We’ve got some serious problems psychological in this Arsenal team that Unai Emery still has to overcome I think.
Yesterday was the first of a collective of games we’ve been building up to where our fate is in our own hands. The Newcastle game may have been the first match back after an extended break and some time in Dubai, but this was the first proper ‘test’ of the teams mettle, which they failed miserably.
And it was a miserable failure because we never really looked like we were going to score yesterday. I’d like to be able to say it was one of the most lacklustre performances of the season, but I watched the West Ham game, plus the Brighton game on Boxing Day, which all felt very familiar to this.
Arsenal have been a Jekyll and Hyde team by halves this season at times, but also in home and away matches, to which yesterday played out the narrative that we all feared. At home we got a comfortable victory against Newcastle but away we gave Everton the most comfortable of victories on their patch.
And I think the reason I’m quite maddened by the performance yesterday was not just the inclusion of clearly sub or players like Elneny, but the complete lack of intensity shown by us at a crucial game in the season.
Everton are a team with little to play for this season. They’re fighting for a few extra million to get themselves a spot or two higher in the league. Yet had you watched yesterday’s game there’s no way in a million years that you’d believe Arsenal were the ones who still had something to fight for. There was a complete lack of intensity about our play and when you consider that the team has had six days rest since the last game (which in itself was hardly a gruelling endeavour) then I’m afraid you have to start looking at the mentality of some of our players.
And probably the manager too, although I’m more inclined to blame some of the individuals on the pitch yesterday, but Emery did get it wrong and that was in midfield. He said afterwards that Aaron Ramsey probably wasn’t fit enough for 90 minutes but it was the first 45 that cost us the game and that was when we effectively gave up any control in the middle of the park. Elneny was beyond woeful and Guendouzi looked lost at times. Take Xhaka, Ramsey and Torreira out of our midfield and we’re in big trouble and that bore out yesterday.
The midfield two couldn’t take a stronghold in the game and that allowed a pretty average Everton team the rub of the green because they snapped in to tackles as Elneny wandered around aimlessly only to occasionally get involved in the play to pass the ball backwards to one of his defenders. He was a pointless tactical decision from the manager and I’m sure if he had the time again he’d have played Ramsey from the start and then brought him off sometime in the second half.
But we were poor all over the pitch. Both fullbacks were woeful and the only reason Maitland-Niles stood out as being poorest was because he was left on the pitch after halftime and his game just got worse. He even contrived to gift Bernard the loveliest of flick backs to put him one-on-one with Leno. Blushes may have been spared by our German ‘keeper but that was just one of a number of chances our back line gave away all day.
Monreal was overrun time and time again on the left hand side and he’s starting to look every bit his age right now. Sokratis looked like he had no idea what to do with Calvert-Lewin and Mustafi was erratic at times like usual. It was a car crash at the back.
Then when you add the lack of control in midfield as I’ve already mentioned, to the fact the forward players had a day to forget as well, and you’ve got a pretty woeful performance from an Arsenal team who I think might have their season finished within a fortnight.
I say this because whilst we might see a different Arsenal on Thursday at home to Napoli, our defence will still concede chances and Napoli will be waaaaaay better at finishing them than Everton. Then we’ll have an away leg which I don’t even want to think about right now.
It was a bad day for almost every Arsenal player yesterday. Lacazette was quiet and when he wasn’t quiet things weren’t clicking. Mkhitaryan reverted back to the player that we’ve all seen for most of his Arsenal career; ducking out of challenges, losing the ball and generally being ineffective bar one shot wide of Pickford’s goal. Özil dropped deeper and deeper and the result was that he could affect play further up the pitch and when Aubameyang came on he almost disappeared immediately.
It’s like I said at the top end of this blog: this Arsenal team has a psychological issue with it when it comes to away games. Something has to change and change immediately because we aren’t getting anywhere near a Champions League spot if we continue away from home like we have.
Catch you all tomorrow.