As the dust settles and the fallout continues from yesterday’s game, I find myself in a weird place. I am filled with disappointment yet relief; I am in some ways proud of the team and at the same time left frustrated by them. Football is a funny game and it never ceases to amaze but yesterday at times it was flabbergasting. The game had the good, the bad and the ugly of Arsenal Football Club yesterday.
We started off well and seemed to control the game for the first 10 to 15 minutes with some slick passing and movement. Chamberlain impressed early on with some great direct and skilful play and had the upper hand against a world class left back in the early exchanges. Following an injury to Phil Jones, where the game was broken up, Manchester United composed themselves and began to settle. It took them some time to get going but they had a clear plan to exploit our weakness and exploit it they did.
Throughout the remaining 70 minutes, balls were sprayed at our right back with precision, consistency and in abundance which both Evra and Nani took delight in. They exposed and capitalised on our weakest link and effectively cost us the game. So much was his discomfort, he had to be replaced by the 18 year old, Yennaris at half time.
The second half was a different story and I felt that we had for the most part played well and done enough to get something out of the game. In fact when we scored the equaliser, it felt like there was only one team that could possibly win it the way the match was panning out.
That was, until the manager, inexplicably to some, decided to take off our most effective player and replace him with someone who is not everyone’s cup of tea at the moment. Now here is where the aforementioned ugliness took place. Following the announcement of Chamberlains departure many fans erupted into choruses of boos which although understandable, it was nonetheless a little embarrassing and I don’t think it helped the team at all.
Now there are various rumours and theories ranging from tiredness, to Chamberlain asking to come off, apparent cramps/injuries to just Wenger lost the plot and decided to take him off.
I am not going to delve into any of these issues for many reasons but most importantly because it is pointless. The decision was made and whatever the reason, it is clear that it had a negative impact to us which contributed to us losing the game.
I understand the reason for the response but it left me quite sad yesterday. Here is a man, Wenger, who not only changed Arsenal Football Club for the better but all of English football. I think it would not be too controversial to say that the evolution of English football has been exponentially sped up by Wenger and he has arguably had the biggest influence on English football in modern times.
That is not to diminish the importance of people like Sir Alex Ferguson, but only to highlight the dramatic effect Wenger has had on diet, training methods, technology and footballing philosophy in the English game. To see this man get booed at a level I haven’t seen at any club over an in game decision, no matter how bad a decision is something that is deeply disappointing. Please don’t misunderstand me though, I completely sympathise and empathise with the supporters that booed and I myself was screaming obscenities.
I would like to think Wenger, when he left would have been able to leave on his terms, with his head held high and that all supporters would hail him as a true legend. Whilst there is no doubt that he is clearly already a legend I fear yesterday’s booing will have far reaching consequences beyond that of just the failure yesterday. From my knowledge on Wenger, I would predict that he would be immeasurably offended and upset by the booing and this could have a bearing on his future, not because of the booing but because of the line that has been drawn. There are now clearly large factions of the fans that are dissatisfied and there is no covering it up.
It has been clear for some time that there is a growing feeling of discontent amongst fans at the handling of the club. The club who have been mismanaged for a while now on many different levels, whether it be recruitment, contract renewals, the commercial side of things or just the Public Relations. This however, is the first time it was Wenger getting booed by the majority of the fans and that over a decision in game. Even Van Persie could not believe the decision and showed dissent towards Wenger. Something the media have been quick to highlight.
All of the discontent at everything that has gone on at the club in recent years manifested itself in the supporters hitting out at a manager and that is something you could have never imagined not too long ago.
The worst part of the whole incident for me though is none of the above. It is the fact that it detracts from the main point: we lost another game and are five points behind Chelsea. We find ourselves in a position where it is more likely than not that we will miss out on Champions League football.
I was concerned a few days ago that history might repeat itself and that we were in line for a bad loss but thankfully I was very wrong and the team a few players aside performed admirably in parts. It is a shame that it wasn’t consistent throughout the team and we still find ourselves pointless in the league this calendar year.
The main job of the manager is not to now answer questions about whatever madness is going on around him but to pick up the players he has and ensures that, regardless of who plays in what position, they win.
It’s plain and simple, every game is a must win and I expect every player to demonstrate that attitude. If they don’t then Wenger has not done the job that he now needs to do.
Until next time.