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Why the Gunners are Failing to Fire on All Cylinders

They're one of the tastiest sides in the UK, but Arsenal's relatively low standing in the league shows there's little use in stringing fancy passes together if you can't mix it up when the going gets rough.

Tony Cascarino, 12 Nov 2008

It’s been a strange couple of weeks in North London, with Arsenal falling apart and Spurs on the way up. According to rumours, there was a bit of a cat-fight in the Arsenal dressing-room after they threw away a 4-2 lead against Spurs, and they followed that up by losing to Stoke.

They’re a soft touch. They’re vulnerable to being rolled over, they can be rattled from set pieces, and some of the players just aren’t good enough. For all his good qualities – there’s no-one better at spotting talent – Wenger is very set in his ways and seems to hate the idea of buying players, he prefers to grow his own. He prides himself on getting value for money, but that shouldn’t be the bottom line; you need to think ‘Can this player help us win the title in the next year or two?’ and shell out the cash when it’s needed. Everything with Wenger is about potential, planning for this tomorrow that never really seems to arrive.

As for Spurs, they looked transformed from the minute Harry Redknapp took over. You could see the change instantly; same players, but suddenly there was a confidence about them. It’s the same situation at Newcastle: both clubs had a continental set-up with a Director of Football, both of them were a complete mess, both have gone back to basics with native managers who know the game backwards, and they’re both reaping the rewards.

Diego Maradona has just been appointed as Argentina manager, which is the equivalent of giving Gazza the England job or Paul McGrath getting the Ireland job. He’s been in and out of rehab and hospitals the last few years, and has next to no experience, so it’s a huge gamble. He’s a massive name, but we don’t know whether he has any coaching ability. The advantage he does have is, he’s got a fantastic bunch of players.

Closer to home, I noticed Joey O’Brien’s recent outburst. I can’t get my head around the attitude of these lads. It’s laughable; it’s embarrassing. He hasn’t done anything to guarantee himself a first-team place, and he hasn’t done too well when he has been given a chance. It used to be said that the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen weren’t too bothered about Scotland. But these were household names, who’d won everything in football. The players who are pulling out now haven’t achieved anything. Some of them are just staring their careers.

Big Jack wasn’t too far wrong the other day, when he said Stephen Ireland should apologise to the whole squad if he wants to play for his country, and if not, he could fuck off anyway. I must say, I agree with him. We had a group of lads who’d always give everything to play for the Republic of Ireland. We’d great fun together, we loved being part of it. If anyone pulled out, it meant they were genuinely injured. Nowadays, you’ve got lads not turning up because they’ve got a twisted sock. If we get to the World Cup, and Stephen Ireland suddenly decides he wants to be part of it, hopefully the manager will tell him where to go.

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