From The Heart: A Must Win That We Bottled

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‘We work hard all season for this period’ said Arsene Wenger at his pre match press conference; if we work hard for this period and perform like we did on Sunday, we may as well not bother working hard in the first place. 

As I saw on my seat at the final whistle at Old Trafford, extremely disappointed, watching the fans leave the ground, I thought to myself ‘bottled it’. I used those words a few more times when conversing with fellow fans leaving the ground and on Twitter. The next thing I saw was everyone was using it (I am not claiming responsibility, don’t worry!) including people on TV and media.

For me that showed how everyone was thinking the same thing – usually you get some people thinking we played well or we were unlucky but here, I struggled to find a single fan who didn’t think we bottled it. We had a handball shout at the end of the first half and from where I was, it looked quite close, yet not me, nor anyone else tried to use that as an excuse. In an ordinary game, a decision such as this which can level the game is HUGE, yet no one even wanted to use that as an excuse. It highlighted the mood of Arsenal fans leaving Manchester.I’m a positive person, I love the club, ‘love’* the players, the manager and go to the majority of games excited and believing Arsenal will win the game. After yesterday, I’m struggling for motivation. The team cannot score, too many players are out of form at the same time and the is a severe lack of confidence issues with some players.

Alexis Sanchez is badly out of form and getting frustrated with his team mates and himself, Aaron Ramsey seems intent on holding onto the ball for longer than he needs just to ensure he does not give it away, Theo Walcott seems so scared to receive the ball, he hides away, Hector Bellerin is having a dip that anyone of his age would be expected to have, Olivier Giroud cannot score and Francis Coquelin is struggling to get back to the level he was at pre injury. That is far too many players to carry and near impossible.

Another problem this season has been that I’m not sure Arsene Wenger has ever really known what his best team is. We played our best football of the season with Santi Cazorla in the middle, Aaron Ramsey right and Theo Walcott upfront. The first twenty minutes against Manchester United or the performance against Bayern Munich (despite Ramsey going off injured) were incredible but you got the feeling that Theo Walcott was never first choice up front and since his injury, has looked nowhere near good enough to start but to coincide with that, Giroud has gone through a patch where he cannot find the back of the net. Ironically, his last goal (his second at Anfield) was for me, a terrific striker’s goal. He received the ball, had a small trick, created space and turned and shot – something Torres used to do in his prime. He has since produced two sublime assists for Walcott and Ozil but with a lack of goals in other positions, the pressure on him to score is much bigger. If Alexis and Ramsey were scoring then Giroud doesn’t have to carry the cane!

I actually don’t think there was much wrong tactically for either of the last two games – certainly not against Barcelona when we obviously had a press at half way strategy which was working but we just got a little excited and lost the game in literally one moment. At Old Trafford, when I saw the team, I was genuinely excited with all the pace on show but for whatever reason, they all bottled it! Even Flamini wasn’t in the squad, much to the delight of many!

I don’t know the answer to this but I began started thinking about what sort of work do we do with the minds of the players – I remember Liverpool working with Steve Peters and the reason why I remember the name is the work he did with Ronnie O’Sullivan in which he worked with Ronnie and persuaded him to play in the World Championships when Ronnie was struggling to even pick up a cue.

I have no idea what Arsenal do and I’m sure a club like Arsenal would be doing something but it seems there is a real mental block at some grounds, against some managers and maybe, some outside help could get them through moments like this – I’m no expert and I’m sure many will tell me I am wrong.

I believe the players are quality, yes some are out of form, some are struggling and some are low on confidence but no one will convince me that they are not good players and that they are not good enough to win the league. I try and stay out of the Wenger In or out debate because:

  • 1. The love and respect I have for him makes it very difficult (although, I question his decisions daily)
  • 2. Because we cannot control anything that happens in that boardroom.

Henry Winter’s tweet about a lack of leadership in the board room really hit home to many people and even if you believe Arsene Wenger is great, he should be accountable and should get, what we would call ‘performance reviews’ – off course again, these may happen anyway but it shouldn’t matter if you a CEO of a major company or a football manager, you must be accountable to your employers. Even if that is just to bounce ideas around, question decisions etc.

Again, there is no excuse for yesterday, it was a complete bottle job in what was a must win game – the title dream for many is over and I would tend to agree but to say true to myself, some positivity for you:

Spurs and Leicester have never been in this position, you can argue so haven’t Arsenal in recent years but Arsenal have some experience in their squad who have. 11 games is a long time in football (unless you are in the middle of a fixture congestion!) and there will be plenty of time for the other teams to panic. Leicester have a tough May and Spurs have a tough April, teams will look to sit deep against Leicester which will make it harder as we saw against Norwich and on top Kante is out for two games.

Momentum can shift very easily and if Arsenal were to beat Swansea and go into the NLD and somehow win it, the table will look very different – it’s a VERY big IF but equally possible.

Problem is, do you trust Arsenal to win their remaining matches? I’m not too sure anymore….

Up the Arsenal, as always.

 

*love doesn’t mean I think some are useless or dislike them but if they belong to Arsenal football club, they have my backing

 

 

 

Akhil Vyas

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