There is nothing more telling than having rival supporters taunt you, by singing songs about wanting your manager to stay. After another visit to Stamford Bridge resulted in yet another defeat, it came as no surprise to hear choruses of “Arsene Wenger, we want you stay” reverberating around the stadium. Sadly, the defeat itself was predictable, with the same old deficiencies, once again being our downfall.
In my previous article, I mentioned that I considered our squad to be arguably the strongest in the country. Some supporters have been quick to point out that the defeat at Chelsea, provided evidence that it is not. However, I am still to be convinced that the likes of Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Victor Moses, for example, are any better than Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Hector Bellerin. The difference is that they have received better coaching and learned how to play as a more efficient unit.
A lack of leadership, on and off the field, has long been one of our weaknesses. Chelsea’s team plays in a mirror image of Conte, sadly ours plays in a mirror image of Wenger. What last weekend’s defeat, also highlighted, is the lack of creativity and physical strength in our midfield. Some supporters will suggest Santi Cazorla and Granit Xhaka, would have given us that but Santi is thirty two and Granit still to fully convince. Although I do believe there is a player in there.
In the summer, I said that Victor Wanyama would be an ideal signing for us but no, we are told Arsene knows best. Unfortunately, for a modest fee in today’s transfer market, Spurs got themselves a bargain at £12m. I like the look of Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko as an alternative and have been monitoring his progress since he impressed against us in an Emirates Cup match back in 2014.
After being our best player against Chelsea, it is time for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to be given an extended run in central midfield. He impressed in that role against Southampton too, only to be dropped for the next game. In terms of who should partner him, the recent form of Francis Coquelin is a concern and I would be inclined to replace him with the returning Mohamed Elneny.
Elneny may have a limited passing range in the eyes of some but his ability to keep the ball is exceptional. Comparisons between him and the crab like Denilson are harsh and he deserves more game time than Wenger has given him so far. Coquelin was not the only player, who was below par at Stamford Bridge. Mesut Ozil was again anonymous in a big game, whilst Petr Cech was directly at fault for the third goal.
My expectations are for Ozil to retain his place as he always does regardless of his form, and for him to shine against another one of the leagues poorest sides. This is not to say that I am taking us getting a victory over Hull for granted. It would of course be foolish to be complacent after what happened against Watford. Petr on the other hand, may well be replaced by David Ospina. My opinion of Ospina has been well documented but if Cech is making mistakes like that, he cannot do any worse, can he?
In a way, based on the assumption Ospina will play in Munich, I would prefer to see Damian Martinez get the nod for the games against Hull and Sutton. He is not particularly young anymore at twenty four, and has strong hands and a physical presence, two key attributes that Ospina does not possess. Why not give him the chance to show that he is good enough and if he is not, then we should let him go in the summer. I would prefer to see someone given the opportunity to prove that they might be good enough, at the expense of a player who is not good enough, any day.
There has been a lot of criticism aimed in Arsene’s direction and he did not do himself any favours by naming Danny Welbeck on the bench at Chelsea. The qualities he gives us when he plays are clear for all to see and our tempo raised immediately, following his introduction. It is most likely caution that is influencing Arsene’s team selection but if he’s capable of playing for almost seventy minutes in an FA Cup game the previous weekend, surely he’s capable of doing the same in a game at a supposed title rival?
Sadly, the term ‘title rival’ is no longer one that can be associated with us…..