Since Boxing day, this is how it looks…
It’s not impressive. We’ve taken a hammering from a poor Southampton, we’ve conceded a lead late at Liverpool, drawn against a Stoke we haven’t beaten away since 2010 and we’ve just dropped 3 points against a really bad Chelsea team that we haven’t beaten competitively for 46 years.
You can dig into the results and blame luck, you can take aim at our unfortunate injuries and you can scoff at the fixtures being relatively tough.
Or you can just call a spade a spade and say that we’re showing all the familiar traits of seasons past.
We’re choking. We’re not choking badly. As I said last week, it’s micro disappointments. But in the grand scheme of the league and hitting it hard in 2016, we’re blowing it, one week at a time. What’s worrying is that Spurs are still looking very good and more importantly, Manchester City have the know-how to crank into the winning gear.
It’s very tough to be too mad at the actual game yesterday. Per Mertesacker made a very poor mistake when Costa beat his slide tackle and made the most of the limited contact. Chelsea are a bit of a bogey team in that sense, Per has one yellow card in 59 games apparently, so timing is usually his thing. Not yesterday.
Wenger made quite a bold decision with his sub. He took off Giroud, opting for the pace of Theo to beat Chelsea. Clearly the age and declining speed of the Chavs defence was a key part of our preparation… however, it has to be said, the decision was quite baffling when you think about how awful Theo has been since returning from injury.
Shortly after, possibly still in shock about the early red, Monreal casually closed down Ivanovic like he was shooing away pigeons in Trafalgar square, the hideous right back whipped in a superb cross that Costa beat Koscielny to to give his team the lead.
That guy. Always. Chelsea love having a striker that torments us.
A goal down with ten men is never a good look. It does have to be said that the boys put in a valiant effort. Wenger brought on Sanchez very early on in the second half (15mins before his standard) and the team showed a lot of urgency from the off.
Trouble was that we lacked quality in the final delivery. Theo Walcott was kind of gazumped by the Chelsea defence. In games against seasoned players, he just doesn’t have the quality. His final ball was weak, I thought his runs were telegraphed and I think he failed to show up when we needed him.
Flamini and Ramsey just aren’t meant for each other. Ramsey, we know, loves to go wandering… Flamini, sadly, without merit, likes to do the same. This point driven home by the 3-4 very good positions he got himself into in the opposition box.
Who is there telling him it’s not really appropriate that he’s the furthest man forward? Well, I guess from his perspective, there was NO ONE in the box for most of the game. No outlet for anything really.
The boys hammered away. But never really anything concrete. Monreal had a decent chance but couldn’t take it on his right so he shanked it wide. Sanchez broke into the box on the same side but his final ball was pony. There was also a spilled cross from Courtois that ended in a ball mouth melee that yielded nada.
A commendable effort… but kind of another glorious failure.
Things to think about:
Subs: We’re not very good at subs, are we? Easy with hindsight to say that taking Giroud off was a bad idea, but I think the reality is foresight would tell you that Theo is not going to take a 10 man team to glory. His form has been dismal, he can’t hold a ball up and he couldn’t make up his mind where he wanted to play in that forward line. We threw on Sanchez, he was out of sorts… and then we just defaulted to Chamberlain despite him showing nothing in his last 57 games.
Ozil: Was kind of looking to him to give a bit more dominance to the game. Thought he really floated into the background, like he often does on big occasions. Really not his best performance.
Title Race: Leicester are clear in the league again. Quite incredible really. They’re title contenders without a doubt. My concern is Spurs. Their ability to keep their players fit and the quiet way they’ve gone about their business this year has been incredibly impressive and at the same time, really depressing.
I don’t think I’d come back to the UK ever if they won the league. Surely it can’t happen?
‘Meh’: I don’t really know what to make of the whole thing really. We’re still in the mix, but we’re bottling games on the regular at the moment. No one is really calling the team out because we’re still close, but as we’ve said before… this is a film I’ve seen the ending to… like, multiple times before.
The team lacked know how. They fought, but they fought without edge. Sometimes you need bar room brawlers, we don’t have that capability in our side. We’re too sweet in games like that and though the fight was admirable, it was Arsenal fight. Not title winning fight.
I think the return of Sanchez is imperative to our run in, a real animal. Keeping him fit is of huge importance. We also need Ozil to show up in every single game. I also think some of the other players in the side need to pull up their socks and start showing a but of Championship winning mettle. Theo and Chamberlain in particular.
… and Coquelin. Oh how we miss that boy in the middle of the park just doing one job, really well, with no fuss.
I wonder if when we look back on this season, whether we’ll lament a lack of talent… or an imbalance of personalities? Too many Theo’s… not enough Sanchez brawlers?
The wheel nuts on our season are starting to loosen, the pressure is starting to build… it’s up to Arsene to fire his team up, because a few more results like that, we’ll lose the needed momentum at completely the wrong time.
Burnley in the cup next up, massive rotation is in order. Gets some freshness into those legs and get some focus in those minds.
Could be a really fucking horrible few weeks.
- Southampton (H)
- Bournemouth (A) (Benik Afobe hattrick)
- Leicester (H)
- Barcelona (H)
- United (A)
- Swansea (H)
- Spurs (A)