Wenger ready for Henry return http://t.co/9Dop0JBe
— Red Bulls Update (@RedBullsUpdate) December 30, 2011
Looking at the situation in the premier league and Europe these days, it doesn’t look like Arsenal can end the drought in winning silverware soon. If there are any, Carling Cup and FA Cup might be the only opportunities to end the drama. In my opinion, however, of all the past years, this year seems to be a rebuild for Arsenal and it would be wise to declare so. This would give Arsenal a chance to build in peace with a little less pressure. Continue reading
On March 2nd, I posted the article “Arsenal, empty handed again?”. Today we all know that Arsenal will end the season definitely with empty hands, again. The chase is now going on for 5 years and looking at the reports from the past weeks regarding Arsene Wenger’s plans for the new season, it will be most likely another season without anything.
One could be mean and say, “well, if the don’t make it into the Champions League and play in the Europa League, there is a good chance for silverware”. Well, indeed, that might be the only real chance to win something, avoiding all the big guns and play a few levels down. However, not even that seems to be a guarantee for a “pot”. Remember, Liverpool, Spurs and a few others looking much better than Arsenal are playing there.
What’s the problem? You look at the current roster and it becomes very clear why Arsenal is not going to win anything. As soon as you take the two major carrier’s off the field, there is not much left. I am talking about van Persie and Ces Fabregas. Both had their breaks this season, and Arsenal didn’t make it above average. And to be honest, some parts of the team are not even that. Average, that is. Look at the goalie situation: Almunia and Szczesny? With all the goodwill in the world, that’s not enough. They might as well give Jens Lehmann a contract for the next season. One game, one win. And there were not many of those, win’s, over the past weeks. At least it would give that position some appearence and voice. The same counts for the 4 in front of the goalie. They are all great players, no doubt, but none of the opponents goes on the field and is afraid to experience some “uncomfortable” afternoon. You look around in Europe, every top class team has someone that can “mix some concrete” when needed, even Barca. Arsenal is fine in midfield, if Fabregas is fit, but upfront there is a problem again. Van Persie is top class and there is Arshavin and Walcott. They cause a lot of trouble, but if it doesn’t result in a goal, Arsenal has to ask a guy like Bendtner for help. Please!
Arsene Wenger was given the chance to spend money for the next season. It is incredible to hear that he doesn’t need to spend the money and get some “crackers” to the Emirates. With the millions offered to shop, he should have walked to Schalke in Germany and get Manuel Neuer. There would be enough money to get a defender and a striker on top of Neuer.
If Wenger doesn’t take any action on the transfer market, Arsenal’s future will not be very rosy. They will keep sitting there with their empty hands and watch others celebrating.
Eight rounds before the end of season the pressure has mounted for all clubs. Everyone is either involved in the title race or is fighting relegation. Those that can claim they are out of both, if anyone at all, play for a possible Europe participation in the new season. Win, or at least something, is a must for everyone.
Besides the pressure to win something, it will be interesting to see who used the break best to refill the tanks. While many players of almost all clubs played in the qualifier, it was a welcomed break from the “all-day-league-stress”. The league is on the last stretch.
Looking at the situation before the break, it seems Arsenal was most happy about the break. Battered from injuries of important players, the most are back in business and ready to rumble. The gunners have another issue the soccer world looks at with interest: Who is playing in goal: The international press and soccer fans are speculating over a possible appearance of Jens Lehmann. While 41, the German ex-international is still able to play. Let’s see what Arsene Wenger is coming up with.
Round 31 match-ups:
West Ham – Manchester United
Birmingham City – Bolton Wanderes
FC Everton – Aston Villa
Newcastle United – Wolves
Stoke City – FC Chelsea
West Brom – FC Liverpool
Wigan Athletic – Tottenham Hotspurs
Arsenal – Blackburn Rovers
FC Fulham – . FC Blackpool
Manchester City – Sunderland
Every time you believe you saw everything, something new happens. This week, fellow Jens Lehmann made it back to the Barclay’s English Premier League and Arsenal to help with their goalie misery. Ending his career last summer and pursuing coaching licenses, Lehmann was confronted with the question if he can help out the gunners until the end of the season. For a guy like Jens Lehmann, such requires not much time to think of. Today, he was on Arsenal’s bench at West Brom. Certainly a brave move by Arsene Wenger and the club. Not so much because Lehmann is 41 and already ended his career, but it seems that Manuel Almunia has a mental problem with Jens Lehmann back at Arsenal. The question on whether Lehmann should be back in goal is already up for debate at the Emirates.
Jens Lehmann is a character and his pure presence is already a win for Arsenal. A winner type and a fighter with everything allowed and not allowed, he has turned games around in his career. For the special situation Arsenal is facing right now, he might just be the right guy. The gunners cannot afford another struggle in the goalie position. If Lehmann is fit, he certainly has the stronger personality and attitude for a situation such as this. Think about it, Coach Wenger.
Arsenal’s loss in Barcelona created a lot of discussion in the soccer world. If you are a gunner or gunner supporter you might feel cheated on. Even as just a soccer fan you might feel the red card for Van Persie was a joke. Well, let’s make that clear: It was a joke! If a player already has a yellow card, then this “offense” should not turn into a second yellow and sent off from such a game. So, as a soccer fan and ex-professional player, this is a joke!
With that said, let’s take a look at a few other reasons why Arsenal has to view the rest of this competition on TV. There were three weeks time to prepare for this game. If you don’t already know, Barca is currently the best team in the soccer world and that not only since yesterday. The way how they play and how it turns out in the most cases is also commonly known. The approaches of their opponents to survive a night at Camp Nou can be viewed on video, can be looked up in newspapers, and if you are a coach in professional soccer, there are many other sources to find out why Barca is winning games. In Arsenal’s case, they made an experience a year ago. So, there is enough information to get ready.
Arsene Wenger made a choice in Arsenal’s approach to defend a one goal lead. The “solution” for him was, defend with everything you have and when you somehow get the ball, play them out. That choice, in my view, is the reason why they went down. Yes, that event in the 56th minute can be used as the perfect excuse. Afterall, 11 minutes were played in the second half, and it went better up until this point. They even scored. Well, not exactly, Barca fabricated an own goal. Maybe it just looked better for Arsenal, because Barca took the foot of the pedal with the lead, who knows? It is all speculation. Wenger claims, “we would have won the game”. Well, in my eyes, that is speculation as well, or an excuse for own shortcomings.
If I would be coach of a Barca opponent, there are two things, besides others, I would remind my players of:
If you look at the first recommendation, that is the reason why Van Persie got his first yellow. Idiotic! The second recommendation would need another forward on the field, Arshavin for example. He can hold a ball in the opponents half, and, much more important, he can, in a one-on-one, beat every defender. And by the way, if Barca has a weakness, it is the defense. Try and play there.
Pep Guardiola made an interesting comment after the game. After everyone tried to get something out of him regarding the referee, he stated: “They lost, because they didn’t have three passes in a row”. With that, he hit the nail on the head, and, it also gives you an insight on Barca’s philosophy about soccer and defense: If you lose the ball in the opponents half, pressure immediately before 3 passes are completed. They are masters in that kind of “defense” and that is the reason why they are able to apply permanent pressure, whenever they want. Arsenal played right into their hands in the first half, with trying to pass the ball in their own half after they won it. Guess why the game was a little better for the gunners in the second half. They had strikers on the field and were seeking a goal. Not that they had a million opportunities, but they had some. What did they have in the first half?
It is very sad to see that a team like Arsenal is trying to defend their life, when they have all tools to beat Barca, but no courage to give it a shot. Wenger’s fault! And that is why he blows up about the referee’s decision. The coach lost the game, before it started.
As expected, Arsenal didn’t survive the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. As in the year before, Lionel Messi and his friends mark the end of the road for the gunners.
Depsite all reports, the gunners had van Persie and Fabregas at their disposal. However, neither one could make an impact on Arsenal’s game, at least not on the positive side. In the 56th minute, van Persie collected his second yellow of the the game and was consequently sent off. Ten Gunners had no chance to turn the game around.
Wenger’s tactic was standing deep and trying to stop Barca before the box. While this paid off until the 47th minute (5 minutes were added in the first half), it didn’t give Arsenal a chance to set up some own opportunities to score. Barcelona’s goalie Valdez had a very quite first half. With a 1-0 at half time, the Gunners had to do more in the second half. They tried, without being a force they scored with great help of Busquets, who beat Valdez with a header in the 52nd. After van Persie was sent off, Arsenal had no chance and Xavi and Messi scored for the final 3-1.
Arsene Wenger has to ask himself about his strategy for this game. Defending with everything you have didn’t help many against Barca. There was no effort at all visible to start any promissing attacks against the Spanish. The idea was to disrupt Barca’s efforts and then keep the ball. While the first part worked for the most part in the first half, the second part didn’t work at all and put the gunners in lots of trouble. Rather than play the ball quick into Barca’s half, they tried to hold the ball with short passes. Clearly not the right way, against the best squad in the world.
For Arsenal, the second opportunity for silverware went south. Arsenal is still in the FA Cup and has a shot for the Premier League championshsip. There is, however, a great chance that the gunners end the season empty handed again.