This isn’t how it was meant to be

The 1st October 1996 the face of Arsenal football club changed, Arsene Wenger a French man resembling more a professor than a footballing manager arrived from Grampus Eight in Japan. With his arrival he brought a swashbuckling style of football, literally changed the face of the English game, new training methods, different styles of play, Arsene took on an old-fashioned English side made a few additions & took our football club to another level.

Arsene Wenger

Arsene has had many accomplishments in his 19 years, both individual and for the team, 15 Manager of the month awards, 3 manager of the year awards. He’s amassed 14 major honours for the football club including 3 league titles one being an invincible season. Managing Arsenal for an incredible 747 premier league matches gaining 1478 points with a 58% win record. For me one of his biggest achievements is overseeing the move to the Emirates Stadium, something that had to happen, we chose to do this with little investment off our own back, Arsene clearly was restricted in the transfer market being forced to sell key players year in year out whilst retaining our top 4 status keeping Arsenal among Europe’s elite clubs. For all this Arsene deserves great respect, but this changed when we were able to sign Mesut Ozil, followed by Alexis Sanchez the following season. 2015/16 was the 3rd year of being able to invest freely without having to sell players & this blog will be discussing a few of the talking points from this year.

The Current Squad, Investment?

As mentioned the previous 2 summers we’ve made incredible strides in the transfer market, we brought the best number 10 in the world to the football club in Mesut Ozil, then Added to this with Barcelona’s Chilean live-wire Alexis Sanchez. Along with these huge signings we added depth to the squad with David Ospina, Callum Chambers, Danny Welbeck & Gabriel Paulista. Going into this summer I was of the opinion that it was vital that we added a defensive midfielder & an additional winger/forward. As it happened we became the only club in Europe’s major leagues to not sign an outfield player in the summer. Despite this the current squad still has more than enough quality to compete at the highest level providing Francis Coquelin avoided injury. We have cover in every single position baring the reliance on a 33-year-old Mikel Arteta who had been out injured for 8 months previous & the worst midfielder ive ever seen at Arsenal football club in Mathieu Flamini.

Even coming into January although its notoriously difficult to sign players in the winter window we could have done something about the situation, Arsene signed just 1 player again, Mohammed Elneny an Egyptian from Basel. In my opinion Wenger’s dealing in the transfer market this season have been nothing short of a shambles & have had a HUGE effect on our year.

Painful to see the struggle.


Despite the quality of our squad when you look through the season and analyse individual players performances you’d seriously have to ask the question “Who have we seen the best of in 2015/16?”. For me only 2 players stand out as performing at a consistent and quality level and they are Mesut Ozil & Nacho Monreal. Despite this I would still argue we have been nowhere near getting the best out of either player or in fact any player in our entire squad. Not one attacking player has benefited from Wenger’s tactical approach this season, Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain & Aaron Ramsey are just a few who have struggled offensively. We’ve also seen our defenders be left horrifically exposed on numerous occasions & left hung out to dry by the way Wenger has been setting up the side. I discussed at length the tactical failing in this blog but I’ll touch on my feelings here aswell.

For me the main cause of our downfall this season has been Arsene’s insistence on playing inverted wingers, on both sides of the pitch we have a huge over reliance on our full backs to provide width, this impacts both our offensive and defensive play massively. Firstly in defensive areas we have seen far too many sides exploit the weakness that this style of play creates, so many teams have found it far too easy to sit back and pounce when the opportunity occurs. Both Hector Bellerin & Nacho Monreal find themselves caught far too advanced on far too many occasions, we’ve seen team after team instruct their striker to pull into the space vacated by the aggressive full backs, pulling our CB’s apart and exposing them 1 on 1 time and time again, literally as recent as Adebayor moving into that space exposing Gabriel 1 on 1 in wide areas at the weekend, we’ve been woeful in defensive areas this season and this is a huge huge part of it. In attacking area’s the facts really don’t lie. We are on course to having the lowest goal scoring total in the last 15 years in the premier league, so many players have been unable to affect games in the correct way its extremely frustrating to see players of real quality struggle massively. Lets take a look at individuals and how it has affected them this season.

Olivier Giroud – Where do we start? Olivier is a player of huge ability, he’s 6ft4 brilliant in the air, with his back to goal he is one of the best in Europe but we seem to be doing all we can to eliminate every singl1437840557614_lc_galleryImage_Football_Arsenal_v_Olympie one of his strengths. Olivier in many ways is a fox in the box, if you deliver quality to him he will be on the end of it, he’s superb at getting to the near post ahead of his man & thrives on wingers hitting the byline and picking him out. In an addition to his goal scoring exploits Giroud has the ability to bring others into play, without runners from wide areas and deep we will never see the full potential of Giroud at Arsenal, he for me would comfortably score 30+ year in year out if we utilised him. The perfect example of the struggles he’s faced this season with inverted wingers would be to look at how little crosses our “Wingers” have provided for him this season.

Player Amount Of Crosses Made Assists
Mesut Ozil 169 18
Alexis Sanchez 105 5
Hector Bellerin 104 4
Nacho Monreal 97 2
Aaron Ramsey 80 3
Theo Walcott 23 3
Joel Campbell 20 3
Olivier Giroud 21 4
Alex Iwobi 11 2

Incredibly of Giroud’s 20 goals this season just 4 have been assisted by our “Wingers”. This indicates as much as anything the narrowness of our attack and reliance on our full backs to provide the width, Mesut Ozil has made the second most crosses in the premier league this season. Our wingers playing on the wrong side of the pitch mean that they are constantly coming inside, in order for Mesut Ozil to find space he continually has to get into wide areas, if he doesn’t then we see our full backs making the crosses. Far too often they find themselves in good crossing areas but due to being defenders they don’t deliver with required quality. Olivier Giroud also finds himself having to move into the wider areas taking away all the main qualities of his game, it’s becoming increasingly frustrating watching us ruin him.

Mesut Ozil – This man? One of the greatest players to play under Wenger. An incredible brain, his movement, intelligence, ability to find his man. He executes things that we could only dreaming of thinking up. Mesut still looks set to break the Premier league assist record and looked on course to win the PFA plaMesut-Ozilyer of the year this season until Arsene Wenger reverted to playing wingers on the wrong side after the Alexis Sanchez injury. Mesut Ozil thrives off of movement, you can be the best and most creative passer of the ball in the world but without the run these passes can never happen. Playing Theo Walcott on the left-wing and Joel Campbell on the right since Christmas has completely killed Mesut’s charge. Before christmas Mesut had 15 assists in 16 premier league appearances, since the changes he’s managed just 3 in the next 15 appearances. It’s also interesting to note that since Christmas Joel Campbell started 10 matches on the right-wing, we won just 2 of those 10 matches and Ozil assisted in just 1 of those matches. Inverted wingers are clearly a detriment to Ozil’s game, misses the out to in runs from wide areas, its painful to watch.

Aaron Ramsey – Aaron for me is the ultimate scapegoat this season. So much abuse has been directed his way and its all completely unjust, the man spent months as the mainstay in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield but alongside the worst DM wAaron-Ramsey-Arsenal-captaine’ve ever had at the club. Flamini’s inability to retain any sort of position, to have any sort of discipline and knowledge of the game left Ramsey high and dry. During that period he made more ball recoveries, more tackles, more interceptions and way more passes than any other Arsenal player on the pitch. If we had of seen Santi Cazorla or Mohammed Elneny play alongside Flamini for a spell you’d be able to appreciate Ramsey’s huge importance. He misplaces the odd pass, makes the odd wrong decision but something he certainly does do is make things happen, a lot of people have been raving over the Egyptian Denilson in a wig making multiple sideways passes but the harsh reality is in that position your impact on the game is far more important. Aaron Ramsey needs to be at CM alongside a disciplined DM, his ability to create chances, arrive in the box at the perfect time, feed off of and work with Olivier Giroud is so important to the side. Ramsey is the complete box to box midfielder but you couldn’t possibly pair any midfielder in Europe alongside Flamini and him look gwoz theo 3ood.

Theo Walcott – Theo more than any has received incredible amounts of abuse this season, its painful to see a man who has made well over 300 appearances for The Arsenal, who has contributed so much to our football club. People state that he hasn’t improved in 10 years but this is nonsense. In fact he’s extremely effective and always has been, take a look at this comparison to some of the greatest wingers in Wenger’s reign

Player Mins for Arsenal Mins Per Goal/Assist
Walcott 19,840 128
Ljungberg 23,046 235
Pires 19,898 182
Overmars 9,328 252
Sanchez 6,911 119

Theo really came into his stride in 11/12 season getting double figures goals and assists. He continued this form getting 21 goals and 16 assists from HIS POSITION in the 12/13 season. Again in 13/14 pre cruciate ligament injury Theo was on fire, unplayable at times, yet since his return he’s never had to opportunity to play WIDE RIGHT, in his position on a consistent basis. Walcott on the left-wing doesn’t work, he’s an “Option” at CF but nothing more than that. Wenger’s reluctance to play wingers has completely killed Theo this year as well as many other players. Despite his season being a “write off” he’s managed 16 goals and assists, recording one every 126 minutes. In comparison Oxlade-Chamberlain has just 4 goals or assists in his last 50 premier league games, recording just 1 every 643 minutes of football, he’s also started 27 of those 50 games so people s assumption that Ox doesn’t get a chance is way wide of the mark.

Plan B?

Next on the discussion is Wenger inability to react to game situations, to make game changing substitutions, to manage the match as it happens. It almost seems to me that Arsene has his way and there is absolutely no chance of changing that way, 70 minutes we will make subs regardless. Some of the decision-making has been incredible, on more than one occasion I’ve been in the emirates this season and a substitution has been roundly booed by Arsenal fans. For me it began on the very first day of the season, 1-0 down at home to West Ham, well on top Wenger decided inexplicably to sacrifice Francis Coquelin and throw any shape we initially had out the window, this resulted in a simple counter attack which wouldn’t have happened with our DM still present. On many occasions this season I’ve watched us falter, fail to hang onto leads & be tactically outwitted by even Zagreb. As recent as West Ham (A) we were 2-0 up 7 minutes to go until half time, West Ham have one of the most dangerous CF’s In the premier league in the air. Instead of Arsene reacting, ensuring Alexis Sanchez & Alex Iwobi tucked in deep and wide preventing the delivery from the full backs until half time, he allowed them to stay narrow, allowed the West Ham full backs free delivery and we suffered. There’s just a real lack of invention, of reaction and frankly a lack of management. This has been present from the first day of the season until this very day. Its Wenger’s way or no way.

Unrest at the Emirates?


I’ve seen a lot of Arsenal fans having a pop at the people like me who attend the Emirates on a regular basis lately, the atmosphere (or lack of it) is there for all to see but there are very good reason for that. When we are paying over £1,000 a season to support the club we expect to see a performance, to be entertained & at very least to see a manager and XI players who show the desire, passion and pride in our shirt. Here are a few examples of just how bad its been at home this season.

  • Arsenal have scored less premier league goals (24) at home than Newcastle United (26)
  • Arsenal have the 3rd worst chance conversion rate at home in the premier league just 9%
  • West Ham, Liverpool, Olympiakos, Spurs, Chelsea, Southampton, Hull, Barcelona, Swansea, Watford & Crystal Palace have all taken something away from the Emirates
  • Arsenal have had more than 2 shots on target in the first half of just 3 of 15 premier league home games this season.
  • In our last 10 games at home Arsenal have had just 3 wins.
  • In our last 10 games at home Arsenal have had just 3 clean sheets.
  • In our last 10 games at home Arsenal have scored just 11 goals.

Our performance at home this season has been nothing short of a shambles, we’ve seen the same tactical failings, negative predictable approach and often the same end result, disappointment. It’s almost laughable to abuse the fans who work week in week out to afford to follow this football club, we deserve far better with what we have. The Palace game was painful as painful as the rest, 2 defensive midfielders watching Coquelin attempting to play through balls, look at the situation any way you like but it’s just not been good enough.

2015/16 Summarised

We as Arsenal fans have become accustomed to hearing the words “Judge us in May” for a fair few years now, unfortunately for us the season was well over before May this time out. Decimated by a championship side 3-0 and dumped out of the Capital One Cup in OCTOBER. Our annual 2nd round stage Champions league exit at the hands of Barcelona occurred in MARCH. We were again shockingly dumped out of the FA Cup at home against Watford in MARCH. We also find ourselves 13 points behind Leicester City sat in fourth place in APRIL. Its gutting the way this season has panned out and quite frankly it could end up becoming a lot worse.

Arsene Wenger deserves all the respect in the world, he’s a living legend, an Wenger,Distraught480icon. He should have the West Stand at the Emirates named after him but its time to step down. His negligence in the transfer market, the blind faith in his tactical inability. The lack of in-game management. Playing Flamini over 20 times this season and not replacing him. It’s a horrible way for this incredible man’s reign at Arsenal football club to come to an end but for me it really is time to say thank-you so much for everything but we need a change. Nobody wanted to see him go like this.

Tomorrow night is going to be a tough tough game to attend.

The Arsenal



Warren Ratcliffe

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