What a disappointing performance that was yesterday. And there is emphasis on the word ‘performance’ really, because that’s what I think warrants more discussion and debate than the actual result itself.
We all love the FA Cup. We’ve seen Arsenal win it more than most and certainly in the last 20 odd years Arsenal have been pretty good at doing the business in the competition. However, as I said yesterday, this was a game in which I think rotation was the right approach and if we were to lose it, then there are worse things in the world. I am also tempering these words by saying that I don’t think our squad is good enough to deal with a fixture backlog. And again, I think the word ‘squad’ is important, because what we saw yesterday certainly bore that out.
Let’s spare a thought for Maty Ryan though, eh, because I suspect he thought he might get some FA Cup and Europa League games for us this season. Well one cup comp is gone, we’re not in the League Cup any more thanks to the City defeat and Runarsson’s chocolate hands and with Benfica in the next round of the competition in the Europa, I suspect Bernd will get the nod again. If we lose that then our newbie will probably not get any game time at all barring injury.
But back to yesterday’s performance, in which Arteta gave some of the fringe players the chance to demonstrate that they are in with a shout and a run of games in the immediate future. Unfortunately however, what they proved is that they are far away from deserving of it, as we crashed out in a bit of a ‘meh’ game against Southampton.
Southampton pressed us well in the first half and bits of the second but in reality we never really made them work too hard. In the second half they simply slotted in to a low block and our attacking players just look out of ideas pretty quickly unfortunately. It made for a painful watch as we laboured to the final whistle.
At the back Holding was back to the player that I thought he was and was guilty of a few misplaced passes and poor attempted tackles, but I’m not going to dig him out too much, because his form is such that he can get a pass. Not least because I do subscribe to the view that if you play with other poor players they can often drag you down. That was the case yesterday and there were many more shoddy performances from some of Holding’s teammates. Gabriel looked rusty having not played for over a month, so maybe he too gets off a little lightly. He had to self isolate during that time and that means two weeks of no training at all, so I suspect that he might need a few more minutes on the pitch before he gets back to the player that won our player of the month for three months in a row in September, October and November last year.
Arteta went for Bellerin at right back and Cedric at left back. Now, given that the manager talked about the fact Cedric can play as a left back as an option for cover for Tierney, you’d expect that he could show that in a game like yesterday. But what he did show is that he can’t cross with his left foot and he’s also just as prone to foul throws as Bellerin. I’m sorry, but if you are a paid professional footballer there simply is no excuse for foul throws and also the inability to use your weaker foot. Work on it! You literally have nothing to do in between games other than go to London Colney and train. So train on it. And if you are training on it and you still can’t develop muscle memory after weeks of trying it, then what the heck are you doing at The Arsenal?
Cedric’s depressingly overhit crosses weren’t the only problem we had though, as Pepe also showed us that he has neither a right foot, nor the confidence or ability right now to influence a game. I have been a big supporter of his, I think there is talent in there and whilst he looked at times like he might kick into gear in this game, it never really happened. The fact that Arteta is having to come out and defend him in games now shows that it just isn’t working and I think even I’m getting to the point where I think a summer parting of the ways is on the cards and best for all. It’ll be Haller at West Ham all over again, although whilst West Ham only got half of what they paid for the striker, I’d be surprised if we were able to get £36million right now. What a damning indictment of our previous regime. ‘Don Raul’? ‘Don’t Raul’ more like it.
In midfield we saw an Elneny stinker and Xhaka couldn’t really impose himself on the game at all. Again, when you’re playing with somebody as shoddy as the Egyptian (also at fault in the build up to their goal), maybe he drags Xhaka down to his level.
So that’s a defence looking ropey, a midfield looking lame, surely the attack couldn’t ‘out-stink’ them, right?
That is, in fact, where our biggest problem lay because we had Pepe miscontrolling and under-hitting passes and crosses, Nketiah getting a couple of chances and mis-hitting, Gabriel Martinelli never really touching the ball much, then Willian as a number 10 doing his Willian thing. That ‘Willian thing’ is, of course, to stink the joint out and collect your six-figure weekly salary at the end of the evening. What an utter trash signing that has proved to be and I simply don’t want to see him get any more game time. There are no more games in which we can rotate. The FA Cup was a chance, should be his last chance, so let’s hope he slowly disappears into the background and we find a way to pay him off to play football elsewhere in the summer. We’re all praying for it.
We need to do the same with Eddie too. 12 months left on his deal, England under-21 international, should fetch a tidy sum and we have to do it. No more keeping players around to decrease their value. Get your money from him now. He isn’t good enough for us, but I’m sure he’ll make a decent Premier League career elsewhere. We can’t wait another two to three years to see if he comes good. His minutes need to go elsewhere.
The only positive we can draw from yesterday is some rested legs and hopefully a better team performance on Tuesday. We might be missing Aubameyang because of a family emergency which sounds serious, so hopefully we have a resolution for that left wing spot. It has to be Martinelli and perhaps that is why he was hooked before the hour mark. A front line with ESR, Saka, Martinelli in, then Partey behind and Tierney left back and we instantly look like a much better team.
I am hoping for a much better performance on Tuesday.
Catch you tomorrow.