[By our readers] Seven reasons why Arsenal lost against Wigan
Written by Jeffrey on April 19, 2010 22:55
I get the feeling everyone will be trying to describe the defeat with plenty of juicy adjectives, so I’ve decided to start out with an analogy instead:
The last half hour of the game was like watching one of those really cheesy Hollywood flicks unfold. You know the one: guy breaks his girl’s heart, guy learns the error of his ways and sets out to win her back. You could tell exactly what the plot was, but it just seemed too far-fetched to unfold in the way we all knew it would. Surely she won’t take him back this time? Surely Arsenal won’t actually throw away another two-goal lead?
In fact, it was worse. Not only does she take him back but she gives him a long kiss, full of tongue and they get married and live happily ever after. That’s right, Arsenal didn’t just throw away victory, they actually contrived to lose the game with a display of breathtaking ineptitude.
Analogies aside, that was probably the worst micro-performance I’ve seen from the side this season. Even worse than West Ham, because they managed to lose this one. The first half started off a little dodgy, but from around the 15th until the 55th minute Arsenal was well on top. I think it’s important to recognise that in order to reveal where it all unravelled.
1) Lack of desire
Of course Arsenal wanted to win, but not nearly as much as relegation-threatened Wigan did, or as much as United did against City. Poor in contact, not making committed challenges (as evidenced by four Arsenal defenders failing to close down N’Zogbia for his goal) and just generally being second to everything. That was probably the most frustrating thing to watch. I hope Wenger tears them a new one, because that attitude was unacceptable: you have to be desperate to win every challenge.
2) Wigan maintained their belief
And Martinez made a really telling substitution by bringing on Victor Moses. He caused Sagna and Campbell a lot of problems. Wigan also started bossing all the midfield exchanges, principally because of Diaby’s poor showing, but also because Eastmond started to struggle in those last few minutes. I think he took an ankle knock.
3) Players giving the ball away
Silvestre and Diaby were the main candidates, but the backline was frequently under pressure because players continued to dally on the ball and be dispossessed. Whether or not it was a lack of calling, or simple laziness I’m not sure.
4) Wenger didn’t change the shape of the game as it slipped away
I’m not talking about the last ten minutes, but rather the twenty minutes before that where Wigan were all over us but failed to score due to some poor finishing and good stops from Fabianski. As Wigan pushed up, we pretty much maintained our shape when the midfield (especially Nasri and Diaby) had to drop back a bit more to help out. Bendtner can be left up there as an outlet. Once they scored their goal it was panic stations.
5) The response to conceding
The team showed all the mental fortitude of a three year old who’d fallen off the bed. Once Wigan scored there was never any doubt they’d score again. Compare that reaction to any of the other sides at the top of the table and you’ll see why we’re not champions. United scored in the last minute, we conceded three in the last ten. What’s surprising about this is that we had Campbell, Clichy, Sagna and Silvestre (yes he’s bad, but he is experienced). Surely a collective deep breath could be taken and we could see out the last few minutes with the minimum of fuss?
6) Fabianski’s error
Yes he’s a poor goalkeeper; no I don’t think he has any future at the club. But the problems go a little deeper than that, so as much as I’d love to blame him for everything, I’ll abstain for now. But it does go to show how important a good goalkeeper is over the course of a season.
7) The referee started giving little decisions in favour of Wigan
Probably because of the penalty shout he turned down earlier. A goal kick instead of a corner, a few fouls given where the defender was actually taken out. Those decisions helped Wigan built momentum, and Arsenal weren’t good enough to halt it.
In sum, the game didn’t tell us much we didn’t know: Fabianski is a poor keeper; we need a new centre half; we don’t have the squad depth to deal with injuries to our best players; and Wenger can often let a game drift. The disappointing thing is that these are all problems that we know about, and yet they still haven’t been addressed in any way. I’ll always be a fan of Arsene Wenger, but he has a long summer ahead of him if anything is going to change next season.