The Arsenal performance that summed up an era. 1-1 versus a 10-man Atletico Madrid.
Atletico went down to ten men at the ten minute mark after two blatant yellow cards. Yes, the referee could have been more lenient and let the first foul go but he wanted to make a statement and I can’t say he made a mistake. Both fouls were yellow card offences. When the red was shown, the drinking hole I was in went wild as it was advantage Arsenal. I thought differently. Arsenal are the easiest team in the upper echelon of world football to counter-attack against. A weak defence and a manager without tactical nous have created this damning verdict. In addition, since the glory days of Arsene Wenger’s reign, the Gunners haven’t been able to finish off opponents when they’ve seemingly got the noose around the neck.
Atletico manager, Diego Simeone is not the right man to take over from Wenger at Arsenal Football Club but he gave a lesson in tactics today … from the stands! For 80 minutes, Atletico collapsed into a defensive shell. The entire team bought into the philosophy of defending for their lives with the hopes of springing their talisman, Antoine Griezmann, for a cheeky away goal. It seemed unlikely as Arsenal probably had 90% possession, but the Gunners are always their for the taking due to the aforementioned defensive frailty.
Then, it happened.
At the 80 minute mark, an offensive giveaway combined with tragic defending allowed Griezmann to emphatically roof the ball into the net bypassing the underwhelming David Ospina. 1-1 and a crucial away goal heading back to the gauntlet that is the Vicente Calderon.
Say all you want about missed chances, but the tactical ineptness of Wenger was on full display today. Having a man advantage for 80 minutes of a European football match on your home ground and scoring only one goal is criminal. What baffled me was the tactic of trying to spring the ball wide and cross it into the box to create scoring opportunities when Arsenal are significantly smaller in stature than their opponents. There was nothing created through the middle of the park and attacks were one-dimensional and predictable. In addition, Wenger decided against making a substitution when he had the youthful energy of Alex Iwobi and Ashley Maitland-Niles on the bench. Not ONE substitution. Once 60 minutes hit and the score was 0-0, I would have made a change to inject energy and creativity. Danny Welbeck was completely spent and needed a substitution. How the manager didn’t see this is far beyond comprehension.
Arsenal can very well go on and win this tie in Madrid but the ineptitude of our once great manager cannot be forgiven. I wanted Wenger to go out on a high for sentimental reasons. He’s an honourable man who brought so much to Arsenal and English football but unfortunately, he’s a spent force. Today was evidence of that.