Arsenal's Plan B: What Took Wenger So Long?
Arsenal's horrendous 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United means the North Londoners have hit rock bottom.
It was the weakest United sided Arsene Wenger has ever faced in a Premier League game, arguably in any competition verse the Red Devils, and it will have sucked the marrows of confidence clean from the Gunner's bones as they prepare for a crucial matchup with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
Wenger can bemoan Lady Luck refusing him a wink despite Arsenal dominating 61% of the possession, he can lament his team's 9 shots on target compared to United's paltry 2, he can cry out to the moon in frustration about the poor communication that led to the own goal.
None of it matters.
Arsenal have lost again, at home, against a side they should have been much, much better than.
They lost, not because their manager couldn't devise a real-time in game tactical shift to a plan B, they lost because it took too long for plan B to be executed.
It took Wenger too long to recognize when to change tactics.
The tiki-taka on the fringe of the penalty box offered little to zero penetration and Aaron Ramsey, as he has been recently, was a spectator.
Pundits, the manager, fans, your uncle Charlie, they will all say that the game would have been different if Jack Wilshere was able to cooly place the ball to the left of David De Gea.
And it may have been...
But that chance was generated solely from the work-rate of Alexis Sanchez, who, having just walked off the tarmac from a 14 hour-flight, hounded and chased United's defenders around the pitch for 75 yards like a lemur after a light pen.
Sanchez's pressure forced De Gea's wayward clearance, which eventually found Danny Welbeck, who put his Countryman in clean 1v1 with the goalkeeper. Wilshere squandered the chance.
After the miss it was game over essentially, as United's three unseasoned center-backs and the outside wing-backs sat deep, keeping Arsenal's short passing game at bay.
There were no hard-to-mark interchanging patterns of play for United to deal with; and more importantly there was no width from Arsenal.
Keiran Gibbs got forward on rare occasions, and looked good when he did, but Calum Chambers is not built to get round the back, and very little came from the right flank.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to his credit, had a man of the match performance for Arsenal, but he is a central-midfielder, Wenger needs to come to grips with that before it's too late..
As time ticked away, nearing the 80' mark, and the nightmarish outcome Arsenal fans are all too familiar with approached, Wenger awoke from his stupor of stubbornness and initiated plan B.
Cue the more direct balls over the top for Welbeck and Giroud to nod on to trailing runners.
Arsenal fans should take note a plan B does exist.
And it can work.
Welbeck nodded down a cushioned header for Santi Cazorla just inside the D and the Spaniard should have done better with such a clean look at goal.
Mikel Arteta's direct-ball over the top to Olivier Grioud was dispatched emphatically.
Perhaps at least one Arsenal player will go into the match against Dortmund with confidence.
Too bad he is not illegible to play.
The takeaway for Wenger, and fans, should be that Arsenal do have a plan B.
Arsenal can be more direct with Welbeck and Grioud over the top, flicking balls on, playing back to goal, and holding up play as a hub for the speedy players to combine with.
Wenger just needs to set stubbornness aside, early on in matches, when his trademark Dial Square tiki-taka isn't finding a way through.
Plan B doesn't always have to come the morning after...