Arsenal Audit: May 2017

By Neil A. Fry

Analysis of the season’s final month

After a catastrophic series of results from the home defeat to Watford on 31 January to the feeble capitulation at Crystal Palace on 10 April, Arsenal mounted yet another - when all is lost – end-of-season run. Having seen St Totteringham’s day cancelled for the first time under Monsieur Wenger after a bad defeat at their second-place North London rivals, and the League title long gone, Arsenal went into the final month of the season facing some familiar barriers to their already slim hopes of Champions League qualification and Monsieur Wenger’s fourth-place ‘trophy’. Mourhino was finally beaten in a competitive match; successive awkward away matches at Southampton and Stoke won without too many problems; and troublesome new foe Ronald Koeman was beaten, by ten men, in the final League match. Ultimately condemned to Europa League Thursdays next season, Arsenal finished the season in style in the FA Cup Final, overcoming Antonio Conte’s Premier League Champions superbly. Having had his 20-year anniversary, it would have been a good time for Monsieur Wenger to bow out - after so many lows this season - on something of a high and with some dignity still intact.

Unfortunately, Arsenal’s absentee American major shareholder and de facto owner, Stan Kroenke, managed to fly over for the Cup Final and promptly, privately, decided Monsieur Wenger was to remain as his fund-manager – having just confirmed that KSE UK, Inc was a “committed long-term investor in Arsenal”. The Arsenal Board dutifully rubber-stamped the decision, and ‘Silent Stan’ flew back to his $725 million 800-square-miles Texas ranch. There was no tricky press conference or one of those fan forums that so irritate Monsieur Wenger. Rather, Arsenal Player went into overdrive. Having proclaimed himself a “catalyst for change” in April, Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis now gushed, “Arsène is somebody I have worked with for over eight years now, and I know the quality of the man, I know the quality of him as a football person and I know the quality of him as a human being as well” and remained unshakeable in his belief that Wenger was the right man for the job.

Arsenal Audit does not agree and will outline why next week in a New Contract Special – Arsenal Audit Final Edition, Au revoir Arsènal. Arsenal Audit says goodbye to Monsieur Wenger’s Arsènal - a grossly underachieving football club that has been sold out to become a mere investment fund for an already obscenely rich American cowboy - and au revoir to the once great Arsenal Football Club.

Arsenal 2–0 Manchester United
In the last Arsenal Audit, reference was made to Arsenal’s two-point deduction for a mass brawl in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in George Graham’s 1991/92 title win. There has been little chance of a repeat of either for years. In addition to the criticism of Nacho Monreal pre-match, Rooney and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain walked off at half-time arm and arm, giggling, like two besotted teenagers. Arsenal had three at the back and two wing-backs but the two biggest flaws of the Tottenham team-selection were corrected with Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck restored to the line-up and Gabriel and Olivier Giroud back on the bench. Remarkably, even by his standards, Mourinho effectively played six at the back - four plus Mata and Mkhitaryan as de facto wing-backs. Mourinho has taken Man United a long way from the days of Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill, and Giggs and Beckham. And the world's wealthiest club has its own little record away against the top six - apart from at Leicester last season, they hadn’t scored since January 2015. For all Mourinho’s ridiculous protestations, they had ten well-known and experienced players starting. And their debutant 19-year-old right-back saw off Alexis Sanchez without too much trouble and was probably their best player. Granit Xhaka’s heavily-deflected 25–30-yard shot provided further evidence of how unwise Monsieur Wenger’s prohibition of long shots was, until letting his players imbibe this season. And within three minutes Arsenal had scored a second in the post-half-time problem period. There was no fortune in wing-back Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Sagnaesque cross for Denny Welbeck’s unstoppable bullet header. For Arsenal, the rare top-six victory still leaves them bottom of the top-six table at less than a point a match (nine points from ten matches). But, in this of all seasons, Monsieur Wenger had finally - at the 15th attempt dating back to 2004 - beaten Mourihno in a competitive match.

Southampton 0–2 Arsenal
Shkodran Mustafi, deputising for injured de facto captain Koscielny, recovered from a rusty start to nip many of goal-shy Southampton’s attacks as a sluggish Arsenal eventually upped their game in the second half. On the hour, an ailing and thoroughly wasteful Alexis did what word-class players do, and with sublime touches left the two Southampton markers floundering and hammered home. He lofted a cross for Aaron Ramsey to head back an excellent assist for super-sub Olivier Giroud to head in from close range and seal the win. It was the first in five league matches at Southampton since The Invincibles season (0-1, Pires) and Arsenal’s Sanchez joined the pantheon of Arsenal 20-Premier-League-goals-in-a-season players - Ian Wright, and three who left for greater rewards - (one-season-wonder) Emmanuel Adebayor, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie. Unfortunately, there will be no shortages of top football club suitors encouraging Alexis to join them.

Stoke 1–4 Arsenal
To add to the problem of away matches such as this, home-manager Mark Hughes had never lost in eight homes games against Monsieur Wenger. Monsieur Wenger appeared to modify his team selection a little in what appeared a sensible attempt to tackle Stoke. Francis Coquelin replaced Aaron Ramsey, and Olivier Giroud returned, presumably partly due to his aerial ability at defending set pieces. Ironically, Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch started on the home bench and Stoke were never at the races as Arsenal summoned up a rare intensity from start to finish. After his significant personal slump in form in February/March, Coquelin operated higher up the pitch as elements of the first half of the season's press resurfaced. He also added a better offensive contribution to his normal destructive game and he passed incisively for the most natural of wing-backs, Hector Bellerin, to set up Olivier Giroud for the long-due opener and his first of two. After Alexis set up Özil for the second, Crouch handed in a reply but Arsenal for once weathered the traditional storm. Then - having, for once, self-certificated himself as injured and needing to go off - Alexis was recklessly left on so long he added the third. Nevertheless, within a week, Monsieur Wenger had overcome Mourinho, Southampton and Stoke away.

Arsenal 2–0 Sunderland
Despite the Arsenal offensive stats and heroic attempts of the much-sought-after, but not by Arsenal, young goalkeeper to repel Arsenal for most of the match, the match is unlikely to linger in anyone’s memory for very long. If for anything it will be remembered more for Monsieur Wenger’s pre-match comments than the two eventual Arsenal goals, scored by Alexis, against the Premier League’s most woeful team and manager. The manager railed against other teams being ‘on the beach’ before their safe season ends. As the Arsenal Audit August review noted, since 2011 when Arsenal first forsook their Austria-based training camp, Monsieur Wenger and his players have still been on the beach when the season started. The defeat to Liverpool, which robbed him of his prized fourth-place trophy, was one of four in the last six season-openers, all at home, lost. The combination of ticket-holders protesting and not turning up, or just being too busy to care anyway, gave a foretaste of Europa League Thursdays next season. Budget Sky Sports 2 coverage came with no pre-match build up, a documentary return to Monsieur Wenger’s better days 13 years ago, and journeyman co-commentator Tony Gale, doing the usual studio honours high up in the stands, noted “what little crowd there is here”.

Arsenal 3–1 Everton
In his previous twelve matches against manager Ronald Koeman, Monsieur Wenger had won just two. De facto captain Koscielny’s moment of madness and red card, after just fourteen minutes, tested the record further. And after Gabriel’s injury, captain Mertesacker - returning from injury and on the bench at Sutton on 20 February - came on for the first time this season. He amassed 37 Premier League minutes of on-pitch leadership for the season. Wing-back Hector Bellerin got forward well, despite ten men, and spared a profligate Danny Welbeck’s blushes with the opener. Alexis added the second with his 24th Premier League goal of the season (and ten assists). After losing the post-half-time team talk period, Ramsey sealed the win with, at long last, a Hollywood finish. He has continued to get in good positions and hit a spell of, relatively speaking, better form – albeit a long way away from his golden season of 2013/14. Whether Monsieur Wenger has worked out the ‘2’ conundrum sans-Santi Cazorla in the long term is another matter. Once again, Arsenal produced their customary end-of-season Premier League run when the pressure was off and the title lost. This season, even Monsieur Wenger's fourth-place trophy was lost too.

Arsenal 2–1 Chelsea, FA Cup Final
Actual captain Mertesacker started his first match of the season, and his first ever in a ‘3’, displayed real leadership in every sense and would have been a well deserving man of the match. The pace the 100+ cap German international veteran has never had was ably compensated by the excellent young Rob Holding and Nacho Monreal either side. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added to his list of positions by filling in, on his return from injury finally to start a Cup Final, at left wing-back. Surely uniquely - with Debuchy and Jenkinson not recalled from their very well-remunerated exiles - there were no defenders on the Arsenal bench. Alexis’s fifth-minute opener owed something to a continuance of Arsenal’s semi-final luck. Aaron Ramsey continued his recent new-found defensive diligence by winning the ball back as Chelsea started to build from Arsenal’s poor opening corner before - well offside - standing aside to let Alexis side foot in (after his initial missed handball). Thereafter, confounding all expectations, Arsenal were largely dominant. The defenders blocked, headed and tackled like last season’s Leicester City and pressed and passed with the intelligent intensity of Klopp’s Dortmund at their peak. An energetic Welbeck stretched Chelsea and, along with a hard-working Özil, hit the post. Cahill cleared two off the line. The BBC commentators and many Arsenal fans were incredulous that, having missed the quarter- and semi-finals through injury, the reportedly soon-to-be-departing David Ospina was selected ahead of the in-form number one, Petr Cech. Ospina did make two decisive saves from Costa but let Chelsea back into the match, with his lack of reach and a weak hand exposed by the deflected equaliser. No matter, super-sub Olivier Giroud came on and within three minutes, set up Ramsey to head in after another tireless run to win Arsenal a record 13th FA Cup and Monsieur Wenger a record seven.


Waggoner cowboy:


Arsènal DNA:

5th June 2017 10:41:03


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Bard  15:44pm 5th Jun 2017

Look forward to the analysis Neil. I see Wenger is getting his excuses in early. We have come full circle. We are now back to the 'not having the money argument' again He has got some front spouting that one again. Good to see the new Anelka has been sent packing. Another one bites the dust. - Post No. 107886

Alsace  17:15pm 5th Jun 2017

We have made progress. We know that the only thing keeping Wenger in place is Mr Kreonke and not the Board. The cost of our season tickets has gone down as we swap unwinnable eurobore for easier eurobore. The press are now wise to AW and will be sharpening their knives for the inevitable snafu. The 4th place Bollards is also at an end. We have an active and funded resistance movement which we can join and support. - Post No. 107887

mbg  19:22pm 5th Jun 2017

Bard, that didn't take long either did it, and just watch his AKB wengerite luvvies following suit, yes we've come full circle alright only this time lower than when we first started off thirteen years ago, with just as much dead wood and humiliations and embarrassments, we've actually regressed, so much for this so called record of TOF's for CL qualification what good has it done ? like I've said we've regressed, and the Wengerites wanted him to stay ? and the fence sitters were to nice to chant wenger out and wanted him to go with respect. LOL, and they actually think it's going to get better (yes back to fourth place and CL qualification again at most/best so we'll be back to square one and where we started yet again, lol and off course we'll have made progress) they fooking deserve it all and more, and him. We want wenger out. - Post No. 107888

TOOAW  23:32pm 5th Jun 2017

Excellent end of season results in my opinion. An fa cup to top it off. How the little club down the road would have loved that. ARSENAL 16 SPUDS 2. It never gets boring does it? Progress Is Arsenals middle name. Year after year with an astute manager who will deliver yet another fine season next season. - Post No. 107889

Bard  9:48am 6th Jun 2017

TOOAW. your post had me in stitches mate. It reminded me of a mate at school who did very little work and nearly always came in the bottom third. His parents gave him a bollocking and his response was fantastic. 'Why are you stressed I didnt come last. Nil ambition, worshipped at the alter of mediocrity. - Post No. 107890

jjetplane  10:49am 6th Jun 2017

You can hear the meds in his postings. So monotonous that perhaps it is just an electronic voice from marketing. Probably gets a kick from being on here like some little radical Trump type. I hope it keeps posting and we will see where the monotones veer when the pastings begin with Wenger settling into the mid table and getting congrats cards from Stoke and West Brom. Will Giroud's hair take a season of that? - Post No. 107891

peter wain  12:17pm 6th Jun 2017

one free transfer signed only another two players needed for us to rule the world. - Post No. 107892

CBee  15:10pm 6th Jun 2017

Yes great progress TOOAW, from second to fifth. The next level hear we come! - Post No. 107893

MAF  15:23pm 6th Jun 2017

how's the old ditherer doing in the Transfer market ? meanwhile all other rivals moving Forward fast, as if they mean it. - Post No. 107894

jjetplane  15:33pm 6th Jun 2017

The new freebie signing who no one wants says he has the 'mentality.' Bet his agent slipped him that one to be folloed by 'the spirit.' Kind of player any mid table team would have on board .... Wait a godamn minute! Reckon Wenger has found his true level now away from those nasty big, competing clubs though it may take another few years to get to a Europa final. With all the sunday games coming up I hope they are gearing up for a all you can eat roast buffet for 50 quid a go. The stewards will be walking around waking up the buffet fans 20 mins before the end so they cann miss 'the traffic' - love this club! - Post No. 107895

mbg  15:36pm 6th Jun 2017

Another fine season next season, would that be dropping out of the top eight ? or getting back into the top four ? or another cup that TOF (and his followers) used to treat with disdain until it suddenly became important in saving his skinny arse. You couldn't make it up, more to be pitied than laughed at. We want wenger out we want wenger out. - Post No. 107896

equalizer  16:56pm 6th Jun 2017

Wenger’s Arsènal - a grossly underachieving football club that has been sold out to become a mere investment fund for an already obscenely rich American cowboy". Succinctly put Neil,this should be repeated as often as possible on every available social media platform, so it may finally sink home with even the dimmest of Arsenal fans who still support the manager and the club financially. Thankfully the media have copped on to the great con that is Arsenal Ltd and the pressure on Wenger this season will be relentless from Matchday 1. Let's drive the greedy charlatan out of our club - Post No. 107897

Roy  17:39pm 6th Jun 2017

equaliser, excellent post mate which hits the nail on the head. I was going to mention that quote as well, so permission to use please, Neil. One question though. Why would a 67 - year - old want to put himself through the kind of pressure that he is inevitably going to face ? It's just crazy. Not that anybody believes the sound bites about winning league titles, which he has proved he is no longer capable of, but surely can't just be stubbornness or greed ? Then again, I can't seem to proffer a coherent alternative answer ! One contract too far I'm afraid, and next season has all the signs of a car crash waiting to happen. I hope that's an overstatement, but if it's not, the club will have well and truly deserved it. - Post No. 107898

jjetplane  18:07pm 6th Jun 2017

Wenger really does not care about the football or the abuse. In fact - he is hoping to wind up the antis even more because as long as it's 10m or thereabouts in his account who cares if the fans hate you. Think he enjoys a certain notoriety because he has little else to offer the game. Horrible state but as a mid atlantic business interest, quite perfect. He is a lower end model of Maybot, Trump and I bet they love Wenger. - Post No. 107899

Bard  19:43pm 6th Jun 2017

I think youre all being too cynical. So what he's signed a free from Schalke. What you didnt read is that he got his brother and his uncle thrown in for even less. Three for one. You cant knock it. While the big boys shop at the top end its good to see us at the local car boot sale. Rumour has it we re for the boy from France for £87m, who are they kidding ? - Post No. 107900

CORNISH GOONER  20:00pm 6th Jun 2017

Nice to see that the silly old fool only bid £87 mill for the Monaco kid - safely below Real's £118 or thereabouts, just in case it got accepted! Anyway, I have been to Truro today & was reliably told some sensational news - Arsene-l have agreed terms for a 16 year old playing for City's reserves. His headmaster commented that "he is quite a clever boy academically, is extremely polite, well behaved &, I have been told, shows some promise at sports". So there you have it only the 6th June & 2 new signings already in the bag. - Post No. 107901

mbg  22:11pm 6th Jun 2017

CORNISH, yes hard to believe, and if true wouldn't it be hilarious if it was accepted ? you can see the weasel turning white as a ghost, coming out in a cold sweat and trembling, getting even more pale than he is now as panic sets in, you can just imagine the backtracking there'd be, the reasons excuses spin lies to get out of it. We want wenger out. - Post No. 107902

TOOAW  22:17pm 6th Jun 2017

Great to the great one tying up the summer signings before the pre season. It will give the whole club a lift, some positiveness and a forward looking attitude in readiness for August. One thing that Arsene does is learn from his mistakes. Get rid of those who cannot contribute to the club and sign world class. It's looking like a good start to the frenzy of the summer signings. - Post No. 107903

GoonerRon  22:31pm 6th Jun 2017

The negativity about Kolasinac is just shameful. For one, he's a new player joining the club and this is th reception he gets from so-called supporters? Secondly, all the reports about him suggest he is an upgrade in what we have at LB yet because we got him for free (ahead of Man City and Milan if reports are to be believed) he's not good enough. I'll never understand the modern day fan logic of if a player doesn't cost loads he must be ****. - Post No. 107904

equalizer  8:16am 7th Jun 2017

Yes GoonerRon, he may be as good as Igor Stephanovs. A free punt for Wenger and his handler Kronke. - Post No. 107905

andy1886  9:53am 7th Jun 2017

No problem with the Kolasinac signing as long as we sell Gibbs and it isn't considered as one of the "two or three" signings that Wenger stated. Let's see how he performs (please God not another Santos!). Yet another failure to sign a top class striker would be unforgivable though and it's the one thing that may convince Sanchez to sign on again. If he goes and we stick with Giroud then Wenger could be out by Christmas. - Post No. 107906

GoonerRon  11:06am 7th Jun 2017

@ equaliser - Kolasinac was voted the best player in his position in the German league last season. Just admit it has the makings of a very good signing and be done with it. - Post No. 107907

Yes its Ron  11:10am 7th Jun 2017

Ive not heard of Kolasinac before but Son in Law has seen a bit of him for Schalke and reckons hes useful. So there you have it lads, hot off the press! S in L s a decent judge of a player though in all seriousness. Gibbs will be gone now i suppose. Never really matched his early potential did he, though hes been asked to play in some pretty rocky defences in his yrs at the Club. He never mastered the need for a full back to support his central defenders and to balance that will getting forward in my view. Whos to blame? Player or Coach? Answers on a post card. - Post No. 107908

mbg  11:20am 7th Jun 2017

Wow, apparently 23 year bosnia Herzegovina (international if you don't mind what a coup)sead Kolasinac, top top qualittee no doubt, is joining us on a free when his contract expires, getting excited AKB's any moistness yet ? if wenger keeps this up he'll have blown his wages in no time and will have to do overtime, maybe even take a bung. We want wenger out. - Post No. 107909

jjetplane  11:23am 7th Jun 2017

I hold up a white flag. Kozinachi (bad spelling) is a great player with great mentality and spirit because all Wenger's players have these qualities even when they lose 10-2 to nasty old likes of BM. You are so persuasive GoonerRon and your undying love for your French uncle is well moving. Time for a dump! - Post No. 107910

GoonerRon  15:00pm 7th Jun 2017

@ jj - forgive me for thinking us signing a player who was voted the best in his position in a top league last season is a good thing, especially for no fee. This site is going down the toilet with numpties like you spouting such nonsense. - Post No. 107916

equalizer  18:39pm 7th Jun 2017

GoonerRon, he could indeed end up being a great signing. He could also end up being a pudding in the PL. Especially under Wenger, who is as likely to try to convert him into a holding midfielder as anything. So nothing to be excited about yet, and as I said, a free punt for Wenger and his handler Kronke. I wonder if he would have been signed if he wasn't free. We'll never know! - Post No. 107924

TOOAW  22:38pm 7th Jun 2017

@gooner ron. JJ has already shown his love for the underachievers down the road. If you take him and the Jameson drinker away, it would and could be a recipe for debate but I fear that these 2 anti Wengerites have so much time on their hands it's quite dull. For the record, I feel we will release Gibbs, Perez and Alexis to sign Mahrez and Lacazette. Keeping Ozil will be key but I do not believe that Mbappe is and ever will be on our radar. - Post No. 107927

markymark  8:24am 8th Jun 2017

TOOATWOoD - ho ho you do have a sense of humour. "One thing Wenger does is learn from his mistakes!" In what outer dimension does this happen? Almunia not good enough so keep on playing him, Diaby injury prone taking up years of salary so he keeps him, Denilson , Sonogo , prevaricating over purchases so he drops interest in Higauin (done deal ) goes after Suarez gets neither, still failing at the club to sort out player contracts so that we are not held to ransom, still not replaced Viera , letting Ya Ya go, still unable to galvanise a team to win a title and even last year failing to bring in a 3 man defense to shore things up till way to late. I'm going easy on Wenger with this there are literally loads of examples where Wengo continues to plough the same furrow against advice from those around him. - Post No. 107929

mbg  18:07pm 8th Jun 2017

markymark, yes he must have a sense of humour (then he'd have to wouldn't he) in the third dimension of the twilight zonal marking. wenger out. - Post No. 107945

Issue #269 - Out Now!

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