Friday, 26 October 2012

Poor preseason or Steve Bould to blame for Arsenal's slump?

On the face of it things couldn't really get much worse for Arsenal at the moment. Everyone seems to be having a go at us. The latest piece of bad news comes from TalkSport who report that former player Stewart Robson says he has heard there is a 'rift' between Arsene Wenger and his new assistant Steve Bould. If that is true, it's very worrying to say the least.
'I hoped that [when Steve Bould was appointed] he would do more with the defence but I’m not sure whether he’s being allowed to do that by Arsene Wenger.
'I think there might be a rift in the camp between those two from what I’ve heard.'
I'm not sure if rift is too strong a word a word, but there may be a clash of footballing ideologies. Events on the pitch would seem to bear this out. Earlier in the season Bould was rightly being praised for the work he had done with the defence as we looked more solid at the back, but has his influence on the side become too great? When Wenger has been in the stands this season for Champions League matches, we have lacked a bit of creativity going forward. Against Norwich this seemed to have crept into our Premier League play. Is this because Bouldy places too much emphasis on defence and that as players are working harder and getting into positions defensively they taking away too much from their attacking play? Possibly.

At the end of the day, it will take time for the new partnership to flourish. It is too early yet to say 'Come back Pat Rice, we still need you'.

I disagree with the majority view that if you keep Cazorla quiet you stop Arsenal from scoring. That is not the problem in my opinion. The problem as I see it is that no one is making the runs for Cazorla to pass to them in dangerous positions.

We seem to lack sharpness and confidence at the moment and already look tired at a very early stage of the season, which is worrying. I personally put that down to our poorly planned preseason. We went on a tour of the Far East and seemed to spend more time doing publicity than getting practice matches in. By the start of the season I think Podolski, for example, had only played one half of one match. That simply isn't enough. It isn't good for player fitness and it isn't good for team cohesion. It showed at the start of the season against Sunderland and Stoke when we struggled to score and it's showing again now, big time.

And then there was the AGM yesterday at which many fans voiced there concerns and frustrations to the extent that, by all reports, it almost turned into a free-for-all. Arsene Wenger came under fire for repeating the mantra that qualification for the Champions League is like winning a trophy. To some extent it is possible to see where he's coming from - qualifying for the Champions League can be looked at as being like a promotion that you have to achieve every year. If a Championship club could sacrifice their chances of promotion to the Premier League to win the FA Cup, would they? I don't know. Fans want trophies. No one ever says 'do you remember where you were when we qualified for the Champions League in 2011'?

One blog that I read was titled 'Are Arsenal biding their time or wasting their time'. I think this sums things up pretty well. We are on a solid financial footing and things look good for the long-term future, but will the club ever fulfil it's potential or will we continue to loose our best players every season and have to start all over again? Only time will tell.

There are a few things that offer some crumbs of comfort. Wilshere and Sagna are in contention to be in the squad this weekend, though we still have quite a long injury list (don't we always?) including The Ox, Szczesny, Fabianski, Walcott, Gibbs, and the apparently perennially injured Diaby and Rosicky.

After Santos' dire performance against Shalke 04, I wonder if it might be prudent to bring Sagna in at left back. He certainly couldn't do any worse than the Brazilian who had probably the worst performance I have ever seen from an Arsenal player in over thirty years as a fan. Even worse than Brian Sparrow's performances in 83/84. He was more use for the opposition than he was for Arsenal!

Arsene Wenger says that Jack Wilshere will return a better player after his injury. We could certainly do with a fit and fully functioning Wilshere at the minute. We could also do with having Chesney back. Mannone has done okay, but he is prone to the occasional error and doesn't inspire confidence in the defence as Szczesny does.

The emergence of Serge Gnabry has also been a bright spot. He only had a few minutes to impress in each of the matches against Norwich and Shalke, but he looked sharp and I think he will be 'the biz' in the years to come. But the fact that we have had to call upon an inexperienced 17-year-old says a lot.

And we are also on the brink of signing a new shirt sponsorship deal with Adidas, which would be worth £25 million pounds per season, as opposed to the £13 million we currently get from Nike, which should boost the transfer coffers still further.

Arsene Wenger has said: "what is important for us now is to bounce back and have a good result in the Premier League". I seem to remember him saying something similar about bouncing back after our result against Norwich. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

Some Arsenal blogs such as Arsenal Arsenal are questioning whether fourth place is achievable. I think, however, that that is excessively pessimistic.

It is always worth remembering one thing: When things are looking their best, they probably aren't as good as you think they are and when things are looking their worst, everything probably isn't as bad as it seems.

Mark Hughes will no doubt instruct his players to 'get amongst them' (i.e. kick them off the park) on Saturday, but I still expect us to beat QPR and I still expect us to qualify for the Champion's League. Eternally optimistic? Maybe.

As they say, however, things can only get better.

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