I was going to start today by saying something like “where do I even start?” but this morning after yet another pathetic Arsenal display – the type of away display performance we’ve seen all season from this ailing team – I think I’ll just throw up some of the utterly embarrassing stats that I’ve seen since the full time whistle went yesterday:
- We have now conceded more goals than West Brom, who are bottom
- Only Watford have dropped as many points as Arsenal have this season from winning positions
- Sam Clucas has three career goals – all this season and all against Arsenal
- Swansea haven’t managed to score three goals all season
- Alexandre Lacazette has just 39 touches of the ball – Walcottian
It’s hard to reconcile this Arsenal team with the one that Arsène Wenger coached four odd years ago. The football isn’t beautiful. We used to be beautifully flawed, but now we’re just flawed, rudderless and out of ideas and without anybody on the sideline who can see where the problems are.
Swansea coach Carlos Carvalhal must have been very happy when he saw our team sheet, because it was as predictable as our pedestrian passing. Arsène went for four at the back, Elneny holding in midfield, with Xhaka and Ramsey in front of him. He went for Özil and Iwobi behind Lacazette and his intention was clearly to dominate the midfield with an extra body.
But that just didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because Swansea are not 14 year-old school boys. They are a professional Premier League football team – with a manager who has an idea of a game plan and knows how to play against Arsenal. It isn’t hard with our defence though, is it?
“Lads, it’s Arsenal today, so we need shape, discipline and them to sideways pass it. Then when they eventually lose the ball through a turnover, we need channel running and we need to collectively break as a unit, in which they’ll have no response”
That’s what Forest did. That’s what any team worth their salt when Arsenal visit them should do because we are a pedestrian team in possession with just one man who makes movement going forward. And he’s our main creator.
Mesut Özil would be our if his mind to sign a new deal at Arsenal. He is, quite frankly, better than this creaking old barge that Arsène Wenger is managing. He made movements, runs, looked for teammates, even got an assist with a sumptuous pass to Nacho for yet another goal from the Spaniard. He’s making the right noises, Arsenal clearly think he wants to stay, but if I was him I wouldn’t touch a piece of contract paper until the season is done because honestly, right now, he’s better than what he’s playing in.
Petr Cech has been good this season and every once in a while there’s a rick in him, but that’s because of his age I guess, although we had the same last season away to Chelski, so perhaps this is just him. We need somebody new but that isn’t happening this window.
Shkodran Mustafi is an enigma. And not an entertaining one because for every good game there are two bad ones.
Granit Xhaka. Jesus. What on Earth is he doing in this team? He is woefully out of form, should be dropped, but won’t because Arsène doesn’t punish players for poor performance, he mollycoddles them.
And that is one of the biggest problems we have. The Colney Cresh may not be referenced much these days but it is still there, where players are babied and treated well and never drilled or held accountable for their poor performances or actions. Xhaka has had one too many brain switch off moments this season and Arsène should be rolling the dice and dropping him at the weekend for Ainsley. There’s little risk in the league any more. It’s done. We’re done. Top four is eight points away and with a team that can’t win away from home that is 100% not happening. We’ve lost seven this season. We still have to go to Tottenham and United. We have City at home in a few weeks. We will probably end the season with ten losses. TEN! That’s the form of a team that is a little better than mid table. That’s a quarter of all games played this season being losses. That’s a team who cannot build momentum.
Because they are managed by somebody who is, sadly, out of ideas. There’s no more wiggle room. The planning is out the window. The team dynamic just doesn’t look there. It’s just a collective of players who are asked to turn up at the same place and the same time each week. They don’t play well together.
Yesterday we missed drive. We missed movement. Ramsey looked knackered. Iwobi lost the ball three times in the first 12 minutes. Lacazette looked disinterested. Xhaka did little. Elneny made a couple of decent tackles but we all know how limited he is. Swansea saw what Chelski did to us in that first half and replicated it. Elneny was effectively pushed back into defence and we ended up as a pseudo back three. It was a classic example of Arsène thinking we could dictate what an opponent does but in fact the reverse happened.
Afterwards he pointed to a psychological problem away from home. Well sir, I put it to you that it is YOUR job to motivate the players, install confidence, give them a plan to believe in and turn this around.
I have no faith that Arsène will do that. Not for a second. He is done. Out of ideas and this is not the first time this season (and at times last season) that the players have looked like they’re not playing for him any more. They’re not. They can’t be. Why else do you get situations like Lacazette not offering movement? Like Xhaka not tracking Clucas’ rum into the box for their equaliser?
I don’t think the players intentionally think “let’s be sh*t to get rid of Arsène” but I do think there isn’t a concern that there will be consequences for their actions. Because they all know there won’t be.
Cech will play on Saturday because there is no competition for him. Mustafi too. Bellerin as well, who was another one who had a poor game but who I thought was just “less sh*t” than so many of the others. Xhaka gets his free pass. Only Iwobi could, and should, be worried about his position because Mkhitaryan should walk into this team in his place. The Nigerian has shown nothing to suggest he’s worthy of keeping a new signing out.
Which then brings me finally – because I’m getting bored of ranting about Arsenal given how many times I’ve done it this season – to Lacazette. He looks lost. He looked uninterested yesterday. He’s on his knees confidence-wise and with Aubameyang coming in I can’t see it getting any better for him. That’s a real shame because I think we have a player in him but he’s been starved of service because he’s played most of the season with an individual in Alexis, or somebody as budget as Iwobi, with only Özil offering anything like the quality he should have expected when he joined Arsenal. Maybe Mkhitaryan can offer some more quality, but if that is for Auba and not Laca, then you have to feel for the Frenchman.
We’re used to Arsène breaking young defenders, but now he’s doing it with forward players? So what does he have left?
It’s time for change. But we’ve got at least four months more of this. Sigh.