The longer I spend reflecting on our two disappointing results against Hull City and Barcelona, the more I find myself not only questioning Arsene’s judgement but his comments to the media too.
Arsene’s decision to make nine changes to the team to face Hull was somewhat expected with Barcelona on the horizon. Despite this being the case, many supporters hold the opinion that Arsene should always play his strongest available team regardless of who we are due to face in upcoming fixtures. Whilst I can see both sides of the argument, it is not overly relevant to what I’m about to discuss.
In recent years it has become increasingly common for clubs to play their second choice goalkeepers in domestic cup competitions and in some ways I have no issues with Arsene following suit. My concerns lie with the identity of Petr Cech’s understudy, namely David Ospina, and I believe the manager has got things very wrong in this respect.
Some readers will perhaps consider it unusual to criticise Ospina’s performance after a game where he kept a clean sheet and played a minimal role in proceedings. However, on the one noticeable occasion where he was called upon, he unconvincingly flapped at a routine aerial ball into the box. As far as I’m concerned there is absolutely no mileage in playing him because he shouldn’t have a future at the club beyond this season.
Arsene has previously stated that Ospina has a future as number one at the club. If this is the case then it is evident that he still has a blind spot where top class goalkeepers are concerned. This would also add to the popular theory that Cech wouldn’t have arrived at the club had he not been presented to Arsene on a platter.
There are some supporters who praise Ospina for his performances during the second half of last season. My belief is that those supporters have focused more on the results achieved by the team, during his run of appearances, than the actual quality of his individual performances, which were far from convincing. For those who say he makes very few mistakes that lead directly to goals, it is worth noting Spurs away along with the matches against Swansea and West Brom at home last season and few can forget Olympiakos at home in the current campaign.
In my opinion a better option would have been to have sold Ospina last summer, installed Damian Emiliano Martinez as our new number two and made Matt Macey available for loan in order to gain first team experience. The two youngsters may lack experience but both have the height to offer the physical presence I consider necessary for a goalkeeper and Martinez in particular has very strong hands. Two attributes that Ospina doesn’t have and never will.
The signing of Mohamed Elneny is an intriguing one too, mainly because it’s beginning to look like he was signed as an extra body to offer cover, opposed to a player who could make the difference in either the Premier League or the Champions League. A competition he is eligible for but still failed to make the bench for, in midweek. If he doesn’t offer an immediate improvement on Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini then why sign him?
Having now seen Elneny play a handful of times, I’m not entirely sure where he will fit in once everyone is fit. He doesn’t appear to be a ball winning midfielder or one who is likely to be a frequent goalscorer, even despite his willingness to shoot from distance. He’s a player who keeps things simple and one I’d describe as neat and tidy but does he really give us something that we didn’t have before his arrival? At least he’s young enough to improve and it is of course still very early in his Arsenal career so hopefully he has more in his locker than what we’ve seen so far.
Another decision of Arsene’s that I don’t understand is his recent treatment of Joel Campbell. Having initially been a critic of the Costa Rican, I believe his improved performances should have earned him more game time than he’s been getting recently. It is even odder when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are consistently performing below par.
Whilst the number of chances being created by the team recently, particularly in home fixtures, has been very encouraging, the team’s conversion rate has been less than impressive. In the recent home games with Southampton and Hull City, we created enough chances to have won both games comfortably but somehow failed to score a solitary goal and it was a familiar scenario against Barcelona where a handful of openings were also wasted. Something you simply can’t get away with at the highest level. This frequent lack of composure and wastefulness in front of goal continues to pour scorn on Arsene’s public declaration about having four world class forwards at his disposal and I wish he would stop embarrassing himself by making comments of this type.
It is not only Arsene’s comments about our forwards that many Arsenal supporters find difficult to digest but also his post-match remarks about the team being naive during the midweek defeat against Barcelona. This is an experienced team and after a likely sixth successive exit at the early stages of the Champions League knockout phase, it is evidently not only the team who have a lot to learn about top level European competition but the manager too.
Thankfully we return to domestic action this weekend and where better than Old Trafford to start turning our chances into goals…..