Monday Verdict: No Wenger excuses left; Fellaini useless

Date published: Monday 14th March 2016 6:36

Arsene Wenger: Nobody left to blame for Arsenal boss

Arsene Wenger: Nobody left to blame for Arsenal boss

Arsene Wenger will have nobody left to blame if Arsenal finish this season empty-handed, while Marouane Fellaini’s continued selection is a sign of how far Manchester United have fallen.


In 2008, Arsenal were five points clear with 12 games to play yet only finished third courtesy of a run of only one win in eight games from the end of February to mid-April.

In 2011, after two seasons of not even seriously challenging for the title, the Gunners finished February only a point behind Manchester United at the summit yet finished only fourth after winning only one of their seven games in March and April.

Speaking last month, ahead of a trip to Manchester United, Arsene Wenger was asked about the differences between the current Arsenal side and those in 2008 and 2010 that threw away good positions late in the season.

“What is different is that at that time we were losing momentum. This time it’s the opposite,” Wenger said. “We are chasing and gaining momentum. The psychological situation is quite different.

“In 2010 I would say we lost it because the spirit was not exactly what it should be because of individual tap ups. At the moment, I think on the spirit front we are alright.

“I read many things which are not completely verified by the statistics. For example, there is a perception that Arsenal fades in March and April. But if you look over 20 years we have always finished stronger in the second part of the season.”

Arsenal won their last four games in that 2007-08 season; perhaps Wenger views that as a strong finish. The Gunners finished the 2013-14 campaign even better with six straight wins – but only after a run of one win in six games had seen them blow their title chances having ended February a point off the top. If Wenger has used statistics to convince himself his sides do not have a history of faltering in the latter stages of seasons, he’s kidded only himself.

What was more interesting about Wenger’s comments, however, were that he acknowledged a mental weakness in those sides from 2008 and 2010.

“The mood of some players was more to get the next contract somewhere else than to win the championship because at the time we had to sell our players,” he said.

Arsenal’s financial situation can no longer be used as an excuse, however, and Wenger admitted back in October that nurturing a good team spirit was ultimately the responsibility of the manager and coaching staff.

“I believe it’s a little bit like a flower,” Wenger said. “You have to take care of it and look after it every day, or else it will slowly die.

“But you can make the flower bigger, better and prettier if you care for it. We believe that part of the responsibility of the players and the staff is to take care of team spirit.”

Clearly, Wenger believes the best way to nurture a good team spirit is through positive reinforcement. He praised his team’s “great spirit” and “very strong attitude” after they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Watford on Sunday, just as he has done at almost every opportunity.

“We have a fantastic spirit in our squad as you saw tonight and that was the basis of the result” – after 4-0 win at Hull City

“I’m proud of the spirit the players have shown and the response” – after 2-2 draw at Tottenham

“Our spirit and commitment was 100 per cent there. I could not question our desire or commitment at all – after 3-2 defeat at Manchester United

“I believe we have shown great spirit all of the game” – after 2-1 win over Leicester City

Wenger’s words are becoming less believable by the week. Arsenal were top of the table on January 2 and plenty of people’s tips to go on and win the title, but since then they have won only two of nine games in the Premier League, have gone out of the FA Cup and will almost certainly exit the Champions League this week.

In Wenger’s mind, perhaps a strong set of results in the final nine games of the season would represent a strong end to the season, but it certainly won’t be remembered as such if the Gunners are able to overturn Leicester City’s eight-point lead and clinch a first league title since 2004.

Wenger might point to some crucial injuries, but it’s a flimsy excuse. He already has pointed out that Arsenal aren’t the only big club outperformed by Leicester this season, but that is hardly consolation for fans. Now he says it is a “farce” that his side are always viewed to be in “the middle of a drama” after every defeat; in typically-bullish mood he urged his critics to “judge us at the end of the season.”

In this crazy season, he certainly deserves that. Only a fool would rule out Arsenal or Manchester City with so long still to go. But if the north Londoners once again fail to end their title drought, this season will once again be remembered as one in which faltered at a crucial stage, regardless of how they fare in their final nine fixtures.

A lack of finances is no longer an excuse, and Wenger himself has admitted that he is responsible for team spirit. If Arsenal finish this season empty-handed, who else left is there to blame?

Mark Holmes


Louis van Gaal was right. Manchester United fans’ reaction to Marouane Fellaini’s substitution was disappointing. And self-defeating. But their point was entirely valid.

Van Gaal’s continued faith in Fellaini is baffling. As soon as the Belgian was ready to return from a hamstring injury, he was thrust straight back into the starting XI for the shambolic Europa League defeat to Liverpool and subsequently retained his place against West Ham, with Morgan Schneiderlin sacrificed instead.

Employed alongside Michael Carrick at the base of Van Gaal’s midfield against the Hammers, Fellaini’s contribution was typical: no key passes, no interceptions, one single tackle, a yellow card, and the United player most dispossessed.

Whether or not it was a transparent attempt to massage his ego, Van Gaal again reserved praise for Fellaini.

“Maybe [the fans] have another opinion to me,” said Van Gaal, understating the point somewhat. To the supporters, Fellaini sums up much about the Red Devils under the Dutchman: expensive, slow, one-dimensional and technically not up to the standards expected at Manchester United.

Perhaps the blame lies with the manager more than the player. Van Gaal consistently selects Fellaini as a deep-lying midfielder, but he possesses none of the traits required for the role. Defensively, the Belgian is neither mobile enough to close down the opposition nor clever enough to position himself so he doesn’t have to. Going forward, he lacks the passing range required to break lines and trigger attacks, or even simply to keep possession.

In almost three seasons at the club, Fellaini’s best form came towards the back end of last season, when he was used further up the field, where his size can be an asset. In a deeper role, he simply cannot cut it.

Van Gaal made reference to how Fellaini performed well in the game-plan, which can only be a reference to defending set-pieces. That is the only purpose that the midfielder serves in this side, which is yet another damning indictment of how far standards have fallen at Old Trafford.

Ian Watson

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Home Forums Monday Verdict: No Wenger excuses left; Fellaini useless

This topic contains 17 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  shanksy 9 months ago.

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    Mark Holmes

    Arsene Wenger will have nobody left to blame if Arsenal don’t win the title, while Marouane Fellaini’s selection is a sign of Man Utd’s fall

    [See the full post at: Monday Verdict: No Wenger excuses left; Fellaini useless]



    Wenger is definitely to blame regarding some of our problems, mainly with being too loyal to injury prone players and his stubbornness to stick to the same 4231 formation that has proved anything but fruitful over recent years. But it’s also true that certain players, international ones to boot, have to also shoulder some of the blame.

    Also, Wenger can’t be responsible for players missing easy chances, he can coach the players to create the chances but ultimately it’s up to them to put them away.

    I’ve got no statistical data to back this up but i’d argue that we are the least efficient team in the premiership in terms of taking our clear cut chances.

    Giroud is a good squad player but he’ll never win us the title as his goals often come in bursts.

    Welbeck has to be out number 1 striker atm, just a shame that he’s been out for most of the season considering how well he’s played (barring that miss yesterday) since he’s come back into the side.

    Our great sides throughout the years have been centred on great mobile strikers, with the likes of Wright and Henry. Giroud clearly isn’t that kind of striker and we majorly suffer for it.

    Another Thing that gets my goat with wenger is the constant need to talk about mental toughness, the fact he mentions it after every game is a sure sign that he actually thinks the players are weak, and it’s becoming harder to argue that they aren’t.

    Wenger almost guarantees a top 4 finish every season but sooner or later we’re going to have to take a gamble, even if it means we end up finishing mid table. At least making a change will be seen as a sign of ambition.

    In a season that has been anything but predictable, it will be crazy if we end up coming 4th again. If Bill Murray supported a football team you know he’d be an Arsenal supporter.


    van Gaal, Wenger and Fellaini should all be taken out back, shot, and sent to the glue factory if there is any justice in football.


    the specialone

    What’s going on at Arsenal should actually be unacceptable to the fans.
    All they’re doing is just whinging in interviews and other social media.
    I think Fans represent any club,and without it’s fans the club has no meaning atleast in this sport.
    If the majority of the fans are really finding it unacceptable,then go protest.Don’t buy tickets to the games,instead we should protest outside while the game is going on.

    What our majority shareholder has said recently is inexcusable.How can anyone get away with a statement like that is beyond me.
    I’m one to admit wenger is not the same manager anymore,and now what’s he’s doing is just being ignorant.
    But one thing I can guarantee you,a new manager with the same owners won’t do any better.Infact he’ll do so much more worse we might be fighting around relegation.



    In recent years the first indication of spring is that Arsenal will start to lose a lot of football matches.
    Is that because they are not enough athletes to last a whole season? No, it’s because they lack the mentality. When Arsenal were a force under Wenger they had players like Vieira, Adams, Henry, Bergkamp, Petit; players of great mental strength besides obvious football abilities. Since Henry left for Barcelona, Wenger has failed to recruit a player of these character traits. Now ageing goalkeeper Petr Cech is the only player in the squad who has this mixture of experience and winner mentality. That is just not enough.
    Also a huge factor is that if you look at the other title contenders; Leicester, Spurs and City, they all possess great goalscoring strikers. Another type of player that Wenger has failed to sign since Van Persie left. You just can’t expect to win this league without one and I’m really surprised Wenger hasn’t addressed this issue in recent years. Sometimes when I watch Özil, I think Arsenal would be frightening if he had an Augero like striker in front of him.
    I’m a big fan of Wenger and the things he has added to English football, but unfortunately I think his time is just up.



    Poor old Fellaini. He’s always the one that gets the blame. I have no idea why he played against Liverpool, but I’m pretty sure his inclusion against West Ham was the fact that the average height of the Hammers team is almost 7 feet. That is one of the problems of having Blind as a CB. He’s useless at defending set pieces.
    It’s just incredible that a club of Man Utd size and pedigree only has one good CB. That’s just crazy. On the other hand playing Fellaini as a DCM is just as stupid.
    I think I and most United fans have already given up hope of some kind of resurrection this season long ago. We are out of Europe and the Hammers will probably hammer us at Upton Park in the replay and top 4 is a pipe dream. Let’s just finish this season with some dignity and move on with a new manager next season.



    Adrian – You are so funny, Utd have a greater average height than West Ham. Almost 7 foot, when in fact it is 6.1Ft



    van Gaal, Wenger and Fellaini should all be taken out back, shot, and sent to the glue factory if there is any justice in football.

    So should united_we_win.The biggest embarassment of a “supporter” in the history of teamtalk.What a numpty!!



    Great post TTG

    Another Thing that gets my goat with wenger is the constant need to talk about mental toughness, the fact he mentions it after every game is a sure sign that he actually thinks the players are weak, and it’s becoming harder to argue that they aren’t.

    Although.He replaced “mentality” yesterday with “confidence” in his post match interview.


    Sean the sailor

    Fellini is not a bad player if played at number ten and he is used probably.


    @Aguerooooo. Go easy on united_we_win mate, he’s just a little unpalatable is all. I think I have managed to squeeze one or two positive posts out of him.


    @sean. Mate Fellaini is effective but completely 1 dimensional. He compromises the entire team selection and also renders your team’s high press completely useless. When you add his clumsy touches, sloppy passes, countless niggling fouls, silly red cards and downright dirty play he starts to really grate the nerves.

    Fellaini has no business playing for Manchester United.


    Sean the sailor

    Hatters, I’m not disputing any of that but played as a number ten in a team that mixes it up then he’s decent. Everton played to his strengths.

    At anfield last year, Utd used him well, dropping out left and hitting him early. He’s to easy an Option to play long to though.

    I always worry about him we play against him. He should be no were near the Utd team but I fully expect him to start on Thursday


    @sean. Mate when Fellaini plays against you it’s very difficult to defend but trust me it’s vexing when he plays for your team. He suppresses good football. Imagine Fellaini keeping Coutinho, Firmino, or someone of that ilk from playing for Liverpool?? This is what Fellaini does, he restricts actual ball playing midfielders/no10’s from growing in our team.



    Sean-mate,Fellaini is worse than useless.No wonder the epl teams are struggling in Europe,when a dud like Fellaini plays for a major team,and gets paid £130k p/w/



    Mental strength?? Where was that during last two games? 2-0 up against West Ham, controlling the game and in the end lucky to get a point. 1-0 up last game with 76% possession at home and then scrape a draw. Mental strength my ass.


    nine nine nine

    Several months back there were a number on here who suggestec that Arsenal still didn’t have the mentality to win the PL some Gooners po pooed it but so it’s been proved again.

    At the end of last season Arsenal were set fare to mount a realistic title challenge this season but again Wenger mis managed the summer transfer market with Arsenal becoming the only club in the whole of Europe not to sign an outfield player which is quite unbelievable really given what’s Arsenal true potential was at the end of last season.

    When Wenger came to Arsenal he was a breath of fresh air and a major contributory factor to what Arsenal achieved including two doubles and the invincibles season and he has been hampered by the cost of building the Emirates.

    Sadly now Wenger is probably past his sell by date but nobody in the club are courageous enough to tell him that and Wenger continues to cling on. The majority of match going fans have seemingly turned against Wenger now and there are regular anti Wenger banners and the fans are fighting between themselves over this issue.

    Al’ s probably right the only way to get rid of Wenger is for fans not to go to games but as Al rightly suggests the problem probably goes deeper than just Wenger because it’s also about the ownership.

    Realistically I can’t see Arsenal winning another League title under Wenger but you also have to be careful what you wish for, the personality Manager who controls all aspects of a club as Fergie and Wenger did/does has become a thing of the past and look at the vacuum that was created at United once Fergie left.



    Yes, but Flailing Fellaini has amazing chest control and lethal elbows.

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