MOVING FORWARD by Uche
I have a problem. I have an idea for this article and it is supposed to be about finding the positives and moving on after Arsenal’s seasonal Chelsea catastrophe. So as you can imagine, this piece should be positive and uplifting but I don’t know if I can pull it off. Everybody is mad about that result and that includes me. Tomorrow I am going to wake up like most of you and get on with my work. I don’t want this result against Chelsea to ruin my week. So for very many reasons, I need to find a positive spin on this one.
Well, let us give it a try and see where we end up. As much as I hate to say this, Chelsea and Stoke away are our boogie teams. You always wish for once that the results can be different because psychologically, that might be enough to break the jinx. But it never quite works out in our favor, however much we prepare. This has nothing to do with quality because we have quality now. It is purely about mentality and ethics. I am not talking about us not having a winning mentality or not having leaders. No. That is a tired and nonsensical argument that I am sick of hearing. We won the last two FA cups and have led the league for a while now. The problem my friends is Wenger.
More precisely, I am talking about his nature.
Wenger is a decent, educated and well-meaning gentleman. He is a football purist who values the art of football and fair play too much to win by any means necessary and he transmits these values to his players. The consequence is that we always lose against Chelsea and Stoke away because they don’t play by the rules. When Stoke play us, the intention is to win by crook. They don’t care about the art and they don’t even hide it. They go out there to foul us and break bones just so they can play a physically weakened opponent. Wenger knows this but it is against his nature to go street and counter cheating with cheating. Arsene is a man who will never tell his players to roll over and act as if they have been shot each time they get fouled. Mourinho does it. Other coaches do it. Not Arsene. And while we are hurting now, this is why we all love Arsenal. In a world where bullies and cheats like Donald Trump and Jose Mourinho get applauded because they win, purists like Wenger do it the hard way. They do it the honest way. The consequence is that our ethical stance will work against us sometimes but guess what, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This club has my heart and respect. In this rough and crooked world, good values are qualities we must preserve at all costs. We are hurting now but we cannot sell out. Our ethics define us.
In the past two seasons, we have become a very good team capable of winning titles. Chelsea knows this and out of fear of us, they have gone from bullying us to trying to always get one or two of our players sent off. When they play Arsenal, they don’t want to play against eleven men and on Sunday they executed as planned yet again. One is tempted to blame Per Mertesacker for what happened and while I agree that he is a weak link, our problem is a fundamental one. When we played against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Gabriel played….and he got sent off still. So it is not really a matter of who we play. For as long as our philosophy remains the same against teams like this and referees don’t do their jobs, we will always come up short against them. So what do we do? If you ask me, we must maintain our values but in a tougher and wiser manner. But cheating is not an option. Yes we will lose some games. Everybody loses games. But we can still win enough to be champions playing the right way.
Some blame Giroud’s substitution as part of why we lost but I think that subbing him made perfect sense after going a man down. Arsene had to choose between losing or losing heavily. Remember that Chelsea had beaten us 6-0 before under similar circumstances. If we had subbed Walcott instead of Giroud, we could have lost by a higher margin. At 1-0 down we were still in the game and remained in the game till the end. Chelsea chose to hang on to their 1-0 advantage without pushing for more goals for fear of being hit on the counter with Walcott’s pace. I agree that Wally has been average but having him on the side limits our opponent’s attacking ambitions. We have to see this. Walcott is the reason we were able to beat Bayern 2-0 at the Emirates and when he got injured, we lost heavily to Bayern by a whopping 5-1 in the return leg in spite of Giroud’s good form. Defenders will rather play an in form Giroud than an inconsistent Walcott. His movement and pace totally alter the way our opponents set up and this works to our advantage. Go and ask Pep Guardiola. So Walcott is not the reason for our loss. We lost because we were a man short and I don’t know any EPL team that would have beaten Chelsea with ten men.
And now the positives. We are only behind the league leaders by three points. This is a huge positive and it is important that we focus on the future rather than the Chelsea loss because our next opponent is Southampton and they have added Charlie Austin to their attack. The season is far from over. Everybody will drop points. There are no easy fixtures. Leicester’s next three fixtures are against Liverpool, Manchester City and us. It will not be a walk in the park for them either. So this is not over by a long shot. Nobody has won the title yet and Spurs just joined the party. We are only down by three points and Sanchez is back with Coquelin soon to follow. And by the way, we actually played a good game with just ten men especially after Sanchez came on. The best Chelsea could do was maintain their one goal advantage.
Lagos – Nigeria