It’s hard to be particularly angry when Arsenal do this. The motions we go through are so familiar by now, that if you truly jumped on the hope bandwagon, you’re a hopeless optimist or you’re just not paying attention. Wenger said after our 2-1 loss at home, his team weren’t at the races.
“Mentally, we were not ready for the [physical] challenges. When you play at home, in our position, that is not normal. Everybody in the Premier League is strong physically and [to give] 90% is not enough.”
An excuse we’ve heard too many times before to be shocked, but an excuse that’s so done to death it’s shocking. No one in the media dares pull him on it to his face and it’s crazy that his bosses haven’t picked up on how often he uses that little number.
Wenger was right. His team weren’t prepared for an opposition game plan that’s all too familiar this season. You sensed that with the line up he dropped. Wenger just shot for his favourites, all in one team and hoped their collective quality would win through. He played a lumbering centre-forward against two lumbering centre backs. A match made in the ineffective. He played Coquelin, against a team you suspected would sit back and play a deep block, in which he’d be useless, or they’d press, where he’s also pretty useless. He also opted for Ramsey, a player very out of sorts this season, so much so, you start to wonder whether he has the guts to be a decent player?
Here are my list of concerns that are very well trodden.
You have the feeling Wenger isn’t setting up his team based on what he’s about to face. He’s setting up based on who he thinks the form players are. Giroud shouldn’t be anywhere near our starting 11 at the moment. Coquelin should not be starting against teams we suspect are going to play a deep block, or against teams that might pressure us in possession. He’s a disaster and he proved that again last night. If you don’t believe me, take a look at his 2016-17 stats.
Aaron Ramsey isn’t capable of playing next to anyone bar Cazorla, and maybe Xhaka. He was a pitiful against last night. He turned his back on the Kaboul freekick, nodding it in with his arse. He was also partly at fault for the second, when we embarrassingly miscontrolled an awful throw from the calamitious Gabriel. To add fuel the shame fire, he was then more interested in glaring at the Brazilian then defending the counter… just watch his pathetic tracking back. Anyway, we managed to let Watford and Troy Deeney walkthrough us and take their lead to two.
We had no answer for the aggressive press. We had no inkling that maybe Watford might mix it up and not sit back, but maybe attack using brute force and an aggressive press. We had no answers when it was clear Watford were on fire. They had 9 chances in the first half with 6 on target, we had three attempts, not hitting the target once. We were outmuscled and out ballsed by a team that has pulled the same trick 4 teams have in the last 10 games.
Wenger is incapable of seeing things early and making a change. He also shows a lack of understanding around how easily thrown players can be by a result. How many of us were saying Southampton may have been an beautiful fluke at the weekend? Plenty. Wenger should have come out after that game and said, look, they were shite and we need to be happy they had a terrible day. Instead, he lapped it up, with the rest of the team, and the celebration carried over into the first half.
The Change Up
Aaron Ramsey pulled up with an injury, about the only thing he can do consistently these days, and the reason he should be shipped off in the summer. Chamberlain came on for him, and he looked solid again. Wenger then switched off the lacklustre Giroud at half-time and injected some pace with Theo Walcott moving out wide. They then made a final change bringing on Perez for Coquelin.
You can’t complain at the response. We created almost instantly. Alexis Sanchez found Iwobi at the back post after a mazy run from the right for an early goal. Theo Walcott had two glorious chances a proper wide-man would have eaten for breakfast. Perez cut inside late on and rattled off a blistering left foot off the bar. We destroyed Watford, we let off 17 shots, hit the target just 5 times (1 less than Watford in the first half for context), forced some superb saves, nullified them to zero attempts.
But where was that in the first half? Why didn’t Wenger recognise that pace, aggression and creativity was going to open Watford up? Why did we have to go through another shocking first half to find our feet, especially when we’re in the title race.
People will point to the topsy-turvey world of the Premier League and lean on the excuse that anyone can beat anyone. In this case, I’m simply not having that. That was 1 win in 8 for them. They’ve lost to Sunderland, were spanked by Spurs and they also lost to Milwall at the weekend. This is an extremely poor team and we were at home, right in the mix. So in a month that by anyone’s standards could be deemed easy, we’ve only taken 10 points from 15. That’s a poor return, and it can be squarely pointed at a manager who can’t motivate his players to focus and has proven time and time again he has no idea how to plan tactically.
Well, I’m gonna fart these at you, especially for all the morons who went off at me at the weekend for suggesting our impressive win ratio this season will amount to nothing. Anyway, Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea all took a point each. Not a huge amount of damage done on the face of it, but we’re still 9 behind Chelsea and we play them at the weekend.
Good news from today is you’d hope Wenger has a rethink about his midfield. He’ll now have to start Chamberlain centrally, which is a massive chance for him to shine. He did very well last night. I’d also hope that Wenger reconsiders putting Giroud in the front three. Sure he’s good for some goals, but at the highest level he hasn’t and never will cut it. We need to pressure Chelsea with aggression and speed. We need to cause them a headache. We need to win. Wenger needs to think outside his favourites and have a think about what he’s going to do against a Chelsea that are compact, well drilled and deadly moving forward.
If the worst happens at the weekend, do you think Wenger will sign a new deal in the international break? Would he have the guts? That could be the next bit of good news. Maybe he’ll realise the game is up.
Let’s keep positive though. I said yesterday we’d probably lose to Watford and beat Chelsea pressure off. You never know, right?
Over to you…
P.S. When you’ve stopped giving highly rational measured opinions, let us know your fave attacking units ever… in the face of Wenger saying we’re witnessing it now. Hashtag it, so I can find them easily #FaveUnit