Arsene has demonstrated that he’s learned nothing from mistakes made in previous campaigns. I’m disappointed and frustrated but sadly, not surprised. However, despite being called ‘negative’ by some of our more ‘positive’ supporters, I take no enjoyment from saying “I told you so”. I would take plenty from Arsene proving me wrong though.
Unfortunately, he won’t.
Supporters of Arsene, rather than Arsenal, will undoubtedly argue that our defeat at Stoke was undeserved, and point the finger of blame entirely at the match officials. On another day, Alexandre Lacazette’s strike wouldn’t have been disallowed and we may have been awarded a penalty. Whilst this may be the case, the referee and linesman were not responsible for our team selection or substitutions. Both of which were poor.
After some collectively poor defending in our opening game against Leicester, it appears that Rob Holding was made the scapegoat by Arsene. Dropping a young player from the squad completely, after one poor display, is a great way to destroy his confidence. How often does Arsene make similar decisions by picking the easy option though? Frequently dropping or substituting the player with the least experience. It’s become tiresome and predictable.
I’ve frequently praised the performances of Nacho Monreal as one of the back three but if he’s going to play there, he’s got to play as the left sided centre back. It was evident to us all – except the one man whose opinion matters of course – that Nacho was ill at ease playing as the central sweeper against Leicester. With Per Mertesacker on the bench, and Holding in the stands, this scenario could (and should) have been avoided at the Bet365 Stadium.
Playing Sead Kolasinac as a centre back and Hector Bellerin at left wing back, is another bizarre decision. Firstly, it suggests that Arsene doesn’t have the stomach to make a decision on who he sees as his first choice right wing back. It appears that Wenger is trying to appease Hector and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain by giving them both game time. Sead could be a huge asset to the team but only if he’s played as a left wing back. He’s got a lot to offer when in possession and is completely wasted at centre back.
Having got things wrong with his starting line up, Arsene made them worse with his substitutions against Stoke. What other supposed ‘top’ manager would take off their most natural finisher when in search of an equaliser? Especially when Lacazette had demonstrated his clinical nature in front of goal, only minutes prior to his withdrawal, with his disallowed effort. Asking Aaron Ramsey to play a deeper role following the changes was also a strange move. If Arsene knows, he certainly didn’t show it here.
With Bellerin struggling for form, (again not helped by being played out of position), why didn’t Arsene move Kolasinac to left back at his expense when he reverted to four at the back? The formation change was the right decision, the change in personnel however, was not. How Danny Welbeck remained on the field for the full ninety minutes remains a mystery too. Danny is energetic but quite frankly, he lacks the class and the finishing ability required for him to be considered as a regular in the side. Instead he should only be used as an impact player from the bench.
Another observation that I’ve made recently, is that Shkodran Mustafi no longer offers the vocal presence that he did when he first arrived. I’d hoped he would offer us natural leadership qualities but they seem to have been knocked out of him. Has he given up the ghost in terms of our defence ever being an organised unit? Or is there some truth in the reports about him failing to gel with some of his team mates? Whatever it is, he looks a different player to the one we saw early in his Arsenal career.
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The goalkeeping situation at the club is also a concern. I would have liked to have seen Wojciech Szczesny given a chance to prove he’s finally matured. I doubt Massimiliano Allegri would have been as eager to take him to Juventus, had he not shown this during his loan spell at Roma. Our current number one, Petr Cech, has noticeably lost some of his athleticism and perhaps some of the bravery he once possessed, in the years that have passed since his head injury. Understandably so in both instances.
Additionally, I don’t see the mileage in loaning out Emiliano Martinez to a team in a country where the style of football is completely different to that played in England either. Wouldn’t it have been more beneficial for Emiliano’s development, to loan him to a Championship side, where he’d have faced more physical challenges and aerial balls? Arsene may be academically intelligent but when it comes to his footballing IQ, it appears to be diminishing.
A player who I wasn’t disappointed to see depart the club, is Gabriel. Although I’d have liked to have seen someone brought in to replace him before he was allowed to leave. In all honesty, I was surprised by the number of Arsenal fans who expressed their sadness about his departure. Why anyone would be upset to see an average – at best – player leave the club I don’t know, but it would explain how Arsene is able to keep his job. Some of the clubs supporters seem so easily pleased when it comes to the quality of the playing personnel. One supporter even offered ‘praise’ by saying “he put in a shift”. I’d do the same but it wouldn’t make me good enough either.
The Brazilian’s positional sense was very poor, his distribution abysmal and despite laughable comparisons with Martin Keown, he wasn’t overly aggressive either. I had to laugh when I learned that in an era where transfer fees are vastly over inflated, we somehow managed to make a loss on him. If we didn’t laugh we’d cry; unfortunately his replacement is undoubtedly already at the club in the form of Mohamed Elneny.
As things stand, I believe we are two or three players – and a manager – away from a serious title challenge. In my opinion we need a top class centre back, a midfielder and probably a better goalkeeper. However, I’ve reached the stage where I believe it’s become almost irrelevant who we sign whilst Arsene remains in charge. Quite simply, I’ve lost faith in his ability to consistently get the best out of our players these days.
It’s going to be a long two years unless he starts proving me wrong. A win at Anfield on Sunday would be a great time for him to start doing so….