Morning all, last season’s game against Wigan was probably the lowest point of the campaign. It came after the spanking at the Camp Nou and the fluke at White Hart Lane.
It was the manner of the defeat, rather than the defeat itself, which so changed people’s opinion on the season and the team. We’d clung on almost till the end in the title race but so much about that game summed up the flaws.
We went 2-0 up and it was all a hilarious joke because Sylvester scored. The lack of concentration and outright complacency saw Wigan score three goals in the last ten minutes to win the game. Even writing about it now makes my toes curl. It was embarrassing. Speaking this weekend Bacary Sagna says we have to put things right:
If you remember what happened last year against Wigan, that shows we need to keep playing. Maybe we stop playing sometimes because we think the game is too easy. We need to talk more on the pitch and stay together.
It’s a poor indictment of a team when they acknowledge their own complacency but it’s not like this is a new issue. Here’s Arsene:
At the moment, I’m not sure we can focus all the time in every single game, especially when we think the game will be easy. We’re sometimes a bit too confident in the home games when we need to put some effort in.
Leaving the bit about the home games aside it all sounds quite familar. And that’s from just after the Hull game in September 2008. Towards the end of the 2008-9 season I remember quotes from both Sagna and Clichy talking about a ‘lack of focus’ and how a chance of attitude was needed. So this, despite us being aware of it for a long time, is still clearly an issue.
It’s worth noting that on the day we played Wigan we had no Fabregas, no Vermaelen, no van Persie until the 89th minute and even no Gallas. The latter’s leadership skills leave much to be required but he is, at least, the kind of player who doesn’t like to lose. Without the drive of the others we coasted through the game, came undone in an awful manner, and it changed the outlook on our season in a drastic way.
I’m glad Sagna is talking about how we need to address this problem yet I worry about how many of our team are content to coast through their careers. I know people go on about how we haven’t won anything in five years but twice in that time we could have won the league. On one occasion we got ourselves in a brilliant position but faded away, the post-Eduardo trauma and the loss of important players like Flamini and Sagna to injury kicking in. Last season our chances were admittedly slimmer but we were there or thereabouts. Yet watching that Wigan game you’d never have known that.
Careers are short and when you’re in with a chance, no matter if it’s just an outside one, you have to give everything. We have players who, when they’re not being carried by those more ambitious and driven, don’t give enough. As I said, I welcome Sagna’s comments, it shows there’s an awareness of the issue but I’ve got the whole leopards and spots thing going on.
It is interesting to note Arsene’s comments about the new signings, Chamakh and Koscielny. He called them both ‘fighters’. He made the same reference this weekend to Wilshere and Frimpong who, he says, will be part of the squad this season. So perhaps that’s an inidication from the manager that he has had to import players with qualities that some of the current crop don’t have. As I’ve always said fans will never criticise a team or a player that gives 100%. There’s likely to be a hangover from last season as this one begins, that’s inevitable unfortunately, but it’s down to Arsene to get the most from the players he has.
Wenger’s teams have always been fighters. Perhaps a bit too fighty at times (Red Card Shame!) but you could never, ever accuse them of the kind of complacency we’ve witnessed in recent seasons. More than new signings or anything else that’s what’s got to change this year.
Anyway, before it gets all too miserable Sagna has also hailed the new boys, calling them ‘amazing‘. Both have looked good in pre-season but the proof of the pudding will come as things get underway properly and the pressure is on.
Thomas Vermaelen on Koscielny – he’s impressed thus far.
More hot air from Barcelona as former President Joan Gaspart says Wenger wanted to go and manage them but was blocked by PHW. He also says Sandra Rosell must go to London to talk face to face with AW because he’s a tricksy sort and you never know if he’s bluffing until you meet him in person. I have no great knowledge of Rosell as a person but if he can’t ascertain that Wenger is deadly serious in his stance regarding Cesc I would have to seriously question his intelligence.
Denilson on Cesc, and Puyol’s comments. Interesting to note Puyol has publicly denied them saying they were fabricated by the English press. I’m pretty sure they were made in Spanish and merely translated by the English press, but no matter.
And that’s about that. Just time to give you the winner of the Classic Football Shirts competition. I asked you to name three players who have played for Celtic and Arsenal. You could have chosen from Charlie Nicholas, John Hartson, Martin Hayes, Ian Wright, Jeremie Aliadiere and going back some, Joe Haverty. I may have missed others but pretty much everyone got some form of right answer.
And the winner of the shirt, or £150 credit on the @classicshirts website, as selected by the RNG is: Hayden Henderson. Well done to you, I’ll be in touch with more details and hard luck everyone else.