. Also, no team should be accepting defeat after conceding a 3rd minute goal.
When the problem is in the head, it is a huge one. It is all simple and easy to say, forget the defeats, be confident and we’ll win this game. However, reality works in a very different manner. On the face of it, our team crumbles at the first sign of defeat. Everything drops and we become a shadow of ourselves. All of the sudden, players are unable to make even the simplest of passes or control the easiest of balls. Something needs to change in this area and I’m not quite sure what or how.
Will the help of a psychologist change things around for us? How do you go about building strong characters in the team? Isn’t it time that the leaders in the team speak up and guide the rest? Do we even have one in the team? Are these players even able to learn and breakthrough that psychological barrier with enough guidance and help? More questions than answers, really.
Sorry Mr Wenger, mental strength not found.