Wenger lets down the faithful again, but why?

Well, that brought us all down back to Earth with a sickening thud, didn’t it?
The travails of a football fan. As one supporter of a lower division club once said to me, “It’s not the disappointments I can’t stand. It’s the hope.” Never a truer word.
Arsčne Wenger is man about whom there is so much to like and adm
ire. His intelligence, his urbanity (he speaks English better than I do), his passion, his shrewdness. All admirable qualities. I’m afraid though, he’s let us all down badly. Very badly. Again. It’s not the losing that peeves me so much. Hard as that is, I can take that. Mad Gooner that I am I like to think I’m a sportsman too. If a team beats are fair and square by being better than us I’m the first to say so. Much as I detest what Chelsea stands for in the modern game – the triumph of money over all sporting considerations – they beat as on Saturday be being significantly the better team. What really gets my goat is we didn’t give it all we had. You just knew what the attitude was going to be from the moment the starting eleven was announced. Samir Nasri, Alexandre Song and Andrey Arshavin all on the substitutes’ bench.
Last season we had the supine surrender in the FA Cup at Old Trafford. Truly embarrassing. It was taking money under false pretences from the nine thousand Gooners who plonked down their hard-earned cash for tickets and transport. I’m afraid that the same can be said of Saturday’s performance, albeit on a lesser scale.
We were always going to have trouble at the back with three key defenders and our first choice goalkeeper out injured. After the false dawn of Theo Walcott’s opener our worst fears came true. Chelsea could have scored before that, with Lukasz Fabianski making one the dashes out of goal into no-man’s land of which he’s starting to make an alarming habit. He had to be rescued, as he was the previous Saturday at the JJB Stadium by a Kieran Gibbs clearance off the line. Chelsea also hit the foot of the post.
Most disappointingly, we were bossed by Chelsea in the midfield. We allowed ourselves to be out-muscled and bullied. We were out-thought and out-battled. Depressing. Thoroughly depressing. Too many big players were off their game, Cesc Fàbregas, Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor amongst them. Emmanuel Eboué was also badly at fault for Chelsea’s equaliser, sharing blame with Lukasz Fabianski.
I bumped into Steve Ashford, aka The Highbury Spy from The Gooner in the queue for the train back to Marylebone afterwards. He was scathing about Fabianski, Eboué and Denilson particularly, and about Arsčne’s team selection and tactics. Whilst I don’t go along with all that he says, there’s a grain of truth in it.
I’m afraid that Lukasz Fabianski may turn out to be the new Alex Manninger. The young Austrian played an important part in the 1998 Double team, stepping in for David Seaman when he was injured. I particularly remember good performances from him at Old Trafford and at Selhurst Park against Wimbledon. He was always vulnerable to the ball in the air however. The following season he played in the League Cup at home to Chelsea when they fielded a much stronger team than us and let in five goals. His confidence never seemed to recover and he was soon on the move to Fiorentina.
I think it’s too early to write off Fabianski at the moment. I remember Bob Wilson; an excellent goalkeeper for us in the late 1960s and early/mid 1970s, had some shockers in his early first team appearances. We persevered with him to great effect and he went on to be capped by Scotland when FIFA changed the regulations to allow players to appear for the national team of their parents or grandparents. Fabianski is already a full international with Poland.  Let’s hope he turns out to be Bob Wilson rather than Alex Manninger. What’s clear however is that he’s not ready to claim the top goalkeeping spot permanently at the moment.
On first blush, it’s difficult to fault Arsčne’s record in the FA Cup with four wins, five finals and eight semi-final appearances. I’m afraid though he’s decided that the FA Cup can be sacrificed. I don’t agree though some, perhaps many Gooners do.
I thought last season we lost a good chance to set out our stall for the rest of the season, just as we did at Old Trafford in the same competition last season. I’ve been banging on about “one game at a time” for weeks now. Momentum in any walk of life is hard to create and easy to lose. With a vital League game at Anfield on Tuesday night we have to put Saturday’s disappointment behind us as quickly as possible. We need to focus on consolidating fourth spot and pushing on for third.
However, I can’t let remarks on last Saturday pass without commenting on the Wembley pitch. Shocking. Absolutely shocking. The old Wembley, sporting icon that it was, was a dump in many ways from a fans’ point of view.  With the sole exception of the late 1960s when the mad sods in charge of Wembley allowed the Horse of the Year Show to be staged on the pitch, the playing surface was always a bowling green however. Something special in those days, before money and know-how led to bad pitches being the exception rather than the general rule.
It speaks volumes for football’s distorted values that England’s governing body has developed a national stadium on a site that is one of the shrines of the world game with, apparently, no thought whatsoever for the most important part of any stadium, the playing surface. All the 21st century bells and whistles such as high-yielding corporate boxes and premium seats, giant television screens and so on mean absolutely nothing if the playing surface isn’t up to scratch. Wembley has been selected to host the 2011 Champions League Final. We’ll be a national laughing stock if the playing surface isn’t sorted out – lively. Congratulations to the Football Supporters’ Federation to be ahead of the pack of journalists bemoaning the state of the Wembley turf in its weekly column in the Daily Mirror a week before the semi-final. I hope they’ll be caning the ears of the powers that be at FA HQ at Soho Square about the issue.
I don’t blame the playing surface for Saturday’s defeat. It was the same for both teams. Chelsea clearly deserved their win, it pains me to say. I hope Arsčne has finally learnt his lesson. One game at a time mate. One game at a time. Let me finish with two final positives and a bit of a moan. The performance of Kieran Gibbs at left-back on Saturday, especially in a team going backwards all too often. I think the lad may very well have the right stuff in the long term. Well played son. Theo Walcott also continues to give great cause for hope. He’s got far more devil about him than he used to have. One of his remaining defects, especially when playing out on the wing however, is that he couldn’t cross a pools coupon, never mind a football. If he can sort that out soon we’re really going to have a player on our hands.
Keep the faith.

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