After suffering a hugely disappointing defeat against Everton at Goodison Park, I was hoping to see some form of positive reaction from our players against Manchester City. Unfortunately, it didn’t materialise and we now find ourselves nine points adrift of the current league leaders, Chelsea.
In the eyes of many supporters, a nine point lead may not seem insurmountable and were it us holding the advantage, I’d be inclined to agree. However, not only do Chelsea have a more experienced group of players when it comes to winning league titles, they also have a manager who recognises when things aren’t going to plan and adapts his teams tactics accordingly. Sadly, we don’t.
With Liverpool and Manchester City now above us in the table and United and that lot down the road, gaining ground, perhaps the more pressing challenge is to remain in the top four, as opposed to maintaining an anticipated title charge. Although as we all know, things can change very quickly in football. If only the identity of our manager would.
On the subject of things changing quickly in football, it was only a couple of games ago, that I was saying that our board needed to do everything in their power to ensure Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil remained at the club. After the way Ozil has performed in the two games against Everton and City, I’m already questioning my own judgment.
Gone is the telepathic link up play with Alexis and back is the disinterested and peripheral figure of old. I really thought or perhaps simply hoped, that Mesut and the team as a collective unit, had turned a corner but it appears I wrong. What impact the ongoing talks over a new contract are having on his recent form remains to be seen.
It is not only Ozil whose performances have been unacceptable. However, when a player of his talent and reported wage demands, delivers such below par displays, they will always be the one who receives the most criticism. Particularly if they are seen to be ducking out the way of the ball or casually strolling around the park without a hint of urgency.
Although I have previously been very supportive of Granit Xhaka, he too has been poor in both defeats. Needlessly diving in and looking short of athleticism. Being only a few months in to his first season at the club, perhaps he can be excused in the short term but he has the talent to put in far better displays. If I was Mohamed Elneny, I’d be knocking on the managers door to seek answers.
It is common practice for some supporters to analyse individual performances and be over critical of certain players, following a defeat. I can’t help thinking that this has been the case where Petr Cech is concerned. Having watched the replays of both Manchester City goals, I’m not overly convinced that there is much more he could have done to prevent either.
There is a myth that surrounds goalkeepers being beaten at their near post and against City, there were two Arsenal players and one attacker in Cech’s line of vision. It certainly was not a clear error on his behalf and whilst it is evident that Petr is no longer at the level he was during his Chelsea peak, he’s still the best we have.
With us facing West Brom and Crystal Palace in our next two fixtures and taking into account the style of football that both sides are renowned for, it would represent an act of footballing suicide to replace Cech with David Ospina. As some supporters have suggested. The thought of Ospina facing Benteke in an aerial dual, is the stuff of nightmares. No, thank you.
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One player who can have no complaints, were he to be demoted to the substitutes bench, is Nacho Monreal. After two seasons of admirable consistency, he’s struggled to find his best form during this campaign. After his display against Basel, I mentioned that perhaps the time had arrived for Kieran Gibbs to be given an extended run in the side. This is a view that I retain.
If recent media reports are to be believed, it would appear that Rob Holding is being lined up for a loan move. Personally, I hope the reports are inaccurate. In my previous article, I stated that I believed Holding to be a better player than Gabriel, with greater potential too. I’ve seen nothing recently to suggest I am wrong and it’s about time that Arsene proved that he still has the stomach to make the big calls when it comes to team selection.
Another thing that has left me bemused, is Arsene’s post match comments. In which he has blamed everyone but himself and his team for our recent defeats. He can argue about the decisions of the match officials at the Etihad all day but the fact is we played poorly and the referee was not responsible for our inability to keep possession, defend or our failure to turn up for the second half.
Perhaps he was the one who put sedatives in our players half time refreshments and delivered an inspirational team talk though. How Arsene can say that we played well in the games against Everton or City, is beyond comprehension. He either needs sectioning or he’s attempting to insult the intelligence of our supporters. In fairness, some are probably daft enough to believe him.
On paper, we have a very favourable run of fixtures coming up but as we all know, football matches are not won on paper and we can’t afford any further slip ups if we want to seriously challenge this season. It’s nearly time for Santa to make his deliveries and it’s time for Arsene and the boys to start delivering too….
On that note, I’d like to wish all Gunnerstown readers and contributors, a Merry Christmas.