MATCH PREVIEW: Arsenal v Norwich; The One Where Wenger Completely Loses the Plot
Normally, I’d spend a match preview talking about the match up and what Arsenal need to do to win. The fact is I think I am like many other supporters right now and I could give a toss what Arsenal need to do to win this match. I care more about what Arsenal need to move forward for the future and this weekend is all about that.
Unless you are an Arsenal supporter who lives under a rock, you’ve likely heard about the planned protest being supported by 3 large supporter groups – the Arsenal Supporters Trust, Red Action and the Black Scarf Movement. The gist of the protest is that the club has become stale and SOMETHING, ANYTHING needs to change.
It’s not a protest targeted at any one individual. However, those who staunchly support the manager feel the protest is directly aimed at him. As I’ve mulled this over, it is AND it isn’t.
Let’s be frank – the manager is part of the problem. You had to only listen to his press conference today to know that. One of his major points and the one getting the most press is that the fans (led by their noses by the media) are to blame for the environment the team had to play in at home.
“We lost the championship at home against the lower teams, but we played sometimes at home in a very difficult climate.”
While he is right the home atmosphere has been caustic it isn’t without reason. What Wenger avoids here is any public criticism of his team’s performance. He ignores the lackluster performances against teams like West Ham on opening day or Swansea later in the season when the team just absolutely failed to show up.
He talks highly of the team’s attitude and spirit. Is he watching the same team we are? It’s dispirited performance after dispirited performance. It makes me wonder if the dreaded “he’s lost the training room” disease has snuck in. They certainly don’t seem to be playing with any of the attitude Wenger described in today’s press conference. And the fact is they haven’t for some time. The last time the team looked real hungry and with any purpose or intent to its play was the home match versus Leicester and then it was a rarity rather than an everyday occurrence.
“I tell you something, this team has character and attitude. Some people who question them, I know them well, have less character than this team has. Because I saw them play and know them closely. They should not question the character of these players because they are exceptional characters.”
Look I will always concede, that Wenger’s pinky knows more about football than I do. But it doesn’t take a UEFA A License to see that something is wrong with the team’s attitude and mentality as well as the way it plays on a technical level.
I get it – Wenger is never ever going to publicly chastise his team. It’s not in his makeup. However, I am not convinced he’s doing it out of the public eye either. Players need to be held to account and unfortunately Wenger’s social experiment style of management isn’t consistent with the way players are today. They need a stick and carrot – not just a carrot. Hell, the need a big fucking stick – especially this lot because far too many times they showed up on the pitch and showed sweet FA in terms of desire. They came on to the pitch and overlooked opponents.
I’m the “character” of the players is good but the attitude and desire isn’t. They look like a lost rag tag bunch of misfits without guidance. To say anything but the fact that we have significantly underachieved at all levels is a disgrace to the club and it’s misleading and misguided to say anything other than that.
Again, I get it – ever the gentleman and scholar – Wenger isn’t going to give us fire and brimstone but to make the statements he’s made today clearly shows a disconnect from the realities of the situation the club finds itself in.
Now about the protests. For my part unless this is going to be a sustained effort with signs and placards continually showing up at matches – than tomorrow’s protest while needed isn’t going to have much effect. For a protest to achieve what the organizers hope – it has to be continual. One-offs won’t work. Especially for a tone-deaf (to the fans) owner like Stan Kroenke.
For those that aren’t too familiar with Stan’s actions in the US – he essentially turned a deaf ear to fans of the Rams in St. Louis and moved his team half way across the country to LA. Why? Not because it’s their original home (the Rams actually started their play in Ohio) – no it was because of LA promising a new lovely stadium to play in with corporate seats galore to sell and the ever lucrative $2 billion TV Rights available in the LA market alone.
Remember the huge Premier League TV deal? £5 billion. So around $7 billion or so approximately. Stan is moving to a market with a $2 billion windfall. That’s just one team in one city. For Stan it is all about the cash.
I truly hope that those organizing these protests know that it’s a hard nut to crack in getting Stan to do anything to improve his team. He has a history of allowing mediocrity to seep in and so long as there is money to be had – he’s okay with it. It’s made him resplendent with Teflon skin and no amount of abuse will stick to him.
For him the PR has to be so bad, so likely to effect his bottom line that he’ll be forced to act. What that act will or could be is anyone’s best guess. But remember this – the biggest cancer on this club is Stan. Yes, Wenger has issues (a lot of them) but it’s Stan whom will see this club drift along – even when replacing Wenger.
The movement for change has to be sure that the change it affects is a change in the absolute direction and is tied to not accepting mediocre as acceptable.
I wish them well. I hope they do it more than once. I support them how I can but am a realist and without continued, targeted efforts it won’t amount
INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS:
Arsenal: Cazorla (match fitness), Rosicky (match fitness) Oxlade-Chamberlain (match fitness)
Norwich: Klose (knee), Tettey (ankle), Wisdom (knee)
Referee: Mike Jones (25G 74Y 2R)
Assistant Referees: R West, M Scholes
Fourth Official: K Friend
UK: Sky Sports 17.30 GMT
US: NBC (Main Network) 12:30 PM EST
Arsenal 2 – 1 Norwich
MATCH FACTS: (Courtesy FourFourtTwo.com via OPTA Sports)
- Arsenal have won eight of their last 12 league home games against the Canaries (W8 D3 L1).
- Just one of the last 14 league meetings between these two clubs has ended in a Norwich City win. They have lost seven and drawn six against the Gunners in this period.
- This game will be Arsene Wenger’s 750th Premier League match in charge of Arsenal; only Sir Alex Ferguson (810) has managed more in the competition.
- Mesut Ozil has now gone eight successive Premier League appearances without an assist, despite having a league-high 18 in total this season.
- Ozil has created a league-high 137 goalscoring chances for team-mates this season in the top-flight, more than any other player in a single Premier League campaign since 2003/04.
- Olivier Giroud has now gone 14 Premier League games without scoring, his longest goal-drought in the competition.
- Arsenal have failed to win seven Premier League games that they have led in at some point this season (D5 L2); their highest tally since 2004-05 (also seven games).
- No team in the Premier League has a lower scoring top scorer than Norwich City this season; Redmond and Mbokani (five goals).
- Arsenal have made the most touches in the opposition box this season (1158), while opponents Norwich City have made the fewest (569).
- Of players to have had 10+ clear cut chances in the Premier League this season, Norwich striker Cameron Jerome has the worst conversion rate of these chances (2/12; 16.7%).