I have yet to see Arsenal put up a more pathetic, inept, and disjointed display of football than seen this evening at the San Siro. It was not just bereft of the rudiments of the sport, it was shorn of the most basic of English virtues, of spirit, of spine. The 8-2 lambasting at the hands of Utd one can take because we had so many players out through suspensions and injuries.
But it was not just the players, the rot began at the top, Wenger was outcoached, outwitted, and out and out made to look like an rank amateur by his Italian counterpart. There are two standard adages in sport: Put out your best XI and always study your opponents well beforehand. None was done.
If it were, Wenger would have prepared his team for a Milan midfield that compensated for the loss of creativity with a muscular, physical, and well oiled presence. Even Allegri pre-match characterized his team as a ham sandwich after so much champagne and caviar. He was honest in his candour because at least a ham sandwich is still edible - Arsenal looked like a stale loaf of bread in comparison.
Arsenal's lack of coherence was the direct result of Milan swatting them off the ball like flies in so rote a fashion, it was stealing candy from a baby. Tomas Rosicky should never touch a ball again. Never. He was pathetic. Ramsey was anonymous and Arteta went side to side as Milan sapped every bit of speed from Arsenal and slowed them down to a crawl playing their game. Which of course makes the absence of Ox all that more puzzling. The winger was sorely missed all of the first half and most of the second half. The Arsenal manager is a middling tactician at best propped up by the qualities of his players in the past.
At this point one really sees the glaring shortcomings in Wenger's coaching without that cover. He doesn't even pay proper heed to the best players at his disposal or to the best match ups. He has one plan which he executes without any preamble or thought to exigencies. The halftime substitution was Thierry Henry which Wenger thought would strike a note of terror in the Milan camp. Henry's is a lovely little story but it is not going to build a team or even dig you out of a hole. And if you must know, like RVP, he too waited in vain for the ball to arrive because all around the midfield was imploding. Finally, the Ox came on giving all a hint of a different game if he had been on but it was too late.
Give Milan all the credit for the 4-0 scoreline. Zlatan was too much to handle, Kevin Prince Boateng's opening goal was other worldly, and what can one say about Robinho? They deserved it but in reality they didn't have to do much for this team to capitulate. From Szczesny's poor clearance, to a botched offside trap, a Vermaelen slip up, to Djourou's laughable attempt to stop Ibra, it was all a comedy of errors. By the time it was done Arsenal had resurrected Robinho's career as sharpshooter. The Milan fans at the pub who were passing around a You tube clip a compendium of Robinho's misses before the match whooped it up as the Brazilian looked like he could shoot a ball through the eye of a needle. At our end, my mates were looking at each other and wondering aloud, "When did Arsenal become so sh*t?" The illusion is over.
You have to chortle at Ivan Gazidis's delusions of grandeur to optimize the "Arsenal brand" because we've not been savvy at tapping all that fan interest and monetizing it to its full. What brand? The one that can't string two passes together. Observing Arsenal fans tune out the game at the pub is an indication that Swansea and Nathan Dyer stand a better chance of selling T-shirts globally.
At this point no one expects Wenger to be fired because no one can. This board has no balls. Stan Kroenke is a soulless moneygrubber and Peter Hill-Wood is too senile. Achieving 5th will be the new 4th. Getting to the Europa League the new Champions League and the yardsticks of success forever be moved to accommodate a new reality.
The AKB crowd will promptly trot out the medieval ages Arsenal used to live in and point to Chelsea and Liverpool. Or course, the real perversion is that by giving us the taste of the good life, the manager and board now seem hell bent on reeling in those years. But with Wenger we will get cheap rationalizations, like " football is not a supermarket where you go in there and say 'give me a left-back please, and a right-back and a centre-back'. We have to find the players better to what we have."
Yes, there are better players and after watching this match, Eden Hazard has decided they all play for Spurs. Because even if it is a goal.com story, this sorry display will actually scare off any aspirational midfielder or player.