Arsenal the Heartbreakers strike again.

April 24, 2011 33 Comments by Sian

Beer was thrown, curses were hurled, tears were welled and a point was lost. I say a point because we were never in a winning position in the game and didn’t look like we were likely to be putting ourselves at a winning position at any point during the game either. But whatever way you look at it, this afternoon was the stuff of nightmares once more.

It would appear we have hit the oil tanker. Quick, to the back of the ship! Get in those lifeboats and paddle for your lives! The good ship Titletanic may be steadily sinking, but we can still save ourselves!

As Arsenal matches go, it was not the usual formula of point droppage. In fact, it was almost a little bit unorthodox of us. Bolton were largely the better team in the first half – although not as much as the Sky commentary team thought. Sweet mother of all that is good and Holy, with every match I see my suspicions that they plot their script and go with it regardless of on-pitch activity, are confirmed. Bolton went ahead via a Daniel Sturridge header seven minutes before half time and delivered a sucker punch to us all.

But, no matter, we are usually better at coming from behind anyway. So it was only a mini-sucker punch really. The threat of a medium-sized sucker punch reared its ugly head almost immediately after the break when Johan Djourou appeared to bring down that same Daniel Sturridge in the box.

Except that he didn’t, of course. Even Mr. and Mrs. Bolton up there in the commentary box agreed that it was the wrong call to make. So, up stepped Kevin Davies to put the match to bed (unless you’re Arsenal, obvs)… and his penalty was saved by Wojciech Szczesny. The save proved to be the kick up the backside we needed and just three minutes later we were level from a Robin van Persie goal, which made its way through a fairly chocka penalty area to hit the back of the net. I was too busy celebrating to note it down exactly but I think RvP now holds a Premier League record, having scored seven goals in seven consecutive away games. I think. What a stat and what a man!

This would have been the point at which in previous seasons we all clubbed together and went “Right, let’s DO this. This match is ours.” But, it’s not previous seasons, it’s this season, so we all just sat there trembling, our clammy little hands round our empty beer bottles, mumbling under our breath the sort of things that would ordinarily have you headed straight for the looney bin.

After the goal, we dominated. Again. But we couldn’t make any goals. Again. Walcott crossed, Nasri hit straight at the keeper, Cesc had a few more goes… and we couldn’t get a goal for love nor money nor WHSmith vouchers. Up and down the country and all across the globe, Gooners were united in one word and one word alone: “SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT”.

But, as is Arsenal’s nature, we didn’t. Jack, making his first return to the Reebok Stadium after his time on loan at the club last season, came off. Theo came off. Marouane Chamakh and Andrei Arshavin came on. And we still couldn’t do anything. Then, in the 89th minute, Johan Elmander made an attempt, which Szczesny saved. They got a corner, and from that corner, Tamir Cohen headed in the winning goal. Sucker punch to end all sucker punches. Well played Bolton, OH MY GOD Arsenal.

2-1.

Goodbye title. Goodbye cruel world.

Szczesny’s face said it all. “Mugs. I make mental saves. I save a penalty. And then you do that to me? MUGS.” Wenger looked a broken man, Cesc looked on the verge of tears and Jack’s facial expression was thus: :-|

We’d done it again and everyone is laughing at us. Maybe it’s good that the inevitable is unlikely to be prolonged. We’re nine points off Man United now, with only twelve available. Should be doable. With Arsenal… who knows if it’s doable.

I can’t actually look at Arsene Wenger’s face at the moment. It’s too painful to see a man I admire and adore that much so gutted. He’s skinny anyway but my God, doesn’t it look like the air has been sucked out of him? He hides a lot of things from the fans, surely. And I don’t mean that as a criticism. I mean he takes the criticism for a lot of other people to protect them from taking it themselves. Here’s a quote from after the match. I got it from the Guardian:

“I feel the players had an outstanding attitude all season and are not to blame. If someone is to blame, it is me. I pick the team, I choose the players.

“It’s very unsatisfactory because we have had one of our easiest run-ins for a long, long time and we didn’t take our chances. That is frustrating because I feel the potential is there but we still lack something – maturity and experience and calm in important situations.”

The second part is all a bit ‘No shit, Sherlock’. The first part is wrong and makes me sad. And angry at some of the players too, actually. True, he picks the team. True, he gets more of a say in buying and selling than the players do. Of course he is not entirely blameless for the shortcomings of the team. But if my boss picked up enough of the excessive amounts of slack given to me time and time again, it would be top on my list of priorities to pay that back. I don’t think finger-pointing will help anyone at this point in time when the season is still there and when turning backs on people would be even more suicidal than a goalkeeper-centre back miscommunication in the 90th minute. But we all have our own choices of players who’ve fallen short. If they can’t do it for themselves or for their team mates, can they not do it for the man who, over and over, has coached them and encouraged them and supported them and defended them and ended up covered in verbal manure intended for them?

I know opinion on Wenger is getting increasingly divided. I still think he’s the only man for the job at the moment and I’d be absolutely devastated if he left. I also think that (some of) the players owe him better than they’ve shown him this season. That’s just an opinion, but I know it’s one shared by many. And, as with everyone associated with the club, I’ll back them 100% until the day they are no longer associated with the club.

This season has been difficult, to say the least. Even old Polly Positivity over here is outwardly admitting we won’t be winning the title this year (inwardly a tiny part of me is yelling like a drunk aunty at a wedding that we’ll do it, but I’m trying to restrain her, should she make the rest of me believe it and thus leave me with an even further broken heart come the end of May). But you know what? The season will start again. We will get to fix the holes in the ship over the summer and set sail again in August. There is still a battle on in the league, make no mistake. Give up now and we could lose our Champions League place as well as all of our hair. But when all’s said and done, now is the time we need to stick together. In summer, changes can come. Right now though, finger pointing will be futile. Regretting missed chances and massive mistakes will only make you greyer. The past is the past and will never be anything more than the past. The future is what’s ahead. Short term, it’s to back the team until the last minute of the last match this season. Long term is more complicated. But let’s just get through this bit first.

31 Comments

  1. Rob Fuller
    2372 days ago

    Well said Siany. Wenger is owed a lot from some of those players. He’s taking the blame but we all know the blame has to be shared and the players should show some dignity and respect to repay the faith Wenger has had in them despite their shortcomings this season. I hope he has the mental agility to pick himself and the team up and make the necessary changes and tweaks made ready for next season. In Arsene I ‘STILL’ trust.

    Reply

  2. Akshay
    2372 days ago

    Excellent blog post again, Sian. Agree with every word in it.
    People need to realise that there is NO use slagging off the team when there are 4 games left to play and an automatic UCL spot to secure.
    We know, Arsene knows, changes have to be made. So why not get behind the players and the manager till te Final whistle at Craven Cottage and then wait for the summer.
    More than anyone else, I feel really bad for Arsene. I was shattered after seeing the pic Arseblog tweeted. These players need to give it their 100% for the next 4 games, for Arsene, if not for anyone else.

    Reply

  3. AnnMS4
    2372 days ago

    Great piece as usual. Spot on about Arsene. I think he looks ill to tell you the truth. Needs to turn off football competely for a few weeks once the season is over. But he won’t he lives & breathes the game. I thought that Cesc & Robin had another great game, looking sharper then they’ve done in ages. Just a shame it’s a bit too late. No world cup or euros this summer so hopefully everyone can rest up. Maybe Jack could pick up a little injury in the 90th min against Fulham which means he has to miss the Under 21 thing. Still have to fight for the CL spots, but Sp**s have to play Liverpool, Man City & Chelsea so someone other that us is going 2 drop points so think we should be ok. I’ve my sea legs & am reporting for duty on old Polly Positivity.

    Reply

  4. Gary
    2372 days ago

    Good blog Sian, pretty much sums up what Im thinking right now.

    Its a brave Arsenal fan that steps into twitter after results like this but as soon as I started seeing people screaming for Wenger to go I ended up wading in to try and defend him as much as I could.

    Do things need to change? Yeah IMO things do have to change. Wenger leaving is not one of them. Some players should leave and new players brought in. Id also say that some changes to the staff would not go amiss either.

    What I hate seeing of late is Wenger and how he is reacting etc. People were calling him a quitter and someone who doesnt care for this club! Can they not SEE him at the side of the pitch? He lives and breathes this club and every decision that happens on this pitch. If half our team showed his passion and dedication when we play we would be champions year on year.

    It does look like he is getting stressed tho. He looked devestated after the match, and his post match interview was quite candid. A few people said to me that he is not looking well atm…as if the pressure and stress is reallly getting to him.

    He shoulders ALL the pressure, all the responsibility for every action we have on and off the pitch. He never sticks a player in it or critises the board to the press. The board now need to step in and help him out here a little. Wenger does IMO to much at the club – he should be given help from someone to take stuff off his hands to let Arsene get back to doing what he does best. Being a manager.

    I have been positive all season long but I think its now time to say we cant do this anymore. And yet we cant give in yet..Man Utd next week is huge and must win even if its only to restore some lost pride. That finishing 4th after the season so far would be horrible and a final twist of the knife. Need to ensure it doesnt happen!

    When the summer comes twitter will be full of who we are signing, who we aint, how much we all hate Stuart Pearce for killing Jack Wilshere at a pointless tounry etc and the love affair will start all over again come August. We have been so close for the last few years….with a few changes I really believe next season could be a landmark year.

    Regardless we still love our team and support them regardless. Thats what it means to be a fan!

    Reply

    • Sian
      2372 days ago

      I love your comments Gary. Yeah takes a brave person to go on Twitter after a loss, think it will take a downright crazy one to go on it over the summer! Spot on about Wenger too. He needs a rest on an island with no satellite signal.

      Reply

    • silentstan
      2371 days ago

      we have NOT been close “these past few years” apart from one season in the last 7 inc this one, we have been double figure points of the top. once it was 24.
      we are NOT getting better

      Reply

  5. Mark K
    2372 days ago

    Great blog,

    Agree, all we need is a bit of tweaking on the summer.
    The worst thing to happen would be to lose Arsene.
    Come on Arsenal.

    Reply

  6. Simon4Arsenal
    2372 days ago

    Hi Sian, Great piece, love your blog (can’t wait to read it after every game). Spot on, let’s support the team to the end. Arsene knows what to do and he will do it over the summer period. He was right when he said that the home form / results will be the outcome. If the games we lost at Emirates were draws and the draws were won… you make the math… We have great team, they must stick together for many years to come, lose some players and bring in some. Come on You Gunners!!

    Reply

  7. Georgie
    2372 days ago

    I have to say, I agreed with arsene today! It is his fault! We have had problems with set pieces for years, even when we were winning trophies. After the Wigan away game he said “no one seems to take responsibility on set pieces”. Over half our goals conceded comes from set pieces! What is he doing on the training ground all these years to fix this? I will also say I don’t want him to be sacked or resign but big changes are needed!

    Reply

    • silentstan
      2371 days ago

      i hear we do not have a specific defensive coach. that is criminal. we have conceded 36 goals so far and over 20 have been headers. that is outraegous

      Reply

  8. Mhills
    2372 days ago

    Hi – I have 2 arsenal season tickets sitting next to each other available for next season. If you are a real fan and genuinely interested please email me on: marrisahills@gmail.com

    Reply

    • Sian
      2368 days ago

      If you’ve not found a buyer yet, I’ll put a shout out on Twitter.

      Reply

  9. Gooner Steve
    2372 days ago

    Why are the author of this post and all you commenters feeling so sorry for Wenger? For the last few years everybody who knows even the slightest thing about football has noticed that we need experienced players to complement our brilliant youngsters. To show them how to cope with pressure and how to grind out 1-0 victories when you haven’t played well. Two or three leaders to cajole them through the tough matches and teach them the mental side of the game.

    Stubborn Wenger ignored that and carried on with his youth policy.

    The world and his wife also saw that Wenger needed a dominant centre half to counter our vulnerability at set pieces, preferably a proven winner who could take Koscielny and Djourou under his wing and bring through their undoubted potential.

    Stubborn Wenger ignored that and carried on with his youth policy.

    He has been warned time and again by ex-players, pundits, journalists and especially us fans that relying only on youngsters and cheap second-rate stop gaps will not win trophies for our beloved club.

    Stubborn Wenger ignored that and carried on with his youth policy.

    So do I feel sorry for him? Hell no.

    Please don’t martyr him and make out that the players let him down. If anybody has been let down it is the fans – again – by a stubborn old fool called Wenger.

    Reply

    • silentstan
      2371 days ago

      spot on. the players can only give what they have. if you buy 2nd rate you get 2nd rate. ONLY wenger is too blame. This deification of wenger makes me sick

      Reply

  10. Tony D
    2372 days ago

    You have a good way with words Sian, a thoughtful and interesting blog.

    However, I have to agree with Gooner Steve that our illustrious Mr Wenger is the reason we are not going to win anything this year. Undoubtedly, the players have played their part in this self-destruction of the second half of the season, but ultimately, it’s the manager’s tactical nous and buying strategy that counts the most. Not buying key players over the last two seasons have cost us dearly. Players, such as Alonso, Reina or the cost effective Schwarzer and Cahill or one of many experienced, tall centre backs would have made all the difference.

    Wenger has always been poor at buying defenders, Cygan and Sendros, to name only a couple clearly illustrates this. The latest two additions this year have also underlined this point. What is worse is the defensive coaching is abysmal at best. Wenger inherited the best-experienced back line in the country; however, he hasn’t employed any of them as a full time defensive coach. In a word: criminal! The question we all are asking is why not?

    Another question us long suffering fans are asking is why keep players at a club who clearly don’t want to be there? In my view, Wenger should have sold Fabregas and taken a chance on Nasri and Wilshire and bought an older experienced playmaker with Barcelona’s cash.

    There are many other relevant Wenger orientated questions I could bring up here, but I want to keep this as succinct as is humanly possible given the capitulation mode we find ourselves in once again.

    What is extremely worrying is that Wenger is beginning to run out the same end-of-season comments as before, such as “I’m to blame”, “I don’t need to buy”, I’m not going to change my youth philosophy and “I’ll only buy a player who is going to improve the squad” The latter begs belief because, when you have Almunia, Denilson, Rosicky, Diaby, Eboue, Bendtner, Squillaci and Clichy as the yard sticks of technical excellence and ability, surely it wouldn’t be hard to find an improvement for any of the aforementioned.

    Unlike many disgruntled goners, I am not writing here to say that Wenger should be replaced unceremoniously, but he cannot continue as he has over the past few seasons. That argument has too many permutations and consequences to say in one short blog. However, if he is not prepared to see what we can all see as the team’s deficiencies and admit his youth plan isn’t working without an infusion of experience, then a new manager has to be the answer. Personally, I would bring back David Dein as he was an essential part of the successful Wenger era. David and Wenger worked well together and I believe they could again and I would get rid of Mr Hill-Wood before Wenger.

    With that in mind, I also blame the board for allowing the lack of silverware as they have profited too much at the expense of the club winning trophies. Yes, we need to be financially sustainable, but football is also a results orientated business. Most of Mr Hill-Wood’s comments have clearly indicated what the profit orientated motive before team improvement mentality is at board level. Haven’t they made enough out of their share dealings at the fans’ expense?

    We are now moving into the American commercial & marketing world of the new American owner and I wonder, as an experienced and successful management consultant in my mid 50s where that is going to take us? Are we going to be a successful brand first and foremost or is winning trophies equally as important? I’m not convinced the latter is the priority.

    If Wenger has to go, apart from the obviously choices from Spain, I’d like to see someone like Andre Villas-Boas who is having unprecedented success at Porto given a chance.

    I’m grateful for all Wenger has done and what he has brought to the club in the early years. He brought radical changes and made an above average squad into an amazing winning team. Just as much as Wenger was an innovation, he’s not anymore and he needs to move on bring in changes of personnel and playing philosophies for next season with plan ‘B’s and ‘C’s and a substitutes bench that can raise the tempos of games and make a difference.

    Just one more thing, would anyone like to see a confident winning team mentality with leaders all over the field? What a thing that would be to see as it was in the ‘Invincible’s’ era!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

    • silentstan
      2371 days ago

      how could anyone forget the magnificent STEPANOVS.

      Reply

  11. Gordon
    2371 days ago

    I cancelled my cable since the Blackburn match, positively sure that we have no chance in hell to win any cups under Wenger ever since. Switched to free online streaming and it’s the best cost savings I have done in decades.

    Saw the bolton winning goal in laggy, near to mosiac quality and I did no feel a thing at all I swear. It’s great for my heart and when my missus said we need new utensils for the kitchen 10 minutes after the match, I even managed a “Sure thing Honey. Let’s get in the car”

    The Arsenal love is as dead as walking zombie after 7 groundhog nonsensical years in 15 years as a Gooner. Suggest you lot do that the same to make up for quality with family and friends that Arsenal has managed to make you insult them for no whatsoever reason after Arsenal “glorious, I-have-pay-premium” matches. Save your own hair because Arsenal is definitely not saving them for you.

    Reply

  12. Drjlancaster
    2371 days ago

    Great blog, yet again.

    I too like to think of myself as an optimistic Gooner, but the Arsenal of the last couple of months make that neigh on impossible. At the beginning of every game, I 100% believe we can win. By the end, I’m sitting there head in hands. I feel betrayed by the players, we know they are capable…Yet time after time, they let us down.

    Reply

  13. Yinka
    2371 days ago

    Great job as always. These all, will make us winning the title next year even more ecstatic.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2368 days ago

      Cheers!

      Reply

  14. Girl Gunner
    2371 days ago

    hey Sian, first i must say i’m glad that you haven’t lost trust in Arsene(i knew u wouldn’t :) ) and you remain positive even through a heartbreaking period like this for every arsenal fan…

    well change is needed and some players need to do better next season to repay wenger for all the man is shouldering just to protect them, i believe we have talent but just a bit of work needs to be done here and there at the end of the season, no doubt,but now, lets unite for arsenal and try not to lose the automatic UCL spot….

    Also i cannot believe people are actually questioning wengers passion for the club and they are saying he doesn’t care..SERIOUSLYYY??

    i still trust and believe that wenger is the man for the job and love the gunners.Arsenal fans, let us not divide, come on…peace and God bless<3

    Reply

    • Sian
      2368 days ago

      :) Thanks Girl Gunner! Yes, those saying Arsene doesn’t care can do one, because they couldn’t be more wrong. I’m just looking forward to next season now.

      Reply

  15. Gooner_Vin
    2371 days ago

    What hurts is that actually we seem to be regressing, not improving over the last 7 years.

    In Fabregas we have one of the world’s finest players. If he’s this good in this team, can you imagine how brilliant he’d be surrounded by more proven players? That will be a huge regret when he finally goes, probably not having won anything of note.

    I really don’t think the malaise that we’ve had (in not being able to deliver when it counts) over the last few seasons can be eradicated by this set of players. Surely it’s always going to play on their mind that they could implode again like they’ve done in the past?

    You’d have thought the pain of going through this previously would be the fuel to drive these players to absolutely give everything to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    The team looks like it runs out of answers when its ‘A’ game isn’t working. Maybe it’s Arsene that’s run out of answers.

    Reply

  16. 1NilToTheArsenal
    2371 days ago

    I hope you don’t get bored from the constant compliments Sian, but great a great blog. Again.

    Look, IMO, of course Wenger is still the man for the job, but of course he isn’t perfect. He’s pretty much in shock right now but I believe he’s smarter than he is stubborn and may this season will be it – he’ll do his best to accelerate the appropriate changes to bring us back to success.

    I also appreciate that you feel for him, but as you’ve said the boys need to step up and speak out and shoulder their responsibility responsibly to the club, the supporters and most especially their manager. He has stuck by some of these players far too long for my liking and they have not delivered. Let’s see if they can win for Wenger this Sunday.

    As far as our season and any lingering hopes for a Man U meltdown, does it really matter anymore? There is such a huge contrast between our two clubs right now in the sheer ability to win when it counts. In reality it all went pear-shaped after the Carling Cup. We need to play out the season and try and get ourselves sorted out before we talk of trophies again.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2368 days ago

      I think it’s almost a given we’ll win on Sunday now. It would be pretty fitting with this theme of ridiculous things to have happened this season wouldn’t it?

      Reply

  17. Shubham
    2370 days ago

    He ‘s a top top manager who has taken Arsenal to the very top. I know he’s look a bit jaded on the sidelines and has become kind of hopeless but if he’s really a great manager(which I think he is), then you can surely expect him to come stronger from this slump.
    Also, he’s admitted that he’ll strengthen the squad where it is required to. He also has openly criticized his defence which he never has done earlier. This shows he’s learnt from his mistakes and I do expect Arsenal to beat United next Sunday. I know the title is completely gone(by completely gone I mean no chance whatever might happen) but it’ll do the confidence of players a world of good.I think he needs some players but more importantly needs to ask his players to work harder like Barcelona. People say that our football is brilliant. But I’ll tell you what’s brilliant. Yes, possession football is brilliant but along with it is clinical finishing. So is a defender putting his body on the line. If all this is done, then we’ll become a title winning team. Not now.
    This man breathes Arsenal and loves it more than any of the Arsenal fans. I know there’s no place of sentiments in football but who do you think will replace him. And do you think that no top club would want him.The thing is, Arsenal have a youth policy which cannot be forgotten. Someone like Mourinho would just not care about the Wilshere’s, the Ramsey’s and co. That means the whole of 5 years wasted. Wenger would surely figure out what’s wrong and if he cannot cope with the pressure, I think he’ll leave by himself.Yeah I know about him respecting his contract but I know that he’ll leave for Arsenal’s future. I again mention, Arsene loves Arsenal FC and given it more than anyone could ever do.
    Check my new Arsenal blog:
    http://delhigunner.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/a-spot-to-fill-which-players-should-arsene-wenger-buy/

    Reply

  18. Graham Yates
    2369 days ago

    http://www.wherehasourarsenalgone.webeden.co.uk/#

    Time to be heard….

    Reply

  19. irishgray
    2368 days ago

    Hey Sian, would just like to thank you as this season draws to a close for always having the unending ability to always pick me up and point out just how great our team is when we are at our lowest. In as much as I enjoy your posts when we win, I feel it is when we lose that you really shine. I know I do not post myself that much but I do make an effort to read all of yours, sadly it is not always possible, but when I do it restores my faith as such. So just a tip of the hat in your direction, a well deserved one too I might add.

    The fat lady has not sung just yet and although we may not win the league, lets just hope we can beat Manure. Give us that at least.

    Keep our flag flying high Sian,

    IG.

    Reply

    • Sian
      2368 days ago

      That’s really kind of you to say, IG. Hopefully next year, I won’t have so many opportunities to do this though, eh Arsenal? I seem to remember you were one of the first commenters when this blog started so thank you as well!

      Reply

  20. irishgray
    2368 days ago

    Sian you are most welcome!! It was recommended to me by a friend who is no longer with us, but he was lucky enough to be there when Thomas scored THAT goal so do not grieve too much :) Keep it up sweetheart, we need more people like you even if you are irreplaceable.

    Reply

  21. irishgray
    2368 days ago

    Sian as an aside your blog is still the old listing on A Cultured Left Foot, you should ask them to change that :)

    Reply

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] and jaw dropping football. Although they are more divided than they were, I think most Arsenal fans still believe in Arsene Wenger. In my mind they’re fortunate to support a great club regardless of the trophy count. I doubt [...]

  2. [...] ‘Even old Polly Positivity over here is outwardly admitting we won’t be winning the title this y… [...]

Post a Reply to Rob Fuller

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *