PLAN B FROM PLANET WENGER

In the wake of the defeat against Inter Milan, many Arsenal fans were left with the distinct impression that their team only had one way of playing, and if their imaginative attacks failed to overwhelm their opponents then the team had no real idea about how to overcome effective defensive tactics. Having failed to score when they had the best of the early exchanges, Arsene Wenger’s side then were outthought and outplayed by Inter’s impressive outfit to such an extent that the final ten minutes of the match saw the home team’s attacking options being reduced to Kanu lamely trying to get his head to lofted balls humped towards the Inter penalty area by Pascal Cygan playing at left back. This was most definitely not the beautiful game in action. Since then, Arsene has done his best to supplement Arsenal’s undoubted offensive attributes with the more basic facets of the modern game, and the outlines of a Plan B have begun to emerge.

So then, B is for... Bottle. If anyone has shown the guts and determination needed to grind out results when silky skills are just not enough, then it’s been the player of the season so far – Kolo Toure. After the Inter debacle (when, it has to be remembered, Toure kept the score almost single-handedly down to just those three goals conceded) Kolo put on a superb display at Old Trafford, epitomised by his teeth-clenching response to his only (minor) error of the day when he misplaced a clearance.

His refusal to let a bad result erode his self-confidence is not only testimony to Wenger’s faith in him, but also stands in stark contrast to the complete shattering of belief that we witnessed in Igor Stepanov after the last time that the Arsenal squad were similarly humiliated. Since then, defensive shortcomings have let in goals against Newcastle and Liverpool but overall the back four looks to be finally finding some kind of shape in the post-Adams era and Kolo Toure has made an emphatic statement that he intends to be part of it.

B is also for... Belligerence. An old Arsenal trait this one, but none the less welcome after it’s reappearance during that 0-0 draw with United and it’s retention through the three matches since. Keown may be the public face of Arsenal at their snarling nastiest, but seeing ‘Ralph’ Lauren square up to that Ruud Boy shows that the spirit of Nutty and co is still alive in our defenders. For too long Lauren has appeared to have an attitude that epitomises the ‘no Plan B’ Arsenal. Play the beautiful game and when it works, fantastic. But if it doesn’t, well, don’t blame me boss. For a belligerent streak to appear in Ralph, out of all of Wenger’s signings, shows that playing in close proximity to the Keowns of this world will eventually rub off on even the laid-back Lauren. Long may it continue, no matter what the FA decide to do in retribution.

B, unfortunately, is also for Boring. The result in Moscow may have not been enough to suggest that Arsenal can actually escape from their current Champions League predicament but the odd bore draw away will do wonders for the rest of this season’s Premiership campaign. Sometimes we have to accept that we are not playing well enough to justify winning a match, especially if we’re lacking midfield drive throughout the absence of Vieira. In these situations, a 0-0 draw is perfectly acceptable. Two in the last four matches shows that Wenger is, at last, taking our defensive shortcomings seriously.

B is also for Bobby Dazzler! Drop our most creative player for two games then let him come back in time to score the winning goal with a screamer at Anfield. Genius management!!

Finally, B = Bloody Bad Behaviour!! After all the media hoo-hah surrounding the so-called ‘Battle of Old Trafford’, English football has suddenly found itself subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny due to the sordid sexual antics of a handful of Premiership players and the shopping habits of Rio Ferdinand. Amazingly, no Arsenal indiscretions have emerged in the press, making the fulminations of the anti-Arsenal brigade look even more pathetic than they did at the time of the OT handbags controversy. Suddenly, the behaviour of Arsene’s boys is looking remarkably civilized. Sol gets a ticking-off for waving his toes in the general direction of Djemba-Djemba and by the time the bulk of our first-team are up against the beaks at the FA, the ‘roasters’ of the press’s fevered imagination may have been named and Rio will have made an abject apology for missing his drug test. Plan B seems to be getting better all the time.

 


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