Did chasing tin cost us silver?

Written by GoonerinExile

We all know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the depressing end to this season has led to many fans looking back to see what went wrong, and exploring theories for the pitiful end of season run in. We have heard people accusing Arsene and the team of lacking ambition, we have heard the players are bottlers, that the team is missing several key ingredients. I place my blame elsewhere, the pursuit of a worthless trophy.

I was never sure about going all out for the Carling Cup. During the Wenger years I have enjoyed seeing the potential stars of our future (with some assistance of a couple of senior pros) beating established teams. The delight of giving Spurs a whipping in the third round of the cup with a mixture of youth and experience would have done for me this year, bigger fish to fry for the team, but its always good to put those down the road in their place.

Unfortunately this season Wenger changed tack and appeared to give in to the demand for a trophy. He fielded more first teamers than normal through the rounds to ensure progression, four started against Spurs, three against Newcastle, five against Wigan, seven in the first leg against Ipswich, nine in the second leg, and ten in the final (which would have been eleven if Cesc had not been injured against Stoke).

Whilst this approach didn’t affect the results immediately surrounding the cup games it was adding 90 minutes football to legs which were set to get wearier. It also meant that Arsene needed to field weakened sides in the latter stages of the Champions League Group Stage to keep legs fresh when the Christmas fixture pile up approached and the team was playing every three or four days.

The killer blow to our season came when the team were riding high, unbeaten in the League since the 14 December, just beaten the best team in the world in the home leg of the Champions League Knock Out stages, the future was very bright and everyone was confident about the trophies the season would hold for us.

I am sorry to remind us all of the result and more regrettably the way we conceded that second goal, but that loss in that final killed our season. Since that hateful day in February we have won three of twelve games in all competitions (Leyton Orient (replay), Blackpool and Manchester United).

Three wins in twelve games!

Can anyone else remember a time when that has happened under Wenger, or any other manager?

The Carling Cup final was meant to provide our springboard to success, but unfortunately it became a dead weight around the necks of our players. Its as if they were convinced they were not winners that day, that somehow they didn’t deserve it, that they were too soft and could not compete when it mattered. They have failed to lift themselves from that disappointment.

Even if we had won the Carling Cup I don’t think it would have pacified the more disgruntled fans without additional silverware on top. There would still be fans calling for Arsene’s head describing the Carling Cup as Mickey Mouse, the most fervent of the Arsene out lobbyists would be calling for his head if we won the league as they would say that it was in spite of him, or because the league has weakened.

We have again made the Champions League and we will be back again to have another run at the Premier League. I ask fans to seriously consider whether we need to chase the Carling Cup, and maybe even the FA Cup. It is unimportant, it is for the teams without a chance of winning anything else. Let Arsene play the squad players and the youth, don’t expect the star names to come out to play, these non squad and youth players need the game time and the experience.

Lets forget the tin next year and lets concentrate on the big stuff, the silverware we would all love to see return to the home of football.

122 Responses to Did chasing tin cost us silver?

  1. chas says:

    Interesting, GIE.

    Who knows how this season might have panned out had we won at Wembley?

    I’m away all weekend, so have a great time on Sunday.

    Up the Arse. 🙂

  2. hal says:

    Couldnt disagree more. The Carling Cup final was an acid test. It was a moment when it was, at last, put up to the players. Can you win something when it is there in front of you, and bettetr still, when it is very unlikely that you will fail to win, given the quality of the opposition. It was, more than anything we have done in the past 2 years, exactly what the team needed. A test, but one that they should pass, and one which has the reward of providing us with the one thing the team is missing. However, as we know, they failed. That does not mean that the Carling Cup made them loose the league, it was simply a definitive, undeniable indication; a warning light that this was not a team of winners, and showed us that, when the bigger pot was on the line tehy would also, sadly, most likely fail. Playing the the Carling cup final was the best thing that could have happend to us. They simply bottled the chance.

    Can I say that a far far far bigger problem was the incredible hype (amazingly dredged up again here) of a very poor first leg result of a last 16 champions league game. A last 16 game!!! It was irrelevant if this was against Barcelone or Total Network Solutions. It was a bloody round of 16 game. And, to make it worse, a 2-1 home loss to a fine Barcelona side was actually a stinking bad result – yes to come back from a goal down was a good achievement, but the result all but guaranteed that we would go out in the second leg. So for me, it was the stupid media hyped non-event that was the second leg of a goddamn last 16 game that we were in trouble from teh first leg from that was the problem game, not a cup final when we could finally get our hands on some silverware.

    To sum up – Win carling cup – major highlight. Goes on the club honour board and we get to add a trophy to the Emirates mural (dont forget we havent got one since we moved there).
    Beat Barcalona (even if we win the tie)? If it is not a precursor to winning the Champions League outright (and it never would have been), complete total non event and not even worthy of mention in the history of AFC

  3. Red Arse says:

    Well written GIE, and a sobering look back to ‘what was’ as opposed to ‘what might have been’. 🙂

    I came to the same conclusions as you regarding the CC, but have a slightly differing view about its effect on out EPL collapse.

    For me, there has always been a delight in seeing our young stars of the future performing in the CC.

    Their sheer exuberance and their excitement at playing in front of big crowds in huge stadiums was infectious, and their delight in stuffing established players in oppo teams shone thru’, both for themselves and us.

    Why did AW change this approach? Well, despite his apparent calm and slightly aloof persona, I think underneath that public face, he is affected by the comments of the more vicious and hysterical fans.

    In addition, the more rational and fair minded supporters were also clamouring for trophies.

    He may well have thought it would get the monkey of his back if he acceded to all these demands and put ‘first teamers’ into the CC, simply to shut up all the detractors, and allow him to get on and win the league. It almost work, except for a freak goal!

    As to why our EPL campaign fell off a precipice, since the CC Final, is, I think, caused by a more problematic reason, and would have occurred regardless of the CC Final.

    It will be very interesting to hear all the other comments, but that shows what a good Post this is.
    Well done! 🙂

  4. dandan says:

    GIE. Your conclusions are so obviously correct that nothing need be added. Thank you.

  5. arsenal fan says:

    Actually i think if we had won the cc 75% of the people would have kept their mouth shut!
    He had done the same thing of playing younger players for 5 seasons before this has wenger won anything doing that thing!
    You look at manu they have played the same no of games as us do they complain about the strain of matches!Look at giggs the no of games hes played!
    Look at messi anygame hes out there for his team!
    we are still looking for excuses n nothings been done
    next season i hope not but will be the same

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    Great post GiE. It was a risky strategy to play a strong team in every CC game in order to win it. We will never know whether winning the CC this year, would have had a positive impact on our believe that we are good enough; on the basis of which we could have won more silverware.

    I agree fully with you we should not repeat this strategy for next season. The CC is a great competition to blood our youngsters and the senior players can do with playing less games, especially in the run up to the Christmas/New Year period.

  7. Morning all, thanks for a well argued and reasoned piece GiE yet I will have to be a dissenting voice.

    To me, the value of winning a trophy, however low grade it is, cannot be underestimated.

    That should have been a spring board for the remainder of the season. If our team had a squad who showed more discipline and concentration we would not have thrown away not just the final, but leads to the Spuds, Liverpool, the bar codes etc..

    I don’t think exercising concentration and defensive discipline should fatigue our players. A winning team seldom gets tired and squad players are clamouring for a place in this winning team.

    For me, this season’s collapse is due to a combination of a negligence shown towards defensive responsibility, players being picked regardless of performance and a far too sluggish approach in the opponents third of the pitch.

    There are other factors also but these main points, I believe, more than anything else are relevant.

  8. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Hal, you are saying some valid things. I think you are wrong though to simply treat our home win against Barcelona with such disdain. Both, the loss against Brum in the CC final and the home win against Barcelona have provided us with great insights. and I am sure that our relatively young and very promising team will have learnt very valuable lessons from both events.

  9. Anon says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head!

    The extra games that these games place on a squad playing week in week out makes it very difficult to sustain top level performances. Just look at our poor neighbours down the road, Champions League actually killed their season not made it.

    To keep on achieving a top four place while sustaining a fight on all domestic fronts is no longer possible. The physical demands are just too much.

    Admittedly there is and will remain to be a question of mental frailty within the squad and to an extent I agree but fatigue can play a part in this too.

    There is definitely work needed doing on the mental side of things, particularly with regards to the concentration levels in defence but things like that only improve with a fresh and focused mind.

    A tired mind and body is a killer and I for one agree that prioritising is the only way. The reality is that in today’s game the priority is;

    Win the Champions League (and qualify automatically for the following year)
    Win the domestic league (and qualify for the Champions League)
    Finish in the top four (Champions League again)
    Then come the FA and Carling Cups.

    I’d rather not win one of the domestic cups if it means not finishing in the top four, failure to do so leaves us very vulnerable going forward. I think that this year we just got lucky it was a weaker Premiership all round.

    There are things that need addressing, a need to find a way to install mental discipline. A need to find a way to be more ruthless but for me it’s evolution not revolution. Only get players in if they will add something, not simply for the sake of it. In the meantime support everyone who wears the shirt.

    Great article.

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    Well said Anon, especially your last paragraph sums it up perfectly:

    ‘There are things that need addressing, a need to find a way to install mental discipline. A need to find a way to be more ruthless but for me it’s evolution not revolution. Only get players in if they will add something, not simply for the sake of it. In the meantime support everyone who wears the shirt.’

  11. Carlito11 says:

    GiE- a well-argued article but not sure I share your feelings. I felt we the manager was right to pursue tinware as well as silverware. I also agree with Hal that it was an acid test that the players failed.
    Where I cannot agree with you Hal, was that the 1st leg against Barcelona “was actually a stinking bad result”. It showed that we can beat the best on our day. It showed that the manager does have tactical nous and it was up there with Ali’s “rope a dope” for me. It was also a night of glory at the Grove- one that will live forever in my mind and many of those who were there. It was a night of brilliant sport and a good result. There is no shame in only giving away one away goal against that side and I cannot stand by and see that match with all it’s positives disparaged in such stark terms!

  12. London says:

    Morning GIE

    An interesting post and certainly one that should generate plenty of debate. Had you written it at the beginning of last season I would have agreed whole heartedly.

    I am a firm believer that the FA Cup hindered the great team of 2004 and prevented it from going onto win the CL for all the reasons you have stated above; although, you are obviously referring to the CC cup and the present team which are both a step down it terms of quality.

    However, at the beginning of this season I did a 180 degree turn around and felt we really needed to go for the CC just to give a bit of self belief to a few players who seem to really need it.

    My conclusion is that I am in the Hal camp and I will remain there while the clubs philosophy puts more emphasis on bringing youth through than actually winning trophies. (this is an observation, not a criticism)

  13. Carlito – I forgot about that; definitely a great result to beat the Catalan Divers and that would have given them oodles of self belief for the second leg.

    There only a ludicrous red card for Robin stopped us going through.

    BTW, you are down as an attendee for the Tavern on Sunday, right?

  14. Wonderman says:

    GIE- A very good post, but one with which I do not agree. I think this year shows that Wenger cannot win.
    In recent years the call was, play a stronger team and get a cup in the cupboard. This year he does just that and there are now doubts about the decision.
    Aside from all the technical and strategic stuff, there is something called momentum in football which all successfull teams acquire and use to their advantage. We had it when we went to Old trafford all those years ago and won the league, and Barcelona currently have it. Prior to the Carling cup final I believe we were building momentum that would have propelled us to a charge on the league. As we know it was not to be.

    I think we have been victims of the same problems all season. Not scoring from a higher percentage of our chances and defensive disrespect.

    Also rememeber since the cup final we have thrown away 6 points from leading positions 3 times at Wigan, Liverpool and Spurs and failed to score twice against Sunderland and Blackburn. We didn’t look leg weary to me in those games .

    I believe win a cup and it gives you a platform to build from

  15. Carlito11 says:

    Hi Chary- sadly won’t be there on Sunday… have decided to prioritise family life as I’ve been unbearable this last couple of months due to football and the wife and I have had some difficult times with other family members illness etc. It probably smacks of “fair-weather fan” syndrome, but there it is- sometimes, just sometimes, there are more important things in life than The Arsenal! 😉
    My only regrets about not going are that I will miss out on the good company of AAers for the last time this season, and I will not be able to see and judge the Black Scarf walk with my own eyes and therefore have to filter the reports I hear in order to gauge what my own view of it would be…

  16. hal says:

    Hi TotalAresnal,

    I wouldnt say I feel disdain towards it. Its just that, even at the time, when people were going overboard about it, I was shaking my head in disbelief. WE were on the way out of the competition because of that result. Dont get me wrong, if we had turned it around to win the tie 2-1, I would have been cheering as loud as anyone. But at that moment, the CL was lost and most of us knew it.

    But, and I hate to prioritiese, because every game is important, even winning that tie would not even be in the same ball park when it comes to significance as winning the Carling Cup outright. Hype is a terrible thing. People tend to forget that, even during our trophiless 6 years, this team has had a whole succession of ‘Barcelona’ moments. Winning at the San Siro and Bernabeau spring mind, as do this years stuffing of the Chavs in the league. The problem with hypes is that it is just built up to sell newspapers or Sky subscriptions. If you loose the next round in the CL, beating Madrid or Barca is largely forgotten. Same with the league games – beating Chelsea counts for nothing if you fail to beat Sunderland or West Brom at home.

    Winning a trophy is something different. It is not deleted by subsequent results in other competitions. It cannot be taken away from you. It is a tangible irrevocable building block, and an endorsement of success. Yes, even the Carling cup. For those who dont believe me. Or worse, those for some ulterior motive want to ignore our failure in the final, I take you back to the 1986 League cup final with Liverpool. For me, and many of that genertation it was the defining moment in the rebirth of Arsenal. I still get the shivers thinking about it. The Michael Thomas moment may have been 2 years later, but, for those of us who were there, it was the victory over Liverpool in the League Cup final that made the subsequent glories (yes, even the early Wenger glories), not just impossible but actually inevitable

  17. Rasp says:

    Excellent post GiE and a topic that may divide us but certainly doesn’t add fuel to the Wenger out debate.

    I think AW did the right thing in pursuing the CC and rightly expected his players to be able to deliver. Having said that, I also agree with those who have said that the CC is an important platform to blood young players. Paradoxically, I suspect we’ve had fewer injuries this year than in recent years even with going for the CC.

  18. Carlito11 says:

    Hal “WE were on the way out of the competition because of that result. Dont get me wrong, if we had turned it around to win the tie 2-1, I would have been cheering as loud as anyone. But at that moment, the CL was lost and most of us knew it”- I don’t quite get you. We won that leg 2-1 which gave us hope. Did a solitary away goal mean that “most of us” knew we had lost the tie?

  19. Pity Carlito, but you are right to attend to things at home.
    Anyway, I’ll be so pissed I’ll probably think you are there anyway.

  20. Carlito11 says:

    Hal- completely agree with you about 86 and the comparisons made with Maureen winning the league cup as a springboard hold true as well I think. Losing at Wembley was the defining turning point of the season- GiE argues we shouldn’t have bothered. I would argue it was worth it to demonstrate that the character of the current team is not up to scratch and that this is what needs rectifying in the transfer window (alongside some heavy dfensive drilling pre-season)

  21. goonermichael says:

    We’ve dropped of in the league towards the end of the season for a few years now We can say it was becuase Eduardo broke his leg or because we lost the CC fact is it’s becoming so regular it gives the press ammunition to take the p**s. The mancs (much as I despise them) seem to get stronger towards the end. It must be training and/or mental attitude.

  22. TotalArsenal says:

    Hal, your arguments are very strong. Winning 2-1 to Barcelona at home was technically not enough, because they got the away goal. So in a pragmatic sense, I could not argue with you. I think we both agree that our current Arsenal team are not (yet) at the same level as Barcelona. Then, to beat a team as good as Barcelona, and I strongly believe that this is one of the best teams, if not the best, in the last 20 years, is still a great achievement: something to build on for the future. But, I don’t think you are disagreeing with me on this.

    I can see your point about the importance of winning a trophy, and in particular this year’s CC. Nobody could argue against that. We are getting closer to winning trophies, but we’re not their yet. By far the hardest part in change management is to move from a 8.5 to 10. It’s relatively easy to move from a 4 to a 7, as Dalglish at the Dippers has achieved over the last few months. But, we’ll see next year how hard it will be for him to move from 7 to 8.5, let alone from 7 to 10. Wenger is struggling to make the final improvement (from 8.5 to 10), as are many top managers everywhere.

    Many of us bath in the luxury of offering solutions, whilst not having the responsibility of deciding what to implement, or being ultimately responsible. That’s the great thing about being a footy supporters, and we all love it. If Wenger was to follow all the advice given, not a shred of our team would be left.

    I think we are closer to trophies than some of us believe. I trust Wenger to reflect on what needs changing, and he is absolutely capable of moving us a step forward next season.

  23. TotalArsenal says:

    HI Carlito11

    The defining moment for me was not the CC final, however disappointing it was. We had a bad game and were unlucky as well, but this can happen to any team sometimes. The defining moment was also not the 2nd leg in Barcelona, however disappointing that was. Barca are the absolute top at the moment, and the referee’s decision to send off RvP robbed us from our last chance to compete with them on the night.

    For me, the defining moment was our FA cup game at Old Trafford. There just was no believe left in our team on the day. We even did not play that badly and had a decent go at them. But our defence let us down, and MU had a stroll in the park that day. It was the third knock in succession (CC final, CL game, FAC elimination) and something broke within the team that day; we have yet recover from it this season.

  24. Wonderman says:

    Hi Total
    ‘Many of us bath in the luxury of offering solutions, whilst not having the responsibility of deciding what to implement, or being ultimately responsible.’

    Spot on !!! as our various solutions have no consequences and are not done in the glare of the media it is easy.

    To give an example on a very small scale. I was unable to attend one of the matches of the team that I managed and entrusted responsibility to one of the parents. ( they are a very good U12 team playing in an A division). As it turned out they won comfortably on the day. But the parent later confessed to me that whilst he enjoyed the experience he would’nt have wanted to be managing on one of those tight games where a substitution could either make or break the outcome.

    Having an opinion is always easy with no consequence

  25. TotalArsenal says:

    Thanks Wonderman! Are you teaching your U12’s the principles of Arsenal Totalfootbal?

  26. Gooner in Exile says:

    Morning all, ok, afternoon all.

    Thanks for comments. Glad it’s not one sided and we can have amicable disagreements.

    To be honest it is not the most pleasant task trying to see where our season went wrong. It’s interesting to see so many saw it as a test of their character.

    I think the team played well in the final, Foster (at the end of the day) was MOTM. One stupid beyond belief balls up does not to me indicate a failure of a mental strength test, it just proved that sh*t happens unfortunately. As I said to me it was a case of that moment allowing the same old press headlines about chokers. The two players were new this season how can they be habitual chokers?

    And let’s not forget the injury to RvP from that game led to him missing some key league games.

    Hal I agree with you about press/media hype, an unfortunate problem in the current era, teams go from hero to zero in seconds.

    Hal also you mention the League Cup win in 1987 being the building block of the rebirth, don’t forget we lost it in 1988 to Luton before next season winning the league…omens 🙂

  27. I completely disagree here.First of all, lets look at our recent games.No fixture pile-up, virtually no injuries and still we haven’t won many of them.I think if we’d won the cup, the fans obviously would have demanded more but the players would have got a huge huge boost.It would have got the monkey of their backs.But sadly we didn’t and that was detrimental to our season which collapsed after that defeat.Before that one, we were also beginning to grind out results such as the 1-0 against Stoke.But after that, the belief was gone and that sub-conscious know-how of how to win a game went away.
    A look at the conversation b/w Fabregas and Wenger:
    http://delhigunner.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/revealed-cesc-wenger-conversation-this-summer/

  28. Carlito11 says:

    TA- agree that the FA Cup game at OT was the final straw- I thinking about where the doubt started to set in rather than when the doubt ceased to be a phantom in the shadows and revealed itself to be solid and cast in pewter… semantics really and both cases can be argued with equal validity in my view 🙂

  29. goonermichael says:

    Tha game at OT could have gone either way. In the end they worked harder and wanted it more.

  30. TotalArsenal says:

    Agree Carlito11, the doubt started with the CC defeat. I like your poetic description: ‘when the doubt ceased to be a phantom in the shadows and revealed itself to be solid and cast in pewter’. Wow, are these your words or did you borrow them from somewhere?

  31. Gooner in Exile says:

    Think that sums it up nicely Carlito.

    The fact that so many of us who still believed in the team are now calling for major surgery is an indication of how devastating those weeks were.

  32. So, Kozzer is out of the game on Sunday(so are Diaby and Rosickly, but who cares?) while Fab and Nasri will have a late fitness check and, according to Wenger, Vermaelen will start and Clichy is back.

  33. goonermichael says:

    TV and JD? at least we’ll see that.

  34. jjgsol says:

    I must disagree with the suggestion that the rot started at Wembley.

    A win there would have been the catalyst that would have given the players the confidence to go further.

    It was correct to try hard to win it and the failure to do so would have had a bad effect on the players.

    However, in my veiw, we have to go back a few games, to Newcastle.

    Those crazy last 20 minutes were, in my view the start of the end of the season.

    They tore Newcastle apart and then the whole lot disappeared.

    From then onwards, in the knowledge that they lost a 4 goal lead, meant that they were always looking over their shoulders and had doubts nagging at their minds, and it is that which then set in trail the series of mistakes and lapses in concetration that littered the rest of the season and destroyed their best chance of success for ages.

    They succumbed to pressure, because they saw how easily and quickly even a 4 goal lead could evaporate.

    When I watch any of our games, and there is a corner or set piece in our part of the pitch, I also exhort the players to concentrate. They don’t listen to me far too frequently.

    Everyone makes mistakes, but they simply make too many.

    We were invicible because we had a strong defence. This is where AW now needs to concentrate.

  35. Just hope TV is not ring rusty, he needs to be ready as he is, of course, “like a new signing” LOL.

  36. Ha ha, old wino, alchy red-nose charged by the FA for comments about Howard Webb(their best signing in the Janusry transfer window) !

    When will that drunken old jocko gob-shite ever learn ?

  37. TotalArsenal says:

    Fair point JJGSOL, the Newcastle game was an absolute shocker: surrendering a 4-0 lead is unforgiveable.

  38. TotalArsenal says:

    C1966 – you are right to focus on the game this weekend. We can still become 2nd, so let’s go for it. Like Arshavin recently said (typically russian):

    ‘We cannot allow ourselves to indulge in sadness and melancholy’

    Would indeed be great to see TV and JD play together in defence.

  39. That’s right TotalA – I’m a big fan of the little Russian fella, my appreciation of him is on this blog a little while ago is here https://arsenalarsenal.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/arshavin-this-seasons-eboue/#comments , strange how he highlights the melancholy side of things, a point I made in my piece.

  40. Hi all

    Great talking point GiE – well done.

    I have another view, which is that AW was forced to put out a strong team for our first round game in the CC because it was against the scum – can any of you see him using Cesc and co against Wigan for example in a third round tie????????

    Once he’d upgraded the CC by using a stronger team I think he got bowled along with the idea that we might as well go for it and so the adventure began.

    I agree with jjgsol that the disheartening losing mentality was set at the Newcastle game even though I acknowledge that the referee had a part to play. To be 4 up and not win was in my view very damaging.

  41. Who’s coming for a drink on Sunday, chary I saw you talking to Carlito earlier and know that he’s not going to be there. GiE and Harry definitely will.

  42. Big Raddy says:

    GIE. Fine post, thank you.

    In this case you are preaching to the converted. I wrote a post last season about the value of the CC, however it must be said that once AW committed AFC to win it, then win it we should.

    As to the game that broke us, surely it was the Spurs loss. It still hurts me and I hope it hurts the team. 2 up after 27 minutes, the stadium is rocking and we are heading to the top of the table. 63 minutes later every Gooner is reeling. An unforgivable afternoon’s work and one that must have created doubts in the psyche of the team.

  43. Big Raddy says:

    Peaches. I will be there in spirit (probably a G&T)

  44. Hi Peachy, so that’ll be at least 4 of us there – any first timers fancy meeting up with us before the game ?

    Can we add Raspers and Evonne to make it the “Dirty (half) dozen” ?

  45. RockyLives says:

    Well argued piece GiE but I’m afraid I can’t agree with the main thrust.

    As someone who was at Wembley in ’87 I have no doubt that that win helped move GG’s young team on to the next level. They may have lost the league cup final in ’88 but at least they knew what it felt like to win something and that paid off in spades in ’89.

    The way the cards fell in this year’s CC we would have been crazy not to go for it with our best players. All the top teams were dropping out one after the other. It was almost as if a red carpet had been laid down for us to break our trophy drought. Unfortunately we got seven eighths of the way down the carpet then tripped and fell on our face, allowing some scummy little urchins from the West Midlands to skip over our prostrate form and pocket the silverware that should have been ours.

    GiE – you say we played well in that final and were unlucky. Sorry, but I think we played in a way that has become quite familiar – we weren’t bad and knocked the ball about OK but just didn’t seem to want it as much as the Brummies, so we lost.

    It killed our momentum stone dead. We’ll never know, but my suspicion is that if we had won the CC we would have come much closer to winning the EPL. We had very few injuries for the run-in and, as others have said, there are never too many games when you’re on a roll.

    Also, one other aspect of AW’s willingness to start first teamers in the CC games this year may be that these days we have far more of our promising youngsters out on loan, so we would have been dipping into the third level to fill the team.

  46. Red Arse says:

    Hi Guys, 🙂

    I think all of you are right!!

    Newcastle-EPL, Spuds-EPL, (both games), Manure-FA Cup, Brum-CC, all of them were shocking, and should not have happened to a team like ours.

    In addition, the games with Leeds, and Ipswich were pure crap too.

    All in all, we reached the heights and plumbed the depths.

    I did not understand it then, and I cannot understand it now —– me and Arsene both. 🙂

  47. Gooner in Exile says:

    That’s kind of my point Rocky the game killed our season, and if we had won then maybe it would have been a springboard, we didn’t so as I said exercising hindsight I wish we hadn’t bothered as losing it has had maybe more of a negative effect than winning it would have given us a positive effect. As such I wish we hadn’t bothered, and I wish I hadn’t had to sit on my living room floor screaming “no no no no” as the ball took what seemed an eternity to roll from Szczesny to Martins. Like I say hindsight.

    Stats for stats sake:

    Only 4 players who started the game in 87 started the championship decider in 1989 compared to 7 of the side that lost in 88. (the 4 were in both games Adams, O’Leary, Rocastle, Lukic.

  48. RockyLives says:

    Redders
    You have hit the nail on the head – our form this year even baffled Arsene.

    We (the fans) don’t understand it. We all offer our theories and solutions (as many versions as there are stars in the sky). But none of us is as well placed as AW to actually figure it out.

  49. RockyLives says:

    GiE
    If you count the players who actually played a part in the ’87 final the figure goes up.

    Where we disagree (I think) is that I believe it was the right strategy to try and win the CC. But what was exposed in this year’s final was a problem of character that has dogged the team all season, notwithstanding some excellent individual results. Also, to some degree, a problem of inexperience (I don’t believe Szczesney is ready for the No 1 jersey yet and Koscielny is still learning his trade in the Premiership).

    That character problem would have found us out (indeed, DID find us out) in other competitions even if we had dropped out of the CC earlier with a youth team.

    If anything it has helped shine the spotlight on our problems. They are not insurmountable problems – far from it. But the personnel changes this summer (both on and off field) have to all be about creating consistency of character and restoring belief.

  50. kelsey says:

    GIE,

    I can go back further to the Fairs Cup win after 17 barren years and perhaps some of you watched the interview Charlie George gave on the now defunct Arsenal TV, where he said that it was a springboard to us winning the double the following year,and many of that team were quite young.

    We all have our opinions,but we are going round in circles and I don’t think any of us know why we have been so inconsistent this season.Motivation,leadership or not enough senior players, who really knows.
    I think Wenger has already planned out next season with a couple of top draw players to come in as opposed to more “squad” players.

  51. RockyLives says:

    GiE
    I think I expressed myself badly in my 4.37pm.
    Put simply, I think we have a character flaw in the team. The best way to overcome this flaw is to have them win something. The easiest trophy to win is the CC. Ergo… it was the right thing to try and win it (except we mucked it up).

    Of course, this is just my theory – one lonely star in a firmament of light.

  52. TotalArsenal says:

    C1966, that is a great piece of writing. I am in the middle of something now, but will read it with a bit more focus over the weekend and get back to you about Arshavin’s tendency towards melancholy.

  53. RockyLives says:

    Kelsey
    “I think Wenger has already planned out next season with a couple of top draw players to come in as opposed to more “squad” players.”

    That’s my feeling too (laced with a good dose of hope).

  54. RockyLives says:

    Total
    The tendency towards melancholy is definitely a Russian trait (gross generalisation I know, but still true!).

    Westerners are brought up to think this world is here for them to enjoy themselves and experience happiness (which is why many end up disappointed).

    Russians are brought up to think this world is here to be endured (so, consequently, they have a more philosophical reaction to adversity).

    It’s a trait that runs through most great Russian literature.

  55. Cheers TotalA – you might find it fun looking through the archives, there are loads of other great posts from the variety of great writers we have here.

  56. Gooner in Exile says:

    Rocky they were stats for stats sake but I think some forget that quite a few of that 87 team had had their cards marked by GG, Williams, Nicholas, Anderson, Samson etc.

    Kelsey I hope you’re right about the acquisitions but at what cost to existing team leaving?

  57. ……. and …… eeek, we don’t have a post for tomorrow 😦

  58. HCAA says:

    Afternoon all, good read GiE,

    you’ve all covered the main issues accurately and concisely, for my two-penneth, I think a 4-5-1 is far more defensive than 4-4-2. We all recognise RvP is a 2nd striker, which in a 4-5-1 is a square peg in a round hole. It shackles the strengths of Arshavin and van Persie, but playing 4-4-2 without natural wingers is taking us back to England’s WC in 1966. Football is played out like chess, every piece has a different but neccessary job/clearly defined role. Zenit didn’t waste Arshavin on the left wing. Walcott and Bendtner aren’t wingers. It isn’t that baffling. Play players in their natural positions. They enjoy playing which naturally leads to better, more competent performances. Our season has collapsed in similar fashion for three or four seasons because we have too many square pegs being forced into round holes.

  59. Big Raddy says:

    HCAA. I believe AW ‘s success when transforming TH14 from winger to the best striker in the world has rebounded badly on our players.

    Perhaps AW believes that an intelligent player can develop the natural skills of any position, yet this hasn’t worked in AA, Theo, Vela nor NB’s cases.

    AW has stated his conviction that Theo will play through the middle and in some games this season he has drifted infield but to little effect.

    I have a possible solution but will leave it for a post.

  60. HCAA says:

    You could well be right BR, but to be honest Juventus missed a trick didn’t they. Henry wasn’t ever really a left-winger. He was a predator and AW put him in his natural position up front with Bergkamp supporting, the role that RvP should be playing.

  61. goonermichael says:

    If Arsene can’t understand it that really worries me. We’re not paid to understand.

  62. RockyLives says:

    gm
    I think the point is that Arsene may have been baffled that just when he expected his team to step up and actually do something special, it did the exact opposite and that must have left him baffled (as to why they failed).
    But that’s not the same as saying he doesn’t have the answers…

  63. goonermichael says:

    I totally agree with HCAA Robin supporting a natural predator. I’ rubbish at football tacticts but I don’t think Robin is an out and out striker. He’s a world class player though.

  64. kelsey says:

    Raddy,

    I had the same thought about a post on Walcott. Hit or miss in an Arsenal shirt.

    GM: it’s a bit ironic that RVP has been consistently better this season than for a long time,whilst others haven’t supported him or given their best,but he only averages 15 league games a season in 6 seasons.

    A fit RVP is a totally different proposition.

  65. Gooner in Exile says:

    What’s RvPs goals per game this year? More importantly last couple of months? He is probably the only man who is scoring, what is unusual that our midfield goals have dried up lately.

    Is it that if RvP is on the pitch the players and leave him the responsibility. I know what people are referring to when they say he is not an out and out striker in the traditional sense, would we play to their strengths if we did have a traditional English striker, despite his goals record Thierry was not really a barnstorming centre forward either, the last one of those we had was probably Wrighty, you wouldn’t catch him taking corners which you often saw Thierry taking them and we see RvP doing the same.

  66. Big Raddy says:

    A fit RvP with a decent pacey striker ……. drool, drool.

  67. Big Raddy says:

    GIE. I think RvP would be perfect in the role SAF has given Rooney this season, freedom to roam anywhere within the opposition half. It is no coincidence that Rooney has regained form once Hernandez showed himself to be a capable striker. Shame Vela cannot do the same – or perhaps he can!

  68. kelsey says:

    RVP is nearer to DB10 than Wrighty, if you get my drift.

  69. Gooner in Exile says:

    On Theo always remember that goal he scored against Chelsea in the CC final cutting in from the left and finishing with his right.

    He can play wide but with only a right foot if he gets the ball whilst hugging a touchline he is only going to go down the line or shoot powerfully across the box, what we are missing is a left footer who could cut in from the right and a right footer who could cut in from the left. So perhaps the ideal formation going forward will be

    Song/Frimpong

    Nasri/Cesc Wilshere/Ramsay

    RvP/Vela Walcott/Lansbury
    Cham/NikB/AN Other

    If we’re sticking 4-3-3/4/5-1

  70. London says:

    Government officials are thinking of bringing out a one year passports!

    They think it is unfair that spurs supporters had to pay for ten years when they only had one season in Europe.

  71. Gooner in Exile says:

    Nice London 😀

  72. London says:

    Rocky @ 5:40

    Thank you for articulating what I was thinking.

  73. London says:

    I don’t recall Henry being a natural preditor when he arrived, what I remember is someone very fast with incredible ball control.

  74. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi RL and C1966, I hope one day we can have a beer and discuss russian literature and general culture. Russian as well Czech literature are my favourite, and yes, I recognise the central role of melancholy in it. There is something strangely alluring in reading about (far away) melancholic landscapes and human affairs. Arshavin is the perfect embodiment of the Russian spirit!

  75. RockyLives says:

    We’d all love to find the next Ian Wright – but, as GiE has pointed out – he may not score as many goals given the system we currently play.

  76. TotalArsenal says:

    The good thing about a fit RvP is that he is your typical Totalfootball player, as in he can play in a variety of positions and will perform well in any of them. I agree that we should place our players in their best/natural positions as much as we can, but we would be more resillient against injuries etc if we could rotate our players in various positions. That is the key characteristic of Totalfootball and was perfectionised by LvG at Ajax in the mid-nineties.

    I also think it is really hard to find top wingers who can make a difference, especially those that can deal with the lack of space teams give us whilst sitting back. Arshavin and Nasri do a great job in those tight positions.

  77. Gooner in Exile says:

    TA you will know better than me but didn’t the Coever coaching system (which I think emerged from Ajax) encourage players to play in every position on the pitch.

    I seem to recall DB10 talk about playing in all defensive positions during his time at Ajax which he said allowed him to pick holes in opposition defences because he could think like them, and therefore made cutting through them look so easy.

  78. Red Arse says:

    GIE,

    Interesting line up in your 6:09.

    I wonder why you have such confidence in PingPong?

    When I saw him play regularly for the youth teams he looked very promising, altho’ somewhat indisciplined, and he was frequently injured.

    This season after a promising but inconclusive pre-season ….. he got injured.

    We risk putting unrealistic expectations on young shoulders!

  79. Big Raddy says:

    TA. There are the players out there but they are much in demand we will not pay the money to sign them. (e.g. there are two at Bayern Munich)

    It would be interesting to see a plan of where we scored our goals from, my supposition is that most have been scored from the right but I could well be wrong. I want and expect more from Arshavin. Apart from L’pool away we have not seen the brilliant player he can be. Is it the team set-up? Confidence? AA is one of the World’s top players and yet ……

  80. London says:

    My vote is team set up.

  81. Gooner in Exile says:

    I follow him on Twitter RA, he is funny, truly massive fan of the club, therefore similar to our discussion on Perry Groves, heart/desire/love > talent sometimes.

  82. London says:

    AA is like a race horse that has been forced to pull a carriage; he did what he could at first but inevitably he lost heart and has now pretty much forgotten what it was like to be a race horse.

  83. Gooner in Exile says:

    Raddy you need to hit Guardian chalkboards you will be able to select any game and see the “where’s” and “who’s”.

    Can also look at passes, assists etc etc.

  84. Red Arse says:

    Good point, GIE.

    Heart, desire and love does count for a lot, you are right. I think he will come good for us, but perhaps not next season.

    I could be wrong, of course, and I hope I am! 🙂

  85. Gooner in Exile says:

    London that’s a great analogy for AA.

  86. RockyLives says:

    Redders
    I read your 7.10 as “Height, desire and love…” before realising my mistake.
    Sadly there’s one of the three he’ll never achieve…

  87. desigunner says:

    I don’t think it’s as simple as chasing tin costing us silver. Here is my take,

    The incessant use of the word ‘trophy’ (in different forms silverware, etc) has created a big mental barrier for the players. During the summer it is sign X, sign Y for winning trophies. Then from the first week onwards every game has a title impact. It gets ridiculous.

    When they reached the CC final many (fans and players) seemed to assume that it was already won. After all, it was lowly Birmingham in the final. That was the vibe I got before the game. No one was mentally prepared for the consequences of a loss. Those consequences were magnified immensely by the other cup losses that followed soon after. All hell broke loose.

    It could easily have gone the other way if Szczesny and Koscielny had not made that error. Then we might have felt that chasing tin was indeed the stepping stone towards silver.

    On these kinds of topics, I feel it is easy to form simplified or generalized opinions (perhaps, mine is one as well). But the realities for decision makers and those who have to perform consistently are very complicated.

  88. TotalArsenal says:

    GiE, Coerver method was strongly focussed on technical ability: to be able to control the ball, and dominate possession and especially the ability to go past an opposite player. I am not an expert, but am pretty sure that Coerver’s training manuals would have been part and parcel of any Ajax total football training programmes. And yes, at Ajax you will have to play in various positions and especially under van Gaal players were positioned as such.

    Incidentally and sadly, Wiel Coerver died just a few weeks ago. He started his career at my boy-hood club Roda JC (then Rapid for those in the know…). And guess what has been his managerial highlight; you like this: beating the Spuds in the in the UEFA cup final 1973/74. Now the circle is round again!

  89. TotalArsenal says:

    Big R, those are very good wingers and yes would be too expensive for us. The thing for me is, that it is very hard to be a good winger at Arsenal. Because we dominate games so much, especially at home, there is little space to run into. We don’t do the MU sort of football, where we sit back a bit, hope to recapture the ball and break superfast. Then there is space which can be utilised, and wingers love that. As you know, our style is to build up from the back and tik-tak through midfield towards the goal. Theo is often lost in this approach, where both Arshavin and Nasri are better able to hold on to the ball and make intelligent runs. Theo is space is a beast though.

    Arshavin’s on and off form is an enigma to me. If only he could focus on/at every game, he would be great. I am with some other bloggers today, that we should play RvP in the hole and play a classical centre forward in front of him. At the moment, there are not enough alternatives for our ‘wingers’ and how very few headers do we score..

  90. Gooner in Exile says:

    TA, the question I always ask is how exactly do Man U get the space to counter attack into.

    It rarely seems that we are gifted such space as opponents don’t attack in as many numbers against us? Or is it a case opponents don’t need to against because we commit so many forward, but because ManU apply a more disciplined defence they need to add more numbers to their attacks and therefore leave holes in their defence?

  91. Big Raddy says:

    TA. Good point about the wingers which GIE addresses.

    We need to find a way to encourage the opposition to attack.

  92. TotalArsenal says:

    GiE,

    The simple answer is, because they encourage the opposition to come forward a bit.

    When MU attack they do not seem to mess around a lot. When they build up an attack from the back they try to get the ball in the box relatively quickly. They do not score many goals this way. What they really like is sit back a bit and give the opponents an opportunity to start an attack, only to take the ball off them and counter attack in a flash. In my view, this is pretty similar to Chelsea under Mourinho. The cornerstone of this approach is a solid defence, good wingers and two strikers who compliment each other and are great at keeping hold of the ball, and passing it quickly in space.

    They basically encourage the opposite team to have a go, and we don’t really do this (enough).

  93. Gooner in Exile says:

    This is kind of a chicken and egg situation.

    It seems to me teams wouldn’t attack if we did sit back a bit, they don’t want to commit too many men forward because they fear our quick passing. But then as you say TA Man U somehow allow teams to attack by allowing them to come on to them, but my question is why do these teams feel they need to attack them and not us.

    Like I said chicken and egg, teams seem to be happy to park the bus and try and nick a point against us, but try and score against ManU.

    If you check out Guardian chalkboards and look at our game against Blackburn at home and ManUs against Blackburn you can compare the two.

    Passes are around the same number, shots are about equal, possession is similar and areas of passing are similar, yet Man U scored 7 while we scored none.

    Might do a post with a few matches for comparison as I checked a few and it seemed like for pretty much the same type of possession we get less room than ManU, so the only difference can be pace of attack or the opponents not giving us as much space as they give ManU.

    It’s a subtle difference in mentality from the opponents but I wonder how ManU manage to give opponents a false sense of security to attack and leave space in their defensive ranks?

  94. TotalArsenal says:

    GiE, maybe part of their thinking is that they will get chances against us through set pieces and therefore feel they can sit back and absorb our pressure. MU are good at defending set pieces, so only chance to score is to try and attack. I also believe that MU on purpose put pressure on for a while, only then to drop it unexpectedly, so the opposite team is happy to get a breezer and come forward a bit. And then the spider strikes..

    What is really interesting is our almost opposite home and away fortunes. As you know, MU has been mediocre away, but supurb at home. We are (until recently) strong away, but mediocre at home. We scored more goals away this season than at home (did we ever do this before?). Why is that?

    MU are the champions this year with only winning 5 out of 18 away games! So, it looks like the MU style of play works very well at home but not at all away. Difficult to explain, other than the possibility that teams have more courage and determination to attack MU at home and it gets often rewarded.

    Yet, teams that we play away will often have a go and attack us; this creates space and that suits us. So, if they dont give us space at all at home, we need to sufficate them (like Barca do) relentlessly with attack after attack from all angles, with the ability to score from distance and to have players in the team who can score headers etc. Problem is this takes a lot of energy and determination, and I am not sure whether we have the right set of players to attack from all angles.

  95. Gooner in Exile says:

    And this is why none of us “amateurs” could do better than AW, it really is such a fine line between success and “failure”.

    The swift counter used to be our exceptional ability, with DB10 providing an out ball and the pave of Thierry and Freddie running into space beyond defenders.

    Rarely does that happen for us these days. It seems we slow the play but I also think opposing defences play a lot deeper against us than they used to.

    Chelsea would never have given us the goal they gifted Man U last week inside 5 minutes.

    Our current formation and style requires an early goal. Interesting thought on taking their chances on set pieces reckon you could be right given our ridiculous goals against from set pieces.

    To bed night all.

  96. SharkeySure says:

    Cracking post GiE

  97. RockyLives says:

    Desi
    Good comment. That’s my take too. It was well worth us going for the CC – if we won it and thereby broke the mental barrier this team seems to have.

    If we had, I am sure we would have finished the season much more strongly. We’ll never know, of course, but if it hadn’t been for that last minute cock-up between Chesney and Kozzer we might now have the CC and EPL trophies safely stashed away.

  98. mickydidit89 says:

    Morning,
    Great debating on here yesterday.
    Quick one on the CC Cup and confidence issue. For me the problem is not one of confidence, rather one of desire. I feel we have too many for whom losing does not hurt enough, or put another way, the lack of someone on the pitch that wil not allow those around to go down without a fight.
    I always enjoy any discussion that revolves around RvP, as inevitably it stirs up comparisons with DB10, and that always leaves a warm glow deep within.

  99. dandan says:

    Morning all. No doubt the debate will change today to the upcoming match. But on reading the posts since last weeks game, I was inevitably drawn to these words which I am sure 90% of you know.

    Round like a circle in a spiral
    Like a wheel within a wheel
    Never ending or beginning
    On an ever-spinning reel
    Like a snowball down a mountain
    Or a carnival balloon
    Like a carousel that’s turning
    Running rings around the moon
    Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
    Past the minutes on its face
    And the world is like an apple
    Whirling silently in space
    Like the circles that you find
    In the windmills of your mind

    Like a tunnel that you follow
    To a tunnel of its own
    Down a hollow to a cavern
    Where the sun has never shone
    Like a door that keeps revolving
    In a half-forgotten dream
    Or the ripples from a pebble
    Someone tosses in a stream
    Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
    Past the minutes on its face
    And the world is like an apple
    Whirling silently in space
    Like the circles that you find
    In the windmills of your mind

  100. Evonne says:

    Good morning Dandan, lovely song 🙂

  101. Evonne says:

    Morning Micky – I had mixed feelings about CC back in Feb. I wanted the team to win it because it would be a huge morale and confidence boost.
    For us the fans it would be tragic – imagine all the those who laugh at us not winning trophies in 5 years; had we won they would laugh that all we can win is the Carling Cup, bit humiliating

  102. mickydidit89 says:

    dandan,
    Oh the inevitability of having a windmill in your mind when you high from Norfolk 🙂
    And morning to you both.

  103. kelsey says:

    Morning all.

    Ah dandan: The Thomas Rosicky (Crown) Affair 😉

    What has football come to when what was once the highlight of the season The Cup Final is sandwiched between PL games.

  104. kelsey says:

    I have a New Years resolution (a few months late) not to read any more of the hundred different blogs that claim we are buying about 10 players and shipping out about the same.

    I wrote a post a few months back titled “Are there too many Arsenal blogs” and I stand by that.

  105. mickydidit89 says:

    Evonne,
    It will always be subjective as to the consequences of winning/losing the CC to kick start a winning mentality. I was at Wembley when we beat Liverpool under GG and it felt great. However, it is my own opinion that the loss against Brum had nothing to do with the subsequent run of bad results. It is of course just that. An opinion.

  106. Evonne says:

    morning Kelsey! I am still looking forward the FA cup. I recon Stoke will absolutely smash City. The town is going bananas there, weddings have been cancelled!
    I want Stoke to win, but it City’s win would spoil ManU celebrations. And ManU would have to take down the City Ticker banner (big banner showing increasing number of years since City won anything major). Apparently ManU fans love that City Ticker and look forward resetting it each year

  107. mickydidit89 says:

    Kelsey,
    What ever happened to the sanctity of the FA Cup? Commercialisation of football (morroring society) has much to answer for. Its a chav world.

  108. mickydidit89 says:

    Kelsey,
    Where would the cretins go without their blog sites? Scary eh.

  109. mickydidit89 says:

    oh dear..mirroring sp

  110. kelsey says:

    micky,

    what annoys me the most is the misleading headlines on a daily basis on so many sites just for the purpose to get hits,but the sad fact is so many believe what they read.

  111. mickydidit89 says:

    Kelsey,
    I am in the “what do you expect” camp. Let them get on with it. Happily, few of the bloggers to whom I think you allude, ever go to games. There’s a suprise.

  112. Big Raddy says:

    Morning all,

    Whilst we are in a literary mood, may I add this quote from Benjamin Franklin

    “The world is full of fools and faint hearts; and yet everyone has courage enough to bear the misfortunes, and wisdom enough to manage the affairs of his neighbour”.

    Never a truer word, and appropriate to the past few days debate!

  113. TotalArsenal says:

    So true GiE, we are amateurs bathing in the luxury of expressing our opinions without having to be accountable. For AW it’s a totally different ball game, and that’s why we should respect him and thank him for what he’s done for our club until now.

  114. Big Raddy says:

    Those sensationalist headlines used to drive me mad but then I discovered how to censor my Newsnow page. What a blessing that facility is.

  115. TotalArsenal says:

    Brilliant DanDan, that sums up my mind this morning after rambling on last night.

  116. Morning all

    We haven’t got a post for today at the moment so just carry on chatting on here for the time being

  117. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Peaches

    I think it is absolutely brilliant the way you aim to put out a post every day. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this site!

  118. Rasp says:

    I have cobbled together a quick post – more an idea for debate, I’l publish it shorthy if no-one else is beavering away at their keyboard?

  119. Rasp!!!!! How wonderful of you 🙂 It’s all yours ……

  120. Rasp says:

    Ok, I wrote it in 5 mins so be gentle folks – its probably littered with typos

    …..New post…

  121. Harry says:

    GIE,

    CRacking post mate, sorry didnt get a chance yesterday, away from the IT, and then I went out on the lash at the last minute when I got home, so just read and my short comment….

    In short, I cant agree that wengers slight increased priority in going for the CC cost us, all….

    Its hard to encapsulate what went wrong, in the overall scheme so much went against us, all i remember is chatting to Rasp, pre CC final, and I did say, what if we lose it? what will our mental state be?

    I am glad he increased numbers of 1st teamers as we moved forward and that is the way to do it…..

    Anyway on to todays post….

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