Jan Molby

Santos summed up everything wrong with Arsenal

Jan Molby

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I found it absolutely amazing that Andre Santos asked for Robin van Persie's shirt as the players walked off at half-time on Saturday. That act told you something important about the flawed mentality that exists in Arsenal's current squad.

It has been suggested that Santos wanted the shirt for a good cause, and if so then well done to him. But he could have waited until the end of the match. Failing that, there must have been a few players in the Arsenal dressing room with Van Persie's phone number. I can understand why you might want Van Persie's shirt, but at half time, on the pitch and in front of everyone? I don't know how a thought like that could ever enter your mind as a player.

Arsene Wenger treats his players as adults and gives them a lot of leeway generally, but he must have lost his mind at what he saw. Arsenal were on the receiving end of a battering and instead of thinking about his own awful performance, one of his players was more intent on getting an opponent's shirt. It must have been infuriating to witness.

Can you imagine Patrick Vieira ever trying to ask for Roy Keane's shirt at half time? It would never happen. When you look at this current Arsenal team you wonder where their priorities are - is it to win? This Santos episode makes you wonder if the players need a firmer hand from their manager. Sometimes you have to sit players down and tell them what is what.

Arsenal only lost 2-1 on Saturday but that was never a one-goal defeat - it was a spanking, and that was without Manchester United even having to go through the gears. The most disappointing thing was that Arsenal just looked mentally beaten from the very start. They gifted Manchester United an early goal and didn't look like getting back into the game at any point.

You used to rely on the fact that if Arsenal went to United they would at least have a battle, but there was none of that. Ten years ago they could cope with whatever people would throw at them. They were up to the challenge physically and if you did put them under pressure then they could hurt you on the break. All of those qualities that we used to admire have disappeared now. They looked so weak.

It is a combination of the fact the players are not up to standard and that the team lacks character. Wenger still likes to go out and find cheap players and make them into stars and that doesn't always come off - either they don't develop quite as you expect or they don't grow up with a winning mentality.

Not many of the Arsenal players have any real experience of winning trophies over a sustained period. It is very hard to do that, but you need it, and Arsenal are stuck in a losing rut. Even when they got to the League Cup final against Birmingham they ended up losing. I just don't think they know how to get over the line and you certainly fear for them every time they play one of the big clubs.

It was alarming to see Arsenal register their first shot on target in injury time and it is a concern that the chances have dried up. Again it is to do with ability. You need clever players to create opportunities and Arsenal have one clever player: Santi Cazorla. The rest of them are very much straight-line players. Lukas Podolski runs in a straight line, Olivier Giroud is much the same and although Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick against Reading he is a predictable player to read. Arsenal are too predictable as a team.

The 4-2-3-1 formation is a great system but Arsenal don't have the players to make it work. If you give Podolski the ball he is not going to be able to do anything with it as he is not a dribbler. He doesn't have the ability to spot a pass so creating chances has become very hard work for Arsenal at the moment. Mikel Arteta is a decent passer of the ball but he plays so deep that he struggles to influence things in the final third, while Jack Wilshere has only just returned. Opposing teams now know this about Arsenal and can exploit it.

As for their defence, Thomas Vermaelen is making so many gaffes that it is almost tempting to start describing him as a mistake waiting to happen. He is very aggressive in his defending but his decision-making has been very suspect this season. After three minutes of the game he was trying to cushion a clearance out to Arteta. Put it in the stands.

The uncertainty from the captain is affecting the rest of the team, which brings us back to Santos. He is a player who needs to play regularly if he is to be up to standard - unlike Kieran Gibbs - and at the moment he looks as though he is a Championship player. Sadly for Arsenal the team  as a whole are under par.

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