Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Arsenal v West Ham United Preview

Arsenal aren't exactly playing well at the moment and they have only won once in their last six league games. During that time they were humiliated in the Champions against Bayern Munich, but they have made it to the semi finals of the FA Cup. They still have a chance of winning a trophy at least, but their biggest priority has to be trying to finish in the top four.

The draw with City on Sunday didn't really help their cause, but it was infinitely better than losing to one of the teams they're attempting to overhaul. They have seven points to make up on City, but they do have a game in hand while they have two games in hand on Liverpool with eight points to make up. Neither of those gaps are too much with 10 games still to play, but Arsenal will have to play an awful lot better if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the Champions League yet again.

Their upturn has to start now and they won't get too many better chances than against a West Ham team who have lost their last four games. They're letting in a lot of goals at the moment too with 10 conceded in those four defeats and they haven't kept a clean sheet in nine games. They lost 5-1 at home to Arsenal in December and only Swansea and Hull have conceded more goals than them.

Of course Arsenal haven't exactly covered themselves in defensive glory recently either and the manner of the goals they have been conceding leaves a lot to be desired. They showed character to come from behind twice against City on Sunday, but they were so fragile at the back that it was almost scary. It's hard to believe that there is any defensive coaching at all, but there has to be even if what they're being taught just isn't sinking in.

I captained just about every team I ever played for and my job was always to constantly remind every player of their job and to make sure they did it. It's hard to believe there was anyone telling Hector Bellerin exactly where he should be for City's first goal and almost every single Arsenal player stood and watched as City scored their second goal. Rather than acting to prevent City players getting the space to make and score the goal the Arsenal players only reacted after the events.

Arsene Wenger has often said he has a team of captains, but for me he needs one player out there screaming at the rest of the players from first minute to last. When Laurent Koscielny went off injured at half time against City nobody took over the captain's armband or the role either. Underestimating the role of a captain is a serious mistake by the manager in my opinion and I think it's one of the reasons we keep making the same mistakes game after game. It's hard to see who the captain will be against West Ham as we don't exactly have candidates queueing up for the job. Even at that the worst defensive lapses against City came when we had a captain on the pitch so it's clear that the captain's role certainly isn't organising the players.

As bad as West Ham have been recently I still think Andy Carroll can cause us problems as he has done all too often in the past. West Brom showed our defensive frailty in the air and Carroll will relish the chance to get among the Arsenal defenders. The chances of Arsenal keeping a clean sheet are slim and I only hope they can score enough goals to win the game.

As bad as our defence has been we haven't exactly excelled in attack recently either, but we only need to score two goals to reach the 100 mark in all competitions this season. It's not a bad return for a team who have struggled to find any consistency and didn't sign the striker they so badly needed last summer. Alexis Sanchez made the central striking his role with some great performances, but his reward seems to be a shift to the left side where he cannot influence the game as much.

He's got to be the first name on the team sheet for every game no matter how his contract negotiations might be going for next season. He's certainly not the only player who will enter the last year of his contract this summer with 11 others in the same situation. It's unbelievable to think a club that is being run properly would allow 12 players' contracts to run down to the point where all the bargaining chips are in those players hands.

That's what we're faced with at Arsenal though and the chances are the best of those players will be sold below their market value if they go into the final year of their contract while those we cannot sell will either see out their contracts or get a substantial increase in wages. Again you have to ask the questions about the running of the club and who is ultimately responsible for the shambles we are descending into.

With some supporters marching at every game to protest against the manager and banners for and against him unfurled in the stadium it has become a hostile environment for the players and the fans too. Despite all of the protests I am still firmly of the belief that there are very few fans who would like to see the manager sacked, but I also think the majority at this stage think he should decide to call it quits at the end of this season and make the announcement now. I think the best way the club can move forward is with a new man at the helm, but it could of course all go wrong.

I think we have to take that chance now as fear of the future cannot be cited as a reason not to change. If the manager is going to be fondly remembered by fans in years to come I think a decision by him to leave rather than facing the bullet is the way to go. I have little faith in the powers that be at the club to do so though and I fear we will face into next season with no Champions League football, an incomplete squad (yet again) and an even more fractured fan base. It's not a pleasant prospect, but it seems the most likely scenario at this stage.

As for West Ham tonight it's a game we should win despite our current mess and three points would be a welcome boost ahead of a tricky trip to a rejuvenated Palace on Monday night. We have to start winning games again and we have some tough games to go against United, Everton and Spurs among others which could decide our fate this season. If the players are to rebuild their confidence then three points tonight are an absolute must.

So many players are playing with little or no confidence and so unsure of their roles that it's hard to see how it will change though. Gabriel Paulista will come in for the injured Laurent Koscielny and there is a possibility David Ospina might miss out with injury which could see Emiliano Martinez come in as Petr Cech is still doubtful too. I would like to see Mohamed Elneny replace Francis Coquelin as I just don't think Coquelin is good enough on the ball and it's like we're carrying a player when we are in possession. He makes plenty of tackles, but is too prone to an early booking which means he has to curb his game and he becomes even more ineffectual.

For me Alexis has to be redeployed in the central striking role where he was so effective earlier in the season. You don't move your best player out of their best position and one where they can influence the game the most to accommodate others to the detriment of the team, but apparently that's just what we're doing now. If we play Alexis centrally I think he can do what he did to West Ham in the reverse fixture when he got three goals and an assist.

I'd love to say I'm confident of a win tonight, but nothing about the current situation fills me with confidence. Of course I have seen the team in a much worse state in my 47 years supporting them, but we weren't one of the richest clubs in the world then and it was a much more level playing field for other teams. Things have to improve and they have to improve quickly starting with three points tonight and maybe even a good performance too if we're lucky.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment