Arsenal saw out 2017 the way Arsene Wenger has been justifying his continued presence at Arsenal for 10 years. We didn’t quite do the job, and there was a lovely excuse to disguise the stone-cold reality that we were in fact, distinctly average once again in an away match in the Premier League.
We’ve only won three games on the road this season, which simply isn’t good enough. Were Arsenal helped in any way by the disgraceful Mike Dean? Of course we weren’t. His late penalty decision was nothing short of negligent when you consider his age and experience. Kieran Gibbs chased a lost cause into our box, flanked closely by Chambers, our ex back left back tried to hook the ball back into the danger zone, it clipped Chambers downward pointing hands and the ref pointed to the spot.
It was never a penalty. I can’t think of many officials that would have risked a furore of giving a kick they only had half a view of, but that is Mike Dean. He’s a showman and he loves making the headlines about him as he no doubt prepares his memoirs for the post-retirement money grab in a few years. We need VAR right away. If refs are STILL giving those decisions when they’re aided with tech, they’ll be demoted because they won’t have the cover of ‘real time is fast these days.’
It was a shame as well, because despite playing really quite poorly, Arsenal had managed to craft a lead from a wildly deflected Sanchez freekick late on. Hardly deserved on the face of it, but considering our lack of rest time, I think most fans were willing to suck up the lethargic performance.
It wasn’t to be, instead, we ceded yet more points to the teams in front of us, and also lost ground in the race for top 4. There’s really no way of packaging that result as anything other than disastrous. Outside the dropped points, we also lost more defenders to injury. Kolasinac went down to an impact injury to the inside of his knee, and later on, we lost Koscielny to a fate yet unknown.
I could appreciate Wenger’s anger about the fixture list. It’s hard to argue two days extra rest at elite levels of sport aren’t beneficial. However, it also has to be remembered, WBA are hardly elite. They’ve not won a game in 18 attempts. Kieran Gibbs hasn’t actually played on a winning side yet. We’re also a much bigger club with resources that should give us a squad fresh enough to at least give a creative 30minutes in a game like this.
Again, this is just another easy cover story for the deeper problem at Arsenal > we’re just not that good. Our away record has been poor all season, our attacking philosophy is confused, sluggish and largely toothless. Defensively, we’re nowhere near cracking it. We don’t think about the physical attributes needed on the pitch, despite all of Wenger success coming from powerhouse players.
We missed Ozil, but he’s played plenty in plenty of games that have yielded little. As fans, we’re all pretty impressed with Lacazette, but the harsh reality is our £60m striker isn’t cutting it in front of goal like we’d hoped. You can blame the service, but if you run the numbers, Arsenal are threatening goal, they’re just not finishing. Even yesterday, we had 14 shots at their goal but only hit the target 4 times. It’s hardly surprising a small striker with average pace is struggling to find a grip in games. But couldn’t there be a solution that involved two strikers? Should we not be looking at how Atleti get the best out of Griezmann (who I know is actually fast, but you get what I mean)?
The manager doesn’t help himself with some of his selections. I really want Iwobi to come good, but he’s as contentious as Alex Hleb was back in the day. Technically, he’s very good, but it’s becoming harder and harder to understand what he’s offering our attack. He shits the bed every time he’s presented a sniff at goal. He gives the ball up under the slightest pressure. He’s not a smart decision maker. I hate to say it, but do you think Theo would be doing as badly? How much more rest time are we going to give Welbeck before we can bring him back into the mix? I’d have taken the impressive AMN in a deeper lying role and let Jack push forward over an Iwobi disaster class.
It’s also tough to ignore how soft the management of the squad is. If the kids are good enough, as Wenger often says, then yesterday should have been a prime opp to show them off because we were playing a terrible side. If they’re not good enough to help a tired squad, they should be loaned out to gain some experience.
Why does Ozil keep landing breaks for tough away games? You know he’ll be back for Chelsea. Why doesn’t the manager drop underperforming players like Bellerin and Iwobi? There are plenty who’d do a better job than Iwobi, and I’m pretty certain Debuchy would offer more than our Spanish wantaway.
Go back a few weeks when Mustafi rolled off injured against United… I have it on good authority he was ready for the Southampton game, but the club knew the fans would spit feathers if he was played. At a proper club, that sort of weak mentality would see the bench for 6 weeks. Under Wenger, it’s par the course because he doesn’t have a ruthless edge or much desire to win.
Two days time we play Chelsea. Our back 3 is going to look something like the FA Cup final offering. No Monreal, Koscielny, or Kolasinac. Aaron Ramsey is having his customary month off midseason when we need him most (I’ll be very interested to see how the numbers stack up when considering offering him a new deal, considering his injury record and bookended season). It’s going to be incredibly tough. But look, these fixtures have been out for a while, we should have been planning starting 11s around the challenges, not waiting for the team to fail, ready with a white flag.
Remember, this Arsenal side over the last 5 years has the 3rd highest net spend. We’re now rocking a £200m wage bill. We’re bidding £90m for players. The club has all it needs to be 15 points higher in the league without bringing in more players, imagine what we’d be doing under a manager with fresh thinking and visionary ideas?
Arsene Wenger is a controlled disaster, we’ve known it for years, and we still have 18months more of falling behind before we can be finished with it. Despressing, but better than 5 years.
Right, see you in the comments.
Happy New Year as well! x