With all the familiarity of a curry stained pair of tracksuit bottoms, Arsenal coasted into second gear with lackadaisical ease. Our manager is so predictable these days, you can actually plot how the season is going to roll on a monthly basis. We don’t prep for the season properly, and we always pay the price in August. Most accountable managers, after the 6th poor season of starts, would make a plan to attack the season differently, not Arsene. Same training, same core coaching staff, no Director of Football, no major impact on the squad, same dismal start.
Even the problems are predictable, I literally wrote yesterday that it’d be nice to go through a game without Xhaka contributing to the loss of a goal. Right on cue, the great hope in our midfield spilled the ball to a Stoke player, instead of holding his ground (because he’s so slow) he lunged into getting the ball back, made a hash of it, and who in our midfield was behind him making sure we weren’t exposed? No one. Aaron Ramsey up front trying to be action man as usual. Stoke breezed our midfield because it wasn’t there, then made a mockery of our backline. It was simply too easy.
Weird thing is, I commented after the game that the performance wasn’t that bad. Any other club fighting for elite status, you’d have been horrified with what was on show yesterday, but somehow, that was a good loss in comparison to shockers like Crystal Palace away.
… and that’s the thing here, we’re not a top team these days. We’re a team who will finish 5th to 7th this season. Sometimes we’ll win games like yesterday 3-1, sometimes we’ll lose 0-1. We’re exactly what Spurs and Liverpool have been for 10 years. How could we not be? Arsene Wenger has 6 players who have one year left on their deal, from a team spirit perspective, nothing tells you the players aren’t united quite like that number. Watching The Ox play Holywood passes and take potshots from ridiculous positions tells you all you need to know about his headspace. Ozil was completely awful again, he couldn’t look any less interested, and that’s going some for him.
Arsene Wenger has 6 players who have one year left on their deal, from a team spirit perspective, nothing tells you the players aren’t united quite like the number of names unwilling to commit. Watching The Ox play Holywood passes and take potshots from ridiculous positions tells you all you need to know about his headspace. Ozil was completely awful again, he couldn’t look any less interested, and that’s going some for him. Sanchez isn’t even around becasue he’s faking an injury to land a move to PSG or City.
Then you have the quality of our players. I love Danny Welbeck, he literally has it all, athleticism by the bucket load, a good read of the game, tremendous workrate, but put that ball in front of him when he’s near the goal and he collapses like it’s basted in striker kryptonite. We’ve been watching this for years, he’s just not good enough in when it comes down to the business of being clinical and he appears to be getting worse.
Aaron Ramsey is everywhere and nowhere. He looks like he’s doing an incredible job, but most of the time, he’s playing for himself or MOTD goal of the week. Where was he for the Stoke goal? Upfront, where he wants to live. He’s not good enough to play with such disregard for discipline. His strike rate doesn’t match up to how often he’s out of position exposing the defence. But who is telling him? This isn’t a new issue here.
What the hell is Wenger thinking with a back three of centre backs that contains two left backs, with one playing in the centre? If Mustafi can’t be trusted in his natural position, why is he still here? Why didn’t Per Mertesacker start? Why did we spend preseason playing Elneney in central defence if we had no intention of using him there during the season?
Wenger has himself in a quite terrible mess at the moment. He has a squad of players he doesn’t trust or want. He doesn’t add value to players now, so we have team of expensive duffers. The last player we sold for over £15m was Robin Van Persie in 2012. Can you believe that? In a market that just saw Bentaleb go for £19m, we haven’t sold anyone for over £15m in 5 years.
Be real here. If you had a proper manager at Arsenal over the last 5 years, Gibbs would be a £35m player, no doubt. Fast, English, silky on the ball, with a good cross. Jack Wilshere would be a £50m player, he’d be fit, and he’d be motivated. Both players have not been managed properly behind the scenes from a playing perspective, and from a psychological perspective. How are we in a situation where so many players lose all their value? How have the club landed themselves in a situation where we’re only just thinking about who to sell? How have we arrived in the 17/18 season with a squad so bloated and average?
… because there’s no plan. The plan is what Wenger has now. Our manager doesn’t know what he’s doing, and it’s been on show for years now. He has no clue how to find the next level. He has no vision for what a modern team should look like. He knows he’s a dead man walking.
Our season is over before it started because the club allowed a failing manager to go unchallenged. We deserve what we’re going to be served this season. I just hope we don’t have to wait two years to see the manager leave. He needs to be pushed, and the board need to put a plan in place right now for who they want to replace him.