Did Wenger get the tactics wrong?
Last night, Arsenal played if they had to lose by 3 goal to be knocked out. They set out defensively to do this. Was this wrong, or should Arsenal have set up more attacking to top the group? What is clear as the game went on was that we were more concerned with qualifying than topping the group. The Ramsey substitution over Theo Walcott is a perfect example. The game was opening up, Walcott’s pace could have been a game changer, yet Wenger chose the safer option of keeping the middle strong, and retaining possession. Would Arsenal fans have moaned had Wenger stuck Walcott on, he lost the ball in the build up to a goal and Napoli won 3-0? We probably would have.
From the defensive line up, to defensive substitutions to running down the clock when 1-0, Arsenal players a management succeeded in their goal of losing by 3 goals or more. We set up cautiously to ensure we went through. We got out of a tough group, but should the goal have been to top the group?
Facing Madrid, Barca et al
So finishing 2nd means we have to play one of; Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona. It is no easy task, and leaves many a fan frustrated, especially when you look at the list of those sides we’d have faced if we topped the group (Leverkuson, Galatasary, Olympiakos, Zenith, AC Milan, Schalke). I am however, a firm believer that you have to play the best to win the best. At its kindest, you could possibly avoid Europe’s top teams up to the Semi Final stage, but this would still leave us facing 2 of them. We would have to beat them anyway, so playing them in the 2nd round does not matter.
People running round saying ‘We finished 2nd, so we are out” are basically admitting that as soon as we face a big side in Europe, we will get knocked out, so surely then they are happy we finished 2nd, as in their eyes, we can not win the competition, so we are better off out early so that we can concentrate on the league?
Personally, I am rooting for either Real Madrid or PSG. For the former it is because the Bernabeu is one of the few major European stadium I have yet to visit, for PSG, the EuroStar will be messy.
Should we ‘throw’ the Champions League
Arsenal have now been in the Champions League for 16 years on the trot. Only twice have we come close to winning it. The final defeat to Barcelona in 2005/06 and the QF defeat to Chelsea in 2003/04. No other season have we had the starting 11 or the squad which is good enough to win. Therefore, it makes me wonder, what is the point of the Champions League if you go into it not expecting to win it?
The point is money, and lots of it. That money allows you to buy better players, pay higher wages, and build a team which gives you an advantage on a domestic level. Last years winners got €55m from the competition. Arsenal made €32m. That is a difference of €23m or £19m. A big difference, yes, but it is not too disastrous. It is clear that financial wise, it is just as important to qualify for the Champions League (Chelsea & City, both knocked out in the groups, got around €30m) as win it. It makes me wonder then, why do we bother? Why not just qualify, then put out or kids. Rest the 1st team for the Premier League battle. Take the €30m and run. It might be defeatest, but as we saw with Everton, freshness is a factor in the Premier League.
A discussion yesterday with @simonrichardafc about the effect that continually getting knocked out of the Champions League 2nd round could have on our European Coefficient. After studying the UEFA website, it is clear you need around 100,000 coefficient points to remain in the Top 8 of Europe. Our recent history shows that by making, and getting knocked out in, the 2nd round gets you around 22,000 points. Consistently getting through the knock-out stages is enough.
Yes, if 8 teams continually start making the QF, this will change, but that is unlikely. A look at Dortmund’s current ranking, as a team on the way up, highlights the safety Arsenal have. They currently sit on 69,000 points. If they win the Champions League this year, they will not be in the Top 8. They will have to win it this year, and get through to the 2nd round next year to make the Top 8. PSG would have to do the same. But obviously only 1 can win.
And if you agree with my ‘take the money and run’ mantra of earlier, our coefficient does not matter, as the importance, money wise, is qualifying for the Champions League, not progressing.
Santi Cazorla is looking a frustrated man at Arsenal. He has gone from main man last year, to now slipping behind Ozil, Ramsey & Mertesacker in importance. He is continually the ’1st sub’ and his performances this year have been poor. Yes, he has suffered from injury, and has had to re-adapt to playing left wing (although he played out there a lot), but you have to wonder, if he, due to turn 29 tomorrow, has peaked and is starting a downward spiral in performances. With the interest in Draxler, who looks most comfortable on the left wing, you have to wonder if this could be Cazorla’s last at Arsenal. With a man 9 years his junior coming in.
At best, if we sign Draxler, Cazorla will become a squad, and a bloody good one. At worse, we will get our money back on him moving him to Spain. What I do not want to see is an Arshavin type decline.
No wins in 2 games. Some Arsenal fan’s are starting to talk of a downward spiral. Hopefully it is the same downward spiral that followed defeat at home to Munich earlier this year.