I know it’s a little late after Arsenal’s draw at home to Blackburn on Saturday but it’s taken a while for the effects to sink into my mind. It was a must win match in order to keep the title within Arsenal’s hands and keep up their chance to clench their first title in six years.
Arsenal once again dominated in possession and attempts but failed put away any goals against a lower half team. The Arsenal started the match strong and kept pressure on Blackburn but the urgency displayed in the opening minutes waned and as the match progressed Blackburn were allowed to get organized and make it a lot tougher for Arsenal.
There were no excuses this time not even from the manager Arsene Wenger. In his post match interview immediately following the match he expressed his disappointment in what he described as a flat performance, one he could not have imagined this team putting forth on the day.
Wenger fielded a very strong team, one that on paper should have been able to put at least one goal past Blackburn’s keeper.
Even Wenger had stopped making excuses. It seemed even he was fed up and after his post-match statements I expect big changes in the summer.
I think somewhat defeatist attitude or a victim’s mindset has crept into the fan base as well as the team. When many things start to go against the team fans for the most part start to feel like everything is against us and we're not meant to win when really the players need to rise to the challenge and show that "winning mentality." Instead of missed chances or unfortunate decisions causing them to push harder for a win, sometimes it's as if they throw up their hands and say: "I guess it wasn't meant to be" That can't be the attitude among any of us.
Other teams have things go against them yet continue to work harder so as to not let there be an excuse. Instead they want to be able to say "we won despite..."
Wenger, who will usually say anything to defend his team, had nothing to say in their defense after the match against Blackburn. Arsene Wenger is a man who is full of faith and trust in his team and in his post-match interviews he showed that even he was frustrated.
His demeanor in his post-match interviews was of a man who has been let down. A lot of fans are feeling the same way.
Wenger has invested a lot into this squad. He's not going to give up on his project and I don't blame him for that. He is so close to completing it; just a few things that need to be added and removed. It is obvious that there are needs to fill.
We all know Wenger to be a patient man who has had put a lot of time and faith into his players, some of whom many would’ve given up on a long time ago. Many times his patience has paid off, but it’s becoming more and more frustrating as this team of players, who are undoubtedly talented, fail to beat teams that they should and when they need too.
Listening to him speak about the match you’d think that Wenger sees what’s wrong and would be willing to make considerable changes in the squad this summer .
That’s what I thought until I saw some of the new statements he made. You get the impression sometimes that Wenger uses excuses and comments like, “we showed mental strength” to help his players retain confidence as well as to comfort fans.
Initially there were no such comments from the Boss, and surely, he had some words with players about their performance that he would not be sharing with the public; words about the desire tempo and urgency that was lacking on the day and in previous matches.
Wenger has come out with words trying to lift the spirits. He’s got some good points but they are not likely to be of any consolation to the fans. Wenger says, "It is important we realise this team is absolutely amazing for what they do at their age. One day people will understand that, but at the moment, I am not sure many people do.”
Ok, yes FOR THEIR AGE they are very talented, but thus far it hasn’t been seen that they are capable of winning things. That is an important aspect of the game especially for a club like Arsenal.
"Now it is a crucial moment where we have to trust these players and not listen to some opinions of people who have not worked half a day in football.” Easier said than done by Arsene.
After Blackburn he was visibly disappointed, but for the rest of the season these players are what we have so we need to get behind them. Wenger adds, "Do you know how much work, dedication and mental strength is behind a team like that? What is hard in football is to build a team and work with the players every day." Clearly he has a very difficult job and he’s trying to get it done on a specific way. He has recently taken a lot of stick over it.
Wenger can understand some of the frustrations from the fans but, he is still confident that his policy will be successful. It’s nearly there; honestly the Arsenal is only a couple of additions and/or a surge of motivation away from being a championship winning team. Wenger is winning to stay on until he again reaches success with this squad.
"As long as you are second in the league, I am ready to sign for the next 20 years and stand up for that,” reading those words from the manager is quite strange. He can’t be saying that he’s content with second place. This is what the core of the fan base is worried about. Has Wenger become content with just almost winning? Saying, “well we got really close,” may have comforted fans before but it’s going on six years without a trophy and still the same story.
Wenger had some positives to bring out about this season so far, "I believe we have done well. We have been hit very hard with big disappointments, but we have not lost in the FA Cup or the Champions League against anybody, we have lost against good teams. Personally, I am very proud of the attitude, the behaviour and the quality of our season. I will defend that until the end.”
Again he stands up to defend his players. It’s true that Arsenal last longer than the other premier league clubs in four competitions, their exits from three of them were very disappointing. While Barcelona were the clear favorites in the UCL, Arsenal’s performance at the Camp Nou left a lot to be desired. Wengers men had a real chance of beating a severely weakened Manchester United team in the FA Cup. And we all witnessed the poor effort at Wembly which culminated in a freak mistake at the back to gift Birmingham City Arsenals best chance at a trophy this season.
I’m not sure that there is a whole lot to be proud of in terms of attitude in recent weeks. Since being ousted from the Champions League, League and FA Cups, the team has been unable to pull themselves out of their funk. That is a serious problem, one that the manager should look within himself along with this group of players to fix.
Wenger tries to comfort fans by saying, "I have to be proud because if I took statements from all the people here at the start of the season we were not even in the top five. Now it is a scandal we are second.”
The team has surpassed what many expected at the beginning of the season and that’s nice. But it’s of little consolation at this point as they’ve once again let the title slip from thier hands.
"What is important from now until the end of the season is we give absolutely everything to beat them (ManUTD). That for me is success." For me if Arsenal gave “absolutely everything” from now until the end of the season and didn’t win it wouldn’t feel like success. It would make me look back at the Blackburn match among others with so much more disappointment. That isn’t to say that Arsenal shouldn’t keep gunning for it. They still have a chance and giving up now would be worse than starting to fight now and failing.
The Boss has said that the team is "very up for a fight." He expects a response from his players at Blackpool, which I take to mean he had a serious talk or several with his players since the draw to Blackburn and the team will take care of business, so to speak, this weekend.