Aggregrate scores from our last two home games against the two best teams in England...
Arsenal 1-7 chelsea
Arsenal 2-6 Man United
No lessons are being learned.
Largely the same bunch of players, slump again to the same outcome.
The lack of signings where they are so obviously needed is damning enough. But the fact that this group of players failed so miserably, yet again, to gain the slightest measure of revenge for their last roasting by a hated rival, suggests one (or both) of two conclusions:
Wenger is simply tactically inept and unable to learn lessons, no matter how painfully inflicted, or Arsenal simply have a poor set of players that cannot hope to match the best teams.
I guess it's a bit of both. Arsenal's squad was largely put together on the (relative) cheap and it follows that their players are not quite as good, generally. But at the same time, a look at the two team sheets does not reveal such a discrepancy as to excuse the yawning gap in quality and, crucially, efficiency that was again exposed yesterday.
Thus the overwhelming proof is that Arsene Wenger, now more than ever before, lacks tactical sense. [And, by extension, the consistent failure to win trophies is suggesting that his stubborn footballing philopsophy betrays a lack of strategic sense, once you move past balance sheets and on to the things that fans actually care about].
Ferguson is not renowned particularly for the tactical side to his management, and sometimes even shows a tendency towards needless tinkering, but he has constantly outfoxed Wenger. He has a flexibility far beyond that of our manager, an appreciation for circumstance that while rarely compromising United's positive approach, often aids them in the marquee encounters. This kind of genius seems beyond our blinkered leader. You look at United's team and you couldn't really call it their strongest, but then, what is? While they had injured and suspended absentees, Ferguson also picked the horses to suit the course- a tried and tested route against Arsenal. Wenger on the other hand has only one way. He saw fit to put out a tactical carbon copy of the team that was mercilessly pasted by chelsea a short time ago. Same plan, same lack of effect in a big game. In fact, it's proving not only ineffective, but self-destructive. To see Rooney's killer, wonderfully-worked second was the worst kind of deja vu, less than 12 months after he teed up Ronaldo at the end f a similar breakaway in the same stadium. By all means, praise United for their peerless mastery of the art of counter-attacking, but what of the sheer stupidity of the team that invites it time and again? With the scoreline at 1-0, caution did not have to be discarded so early. And then the dose repeated early in the 2nd half, ensuring the contest was dead twice over.
The worst part, as with the chelsea game at the end of November, was the realisation of how easy good teams find it to play against us. It kills you to think that both of them have won at a canter, and not even by playing amazingly, but just by doing certain things very well that seem to totally defuse Arsenal's threat. clearly, something is rotten in Denmark. When your two centre backs and holding midfielder have decent games all the time and you are still so easily and regularly opened up, it points to a systemic flaw. Arsenal still fail miserably to defend collectively; there were, I thought, signs of an improvement at the start of the season, but that now appears a false dawn. counter-attacking sides continue to pose an irresolvable problem- remember city tonking us while seeming to be dominated early in the season. Wenger's way is not working. We can play it to a tee and lose, so on the days it fails, against top sides, we stand no chance at all.
And if the blame for tactical ineptitude and naivite lies mostly at Wenger's door, it must also be remembered that a condemantion of the players who patently aren't good enough, or don't try hard enough, is a condemantion of him above all else aswell. It is his misplaced faith, not ours. Who, amongst the fans, believes in Denilson, Bendtner, Almunia? Are we really supposed to believe that Arsenal cannot find or afford to bring in better?
He finally saw fit to criticise some of his players, without naming names, after the game. He seemed surprised at their failure to perform. In that regard, let's face it, he was pretty much alone.
And now, chelsea. And Drogba.
But I'm glad for a big game. The only real tonic, one feels, after the latest humiliation, would be for Arsenal to construct some kind of defence against the prosecution's reasonable assertion that we can't win when it matters.
And I have a funny feeling we might do it. There is no rationale for my position. To be an optimistic Arsenal fan tonight, logic must be abandoned. But logic has abandoned us for much of the season in general. And, bottom line, things always pan out well for Manchester United....