Arsenal 1-3 Monaco: On our never-ending naivety

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A despondent Arsene Wenger had finished giving his press conference, when a voice cried out from the back of the room to ask if he would mind answering one question in French.

Wenger stood at the head of the media lounge. He didn’t respond, but nor did he depart, so the voice went on. What, it asked, was the most disappointing aspect of Arsenal’s performance?

You didn’t have to be fluent to understand Wenger’s answer: “notre naïveté”.

Naive is a word that has become synonymous with Arsenal. As a bit of a test, I ran it through the search engine on my own blog. Here are the most recent uses:

“We all know that Arsene Wenger isn’t going anywhere until 2017. With that in mind, we have no choice but to demand more from the players. They can’t hide behind his diminishing reputation. They might not like it, but this is their mess too.  It’s never just one thing, and Wenger’s tactical naivety does not fully excuse theirs.”

Then:

“However, neither of those can match the humiliation of losing 6-0 at Chelsea. The tactical naivety Arsenal showed in that game is what makes me a little concerned about the length of Arsene Wenger’s new deal.”

Then:

“Wenger was comprehensively outmanoeuvered by Roberto Martinez at Goodison Park. In a game in which a point would have been a good result for Arsenal, it’s tempting to call Wenger’s tactics naive. However, considering how long he’s been in the game, one has to revert to an altogether more damning adjective: negligent.”

I gave up at that point. Not even I am so morbid as to dig deeper in to the mire.

However, you might see what I’m getting at. Naivety ought to be a temporary thing. It’s a state of being characterised by a lack of experience or sophistication. That should get better. It should be fixable. And yet here we are, approaching the end of a decade of defensive guilelessness. We’re a team caught in arrested development.

Google “how to stop being naive” and it’ll tell you the process can be accelerated by having your heart broken. Well, that one doesn’t seem to have worked for us. The painful lessons keep on coming, and we keep on ignoring them.

What happened against Monaco approached the absurd. Going 2-0 down was bad enough, but to concede a third having dragged ourselves back in to the game was madness. The craziest part is that I wasn’t even surprised. How many times have we seen Arsenal carelessly chase goals, only to be sucker-punched?

This latest horror show arrives days after we came inches from surrendering a 2-0 lead in the final few minutes at Crystal Palace. The further away it gets, the more that Manchester City win feels like an anomalous result against an out-of-sorts side.

Arsenal will re-qualify for the Champions League, but last night was a reminder of why it’s unlikely to get significantly better than that any time soon. You can look at our annual top four finish as a remarkable piece of consistency. Alternatively, you can see it as a staggering lack of progression — evidence that the teams of the second half of Arsene’s reign have been chronically hampered by an unworldliness the manager seems powerless to fix. We’re good, but unless something changes we’ll never be good enough.

It’s all very well for Arsene to accuse his players of naivety, but he is the man charged with educating this squad. If naivety is the problem, better coaching is surely the cure.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.

21 Comments

  1. Tanner Pruitt   •  

    Excellent article, James. It at least helps take the sting out of the still open wound that is today’s defeat. To be honest, and I’ve thought about this for quite a long time, but something seemed to happen after the 2006 UCL loss to Barcelona in the finals. I personally feel as though Arsenal got cheated out of a win, and maybe that’s just me feeling bitter about Jens Lehmann’s sending off so early in the game. I sometimes wonder what Arsenal could’ve been had they beaten Barcelona in 2006. Would Wenger have been able to hold on to his stars any better? Would Arsenal be a more attractive club to play for on par with the Chelsea’s and the Manchester United’s of the world? Would Wenger thrive with winning the UCL or would he have cracked? That game, to me, seems to have been the major turning point for Arsenal and Wenger. Things have only gone down hill from there. Just wanted to hear your thoughts.

  2. 4th Place Cowboy   •  

    My question is who is responsible for our never-ending naiveté’? The players…? Not a chance. The reason is that we’ve had three or four different teams in the past 7 years that have displayed the exact same naiveté’.

    It’s the manager.

    Arsenal Football Club has gotten no better and no worse for the past 7 years. We make the same mistakes, we’re still tactically rigid and unaware. The team still has no consistent mental backbone. And all that results in us losing the vast majority of the big games we play.

    Sure we won the FA Cup and we beat Man City. But since the City match we’ve managed to lose big games to Spurs and Monaco.

    Same movie, same ending. We need a new director if we want a movie with a different ending.

  3. Arsenalist   •  

    Monaco does one and only one thing well when they have the ball, and that’s counter attack. This is common knowledge based on their Ligue 1 play and their Champions League group play. Despite knowing all this, Arsenal conceded three goals on the counter. That is indicative of one of two things:

    1. An utter lack of proper planning
    2. An existence of a plan but a total lack of execution

    In either case, this has been happening for so long, and so predictably, that blame has to lie on the one constant through all the iterations of Arsenal teams that have failed under even the slightest spotlight or pressure: the manager.

  4. Protonriver   •  

    I think a lot of our problems arise in the lack of mental clarity in the team regarding how to approach a game. For the Man City one I sense that Wenger’s instructions were very clear (for once) – sit deep, defend strongly and break quickly. The 4-1-4-1 was also suited to this. I felt that for the Monaco game, Wenger didn’t actually tell his squad how to approach the game, he just left them to it. Top coaches issue clear instructions for every game.

  5. Easy tiger   •  

    Does anyone else remeber wenger after a tragic game at home to Swansea, we lost 2-0. Wenger said then “if you can`t win, don`t lose”, I agree With that. Does he? This just happens to often. Cazorla playing deep is never a good idea. The city win seems more and more like a Complete fluke.

  6. Roshan Singh   •  

    Chelsea have terry. City have kompany. Bayern have schweinsteiger. Barca have pique. Real have Ramos Liverpool have gerrard. These players all are or were leaders for their respective international teams and I’m afraid arsenal have none . That is the missing piece of the puzzle . Koscielny is a top defender and in my opinion shld be given the armband instead of mertesacker and I believe he would accompany Gabriel very well . Mertesacker shld be sold and another centre back has to come in . The criticism that Giroud has had to endure is unfair it is not his fault

    • Goon   •  

      You’re right. Nothing from what giroud did against Monaco was his fault…wake up and smell the steaming load he left on your doorstep. Have you ever wondered why giroud has never been hailed as a top striker by his teammates? Look at what berbatov did to us – I hardly expected him to miss his chance. Top strikers are expected to score, ,and when they miss its suprising. While with giroud, it seems surprising when he scores, so you think you’re pleased. If giroud puts any of his chances in, the game becomes a lot different. Such wasted opportunities have a draining effect on the team, and we became noticeably frustrated before the first half had even ended. Only player who I felt maybe had a decent game was coquelin, who contributed his usual eagerness to defend, while his long ball distribution continues to impress. I think welbeck deserves another go at CF, he can offer similar link up play as giroud but can also run at or in behind defenses. Akpom at least deserves some sub minutes after welbeck is tired.

  7. Rich   •  

    The problem for me is simple.
    For years we neglected investing in the squad.
    We spent £42mill on Ozil, he may have lifted the profile? but for me he’s an expensive luxury.
    We spent £32mill on Alexis, who may not have joined Arsenal if Ozil wasn’t there?
    The balance is wrong, Cazorla, Ozil in the same team, we’re a team of weaklings, yes we have quality, but we’ll compete for a top 4 place because that’s all we’re good enough for.
    Arsene’s loyalty to his players is misguided.
    Time to ruthlessly cut Flamini, Mertesacker, Arteta, Ozil, Walcott, Wilshere?
    Buy a striker who’s better than Giroud for first choice.
    Coquelin got a new £60k p/w deal for 4years…off the back of an attitude change and 5 decent games FFS
    We have good players, better than a few years back, but we’re still light years away in terms of the elite, who either continually just buy top quality, or produce top quality and surround them with the required quality to improve their game.
    And don’t tell me we can’t afford to compete, we’re quite literally stinking of cash.

    • jon fox   •  

      Rich, your posts says the real truth of what is wrong with Arsenal. Ozil was a disastrous waste of 42 mill and to make it worse that stopped us re-signing Fabregas. He is a timid though talented player without character or backbone. Wenger should cut his losses and get rid of him asap before his value falls still further. To much deadwood and square pegs in round holes in the club. No physical power. not enough fight and an arrogant never learn manager who keeps making the same mistakes year after long year. Joke substitutions made by the clock but not when needed. Midfield packed with injury ridden dwarves, the Diaby fiasco, a permanent hospital patient soon to qualify for a testimonial.
      Ridiculous misplaced loyalty to serial non-producers and much , much more besides to lay at Wenger’s door. Cavalier attack and no understanding or attention paid to the defensive importance of all top teams, Chelsea being a good example of a manager who is in touch with reality, not idealism. Must go now and swallow the anti-depression tablets!

  8. Cesc_   •  

    Thanks James.
    Everyone is jumping on AW. But how the crap he can still protect his players after that game. No, not this time. He has to stop to act like a shield for them. The indvidual and collective players performances were so poor. I didn’t see that for a while. That bad display, it’s unthinkable.
    So technical errors but also and mainly football IQ… Arsenal fans are really disappointed. It’s really sour. Mentally, everyone needs to improve and focus.

    All the players were not at their best level. However if the fashion is to point out to someone it has to be Mertesacker. Not to score (Giroud? Welbeck? Theo?) is one thing in the first leg of an UCL game, BUT taking three goals at home is another thing. The german is implicated in the three defensive blows. It is no coincidence. I have the feeling everybody will let him go through all this fuss. (I hope you won’t and make an article about this scrappy defence)

    It has to stop, it’s enough. AW can’t be scape-goated once again. Let’s face it : the arsenal players are not enough good neither consitant in their game. It’s killing me to say that but : ” They need to man-up”.

  9. blame the preacher right   •  

    The way i c it. A manager can talk all he wants. But when the players dnt perform the tasks which is expected of them we still blame the manager. Who questioned the squard selection? If the chances were taken the players may have a dif mindset. The german #10 bows his head or lifts it up to the heavens too often for my liking. Monoco took their chances while giroud and welbeck was wasteful.

  10. Sam   •  

    It was absolutely painful watching this game unfold even though I was watching the recording and knew the result. Giroud, Ozil, Sanchez, Cazorla, Welback are 5 very good players that would have any European team going into a tizzy. Yet, Arsenal have been able to get the worst out of them on a very important night.

    After the first 10 mins of attacking play, all 5 of them just lost confidence and interest in the game. Even a Championship team would have beaten us in those remaining 80 mins. It was as if Wenger had no game plan and his absolutely useless assistant Mr Bould was there as a spectator. I don’t think Wenger is responsible for all the planning, Steve Bould must be contributing something. When he took the assistant coach position, all of us thought that our defense will improve. But all that I have seen is a downward spiral. All the basic defensive tasks have been thrown out the window – no positional awareness, very high line, horrible man marking, bad clearances which result in lost possession in our half…all of them are due to Bould. So while its Wenger who is taking the brunt of outrage, I feel the support staff should take responsibility too.

    • Titansgunner12thman   •  

      Ridiculous Sam. Wenger hired the coaches and won’t let them coach. Wenger brings in attacking players and insist on playing them as holding midifielders when they aren’t equipped for that style. Even in Ozil and Sanchez, we have players that are luxury players, but not what the team’s needed for years.

      Vikram, how is this team getting stronger? We keep landing in the same place on the table for that last 9 years. An FA cup championship? I scoff at that. That’s for bottom half of the premiere league table teams and Everton.

      I’m starting to think we will need a serious jolt to get us out of this rut. I.E. not qualifying for the Champion’s league.

    • Titansgunner12thman   •  

      Sam,
      Who blames the underling. The Boss is the one that has to take full responsibility. He may fire someone who is not getting the job done, not unlike American football coaches that fire their positional and coordinators when things don’t go right just to save his ass, but Wenger doesn’t even have to play to blame game. Just show up to work and rest on his laurels. That’s the very definition of stagnation.

  11. vikram   •  

    “Sadly, the only reason Arsenal are perennially 2 players from glory is because the manager remains the same.”

    No it’s not. It’s because WE remain the same.

    The squad is getting stronger with time and will continue to do so. We, on the other hand, are carrying around baggage that no longer applies to the current situation. It’s the baggage that makes us react like dickheads (you’re welcome).

    Just let Wenger rebuild year-on-year until we’re good enough to win something that’ll shut us up.

    You cannot, or ought not, recognise our improvement one minute and start renting clothing the next.

    We win games. We lose games. Sometimes horribly. That’s true of everyone. Even the so-called ‘best’.

  12. Titansgunner12thman   •  

    It is groundhogs day. Wenger is the problem. He’s been the problem. He can’t advance any further than he has. He is our Moses. Moses never got to the promised land. Our promise land is the Champion’s league winners circle. And face it, he won’t make it. He’s done. He is good enough to qualify for the Champion’s league, simply because Spurs have an inferiority complex, and Liverpool is still in transition. But Wenger doesn’t even hide the fact that he doesn’t have any answers anymore. Naivete! Really?
    How can you be naive and have had the same thing happen year after year after year after year after year?
    Wenger doesn’t have the answers, he’s retirement age, and he won’t change stripes at this point. I would straight up fire him now. I wanted him to go with the respect he had earned, and he has earned alot, but he can’t be allowed to leave on his own terms. He doesn’t get the football business has past him by.

  13. Titansgunner12thman   •  

    The next transfers should only be defenders or defensive minded players. Say what you want about Mourihno, but he doesn’t lose because he won’t do whats necessary. He has every right to attack Wenger, and is right.
    How our fans keep justifying his non winning has gone to epidemic levels. And no I wasn’t content with just barely beating Leister City. It makes me sick to my stomach that EVERY TEAM that we play thinks that they have a chance. If that’s not the writing on the wall what more do the “keep Wengermites” need?

  14. Nicki Chanel   •  

    TIME FOR CHEAPO TO LEAVE!!! IT’S PEP GUARDIAN’S TURN.

  15. Derek Gaves   •  

    Arsenals new invincibles put up another load of crap as expected. These players are undoubtedly the worst team ever produced by that idiot Wenger. These primadonnas are a load of injury prone wankers ever assembled on one pitch. All the players are desperate to get on the score sheet when in reality They should pass. Their loanee that scored a wonderful goal last weekend Miyaichi give them some hope if they watch it. All Miyaichi backstabbers with their minute knowledge of football can see the goal on YouTube.

  16. Samwise   •  

    We buy alot of players whom are doing very well in their previous club, Like Ozil who was regarded as one of the best number 10s in the world at Real Madrid, or like Giroud whom was the Ligue 1 top goal scorer the season prior to joining our side, or like Podolski who had 100+ games for Germany under his belt and was competing for the top goal scorer award in bundesliga despite playing for a team who fought with relegation and ultimately was relegated in Poldis last season with them, But Poldi still scored 19 goals in the league and the Cologne or Køln FC (Affectionately known as Podolski FC) manager said of Poldi that he thought he was probably better than Robin Van Persie and Arsenal had made a great signing.

    But then these players come here under Wenger`s guidance and pretty much every single one of them are reduced to a mediocre squad player or just pure shit after a few months under the his management. Poldi came, started out very well but then faded away into shitness. Giroud came and just instantly went from prolific goalscorer to the most wasteful striker we have had in quite some time. Allthough granted, he have improved lately, but still inconsistent. Ozil came and started out very well, but a few months in he was reduced to mediocrity. A proper world beater of a player turned to shit compared to what he was at Real Madrid under our management.

    Most recently, Alexis. he started out like the beast we knew from Barca, but is now starting to fade and are becoming more and more mediocre with each passing game. Why? In my mind this can only be placed at one mans door. Arsene Wenger. It cant be a coincidence when it happens with every single player we bring in. it does not matter how good they were prior to joining us. our management will reduce them to mediocrity or shit sooner or later.

    there was a time when the opposite was true.

    what are your thoughts on this?

  17. Cesc_   •  

    Thanks for the article on Unibet James. As I thought, you’re the only one who (has the balls to) expose Mertesacker. He went through all the nets in the media and nobody talked about his pittyful performance.

    The guy is not as motivated as before (post world cup winner) and most of all he is not delivering a high footballistic IQ since the season started. Monaco: he turned his body (wtf?) when the ball hit him, he thought his was a fucking winger in the second goal, then in the stoppage time his lack of pace was terribly revealed.
    It’s enough.

    Let’s hope for a Koscienly-Gabriel partenership very soon as you wrote.

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