That was a disgusting performance last night from Arsenal. It was cowardly, lacked intensity and, frankly, should be worthy of some serious examination and change by the club in the cold light of day this morning.
If last week it was time to hold our hands up and admit that Arteta got the approach and tactics spot on away to Man United, then last night you have to say he got it spectacularly wrong, because what we witnessed at home to a decent but not amazing Villa side, was unacceptable.
What for me was the absolute worst thing about yesterday was the lethargy and lack of intensity and drive about the team. Villa had it in spades and they thoroughly deserved to smash us on our own park. But the way in which some of those Arsenal players performed…well….this morning the word ‘cowardly’ keeps running through my head.
Arteta stuck with the same side that played so well against United and after they’d put in that performance then perhaps there is an argument for it, but if that is the case before the game, then the argument for keeping some of them on the pitch after the international break is now very much washed away.
There was not one player who put in a decent performance on the night. But we had some proper stinkers out there in red and white. My worry about Rob Holding is his lack of pace and I thought that was on display yesterday, but he was the least of our problems, because they are sitting quite clearly in the attacking part of our pitch.
I am now at the stage of complete bewilderment as to how Willian and Lacazette are still seen as the first choice options for the club. Both of their performances yesterday were abject and if they both make the first team starting XI for the away trip to Leeds in a couple of week’s time, well, that’s when we need to start looking firmly in Arteta’s direction. If this is a meritocracy that he is trying to build then he needs to take remedial action on some of his personnel and that starts with those two. Lacazette is slow, does not cause defenders any concerns, doesn’t hold up the ball and even his finishing is sub-standard at the moment. Last night he headed over from a good Tierney cross and I’m sorry, but if you are a professional footballer on a six figure salary per week, that is what you are paid big money for. At the other end of the pitch we saw a hard working Ollie Watkins cause us problems and end up with two goals. What we got last night was a pathetic Frenchman waddling around the pitch offering nothing. Seriously, I bet when Premier League defenders see that they are up against Lacazette whilst Aubameyang is shunted out wide, they breathe a sigh of relief. I would.
It is tantamount to footballing self-harm when you have a genuine world class striker and he’s asked to get chalk on his boots. People say that playing Auba on the left isn’t a problem when he’s given licence to drift in to the middle of the park and certainly I can see the logic in that, but I’m afraid what is happening at the moment is that the way we are playing he just isn’t getting in to the middle of the park enough. Do you know a sure fire way of getting him there? PLAYING HIM THROUGH THE MIDDLE FROM THE START. It’s not rocket science, is it?
Getting him through the middle and Lacazette out of this team would solve one heck of a problem we have. Actually it would solve two because it means we don’t have Auba out wide left doing nothing all game. The next problem we have is Willian. His shocking pass in the middle of the park for their first allowed goal was atrocious, but his finishing in the final third was equally as bad and we’re now at the point where he has strung together about four or five utterly pathetic performances. That should mean he’s hooked from the team. It is time to relegate him to the Europa League places and give some other players a chance. We have Nelson who would probably offer more, but ahead of him, why on earth we aren’t giving Pepe more game time is now utterly mental. Within minutes of him coming on yesterday he curled a ball just wide of the goal. More than Willian had done in the whole game. He is an enigma – as I already wrote last week – he will flit in and out of games, but he has genuine end product for all of the erratic football he plays. Right now in a team so lacking in creativity I would take a player who has five poor touches or passes for every one flash of brilliance. Willian offers us poor touches, no intensity of running and no flashes of brilliance. Get him the hell out of the first team.
Partey’s injury obviously hampered us too, but we also saw how Elneny’s United performance was clearlya one off, because he was back to being Mr Average and whilst again he was the least of our worries, I really hope there is a better solution out there for us. Saka too – least of our worries – but he’s being relied on too much and he had the type of game you’d expect from a 19-year-old yesterday. He gets a bit of a pass when the likes of Lacazette and Willian are stealing a living in attack, but Arteta needs to make changes.
And all eyes need to be on him now. Yesterday after the game he fessed up and took the brunt of it. He held his hands up and claimed responsibility and whilst he needs to obviously do that in front of the cameras, I hope he tears some of those players a new one this morning, because as he even admitted in that post-match presser, they just weren’t a team and it was clear for everyone to see.
We now have that bad taste of that performance in our mouths and in our minds for nearly two weeks as we go into an international break. I don’t know whether I’m glad about that right now because I really don’t want to have to watch us labour to yet another shoddy performance in front of goal again. It’s painful enough to watch as it is.
Catch you guys tomorrow.