Gone are the days when a game between Arsenal and Manchester United would be one that could be chalked up as total entertainment. No longer do we have manager quips, no pizzas thrown, no jumping in the face of rival players. All we have now are two teams desperately trying to show that they are still relevant in the grand scheme of things in English football, currently being dominated by Chelsea and Manchester City.
But then again, perhaps as in the past, both teams seem to be in that similar stage where the players simply fail to turn up and could possibly be a show where the team that makes the lesser mistakes will end up winning the game.
For Arsene Wenger, this is a particularly important week, considering the disastrous way in which his team dropped a lead in the last two games. Fans have a lot of questions on the direction the club is taking, and there are 3 key questions that are facing the manager.
Long before the campaign started this season, Arsene Wenger and the rest of the world knew that they were at least one player (many would say 2 and they wouldn’t be wrong) short in defence after selling their captain Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona in the summer. After the sale, there was plenty of time to look for a replacement, with plenty of rumours going around that the club was poised to sign Ashley Williams from Swansea. For whatever reason that didn’t work out, but the club didn’t sign anyone either.
Most fans would have assumed that the reason Arsene didn’t go more strongly in the transfer market to find another replacement was because there must be a youngster waiting to fill in when needed. While Callum Chambers was signed from Southampton, it was assumed it was more of as a backup to Mathieu Debuchy, considering Arsenal loaned out Carl Jenkinson to West Ham. The transfer window closed, and the club creditably signed Danny Welbeck but no defender.
The results are there now to see, with Wenger not even trusting Hector Bellerin to play Right Back, has had Nacho Monreal to fill in at Centre Back (and he’s never played that position ever) rather than give Issac Hayden a chance. If the youngsters weren’t ready, a replacement should have been found in the transfer window, and this is nothing but gross mismanagement from the manager. How he is going to stop the defence from leaking goals is something all fans and neutrals would be watching.
How Arsene Wenger will ensure that his defence does not do another imitation of a leaky faucet against United is something everyone would be looking forward to.
Every fan who has watched English football enough will know that Arsene Wenger doesn’t do tactics. Time and again, in quotes or in numerous biographies, Arsene has made it known that he doesn’t really worry about the opposition because he believes that if they are able to execute their own brand of football well, then they will win no matter who the opposition is.
While it is an admirable approach, in the world of data, video analysis and complete exposure, it is completely naïve. Every Arsenal team that plays against any team, whether it is Burnley or Barceloan, plays only one way. While they have enough talent to prevail over the lesser lights, there is a reason why Wenger’s teams haven’t exactly had the greatest success against more proactive managers. Heck, they couldn’t even beat Moyes’s faltering Manchester United last season, somehow managing to lose against a team that set such record lows. While Louis van Gaal seems to be doing his damndest to beat Moyes, unless Wenger comes up with an actual game plan, it will be yet another draw or a defeat for the Gunners.
What must have players like Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky have done to Arsene Wenger that he has refused to deploy them at all this season? Podolski must be feeling particularly peeved to see Wenger resort to Yaya Sanogo, a player who has never scored for the club, to try and score a goal to save the game against Swansea over a player of his caliber; a player who has a known hammer of a foot and who, get his, has actually scored goals for the club. Not in some distant past, just a couple of weeks back when the team needed someone to bail them out.
Rosicky has been another admirable performer for the team, and has always shown urgency on the field, something his team mates, with the exception of Alexis Sanchez, seem to be lacking. Also, being the most experienced of the lot, he would have given some discipline and common sense to the rest of the team when they contrived to drop a 3 goal lead and a late one goal lead.
Consequently, both players don’t seem to be too happy to sitting on the bench, and who can blame them? It is almost a given that Podolski will leave in January, and it won’t be too long before Rosicky also considers his options.
Considering that the team is often beset with injuries, fans continue to fail to understand why the manager insists to run the same players to ground, causing multiple injuries to key players. Whether he will allow his squad players some game time in this game, especially players like Podolski and Rosicky remains to be seen.