The Man City game was a one off! by ThirdManJW
What I found quite interesting after Arsenal’s shocking 2-0 win at the Etihad, was the response from the pundits and fans alike. I think everyone was a little stunned at our compact, counter-attacking setup. Rarely do we see our defensive line so deep, with all the defenders within touching distance of each other. Looking back, it seems strange Wenger hasn’t used this tactic more often, especially when you consider the amount of players we are usually missing due to injuries. Surely Wenger should be taking a more cautious approach when up against good opposition that are tough to beat even with your best XI, let alone the fact you may be missing three or four first team players regularly. The problem is, Wenger is a terrible defensive coach who prefers to concentrate on the attacking side of the game. He has always been a fantastic offensive coach, one of the best, but even this side of our game has been on the wane for the last few years. No longer do we create chances for fun, and stuff teams here and there. In fact, we often struggle to even get by poor/average opposition.
I decided to do a little research into this, painstakingly looking at results and clean sheets over the last five seasons (including this season) against what most people would consider, tough opposition. People in defence of Wenger may say I’ve cherry picked some of the teams and results, but I’ve spoken to a lot of football fans about what teams I’ve picked, and almost everyone agreed that these games are the tough opponents you look out for at the beginning of each season. I’ve not included Southampton (which actually helps Wenger in this case), because it’s only this season and the last that they’ve become very tough opponents. I’ve also only included Stoke away, because they never travel well, but are very tough to beat at the Britannia, not just for us.
The teams I’ve considered home and away going back to the 10/11 season are:
Man City, Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton, Stoke (away only), Monaco, Dortmund, B. Munich, Napoli, AC Milan, Barcelona.
Played – 68
Won – 21
Drew – 20
Lost – 27
Clean Sheets – 17
Win Percentage – 31%
Against the “big three” of Man City, Man United, and Chelsea:
Played – 31
Won – 6
Drew – 8
Lost – 17
Clean Sheets – 8
Win Percentage – 19%
Played – 17
Won – 7
Drew – 2
Lost – 8
Clean Sheets – 5
Win Percentage – 41%
As you can see, the results overall aren’t great, especially against the “big three”. Obviously I acknowledge that the Premiership is the toughest league in the world, injury problems every season, and lack of funds for most of this period, whilst other clubs have been spending like crazy. But winning is not all down to money and world class players. Look at what Diego Simeone has achieved at Atletico Madrid. Madrid’s budget is a million miles away from the likes of Barcelona and Real, and Madrid’s squad isn’t packed full of world class players. Yet they won La Liga last season. It will probably Simeone’s greatest ever achievement.
But like I’ve already stated, problems such as finance and injuries will often make it harder to win, so it becomes even more baffling as to why Wenger almost never takes a cautious approach, especially for away games. You also need to take into account that Wenger has kept his best players of late, and has had lots of money to spend over the last two summer transfer windows, yet he still refuses to strengthen the weak areas of our team. This is evident in the awful performances and results going back to last season.
Fans have been a lot more optimistic this year, even saying we’re improving. Before the game last night it was, played 10, won 8. But once you look at the games individually, it’s the same problems over and over. Apart from the Man City game, all our wins have come against poor/average opposition. We’ve now faced four tough opponents this year, losing three, and looking awful in all three. We’ve even looked poor against the likes of Palace and Leicester.
I would love to see us try and get Simeone when Wenger leaves, but in the meantime…it’s not going to be great.