Let's not panic over one poor performance. Arsenal will still challenge

By Graham McNorthbank

I was going to write a post this morning about the skills of Manuel Almunia – or rather the lack of them – and why Wenger insists on sticking with this disaster of a goalkeeper, but having seen some of the bile out there on various blogs, I’ve changed my mind.

Like all Arsenal fans I’ve deeply disappointed with the result of yesterday’s match and the manner in which the Gunners capitulated, but the number of people who are today calling for the head of Arsene Wenger beggars belief.

Our manager is far from perfect and I do disagree with certain things he does - Almunia being a case in point. But the brand of football we see for the most part at Arsenal is down to Arsene Wenger, so even though he can frustrate the hell out of me, calling for a change of boss is the further thing from my mind.

I don’t hear any Liverpool fans calling for their manager’s head – when they have many more reasons to do so: many millions of reasons to do so, actually. But one poor performance from Arsenal and the plastic fans are everywhere.

A word of warning – be very careful what you wish for.

For anyone who bothered to listen to Wenger after yesterday’s humiliation, we heard a very different manager to what we’re used to. To put it mildly he was furious using words such as naïve and phrases like “no cohesion defensively or offensively” – I can’t ever remember him criticising his team in such a manner before.

But let’s put this into some sort of perspective, my fellow Addicts: we lost to the reigning league champions and Champions League runners up; Man United are in a rich seam of form and Wayne Rooney, however much you despise him, is one of the best players in the world at the moment; and, let’s face it, Arsenal just had one of those days when very little clicked.

Critics will say that the Mancs are not as strong as they were last season. However, neither are Arsenal, with Adebayor gone, RvP injured and a host of other first teamers on the sidelines.

If there is a criticism one can make of the manager it has been his stubborn resistance to spending big to bring in proven world class talent.

But none of us truly knows what the situation with transfer budgets is at Arsenal and that mystery is the fault of the board, not the manager.

The fact that we have reportedly lost out on players for the sake of a couple of million quid – that’s less than the gate receipt revenue for one home match – suggests there are money issues at the club, while the way we cashed in on Lassana Diarra two years ago for me backs up the feeling that the funds simply are not there.

However, we’re third in the table, which is a lot better than most honest Gooners would have predicted at the start of the season, and there are still 42 points to play for.

After our trip to Chelsea this weekend, the Gunners take on Liverpool, but looking at the run-in of the three clubs still in with a realistic chance of challenging for the league title, ours is by far the easiest on paper, so we are not out of the reckoning yet.

I’m not one of the blinkered Arsene Knows brigade, but at the same time I have faith in his team and I believe that yesterday’s defeat was a blip. We all know Arsenal can play better, so let’s not press the panic button just yet.

Oh, and I started this by saying I’d wade into Almunia, but actually I’ll use the opportunity to slam Wenger over our Spanish keeper: our number one was embarrassing yesterday and that was not the first time.

He is not a good shot stopper, he looks unsure when it comes to crosses, he seems incapable of leaving his six yard box, his distribution is without a doubt the worst I have ever seen from a Premiership keeper and the fact that he is the only squad member who has not won a cap at any level speaks volumes.

Remember when Jens Lehmann was dropped for just two mistakes? Surely the time has come to bench Almunia, give one of our other goalies a chance and if they’re not up to it, spend some money in the summer to bring in someone who the back four can have some faith in.