Sunday, 23 April 2017

Can Arsenal Show Their "Mental Strength" Against City

Time and again we are told of the mental strength the Arsenal players possess when they manage to overcome a hurdle and take a point or even three from a game. Of course every team faces setbacks no matter how good they are and their mental strength is shown in their reactions to those setbacks. Arsene Wenger is very fond of telling us of his players' mental strength, but I just cannot see it.

A team with mental strength simply could not be as brittle as Arsenal every time they concede a goal. All it takes is for the opposition to score against them and the whole team as a unit become almost visibly afraid. We are almost as vulnerable when we have conceded as when we score and it happens in game after game.

When we suffer a bad defeat or a surprise defeat to a so called lesser team it can take weeks for the players to even approach the level expected from a team who should be challenging for trophies. Since we lost at home to Watford in January we have spiralled from one crisis to another with the odd unconvincing victory thrown in to avert a full blown collapse. From a position where we were in the last 16 of the Champions League and challenging for at least second place in the league we are now faced with the FA Cup as our only route to success.

To make matters worse for Arsenal it's Spurs who have gone a great run and put the sort of pressure on Chelsea that has made them stumble. It's a sad day for an Arsenal fan when you are happy to see Chelsea win an FA Cup semi final because the alternative was so impalitable. If Arsenal were to somehow manage to beat City today I would have had very little confidence in their ability to beat Spurs if they had reached the final despite Spurs terrible record at Wembley this season.

The FA Cup draw has been very kind to us so far to say the least, but that ends today when we play a City team who have fared only slightly better than us so far this season. Their only chance of a trophy this season is the FA Cup too, but they are far more likely than us to at least qualify for the Champions League. Their mental strength has been called into question too this season, but their manager will be cut a little more slack as it's his first season in the job.

Our manager seems to think he can redeem the season and get the fans back onboard if he can deliver his third FA Cup in four seasons and seventh in his almost 21 years at the club. If he was somehow to scrape into fourth place and win the FA Cup that might be the case with some fans, but I believe the vast majority believe at this stage that the club needs to move on and part ways with him. I still don't want to see him get the bullet, but if he can't see the writing on the wall then that might be the only option.

I'm not laying all the blame for our woes at his door of course and we all know how unfit for purpose the upper echelons of the club are too. We have a majority shareholder who doesn't seem interested in the footballing side progressing as long as his investment continues to gain value and all those in between him and the manager are almost invisible in their inaction. We have at least spent some money in the last few years, but the players needed to advance the squad never arrived and the only change that we can have any chance of achieving is in the management.

Our manager seems to have fallen so far behind the tactics and football needed to win in the game as it is that he cannot be allowed to continue in the job. Opponents do their homework and prepare for us so they know how to combat us as well as how to put pressure on us in the places where we can't handle it. We have been completely out thought by both Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce in recent weeks and they are hardly master tacticians. 

Not only do our opponents know exactly how to combat us, but the reverse just isn't true. It's as if the players haven't been briefed on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition before every game and that can only come down to one person. If they have been briefed then it hasn't been done correctly and if they haven't then it's incredibly arrogant to think all that matters is what we do with the ball and not what the opposition do.

The players have some responsibility to bear too of course and too many of them have gone missing when they were needed most. Our injuries have been better than they have been for a long time this season, but the same old failings still come through game after game. It's not a personell issue because it happens no matter what team plays which leads us back to the leadership which just isn't right on and off the pitch.

I still want Arsenal to win every single game they play and I would be as delighted as the next fan if we win the Cup and finish in the top four, but it won't change my opinion on the manager. Even if we do manage to somehow make them both happen I think he should see that as the ideal way to sign off on a high and give the club a chance to move on to a new era. Everything comes to an end and it would at least be a good thing to end his reign on a high rather than the low which we seem to be crashing and burning towards.

As for the team today, I think he has to play the strongest team possible despite having a league game against Leicester on Wednesday night. I think that should mean a midfield pairing of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny which gives a much more stable basis to build on than having Aaron Ramsey in the team. I also think Alexis Sanchez has to go back to the central strikers role and we need players who can hit City with pace on the break which means there should be no place in the team for Olivier Giroud.

I don't think the experiment with three (or five) at the back at Boro was any better than we have seen in other games and we were still just as vulnerable as ever once they equalised. They are heading for relegation and can't score a goal for love or money, but we had to ride our luck when the game was at 1-1. A win is a win though and a defeat in that game would have left us in absolute turmoil before going into today's semi final.

We are capable of beating City even if we were more than a little lucky to draw 2-2 at home to them a few weeks ago. The players are well used to the Wembley surface and atmosphere as they have played there so often in recent seasons and there is some hope of a Cup Final to look forward to. Maybe the players will finally show their mental strength, but I won't be holding my breath.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Good ol Mick..tell it as it really is.