If anyone needed further evidence that this season should be the final one of Arsene’s managerial reign, our defeat against Watford should have provided them with it.
After an impressive five goal victory, away at Southampton, I arrived at the Emirates in an optimistic mood and confident that the team would win the game. However, the team that I had confidence in doing the business, was not the team named by Arsene. Firstly, there was no sign of Danny Welbeck, whilst Hector Bellerin, Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott were all amongst the substitutes.
Taking in to account Welbeck’s recent return to fitness, it is perhaps expecting too much too soon, to expect him to play two games in the space of four days. Why was the FA Cup game seen as the priority fixture though? In the list of priorities, it should be the third one on our list. Some supporters will argue that it is the only one that we have a realistic chance of winning, but the simple truth is that you lose once and you are out. All our eggs should not be in that basket.
The same question would have to be asked about Bellerin too. Such is his importance to the side, if he is fit, he should play. Gabriel is simply not in the same class. His distribution is awful and he offers nothing in terms of an attacking threat. Although in his defence, he has been steady but unspectacular whilst filling in for Hector. If he has to play, I prefer him playing at full back as he causes us less damage playing there, compared to when he plays centrally.
After scoring a hat trick at the weekend, I was expecting a confident Walcott to remain in the starting line-up. Arsene has suggested Theo was ‘feeling stiff’ after the weekend but both Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey were supposedly suffering from injuries too. Why gamble on their fitness but not Theo’s? Wenger’s explanation does not appear to add up, particularly as it quickly became evident that Ramsey was struggling.
Another player that I expected to retain his place was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Who impressed at Southampton in a central role and produced his best performance since he starred in our three-nil win against AC Milan back in 2012. Some of the passes he made at St. Mary’s would have had the Mesut Oil fan boys purring, were it the German making them. What does being dropped after such a good performance do for his confidence?
The biggest source of my frustrations with Arsene’s team selections is his reluctance to give Lucas Perez the game time that his form deserves. Every time he is on the pitch, he makes things happen, be it creating a goal or scoring one himself. I do not know what else he has to do in order to earn a regular place in the side. His work rate is also impressive, so I can only assume that Arsene must have caught him in bed with someone that he had his own eyes on.
Whilst Arsene did not help our cause with his poor team selection, the players that were selected also underperformed. Particularly in the first half. Bringing back Nacho Monreal at the expense of Kieran Gibbs, was another questionable choice and the defending from our back four for the second goal was poor. Shkodran Mustafi is a good centre back but his attempt to stop the attack was weak and extremely flat footed. He is good but not as good as some suggest.
Despite my criticisms of Arsene, I will praise him for creating arguably the best squad in the country. However, this is irrelevant if he does not learn how to use it properly and so far, I have yet to see anything to suggest that he does. It always appears to be a case of one-step forward, two steps back where Arsene is concerned and if we are to have any chance of winning at Stamford Bridge this weekend, he has to get it right.
For me that means starting Alexis Sanchez, Welbeck and Perez to give us an attack that has pace and purpose, without losing the off the ball work ethic. I will not hold my breath…..