The frustration I am still feeling after yesterday’s 0-0 draw at home to Burnley is still coursing through my veins. It makes me clench my fists harder because yesterday felt like a game we just had to – by some way or another – get a scrappy win and then we could reset. But Burnley came to town to frustrate and that’s exactly what they did. In return, we frustrated in the shape of some poor finishing that has ultimately cost us three points.
Pre-game I wasn’t overly confident as I wrote about yesterday, but I thought we might be able to get at least one. But having witnessed Lacazette once again stink the place out, I found myself more annoyed that we have found ourselves in this position of our own making. Martinelli and Saka have been brilliant, ESR has stepped up at times, but he’s been injured, so on a game like yesterday you have to look at your senior players and hope they can drag the team over the line for the three points. But when your captain is a guy who looks knackered after 25 minutes and spends his time waddling around the pitch like he’s just run an ultramarathon, it depresses a bit that he’s supposed to be your main goal threat.
Yesterday Lacazette offered nothing. He barely featured in the first half, other than to slice a chance wide when he had fashioned some space outside the box, then in the second half he missed what was essentially an open goal after Emile Smith Rowe had done some excellent work to beat his man on the left hand side. And so this morning I have nothing but frustration that we haven’t looked to address this striker problem sooner.
We have known for months that Aubameyang wouldn’t be available and the fact he has been frozen out of the team should have meant Arsenal fast-tracking their striker pursuit in early December. We have known that Nketiah is running down his contract and in any event he isn’t of the required quality to get us to where we want to go this season anyway. And we have known that Lacazette isn’t a finisher and we are asking too much for our young players to consistently step up and do the business for us. Yet we find ourselves once again bemoaning that attacking threat – or lack thereof. It’s maddening. You will never get anywhere near top four unless you have a proper striking option in your team and Eddie and Laca are nowhere near good enough to mount a top four challenge. I get that we don’t want to compromise on players and the profile we want, but you can’t tell me that this Vlahovic chap is the ONLY option we have. So let’s explore other options, please, for the love of all that is holy. When we line up against Wolves in two-and-a-half weeks time, I really don’t want to have to see Lacazette huffing and puffing around the pitch any more. I’m done with it. He’s been ok at times this season but that’s his bar – he can reach the dizzying heights of being ‘ok’ at best. If we want to kick on we need more than that.
This week will define our season. If we do not act in the transfer window and get another striker in, as well as midfield cover, that ‘All or Nothing’ documentary will fizzle in to nothingness.
I also thought Ramsdale looked shaky too yesterday and he seems to be going through a bit of a blip. Poor in the two Liverpool games, he dropped a couple of catches yesterday and his distribution looked a little wayward. Hopefully it’s just a short term issue and when the players return from this Dubai trip they can have had a little reset. It looks like they need it.
We also need our first choice midfield back. Yesterday I didn’t think Sambi was that bad and Odegaard was one of the best players on the pitch, but by having him sitting deeper with Sambi, it means that we don’t have him in the final third and that takes away a little bit of the creativity in the team. It feels like we could have done with that yesterday because Saka was decent, but Martinelli looked quiet in the second half and somebody like Odegaard finding him in space with a shorter-range passing distribution could also have made a little bit more difference yesterday.
I do wonder why Arteta doesn’t just give Martinelli a shot up top and games like yesterday make me think it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Imagine having Martinelli on the shoulder of the centre halves, giving them something to think about, as opposed to Lacazette sitting in midfield offering no running power or asking any questions. Then out wide left you put ESR who can run at defenders with the ball at his feet. Odegaard plays centrally with Saka wide right and you slot Partey and Xhaka in behind them. That, to me, feels like a team with more balance and certainly more goal threat when we take Lacazette out of the side. But yesterday we had Odegaard too deep, maybe ESR wasn’t fully fit and as I’ve already mentioned, Martinelli flitted in and out of the game in the second half. We had no plan B and the fact that sticking Nketiah on wide left as the clock ran down was the only sub we made, showed you just how poor our options were.
After watching that for 95 minutes yesterday I think a couple of weeks off might be a good thing for us. I am certainly not complaining in the cold light of a Monday morning.
A bit of a ‘P.S.’ too – props to VAR for completely ignoring a late challenge by Ashley Westwood. That could have been a red card and the referee and VAR just ignored it. If that was a guy in a red and white shirt we’d have had a ten minute stoppage as they watch it again and again and again. It may not have impacted the result and we still should have had enough to beat Burnley, but it is just another example of how there seem to be very few things like that which actually go our way when it comes to VAR. And that stinks.
Catch you all tomorrow.