By Guy Bailey
Renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said “If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost”. Well I guess Zig wasn’t at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon to watch as comprehensive a defeat in every sense of the word handed down to an anemic Arsenal team by Manchester United.
I have to re-emphasize, mental, physical, emotional, moral, reputational, financial – every single aspect of Arsenal, the team, the club and the organization was held up to full public scrutiny and found to be wanting. I cannot find a more damning summary than that. Gareth Southgate lost his job at Middlesbrough for wanting to emulate the free-flowing, rapier thrusts of the emerging gunners and become the ‘Arsenal of the North’. It appears Arsene Wenger also got the wrong end of the stick and has turned the invincibles into the Boro of the South, at least the 2008 vintage. Fragile, nervous, punchless, distracted and weak. I am not one for importing other sports rules into Football arbiterily because on balance we have the best of all worlds but it would have been a God-given mercy had Wenger marched to the center circle at half time and ceremoniously threw a towel to the ground to end the pain.
My dad, always the wisest head I know when it comes to football matters, once said to me after Boro had unveiled another promising, up-and-coming, never-heard-of-him, signing from the lower reaches of the leagues “If you fill your team with Division Two players, one day you wake up and you’re in Division Two”. Arsenal are not in danger of relegation but the team is full of mid-table, Premiership fancy dans who skulk at hard work, bravery and endeavor, the very facets that elevate the EPL above its technically superior continental neighbors. And let’s not forget the general rule of Wenger was forever– I’ll find a better lesser-known talent than you. Still some truth there, I suppose– but when United find Javier Hernandez first– well, you begin to see the problem. Yes, Arsenal would easily finish in the top four in Spain or Italy where their strengths – possession, control, tempo and precision – are at a premium. In the engine room of England, however, they are as effective as a Boy Scout brigade trying to control a riot. Signings were made today, and more are said to be coming– but you wonder how far they will get with B listers trying to replace the A list skills of Cesc and Nasri….
The Manchester Massacre extended southwards as Arsenal’s bête-noir also found themselves on the wrong end of a shellacking as Manchester City doled out some more Northern aggression in a 1-5 thumping at a still-smoking White Hart Lane. Normally this would have been the big news of the weekend, Citeh taking care of fellow pretenders as a Great Dane would discipline a yappy Chihuahua with a swift swat of a paw. Chelsea needed two late goals to put down a stubborn Norwich resistance, Wolves continued their best start to a season in decades with a 0-0 at Villa and the hapless Blackburn Rovers missed two penalties at home to Everton before gifting the visitors a last-minute one of their own for Mikel Arteta to score, presumably while still laughing.
More to come after the transfer window slams shut at 6pm EST. Wenger has brought in Everton faithful cult hero Mikel Arteta, who has long been one of the world’s most underrated players, but you must wonder if a Clint Dempsey would have fit better than the Arteta Wenger should have wanted two seasons ago, and you must ask if it is not nearly enough.
Guy Bailey writes on English football for The Yanks Are Coming and just about anything else he pleases. He is an author, father, blogger, footballer and Boro man to the core. Beyond that, he’s an awesome human being. You can follow him on Twitter at @guyrbailey.