Don’t Blame Cech, Blame His Mates! Stan Speaks…
Did I dream the invincibles? Keown at Old Trafford? Keane v Vieira? Wright and Schmeichel?
This was all under Arsene’s watch: spite, anger, aggression, leadership, fight, grit: call it any name you like, in blunt terms, bottle.
So how has one of the great managers gone from a beautiful balance and blend of technical, physical and mental to the nicest group of boys in European football?
Don’t get me wrong, they can play, by god can they play. 4-1 was the most popular score at the Emirates last season, a testament to rapier like movement, a desire to entertain, score lots of goals and win matches.
But what about when it gets hard? You know, like Mark Noble made it yesterday: grafting, grinding, sliding, hurting. Like Diego Costa makes it when he’s in your face; like John Terry makes it when he throws his body on the line in the box? That’s when the nicest boys in European football go missing and I witnessed it with my own eyes for the umpteenth time yesterday.
No Adams giving out rollockings, demanding more, demanding an equaliser; just pass pass pass, see where this takes us, and often in the last 5% of games that matter in an Arsenal season, it takes them only to 3rd or 4th.
Don’t blame Cech, his back 4 should have dealt with Kouyate at the free kick and Zarate in open play. They didn’t.
Don’t blame Giroud, he’s a decent mid-level Premier League striker, but the Agueros and Costas win you leagues. Giroud helps in those 6 games to win a Cup, not the 38 to earn a title.
I couldn’t bring myself to say Arsenal were in a title fight, and although it’s only matchday one, I know I’m right.
Why? Arsene decided to leave out the one ingredient that every Premier League winning team needs: Leadership.
Mesut Ozil Messing Santi About
During the game yesterday I saw a man who was so confident, so alive and so influential last season, slowly losing confidence minute by minute: Santi Cazorla.
As a central midfielder last season, he pulled strings, passed crisply, scored goals and generally ran the show, but yesterday he was shifted out to the left to make way for a man who is seriously underperforming in an Arsenal shirt: Mesut Ozil.
Some Gunners will have you believe he was magic at the end of last season, that with a proper striker in front of him, his quick thinking will find a Benzema and the assists will flow.
I’m afraid to say, though, from what I’ve seen of him, he looks like a player mostly hiding from the responsibility to drive his team forward.
Supremely talented, yes, big trophy winner, yes, but in games like those against West Ham, he’s the man who should have arms out, demanding the ball, skipping past players, providing urgency to Arsenal.
Like many in red though, he merely faded away, hid for spells and let the Hammers and a 16-year-old kid in Reece Oxford boss him. Imagine a 16-year-old boy on his debut showing more leadership and initiative than a World Cup winner?
Last season Santi didn’t let that happen, he DID get on the ball, he DID make sure he was the man who drove the team forward so why shift him wide to accomodate someone in Mesut Ozil who isn’t consistent enough to depend on?
But hey, Arsene knows best, doesn’t he?
I was on Call Collymore when Geoff Peters, our man at the Britannia, screamed down the line “Oh my goodness, a wonder strike from Coutinho”.
The one reason why I believe Liverpool will compete this season (I still have them as 5th) is because there is no Sterling and no Suarez to rock the boat, letting Brendan get on with his job of coaching players without the constant questions in press conferences about the latest wantaway red.
So after Coutinho’s goal yesterday, I’m sure lots of Liverpool fans, like an old number 8 like me, stopped for a moment and thought: “If Liverpool don’t finish top 4, he’ll be off next season”.
Come on, be honest, we all thought it, and therein lies the problem for even the grandest of clubs these days: no Champions League, no chance of keeping the best players.
Gone are the days of players helping teams into the top 4 and walking away with a satisfactory “I helped you get there”. No, if a player fails – like Sterling – to get a team into the top 4 they just up and go to another one.
I hope Coutinho bucks the trend, scores his wonder goals and has the satisfaction of helping one of the world’s great clubs back to where they feel they belong.