Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Arsenal Rule Themselves Out Of The Title Race

The title challenge may not be over mathematically for Arsenal, but there can't be anyone left who believes they will win it. It was always going to be a long shot trying to catch Leicester and the points dropped at West Ham on Saturday put paid to those slim chances. The fact that the result was totally self inflicted spoke volumes for what we have seen from the team and the manager this season.

After the game Arsene Wenger expressed his surprise at the inclusion of Andy Carroll in the West Ham team. Carroll may not have played too many games recently and his inclusion certainly caught Arsenal by surprise, but their failure to react to the situation was simply not good enough. It's hard to believe that any instructions were given to the players on how to handle him once the team sheets were seen an hour before the game.

Gabriel Paulista and Hector Bellerin hadn't played against him before I don't think, but Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal most certainly had. From early on West Ham were able to put crosses in unchallenged and wrongly had a goal disallowed after only a few minutes from one of them. It's a pretty basic part of the game to stop your opponent from putting crosses in and particularly when they have a player with Carroll's aerial ability on the end of them.

When those crosses started to come in it was up to the captain (Koscielny) to make sure the other players knew whose job it was to cut them out. The full backs didn't have enough help from the two wide men in that role, but where were the instructions telling them what their duties were. With Steve Bould's defensive experience on the bench surely they could see what was happening and do something to stop it.

It's too easy for the boss to say after the game that we have conceded too many goals from crosses this season. Surely it's his job and that of his coaching staff to ensure the whole team are drilled in their responsibilities when we don't have the ball and they seem to have failed miserably when it comes to defending crosses. Slaven Bilic knew what our weaknesses were and he managed to exploit them to the full and to our shame we could do nothing to counter it.

Last season Arsenal suffered some very bad results away to some of the better teams in the league, but they have only been on the end of a pasting from Southampton this season on their travels. They have still let in too many goals away from home though with only Swansea, Bournemouth and for bottom four conceding more away goals after Saturday's games, but Stoke have been added to that list now. Their defensive frailties are no better than they were last season despite the arrival of Petr Cech although he couldn't do much from the dugout on Saturday.

David Ospina had done well during Cech's absence through injury, but he does not inspire the confidence in those in front of him which Cech does. I'm not saying Cech would have definitely made a difference on Saturday, but I think his presence and experience in this league could well have made things a lot harder for West Ham. It's something we can only guess about though and we'll never know for sure.

When you study the defenders available to Arsenal it's easy enough to see why we're struggling in defence. A lot of fans like to think Koscielny is right up there with the best in the league and he can be very good on his day, but he has plenty of off days and he has suffered from a string of injuries over the last few years. He is the best defender we have though and the only one of them who's a regular on the international stage too. It's easy to knock international football, but it's not good for the Arsenal defence to think that only Koscielny can get into his national side.

There's an awful lot of rebuilding to be done this summer and the defence cannot be neglected as the rest of the team (hopefully) is strengthened. I'll go into all of the players who need to be shown the door at a later date because it would take far too long to do it now. Arsenal were the only Premier League team not to add an outfield player last summer despite having room for two in their squad and they have paid a price for the stagnation in the squad.

Getting back to Saturday the team showed plenty going forward with Alex Iwobi setting up two goals and Alexis Sanchez continuing his recent run of goals and assists. They are certainly a lot better in attack than only a few weeks ago and they're the top scorers away from home in the league. Iwobi was excellent again, but it was him who gave the ball away for the moves that led to the first and second West Ham goals. He looks like a fantastic prospect at the moment and I have no doubt he will learn in time not to give the ball away in such dangerous positions.

Despite Alexis's recent goals and assists I still think he's well short of his best and he has really struggled since his injury. I think the amount of games he has played over the last few years has taken it's toll and he needs a summer off to recuperate, but international commitments will put paid to any hopes of that happening. 

From anecdotal evidence I can honestly say it looks to me like the majority of Arsenal fans think it is time the manager went. I'm not talking about opinions of fans on Twitter where I would tend to follow fans with similar opinions to mine, but from talking to lifelong Arsenal fans I have known for years. The consensus seems to be that he is not learning from his mistakes and he's spoiling his legacy by outstaying his time at the club.

I'm sure there are still many who will argue with that and it's fair to say we don't have a clue who would replace him if he did leave. The team is not progressing though and we need to find someone who can take it forward even if it means some regression first. I have no doubt that he will keep his job though and see out his contract at the end of next season. What happens then is anyone's guess and I would be shocked to learn the club have made any sort of plan of action for his departure.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. MU have introduced accountability for the staff. Arsenal must do like wise.
    In the rd case,it was failure to achieve a top 4 placing. What the Arsenal board can do is
    failure to win the epl after leading for half a season will be rewarded with a 50% wage cut for players and 90% for the manager.
    These are draconian measures but things cant go like this for the last 5/6/7 seasons when choking within sight of the title.Believe me Wenger would have been fired at least 10 years ago at any of the big teams.

    1. If you cut players wages you won't have players as other clubs will be prepared to pay them more and they will leave. I can't imagine any player signing a contract with wage cuts for not winning the league, but relegation would be a different matter of course.

  2. Bob Wilsons Gloves12 April 2016 at 00:35

    Arsenal didn't drop points at West Ham. West Ham were better over the 90 minutes and deserved to win. It was a point gained.

    1. It was a point gained indeed, but from a position of 2-0 up anything other than 3 points has to be regarded as points dropped.

  3. Watched the Welbeck play again to Kos. The clumsy oaf was trying to cushion the ball for a shot himself. You could see him run after the ball after he touched it, then stop when he realizes it's going straight to Kos. We're going nowhere with this lemon as our striker.

    1. He may be a lemon but he's been better than Giroud & Walcot and he integrates into the team to make us a better unit unlike those two. He's the best we have right now, but we need better for next season definitely.

  4. You ever notice how wenger never changes a lineup after a win or 2?? No thought process like "the next team is physical and great in the air, maybe Per and Cech should play".
    And he's still trying to force this Barca style total football with mostly the wrong players, great passing attackers who can't defend. And if you can't defend you have to press hard to keep the ball away. Santi is the only player who can do that for 90 min. The wings are wide open for teams sending in easy cross after cross, no pressure. This happens every game, whether the opposing team takes their chances or not. The old fart is delusional, everyone see's this weakness but him.
    0 Reply

    1. Alexis can usually be depended on to do his defensive stint as can Joel Campbell when he plays, but neither of the wide players had any interest in doing it on Saturday