You're innocent when you dream

It’s such a sad old feeling
the fields are soft and green
it’s memories that I’m stealing
but you’re innocent when you dream

Tom Waits — Innocent When You Dream

For once in 473 posts, I’m nearly at a loss for words.

The legion of problems with this Arsenal side have been categorically explored. So, it simply doesn’t make sense to say “man, Arsenal sure could use a solid midfielder” because I’m not adding anything new to the stream. You know it, I know it, and Danny Murphy knew it yesterday, Arsenal’s midfield is not good enough. Pointing the finger at Denilson and Diaby for their shameful performances yesterday isn’t going to make me feel any better.

It’s unfair to point at those two players. Sure, they mailed that performance in yesterday, but can you blame them? There’s no competition for their spots, no one on the pitch who will kick them in the ass when they are trundling around doing the bare minimum, and the manager clearly is unable to inspire them to come out and put in the necessary work to overcome Fulham. No, picking on Denilson and Diaby is unfair, they’ve been left to their own devices now for a whole season and this is how they feel they should play.

Left to their own devices? Surely not?

Yes, this team is leaderless, I’m as certain of that now as I am of the fact that this team, while talented, lack that last little bit of class needed to finish these games. This team has no leader, no voice in the locker room, no voice on the pitch, and after yesterday no belief in themselves or each other.

In retrospect, this lack of leadership has been brewing now for two years. William Gallas’ appointment to the spot heralded the beginning of a new leadership philosophy by the manager. A sort of  “grease the squeaky wheel” method of giving captaincy to the players. Gallas was the most petulant player in the club, openly refusing to play at right back in his first season, instead of putting him in his place Arsene coddled him, gave him his favored center back spot, and eventually the captaincy. Miraculously, this worked last year because Arsenal had two real leaders left at the club: Flamini on the pitch and Gilberto off it.

Ironically, the act that saw Gallas stripped of that captaincy was, again in hindsight, possibly the most leaderly thing he’d done in his entire tenure. I say that because we now know very clearly that he was absolutely right. This team is full of drifters. Players who feel they have reached their zenith and have nothing left to prove or learn. I just wish Gallas had chosen to say what he said in the locker room, instead of the French papers because maybe if he’d have gone to the team and had a clear out meeting the boss could have stayed behind the man and used the criticism to get this team off their laurels.

As it happened he had no choice, Gallas had lost what little he had of the locker room and so Wenger put Cesc in charge. At first the decision was greeted with universal praise and the team seemed to respond under Cesc’s “leadership.” But the telling moment for Cesc as leader was when he went down injured. In that moment, he went into his shell, fucked off to Spain, and left the team rudderless at one of the most crucial moments in the season. He complained, rightly, that he’s done nothing but play football since he was 16 years old and needed a rest, a break from the game. But the problem is the team, HIS team, needed a leader and instead what they got was “captain by committee.” It’s incredible to me that the official captain of the squad hadn’t even made a locker room appearance until last week. How could he do that? How could he leave his team like that in the midst of all this turmoil, in the midst of a title race, and just leave them to their own devices?

More importantly, how could Arsene Wenger let him just leave the team like that?  Hell, how could Wenger do half of the things he’s done this year? How could he go after Alonso and when that failed, look to Song as the replacement? How could he retain Gallas as captain after the Birmingham episode? How, the fuck, do we get to the point where we are so desperate for a goal that not only does the manager leave on a clearly unfit Arshavin and risk him for the rest of the season, but his squad is so bereft of players that his only “attacking” option is to take off Sagna and put in Eboue?

The ugly truth is that if the squad are lacking leadership in the locker room and on the pitch it’s ultimately not Cesc’s fault and if the team has players who are happy to float along and put in half-asses performances, it’s not really their fault. We can expect them to be professionals but if they haven’t been properly taught how to be professionals and they aren’t being lead by the manager, then it’s only human nature to do what’s asked of you. It’s the exceptional player who, when asked to do so little, bucks the system and works extra hard. Clearly, this is not a team of exceptions.

Ultimately, this happens because Wenger is not leading them properly. “Judge me at the end of the season” he says in his own defense.


I’m judging Wenger right now, based on the performances this team has put in, and this team, and Arsene’s leadership, have been found wanting. Rather than some great bit of skill, if Arsenal secure 4th place it will be because Villa screwed up — it would be a lucky escape for the Arsenal. That says it all. Wenger has fucked up this season, no doubt.

That leaves all of us with nothing but a dream. Villa had the kind of season-ending collapse today against Stoke that Arsenal need in order to take them. Despite the fact that I think we are more at the level of Everton than Villa, we can dream that this team suddenly wakes up and realizes that they are the Arsenal and not some two-bit team of grifters.

Personally, I remain hopeful the dream will come true because I think Wenger finally realized the attitude of this team is wrong when he said, after the match,

There is a lot of mental investment in the Champions League and we are not mature enough to prepare well and get the priorities right.

The only thing that remains to be seen is if Wenger will take himself and his captain to task for their part in all this. If he does, then maybe it won’t just be a dream.


  1. grow up. Wenger does wat he feels is best for the club. What use is fabregas staying here when he cant play? He would be more a disruption than anything. Its much better he recharged and is better when he can actually play.

  2. You’re right John, Cesc would be a distraction, which is why he shouldn’t be captain. He’s clearly not ready.

    You think Tony Adams would have been a distraction? You think Adams would have fucked off to Spain and complained about how much he’s had to play?

    Sorry, but the leaders on this team, Wenger and Cesc, need to be taken to task. If Denilson can’t be bothered to play his heart out every day then the leaders are at fault.

    I know you don’t want to hear it but Cesc and Wenger are human and this season proves it. If you can’t see that, then I’m afraid it’s you who have some growing up to do.

  3. Denilson could well come good. Diaby can be class. This disastrous season is not over yet. We’re 5th in the league, and in the quarter finals of the FA cup and the Champions league. It might all go wrong from here on, but it might not. We have just bought Arshavin. Fabregas and Walcott will return. Villa might buckle. Lots of twists and turns to come. Let’s reassess after the fat lady sings, as they say in 7am land.

  4. You are 100% correct on all counts Tim. Arsenal is a ship without a rudder and captain. Leadership is nonexistent on the pitch, in the locker room and off the pitch.

    It’s very noticeable when things are going good on the pitch they are all smiles and hugs, but when things aren’t going their way it’s all squabbles and finger pointing.

    As Captain of my high school team I sustained a knee injury and was out for 8 weeks. While in a soft cast I attended every practice when not attending the Doctor, every team meeting, and was on the sidelines in crutches for every game we played. We went on to win the championship that year and was voted team MVP by my fellow players even though I missed half the season.

    I was fortunate in that my decisions were guided by my father who played both Cricket and Football at the highest Caribbean level and who Captained his club team. The gist of it however, is when you have players who are team oriented, demonstrates leadership and are willing to do almost anything for to make the team better, then the sum of the parts become greater than the whole.

    At this point Arsenal’s sum of all it’s parts are lesser than the whole.

  5. That’s exactly what I’m talking about CaribKid. At the moment his team needed him the most, he was on what he admitted was a vacation.

    But ultimately, Wenger is the one who approved the vacation. Wenger is the one who refused to bring in midfielders. Wenger is the one who stubbornly sticks by failing tactics. And so for me, Wenger is the one who most needs to sort this shit out.

    And for all the people who are saying not to worry, that we’ll be getting 4th place, or at worst, UEFA Cup football: I don’t think this team has the minerals to hold off Everton for 5th. As I pointed out two weeks ago this is the easiest part of the season, schedule wise. If we can’t get points off the West Hams and Sunderlands we’re going to be burger meat to an angry Liverpool or a resurgent Chelsea or a confident Man U — and those are the teams we close this season out to.

    Hell, if West Ham wasn’t 10 points away, I’d put money on this collection of individuals finishing 7th.

  6. Agreed, leadership is a big problem at the Arsenal. I can excuse cesc for leaving, he was promoted before his time, like too many arsenal players. Wenger claims he has leaders all over the pitch but the teams attitude and performances suggest something else. Wenger would go a long way if he owned up to his mistakes and worked assiduously to correct them but the constant spin emanating from the emirates is only serving to enrage many supporters who see clearly a team heading in a less than promising direction.

    We can still finish in the top four and that would be a huge accomplishment given what we have to work with but wenger has taken on needless risk with his project. Installing one-dimensional players in the middle of the park who prefer the creative aspects to the dirty work was an incredibly strange decision. I would be reassured to hear wenger state he was reviewing his scheme with an eye for changes, i actually think that would be more important than finishing in the top four. In short I think the club needs to clear the air, state the obvious and bring in experience and leadership.


  8. I travelled for the game. I saw a better one than you did last week. Two good teams, both creating chances and both trying to win (versus Sunderland bus park and wild celebrations for 0-0).

    You’re a mile off on your assessment of Denilson. He had a very good game. Good defense. some great passing. Diaby wasn’t brilliant, below par I thought, but not as bad as you painted him. You probably noticed Fulham played Zamora up front, their baldie No. 8 behind him a four man mid-field and a four man defence. Arsenal effectively played four front men, none of whom showed any appetite for defending “up front”. Consequently, when we lost the ball in attack, Denilson and Diaby were facing four. Don’t blame them. Denilson, at 20, is a future STAR of this game. Come back in about four years and we can chat on that. He’s an ever present this year, was HUGE against Roma and he’s only 20. This year will be the year that sets him on the path to greatness.

    Arsene DID sign three great mid-field players this season, or did you miss that?

  9. P.S. I’m staying over for WBA on Tuesday, Youth game v Spuds on Thursday and Cup v Burnley next Sunday. Can’t wait to see my man Denilson SHINE ON BRIGHTLY (quite insane). Hopefully Eduardo back v Burnley. He DOES know how to defend and link.

  10. Messi, lad, i admire your passion, but staking your life on something so beyond your own control only betrays a youthful naivete’. Arsenal have underperformed from last season for reasons other than injuries. It’s been an unpleasant campaign for many and for many reasons.

  11. BGM, i think the positive value of your contribution begins and ends with your moniker mate. Will denilson become the next bergkamp? Four years is a long time in football. This year will be the year that sets denilson on the path to greatness? – rather than supporting individual players i’d rather see arsenal football club rediscover the path to greatness.

  12. I love this website. Because it hurts to read right now, and this team hurts to watch.

    I’ll be fucking steamed if Arsenal win the CL this year. We just don’t deserve it, at all.
    Just imagine a poster showing Bendtner lifting the cup. Ack.

    Winning in Rome would be incredible, but ultimately would allow Wenger the room to put out more subpar sides for years to come. Denilson is okay, he might be great, but he belongs on the bench. Eboue belongs on Sunderland, as a wing-back. Remember when he was a defender? Christ.

    Players like Nasri and Arshavin will give us a fighting chance against Man Utd. every year, but when it comes to taking three points against clubs like Bolton, Fulham, Wigan, Cardiff? (fuck me.) we just lack the spine, and the creativity.

    I was brushing up on my Arse-history, because I’m 20, and from Detroit, and am trying my best to be a decent, well-informed fan. I was especially struck by a 2006 Amy Lawrence article from the Guardian.

    Wengerball? Sounds like a different manager. A different era. I understand that Wenger turned Arsenal into a financially sound superclub, but he can’t possibly believe this side is ever going to compete for the league. Where the hell is DeRossi? If Roma were willing to part with Mancini, they’ll let one of the better DM’s in Europe go for the right price. We need two midfielders, and Tony Adams kicking ass in the locker room if Wenger won’t. This is all over the place, I’m losing my mind. Villa dropped points today, and it just didn’t matter.

    up the arse, etc, bleh.

  13. @Bergkamp

    In fact, Arsene signed 4 MF’s

    Nasri (21 yrs), good signing and we probably will see him at his best next season

    Arshavin (27) great signing which came 6 months too late

    Ramsey (17 yrs,)potential future star who will contribute very little this and next season

    Bischoff (19 yrs) injured pre-signing, appeared only once for the Werder Bremen 1st team, maybe future potential

    Basically he signed only 1 MF who will make a meaningful contribution this season, 1 with potential defensive capabilities (Ramsey) and 0 with good aerial ability.

    Having lost 4 prime time MF’s and replacing with 1 prime time performer makes no sense. This is one case where numbers make no sense.

    Re Denilson. You are missing the point, he may be a good player but not what we need now to balance the team. Denilson will never be a good DM. He’s too slow and inept aerially and at this time does not posess the experience and leadership qualities which are so lacking at the moment..

  14. Well said CK, all Arsenal players are quality, problem is too many like denilson are simply misapplied, and development of players should really be more confined to the reserve squad or loaned out.

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