Morning folks – hope you’re all well? Haven’t been behind my computer since Wednesday last week, as I was holidaying in Rome and eating way too much pasta and pizza to think about penning thoughts whilst away on my travels, but am back behind my laptop today for a first day back at work and I thought I might as well get back in to the swing of things by starting my day off with some Arsenal thoughts.
There’s probably no need to go through the pain of the Brighton performance and to be honest with you, you’ve probably already read to a load of thoughts, listened and watched a fair few videos, so I’d just be picking at a wound that already exists and still smarts enough. It does for me, anyway. That’s because we’ve seen our Top Four aspirations pretty much blown away in my opinion. I didn’t watch the game at the weekend, but I have read a few of the reports and by my calculation we were dreadful, lacked any kind of drive, with the manager making some worrying selection decisions for players that had an impact on the way we approached the game. It backfired and now we’re looking at a table that see’s us behind the scum on points, on goal difference and with a much harder final eight games to play than them. They’re also in form and picking up wins and I’m sorry to say this, but I just don’t see how we are going to get the necessary points haul to finish in fourth.
I said a few week’s ago that I thought we needed six wins from our remaining games to get that top four spot. Those two recent losses – against mid table teams who haven’t got a load to play for right now – mean it is now six wins from eight. Six wins from games which include Man United, Chelski, the Scum and West Ham. In my head there’s possibly one win in there, maybe a couple of draws if we can string together good performances, then you’re talking about being reliant on other teams on the beach to actually bother showing up against the Scum. It just isn’t going to happen. The chance is probably gone. I was optimistic pre-Palace, but the performances of the players and the decisions of the manager have cost us that chance.
I know it is mathematically possible, but football is so much about momentum and all of our momentum has been sucked out of the team with those two bruising defeats against opponents that we really should have been beating if we wanted to get top four. We’ll see the differences in the sides when Brighton go to the Scum on Saturday and roll over to get their bellies tickled. We gave them belief when there should have been none to have.
And then we play Southampton on Saturday. A Southampton who have just been tonked 6-0 at home. A Southampton who will be on their knees confidence-wise. But a Southampton who will look at the Crystal Palace game and know that this Arsenal side can be easily rattled. A defeat on the South Coast this coming weekend and it won’t be the top four I’m worried about, it’ll be a spiralling out of European competition that will be our focus.
It really pains me to talk like this. I saw some really positive signs from this collective of Arsenal players. I saw a unification, an approach and a style of football that felt like the perfect blueprint. But as many of us suspected, it was built on foundations that could easily be shaken. It was built on the supposition that Arsenal’s first XI were good enough “if they can only stay fit”. But that belief we all knew deep down was folly. We all knew that in our best XI we have injury prone players. Thomas Partey has been injury prone ever since he joined us. Kieran Tierney since even before he joined us and when I had a quick look at Tomiyasu’s short career and injury history, we have a player there who picks up knocks. Last season for Bologna he missed a total of 54 days and 10 matches for Bologna. This season – if he is fit after the Southampton game – he will have missed nine games and gone around 60 days of injury with us.
We already knew we had a paper thin squad. But we all also really did know that keeping those players fit would be unlikely. So this was probably all coming in the post. I think most of us thought Nuno and Sambi were good understudies, but the point of an understudy is to fill in, not be completely relied on. That is why I think our chances are so slim and that is why I’m also looking at these fixtures and not seeing six wins from eight.
But I’m also not seeing it because of the man who has been spearheading our attacks and, honestly folks, Arteta is getting a big black mark against his managerial name if we see that waddling Frenchman again this weekend. Last season he kept Willian in the team even when it was obvious it was the wrong thing to do. For a couple of week’s now we’ve been in the same territory, but the patience feels like it has worn out amongst the fans and if the Lacazette hill is the one he is willing to die on this season by starting him again, then I think the frustration amongst the fanbase will also start to turn towards the manager too.
It is time to make changes and Arteta needs to make those changes. No more Lacazette. No more Xhaka at left back. But even if he does that, I’m not sure we have enough from the understudies to go on a mega run right now.
Sorry folks, because it’s not been a particularly fun one to write today, but I suspect that might be the tone a few more times between now and the end of the season.
Catch you all tomorrow.