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Saturday 24 September 2011

The Times They Are A Changing (but surely not the Totts!)

(apologies, as I didn't get around to posting last week's diary piece and when my thoughts were superseded by Tuesday's Carling Cup triumph, I really wanted to write something different, but having not got around to it, I thought that unlike the Gunners, I could at least maintain a consistent record, even if a tirade about zonal marking hardly seems so relevant after beating Bolton 3-0 and keeping a clean sheet against Kevin Davies and co. in the bargain - then again, I'm sure that most who witnessed this afternoon's encounter will freely admit that the fact that Sczczny's goal wasn't breached all afternoon, was more a reflection upon the failure of Owen Coyle's mob to get the ball in our box, than, sadly, any indication of some miraculous improvement in the Gunners' lamentable defensive organsiation, but my musings on these events to follow)

After 11 consecutive seasons of my weekly ravings in my diary missive, it's not exactly an uncommon event for me to find myself staring at my laptop on a Sunday night, with the flashing cursor in the corner of a blank screen, a constant, irritating reminder of my struggle to think of anything original to say. Last night was a little different because it's hardly as if I'm short on material, considering the Gunners recent woeful plight.

To the contrary, a run of bad form is invariably always much more inspiring, offering loads more material than when the Gunners are on song and I find myself scouring through my well-thumbed Thesaurus for adjectives that I haven't used a hundred times before, to depict the same act of the ball hitting the back of the net. Sadly my struggles to put a novel slant on yet another successful Arsenal display have been all too far and few between so far this season.

But while I was left with plenty to whinge about after a gut-wrenching weekend of more Gooner disappointment, I really didn't want to join all the other rabid, spoilt Arsenal ingrates, who are positively foaming at the mouth at present, indignantly demanding that they deserve to be watching a more successful side, as if it was our G-d given Gooner right. With the pond scum of the Red Tops media seemingly revelling in their role as the gravity, giving downhill momentum to the snowball that is the supposed perception of the Arsenal as a club in crises, I certainly didn't want to play any part in adding grist to this particular mill, with yet another heat-of-the-moment tirade slaughtering our manager.

We all know Wenger has his faults and sadly in recent weeks our manager's weaknesses have become increasingly impossible to ignore. Personally speaking, his preference for zonal marking at set pieces is my biggest bugbear, as I've yet to encounter anyone who has been able to provide me with an acceptable explanation of the supposed advantages to a zonal system of defence. I accept that a zonal system might possibly work, when adopted by an extremely well-drilled defence, amongst players who have been playing alongside one another for so long and so consistently, that they have the sort of intuitive understanding between one another, to know exactly where the boundaries of their responsibility lie.

However IMHO this still doesn't prevent them from being susceptible to the opposition getting the jump on them, when attacking the ball in the box and converting forward momentum into vertical height, compared to someone who's competing with them from a standing start. But in a defence where the combined effects of rotation, injuries and suspensions inevitably result in a fairly constant change in the starting line-up and where we have squad members who've only been playing with one another for a matter of weeks, where some of whom barely speak the same language, there cannot possibly exist the sort of understanding between them which would allow a zonal system to flourish.

To the contrary, it seems to me that to continue with a zonal system is a recipe for disaster and it's likely to be the cause of the sort of finger pointing which will inevitably have a detrimental impact on team spirit. At least when a defence adopts the more traditional man marking option, players are tasked with responsibility for containing a specific opponent and there's no room for argument, if said player escapes the attentions of his marker to head the ball in the back of the net. Whereas in a zonal system when an opponent rises in the box to head home, completely unchallenged, they are all left staring at one another and blaming each other for failing to protect their zone.

Nevertheless, as much as I fear for the Gunners fate, should we persist in this patent "zonal" madness and as much as it makes me wonder whether Arsène does indeed "know best", I'm not about to defect from the AKBs, to climb on this futile AMG (Arsène Must Go) bandwagon because such disunity can only be more damaging, at a time when as "supporters" our help is most required, to present a united front, in the face of the most serious threat to the Arsenal's esteem (lest we forget Wenger's remarkable achievement of the perception of the Gunners as a force to nbe reckoned with in world football) that we've endured during le gaffer's long tenure.

Keep the faith
Big Love


You know the Arsenal must be in big trouble, when even your Spurs pals begin commiserating with you. No matter how tiresome it’s been in recent seasons, playing the bridesmaid, never the bride, we’ve always been able to take great comfort in the fact that things could be a lot worse, supporting the no-hopers at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road.

However with Tottenham trouncing the same Liverpool side that beat us at our place a few weeks back and with Redknapp’s squad suddenly looking a far more viable shout for a Champions League berth than our shell-shocked troops, we find ourselves having to come to terms with the possibility of the shoe being on the other foot. After having grown accustomed to lording it over our neighbours for so long, such a grave fall from grace is too much to bear for many Gooners!

All I know is that we badly need a result against Bolton next weekend in advance of our trip to White Hart Lane and rest assured that I’ll be travelling there on my motor-bike, so I’ve an excuse to wear a crash helmet. If Wenger is under pressure now, it’s likely to be a positive cake-walk, compared to the sort of flak he’s going to come in for, should the swing in our respective fortunes be ratified by an embarrassing defeat against our fiercest rivals.

Yet as we well know this funny old game of ours is a fickle mistress. Blackburn fans would still be calling for Steve Kean’s head on a plate, if it wasn’t for the Gunners generously propping up his managerial career with the gift of two own goals on Saturday. I like to kid myself we were merely looking out for one of our own, by helping to keep his assistant, John Jensen in gainful employ.

Perhaps I’m as stuck in my ways as our pig-headed Gaffer, but for all Arsène’s apparent faults and despite even his positively suicidal preference for zonal marking, I refuse to join the growing legions of Gooners who’ve lost complete faith in our not so glorious leader. At least not until someone convinces me of the availability of a more capable alternative.

In the meantime, in spite of Arsene’s drastically reduced odds in the sack race, as far as I’m concerned, any such speculation is pointless because he’s far too honourable a character to give up the ghost willingly and walk away whilst still under contract and none of the nodding-dogs on the Arsenal board have demonstrated themselves to be in possession of the sort of cajones necessary, to be capable of kicking such a giant of world football out on his ear.

So for better or worse, a quickie divorce is not on the cards, at least not until the corporate boxes become vacant and the tills in the Club Level eateries stop playing such a profitable tune. It’s not our position in the league table but its impact on the balance sheet which matters most to the Arsenal’s beancounters and so only when the income begins to evaporate would they be forced into pushing the panic button.

Unfortunately Arsène appears equally detached from footballing reality. A more visceral boss might’ve been more inclined to appreciate that an inclement outing to Blackburn was no place for our new Brazilian left-back’s debut. But Wenger has his head stuck so far up his statistics, that he’s completely out of touch with such intangible instincts. Likewise, the purchase of a new centre-back shouldn’t have been dependent upon the same sort of value for money quotient of someone considering cosmetic surgery, ie. how many additional inches per million pounds spent; when what was really needed was a “money is no object” acquisition of a player with the force of personality to knock our defence into some sort of shape. We might have a team of titans by now, if only strength of character could be measured on the same Excel spreadsheet our manager uses to compare pass completion rates!

I won’t exactly be recommending dull as ditchwater Dortmund as a holiday destination and with their 88th minute equalizer the Krauts hardly sent us packing with the most endearing keepsake. Yet on the back of our serendipitous triumph against the mighty Swans, there was much talk of the Gunners getting our season back on the rails, after grinding out a draw in Germany. Truth be told, our defending was no less shambolic than at Ewood Park and it could’ve been an equally disastrous start to our Champs Lge campaign, if It wasn’t for Dortmund’s profligacy in the final third.

I guess we’d better hope for an outbreak of a mystery illness in the Barca squad, as right about now our only prospect of qualifying for the competition next season would be by winning the bloomin’ thing! As for me, with the required expectation readjustment, I’m focusing on the Carling Cup. Then again, the way Wenger’s luck is going, by the time you read this Shrewsbury Town might’ve already spoiled our best hope of a trophy for yet another season!

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