North London derby: Wenger’s litmus test


Kasabian: ” Where did the love go?”
Lets face it. Tomorrow is a big match not just for these obviously narrow reasons. Not only is fourth place at stake, it is a match against the proverbial snapping North London shih tzus who are now and only now getting a hefty bite of that ankle and have suddenly gotten lock jaw.
This match represents the last chance of igniting the dying embers of Arsenal’s pride almost extinguished after that colossal show of ineptitude against Milan followed closely by that subjugation to Sunderland.
No, the bigger reason a loss would be devastating would simply mean that it is incontrovertible proof Arsene Wenger has stopped inspiring his players. Despite the uncharacteristic verbal lashing given to the players after the Milan loss, the Gunners lost tamely to Sunderland in a blizzard of self inflicted wounds, injuries, and lack of ambition. That hairdryer moment made no difference in the end even as it has become rote for Sir Alex who seems to always get a response when he demands it.
For many a loss to the Spurs would actually come as relief as it could mean the hastening towards an exit and an open mutiny if the board continues to persists in its policy of blind faith in a manager going on 7 seasons without any title big or small.
Even those who have a more progressive interpretation of success would find a hard time weaving a positive spin on an adverse result. One can argue that a loss would mean an end to Wenger’s revisionism of considering coming fourth as some sort of trophy. After all there is only so much revisionism one can indulge in before running out and being confronted by the grim reality of your own shortcomings.
For Wenger to continue unscathed, tomorrow’s result must be an Arsenal win. The board came out with a full throated endorsement of the manager before the match. But if I were them, more attention would be paid to the distinct rumblings of discontent in the trenches and terraces which could erupt into open disenchantment if Arsenal folds abjectly to Spurs.
Arsenal in seasons past relied on its midfield for any chance at success. The present midield is a weakened and bowdlerized version that leaves the defense exposed and RVP isolated up front. Wenger needs a positive response from Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and Alex Song who have been big let downs in the last two matches.
Usually Wenger is more concerned with Arsenal’s execution of a plan paying lip service to possible opponent match ups. But there needs to be some cognizance of how Spurs play pushing up the flanks and the big gaps in the middle where they have capitalized scoring some big time belters. This is exactly the time to roll out tape and study them case by case. Arsenal’s is not the dominating midfield of yore and in fact, rather slow getting the ball out to the flanks. It has to pick and choose where it can do most damage.

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