I’m really not kidding with that title. I had not written much about Arsenal recently, because there was not a lot to complain about from my side. Ramsey was injured (always a positive for me when he doesn’t play) and the team looked like they were capable of grinding out results against most teams, aside from the away draw to Middlesbrough and the loss to Everton on Tuesday night. Largely, I have been quiet because most of the stuff I wanted to say was covered by other folks.
Arsenal lost the Premier League title with that 2-1 away loss to Manchester City after that result at Goodison Park and with all other results during the week and this past weekend going against Arsenal. The biggest issue is that, after the brilliant first 15 minutes or so (the same in the match vs. Everton), every Gooner could see the team just switch off. Instead of killing off the game, Arsenal took their collective foot off of Manchester City’s throat and allowed City to basically camp out in Arsenal’s half for most of the rest of the first half. The second half started the same as the first had ended, but City had obviously received proper direction from Pep Guardiola (possibly aided by swapping Zabaleta for Sagna at half-time), while Arsenal had seemingly received none from Arsene Wenger considering the insipidness Arsenal displayed at the start of the second half.
City came out firing and were level within 2 minutes of the restart from the lively Leroy Sané, who had persistently been beating Monreal down Arsenal’s left for the majority of the first half and then moved centrally to score. He looked to be offside, but I think we all knew the goal would stand regardless. I think every Gooner could see the 2nd goal for City would come and, of course, it did, a neat finish from Sterling. This scenario has happened far too often in the recent past seasons for it to be an anomaly.
After Sterling scored, every Gooner knew that a comeback would not happen. Arsenal had let another lead and match pass them by. The result leaves City 7 points off Chelsea and Arsenal 9 points behind the Blues. Chelsea look very, very good at the moment and it is difficult to see them losing 3 matches and Arsenal being able to take advantage, given the current lacklustre efforts of the players on the pitch. Chelsea have been plying well on occasion and grinding out the difficult wins, while Arsenal have 0 points from the trips to Everton and Manchester City.
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In terms of player performance, the team were defensively collectively poor. Koscielny was the stand-out as he often is, but Gabriel made a few errors and Monreal was routinely beaten by Sané and later Navas. Cech made a few saves but they weren’t difficult ones to make for any decent top-flight goalkeeper. Xhaka and Özil had matches to forget, Coquelin not much better. Walcott was mostly invisible in the 2nd half but at least got a goal, while Alexis worked tirelessly without getting much help from midfield. Iwobi was probably the best midfielder of the day, while Oxlade-Chamberlain lasted a little over 10 minutes before Wenger realised his tactical error and brought on Elneny, who got a needless yellow card. By then, of course, it was too late. Giroud didn’t really have any opportunity to do much other than win a few headers. De Bruyne was a constant problem with his movement and passing, as was Sané. Silva was his usual nippy, petty self, causing more problems with his runs and passes in Arsenal’s half.
It is my humble opinion that things need to change next season. This season has gone already whether Wenger stays or leaves in terms of the League (the most important trophy for most fans) – Wenger won’t leave as he always honours his contracts and the Board won’t fire him unless there is a catastrophic drop down the table. However, Ivan Gazidis may try to convince the Board it is in the Club’s interests to not renew Wenger’s contract (Gazidis has been at the Club long enough to have seen the consistent failures on the pitch) and sign up new coaches to take up employment next season. It seems obvious that the current set-up is not working because the same failings keep coming through year after year, regardless of the players involved.
It is imperative that Gerry Peyton, the goalkeeper coach, be dismissed as soon as possible or not have his contract renewed – 9 matches in a row with Cech conceding shows something, which is, to my knowledge, the worst run of Cech’s career so far in the Premier League. I also think, after tonight, that Arsene Wenger would not accept a new deal even if it was offered, because I think he knows that he has taken this team as far as he can and new blood must be brought in. I think he simply doesn’t know how to motivate the current generation of players once matches have started to turn against them and that we have an inability to step on the throat of another team with a similar level of talent more often than not – the Chelsea match was the exception to this, not the rule.
As such, after this result tonight, I think it will also be impossible to keep either Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Özil. Those two players are born winners and would not be willing to stay at a Club who keep failing to mount a proper title challenge. Arsenal fluked 2nd last season by dumb luck and were helped by Sp*rs getting battered by Newcastle United on the last day and, for those two players, that simply is not showing enough of a title challenge by the Club, especially with Arsenal being all but out of the Premier League race this season. It seems to be the same thing every year – either Arsenal start well and then fade in November and December, or they are poor until November and then kick on but too late to have any chance of winning the League.
People might say Özil offered nothing against Manchester City and they would be partially correct – he can’t offer anything when Coquelin, Xhaka and Gabriel keep playing sloppy passes that end up finding opposition players because they allow opponents to close down all the spaces. As for Alexis, I think he will be off to Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Manchester City – Clubs with ambition (and money) to win titles. It’d be disappointing to see either of them go but, could any of us really blame them? With the current state of the Club, probably not.
So, where to now? Bayern Munich will be laughing themselves silly with this result – I am near-certain they will knock Arsenal out of the Champions League if they continue to play like this. All that is left now is to try to consolidate that Champions League place for monetary reasons and to try to make a go of the FA Cup. I think we will see big changes at the end of this season in terms of player departures – Debuchy already has one foot out the door and those with little time remaining on their contracts, like Walcott, Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain, will probably soon follow him out, along with, in my opinion, Arsene Wenger in his managing and coaching capacity (the Board would probably offer him some sort of Honorary Director’s role).
I find this whole situation so disappointing as it has happened so many times before. Something has to change.
That’s all from me. Until next time.
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.