There’s quite a big caveat in the analysis of yesterday’s draw away to Norwich. That caveat is that Freddie Ljungberg has had barely a few hours inputting his ideas into this set of players. So perhaps yesterday’s performance still bore the hallmarks of Emery’s Arsenal.
The caveat that Freddie has had such little time is something I will try to remind myself of throughout the writings of today’s blog, because I do think it’s important and I think the average sensible fan recognises this too.
But man alive, Arsenal are hard to watch, they really are. What I mean by this is not that it was boring yesterday (well, part of it was), but that it isn’t fun, certainly not when you see any team attacking us. That’s because we are so poor defensively it’s unreal. We have one of the worst back lines – Leno aside – that exists in the Premier League I think. We leak goals left, right and centre and yesterday we gave Norwich far too many opportunities in the second half for a team who should be fighting at the top of the league against a side still stuck in the relegation zone.
Last week we made Southampton look like world beaters and this weekend it was Norwich’s turn and at this point I’m not sure there’s a team in this division who wouldn’t relish coming up against our defence.
But it’s not just our defence, because the midfield were poor too, especially in the second half, and I had a few concerns about the selection of some players I have to say. Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka, for example, does not work as a central midfield base. The Premier League is a high intensity, high pressing, physical league and that means players that play in the middle of the park have the energy, drive and pace to explode from front to back. Neither Guendouzi or Xhaka have that when running back towards their own goal and yesterday I watched countless times where both players were effectively passed through. Either by a player with the ball or a simple ball through the middle.
Freddie made the change to Torreira in the second half and the Uruguayan instantly made an impact with a couple of good blocks as he screened our defence. I can only hope that his involvement in Thursday meant he couldn’t do yesterday for 90, but the sooner he gets back into the team – hopefully in place of Guendouzi because I thought he was poor yesterday – the better, because we can’t go on having such a sluggish midfield when we aren’t in possession.
I’m being a bit negative this morning but that’s mainly because I’m thinking of that second half, in which so many players were poor, including Chambers, Mustafi, Luiz, Guendouzi, Özil faded a bit after a good first half (he made a number of key passes in dangerous parts of the pitch), Lacazette was poor too. In the first half we controlled the ball, looked like we were applying good pressure on Norwich and got sucker-punched twice. Of course with the shoddy defence we have I guess that is par for the course, but there seemed to be some green shoots in that first half, albeit with the usual sh*t sandwich at the back.
But the second half we weren’t great. I’ll remind you that we haven’t won away since August in the league. We’re without a win in eight games. We have just played two of the worst teams in the league and conceded four goals and picked up two points.
Maybe some of these players just aren’t any good though? Chambers got roasted every couple of minutes at right back in the second half. Luiz looks finished and even though Mustafi did ok in patches, he drilled Mustafi’d stuff up, like turning his back on the first goal for the deflection. In midfield I’ve mentioned Guendouzi and at this point I’m starting to wonder why he is the first name on the team sheet. I’m struggling to reconcile what he brought to the team yesterday and with Xhaka doing okayish I thought, having Guendouzi alongside him not really doing anything special of note, feels like it was a bit pointless.
Up top Lacazette had a game to forget and his form this season has been patchy to say the least. Given that Auba is bagging goal after goal for us right now, I’m wondering whether we should just hook Lacazette, get Auba playing centrally, then play with more natural wide forwards. We seem to have a few that the coaches are willing to use. Saka, Martinelli, oh…and maybe…y’know…that £72million footballer we bought in the summer?
Pepe didn’t even get a look in yesterday and Freddie’s comment afterwards about only going with what he’s seen in training felt quite pointed. Whether or not it’s a short-term thing I don’t know, but I hope that we see more of the Ivorian as hopefully the players start enjoying their football a little more, fingers crossed.
But as for the Premier League itself, well, it’s time to start experimenting because the domestic league campaign is over as far as I’m concerned. We are miles away from the top four, struggling in eighth, probably looking at missing out on the Europa League spots on current form. We have turned into mid table mediocrity and perhaps we have to accept that. Perhaps a total rebuild needs to happen and maybe the new man coming in should be given half a season to play around with his team domestically with a view to getting the team sorted for next season.
And that’s the depressing reality of Arsenal right now. We had a board which failed to act quickly enough and as a result we have a domestic league campaign that is in the toilet.
Catch you all tomorrow.