“The pitch was so poor in my opinion and the game suffered a lot from it,” he said. “I ask you, ‘Do you want a good pitch or a bad pitch?’ What do you say?”
There you have it. In order to protect his team, Wenger’s rationalizations for Arsenal’s continued defeats against their peers now border on the very absurd or the very petty.
Ironical when you think about it – the fact that he touts the players as having matured and then gets thin skinned at the faintest hint of self criticism. If he really thinks that the present squad have transitioned to manhood then they should be able to take it on the chin. Which means stating unequivocally that the team seems to have a real problem against Man Utd and Chelsea. That is the first step to rehabilitation.
The next rationalization is that it is too early in a season that resembles snakes and ladders. Yes, mathematically Arsenal are competitive but such enervating losses leads to a death from a thousand cuts. Self belief is the essence of such success and the Gunners just don’t have it.
Not even the presence of the Chilean miners gave Arsenal the hope to crawl out of the hole that Man Utd have created in recent years. Where did those blood letting contests of yester-years go? Rarely does a team play with such little passion or alacrity as Arsenal did in the last five minutes. Instead we were treated to this woolly headed exchange of meandering passes.
There is an astuteness missing from the Gunners psyche – the sort that recognizes moments such as Chelsea slipping up against Spurs on Sunday and the ability to seize them. The failure to do so has become legion. Wenger’s pretzel logic leaves them with little clarity for such improvements.
The match itself never really rose to any great heights – the highlight was Nani running at Clichy, a contest from which the Utd player was able to derive two moments of satisfaction. Setting up Park Ji Sung’s goal (he is Drogba like when it comes to Arsenal). The spot kick should have never been given, Clichy’s foul was clearly unintentional. But it gave the immense satisfaction of seeing Wayne Rooney screw up after a peculiarly angled run up. He is now just over-rated and overpaid.
At the other end, Arshavin’s considerable talent is now used in spending most of the time flat on his back. Nasri and Rosicky going through the middle became as predictable as a Prince Phillip faux pas. There was the defense to crowd them out. The one time Nasri got through, Van Der Saar did enough to push the ball just out of Chamakh’s reach although the Moroccan should have been sharper. That was Arsenal’s best chance but other than that Van Der Saar was quite untroubled.
With 15 minutes left Wenger brought on his substitutions. But they did not work. Fabregas looked off and has done so for a considerable part of the season. It’s a bit unnerving but there might be a bit of the Gerrard – Lampard conundrum that Arsenal maybe facing with Nasri’s ascendancy. Van Persie is still to find his touch, Walcott and no footballing brain continue to be synonymous. Getting tangled up by his own legs was impressive.
Wojciech Szczesny, pressed into emergency service had a very good debut. He was a bit nervy with his goal kicks and ball distribution but unlike Fabianski was quite assured plucking the ball in the air. There were two great saves off Anderson and Rooney as well. The back line did quite well too with the much maligned Koscielny putting in a good performance.
It’s clear even if Arsenal were to mysteriously win the title, it will have to be because either Chelsea or Man Utd stumble against lesser opposition. Because they are powerless to do so on their own.