Chelsea’s Premier League title win edges closer, with the gap between us and them 21 points until tomorrow night’s game at St Mary’s. One of the most talented squads at the manager’s disposal can’t even finish single digits behind the champions.
It’s a damning statistic for everyone involved at Arsenal, including the manager. And it’s nothing new.
The Premier League became clearer over the last round of games with Middlesbrough joining Sunderland in next season’s Championship. ‘Boro’s defensive record ought to see them mid-table; their scoring record, the worst in English football.
They were let down by not enough goals; seven of their 13 drawn games were goalless. It will, however, have been a good experience for Calum Chambers. A year on loan at a struggling club is eye-opening but playing for a squad built from the back is reminiscent of the George Graham philosophy. If only Aitor Karanka could have found a half-decent striker.
The former Real Madrid defender preached a solid backline and his tuition for Chambers is an experience he won’t forget. Karanka said back in December,
“He has a lot of good things. He is good with the ball and to be an Arsenal player is massive for him.
He’s strong in the air, sometimes he may look as if he’s not aggressive or strong, but he is really strong and he’s using that experience to play.
“I’ve no doubt that he can play at Arsenal. For me, he’s a really good central defender. He can play as a right-back as when you’re a good player you can play in different positions, but for me now he’s better as a central defender and he can improve in that position.”
It leaves with a good back-up and potential first team player over the next couple of years.
Acceptance into the Arsenal World
Chambers purchase was questioned last year, lambasted in some quarters for not being good enough. Thrown in at the deep end by Wenger, he struggled in a back four not famed for its’ defensive nous.
With a move to a back three, more opportunities open for Chambers. Next season ought to see Hector Bellerin restored to the right, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain moving into the central midfield position. The back three is less certain.
On current form, Mustafi, Koscielny, and Holding are the incumbents. Chambers would be vying with Holding, presuming Wenger doesn’t buy in the summer. Undoubtedly, Per Mertesacker is set to leave; injury curtailed the start of his season and despite our defensive woes, he hasn’t returned. It’s hard to see the German remaining at the club.
Whether that quintet is good enough in terms of quantity and quality, is the question. Nacho Monreal is adept as the left-sided central defender so there are six potential centre backs.
Surely the bigger issue is the philosophy of 3-4-3? Does Arsène actually agree with it? He’s very dismissive in his press conferences of three at the back, and there’s always been a sense the formation was the act of a desperate man.
There is work to be done if we’re to continue with the formation next season. Reshaping the squad is vital, moving on players such as Gibbs, Giroud and Sanogo, who have no future if the back-three is the way forward. Giroud moving on requires a new lead striker and a back-up, assuming Alexis stays.
That’s the mess the current set-up has got us into. Being a big club is about retaining players as well as signing them and having two-thirds out of contract in the next two seasons is mismanagement on a grand scale.
You Pull on Some Weed and You Pull on Someone
With the cup final so late this season, the month of June is the only time off, as opposed to the usual six or seven weeks in this non-competition year. Did I say that?
For Alexis, Mustafi and Özil, it isn’t. FIFA’s World Cup dry-run, the Confederations Cup, takes place this summer. That will wreak as much havoc to the pre-season as tours to Australia and China.
The latter is more focussing than anything else. For a club as notoriously lethargic in the transfer market as ourselves, the long-distance tours are a problem. Even with the interconnected electronic world, Wenger meeting with potential signings is an issue. His procrastination amplifies that.
Those are problems for the post-Chelsea world. We’ve got Southampton to contend with and that’s a more immediate concern.