Abject Gunners spoil the festive mood by falling short once again

Following the defeat to Manchester United, my dad and I engaged in our usual post-game analysis phone conversation. He was fuming, deriding us for not taking something from the game having made so many chances, whilst at the same time making stupid errors at the back.

He was right, but for some reason I was weirdly ok. I felt we’d played, first ten minutes aside, pretty well, coming up against the best goalkeeper in the world, who happened to be in his most inspired form. Looking at the fixtures, I felt as if we’d move on, dispatching of poor Southampton and West Ham sides with relative ease.

What I forgot was that this is a poor Arsenal side. The two league games which have followed have simply seen us toil, boring everyone watching into submission. This is our identity now; playing narrow, within the width of the box, passing the ball aimlessly across its line. West Ham defended in large numbers, challenging us to break them down but we had no answer. At the back, we were so sloppy that Marko Arnautovic caused us problems all night, with the opposition having undoubtedly the games best chances.

Dominated by Arnautovic

It’s very difficult to see where improvement is going to come from. Arsene Wenger changed tactics last night, reverting to four at the back after six months of uninterrupted lineups with three in the middle with wing-backs.
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If this was an effort to breathe new life into the side, it failed miserably. With Olivier Giroud up front and no Aaron Ramsey running on to support, the Frenchman was isolated, expected to hold off three or four defenders each time the ball was played into him. Arsenal and Wenger must’ve known West Ham were going to play this way, and yet there appeared to be absolutely no plan.
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There were probably two positives. Firstly, Jack Wilshere playing in the middle of midfield in a Premier League game. He looked sharp, he was excellent on the ball but particularly in the immediate time after receiving it and he played 90 minutes. Wilshere’s head is always on a swivel, aware of the space and where teammates are. He actually should’ve scored – or at least put his effort on target – in the second half, which would’ve been deserving of his display, if not Arsenal’s.
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The other plus was Ainsley Maitland-Niles, asked to play out of position at left-back. With six other naturally left-footed players in the team, AMN did well in an unfamiliar spot, being one of the only ones in grey to attempt to find Giroud with a cross into the box.
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Overall though, there’s no denying that it was a very abject display from a set of players who don’t seem to have a plan, and that stems from the manager. We’re still stuck in the same rut we’ve been in for three years or so now, with no sign of it changing any time soon given the 18 months left on the Frenchman’s deal.
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19 points off the top and 11 days from Christmas, we’ve scored four goals from eight away games if you remove the 5-2 anomaly at Everton. We’ve scored seven less goals on the road than either Watford or Leicester, and we’re now seventh in the table, trailing Spurs and Burnley sides that we have managed to beat in recent weeks.
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What a stinker of a campaign, and it’s only the festive season! Merry Christmas!

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