The Groundsman’s Shed


Arsenal: “How Did We Get Here?” by groundsman

Say what you will about the intriguing romance of the FA Cup, but I believe the amazing story of this English football season has been Arsenal’s magnificent fall from the manicured lawns of greatness to the vast ghetto that is mediocrity. 

As the season draws to a close, I think it’s time to see how we (I am an Arsenal supporter, so in this case, it’s not the “royal we”) got to this point.  I hope to prove to some of you in the Gooner Nation that now is not the time to turn on Arsene Wenger, even as he continues to bleat on about not conceding the title, because it may have been lost long ago. 

Let’s look back on the stories concerning the Arsenal squad throughout the season:

July 27, 2007: The Guardian predicted Arsenal would end the season in 4th place in their “Premiership Preview” section.   The Gunners were also put at 12-1 odds for the title.  The journos reason for the less than stellar finish?  A lack of depth and experience in the team, and not enough spending during the summer

December 18, 2007: The BBC dubbed the squad a group of “classy youngsters”, glowing words evoking a notion of a golden generation of incredible ballers poised to set the Premiership alight.  Headlines from various news sources posed questions like, “Can Anyone Beat Arsenal”?  It seemed few could- with Adebayour firing like mad, and Fabregas showing lovely and creative technical play, even whingeing from fading goalkeeper Jens Lehmann couldn’t silence the Gunners on the battlefield.

January 22, 2008: The day Tottenham beat Arsenal 5-1 at White Hart Lane.  A somewhat weakened side was competing in this match, and it was woefully bereft of possession throughout.  Gallas and Bendtner had a very public row, and the pair seemed out of sorts for many matches to come.  This was seen as a fluke at the time, merely a bump in the road, and besides- who cares about the Carling Cup?  Since January, the Gunners have struggled with the exact same problems as that “fluke team” who lost to those Lilywhites. 

February 2008: The month when everything seemed to come apart for Arsenal.  On February 11th, the team went 5 points clear at the top of the table.  Just six days later, they were beaten to a pulp at Old Trafford by a Manchester United team that had, up until this point in the season, been mistake riddled and frequently winning only on the back of steady goal scoring by Cristiano Ronaldo.  Only 8 days after that defeat, the team lost Eduardo da Silva to a rough challenge from Martin Taylor.  They drew that match at Birmingham, and went on to tie with such regularity, it was as if it were all planned by Wenger.

April 5, 2008: Arsene Wenger appears to publicly lose it in the technical area during Arsenal’s draw with Liverpool.  This is the second of three straight meetings between the clubs, and the second draw between them- though Liverpool sent out a side of relative unknowns.  The goal for each team was scored by a player who has been relatively quiet as of late; Crouch for Liverpool, Bendtner for Arsenal.  After the match, Wenger said it is “never mathematically over”, though our friends at Acme Calculator Co. would say otherwise.

For the last word, we should perhaps go back to The Guardian who said on July 27th: “The outcome could be anything from a new Wenger contract, a wealthy new owner and a shiny new trophy to a fifth-placed finish and mass departures.”  The team isn’t in danger of slipping to fifth, but it does seem that this was to be seen as a rebuilding year back in July– so why the shock and anger now?  The Premiership title race is over and done for the Arsenal,  and chances are great that they will come out of this season without a trophy.  Wenger took a gamble with a squad of youngsters- but they’ll be older and wiser come August, and hopefully, surrounded by a few new pricey signings as well.  “Arsene knows…” and perhaps, so should the fans.

[Photo: AP/Sang Tan]

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12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great article – i do have high hopes for tuesday though, and a match against Fenebache

We need a clear out, and a fw experienced players, to enable rotation of a more effected way, but not losing sight of some of the young guns in the cups

I trust Arsene, and I believe in our club

All is not yet lost

Comment by rico

Encouraging words, mate. There’s just a lot of crazy misguided anger going ’round, and I wanted to point out that Arsenal wasn’t expected to do much this season anyway- we all just got caught up in the glory before the break.

Comment by groundsman

The writing had been on the wall since the beginning of the year.if AW/Arsenal insist on playing pretty and pattern weaving soccer, gooner fans better be prepared for ending empty handed in the coming seasons.
It is a fact this free flowing soccer can be countered by negative tactics and in the process the gunners can be mugged as has happened in some games.
So for AArsenal players to say it is anti soccer is correct but at the end of the day it helps teams to draw and even win matches.
The long ball which Chelsea used is alien to AW’s philosophy of soccer played to feet.I’m afraid Arsenal are becoming like Brazil good to watch but no trophies. It’s a bit like a beautiful lady
who has difficulty getting married compared to the the less endowed women.

Comment by Mohd Hisham

Hm, I can’t say I totally agree with your theory that beautiful football is what is holding the Arsenal team back.

I’ve been watching all season, and I’m under the impresssion that it was when the team STOPPED playing complex, pattern footie that they began to be average, and in some moments- poor.

A pundit on Setanta said something similar to your theory- in a much harsher way, of course, and it was, “They turn up their noses at rough passes, and only wait for the pretty opportunities”. I don’t think that’s true. I think the problem with weavy, nervy passing play is that if you get out of the rhythm, or someone isn’t on their game- the series will fall apart easily.

I don’t really think the long ball isn’t the answer to The Arse’s troubles, but it IS the English fallback option. As a fan of the club, I’m happy they haven’t often resorted to only using old tactics to win.

If everyone played the same way, that’d take a bit of the fun out of the game, yeah?

Comment by groundsman

I AGREE WITH YOU.WELL I CANT SAY ANY “ARSENE KNOWS ” N STUFF COS HE DONT KNOW WHAT HE SHOULD DO AT A BIG CLUB LIKE ARSENAL. THAT IS BUY AT LEAST 2 BIG NAME PLAYERS. WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN LINKED WITH DIEGO THE gbp23MIL WEDER BREMEN GUY AND YAYA TOURE FROM BARCA SO HE CAN PLAY WITH FLAMINI. AND WE NEED CARLOS VELA AND A CLASSY STRIKER OUR SQUAD HAS THE QUALITY BUT NOT THE QUANTITY WE’VE SEEN IT WITH ARSENAL RUNNING OUT OF STEAM AFTER BEEN THE BEST FOOTBALLING SIDE IN THE WORLD FROM NOVEMBER TO FEBRUARY.

Comment by Manne

…maybe a bit harsh there, mate. Arsene seems to know plenty about managing a big club- he’s done it rather well for some time now, and we’ve won plenty with him. Everyone has a rebuilding year, and even the greats make mistakes.

What’s the quote? “The greatest people are capable of the greatest mistakes”?

Comment by groundsman

When we do we stop rebuilding you’ll tell us next year is also a rebuilding year

Comment by manny

Ah, I’m not a fortune teller!

However, if you are a glory hunter, please go support a team that will always win everything every single year, and has since the game was invented.

Oh, that’s right- that team only exists in Imaginary Land.

Please don’t be a contrarian on my blog, friend. It’s sport. It wouldn’t be emotional if your team won all the time.

Comment by groundsman

[…] Comments groundsman on Arsenal: “How Did We Get…manny on Arsenal: “How Did We Get…gwenyunderpants on Aboutgroundsman on Arsenal: “How […]

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Toure’s injury in African Cup of Nations (CAN) and Arsene’s favor of him to play before then steady Senderos, was the turning point of the gradual shifting away from top of the table. Arsene could not see Toure’s bold messes at CAN. It were so horrible that the coach would not have taken matters simply. Then, the priority taken to play real Arsenal game in the last 20 minutes rather than from minute one. And lastly, was coach’s choice to fight a lion with bare hands rather than hunter’s gun -as if showing no respect for Liverpool FC. What then would be the reason to panic at the end after masterminding result himself.

Comment by Jacob Waiswa

To be fair, all of the top teams have fielded obviously weak sides at different points in the season- each time could be seen as an insult. I do think you’re on target with the Toure injury link though.

Comment by groundsman

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