Sorry Arsenal, you're mediocre

2013-03-15 13:24
Sport24 columnist Ant Sims (File)
Another year, another empty trophy cabinet and the joke that is doing the rounds is that two Popes have now been in charge since Arsenal last managed to win silverware.

They bagged what would be termed as a consolation win on Wednesday night, when they beat a weakened Bayern Munich 2-0, but failed to progress to the next round of the Champions League on the away goal rule.

Even with their second choice 'keeper in front of the posts, Arsenal’s back four looked, arguably, the most composed they have been all season. Of course, the win was remarkable, of course it was wonderful and the team should delight in their resilience. Or should they?

It’s been an issue for Arsenal for the last decade. They have found themselves in sticky situations and miraculously crawled their way out of it, even if it achieved nothing. That kind of badger-like grit would then lead them to celebrate mediocrity instead of getting out of denial and questioning their frailties.

Whenever they have bounced backed from being in dire straits, be it through one win where nobody gave them a chance, or coming back from being four goals down, Arsenal have always praised the comeback. While teams are unlikely to ever publicly admit that they are struggling, nothing speaks louder than taking action through strategic buys when the transfer window so allows and nothing whips somebody so complacent in their place into shape than a new recruit eager to impress.

Wednesday night will doubtless foster some more celebration of mediocrity. Despite an early lead and a Bayern team who looked terribly nervous , Arsenal couldn’t capitalise and by the time the second goal had come, the players themselves were so surprised that they had managed to score, a collective rush of blood to the head nearly resulted in a few handbags flying around.

While the away-goal rule might be something peculiar, the Gunners wouldn’t have deserved to go through if it didn’t exist and they managed to edge through in extra-time. Arsenal had just five shots compared to Bayern’s 23 and just two of those were on target. Just one shot was blocked, compared to six from Bayern. Statistics aren’t everything, but they are an indication of where a side has come up short. Without Lukas Podolski, Arsenal just looked flat and while their passing might have been quite pretty, even that was worse than Bayern with Arsenal having just a 76% successful pass rate compared to Germans’ 81%.

If they’re not lacking in the final third, they are struggling against it. Arsenal are not short on skilled players either, but Arsene Wenger has seemingly run out of ideas on how to use them properly, or how to motivate them properly. Once a masterful tactician, both in the transfer market and on the field, lately the Gunners’ boss far too often does the same thing, expecting a different result.

Arsenal have issues and even the most convoluted supporter will be hard pressed to deny that. Everybody except for Wenger and co seem to know that something is lacking and the North London club have gone from being Invincible a few years ago to becoming completely invisible.

Sure, Arsenal’s win in Munich was somewhat impressive, but it should leave them simply whelmed instead of overwhelmed and instead of celebrating a win, it’s time for introspection and they should be asking how they allowed themselves to concede three goals at home in the first place instead of getting excited about managing to slip a couple past a Bayern side who were far too complacent for their own good. 

Unless, of course, they are simply content with being a mediocre club and if that is the case, for a club with their history, it would be a damn shame.

Ant Sims is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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