While the manager currently bears the brunt of the criticism at present, the players must accept their share of responsibility as well. A plaintive cry for help is all well and good, but on their salaries and with their abilities, they must be capable of finding some of the answers themselves.
Laurent Koscielny is leading by example. He’s reached the bottom of the form barrel, lifted the wood and found plenty of room beneath to explore; others follow willingly.
We signed strikers who are yet to integrate into the team. Neither Lacazette nor Aubameyang are unqualified successes, but how much of that is down to buying poorly, e.g. players whose strengths don’t fit our playing philosophy, and to what extent the poor form is affecting them?
Koscielny, in a rare public utterance, admitted: “we know we are in a bad situation, a bad period.” Essentially, he has no solutions other than to try harder, even if so far, “we tried but nothing is with us.”
He mentioned about trying to fight and play football but that passed me by during the weekend’s defeat at Brighton. “We miss a lot of things during the game,” he said, without referring specifically to Petr Cech missing the ball or Mustafi missing out on marking lessons. The German bunked football school that day and never caught up.
The players, by and large, have so far received a ‘free ride’ where criticism is concerned. To some extent there is a truth in wondering how a new manager would handle them or what they might achieve with a bit of coaching; some won’t improve enough, others will. I wonder what Jens Lehmann makes of it all; the Invincibles possessed a mentality that the current squad can only dream of.
The Sacked One?
The Times this morning claims Wenger ramped up the pressure on the board and Kroenke, asserting that he won’t step down. ‘Sack me if you dare’ from the defiant one. As I said on social media at the weekend, this is ending only one way for Arsène: badly. If true, there will be no dignified exit, probably steeled in the mantra of ‘never break a contract’.
Problematically, that presents itself as an ego trip rather than having the best interests of the club heart. Of course, in his own mind, he believes he can resolve the situation and that is in best interests of the club. Even if it isn’t. But assuming he remains, where are we headed for the rest of the season?
Facetiously, as I typed that last sentence, the phrase ‘down the pan’ sprang to mind. In some respects, Wenger has dug his own hole. Rob Holding rarely sees the light of day as he’s lost the manager’s confidence. What does Shkodran Mustafi have to do – or not – for that to happen?
Sunday was the latest howling error, although he was a reason 6’5 Petr Cech couldn’t jump for the ball on the first goal. The German backed into the Brighton player who leapt with Cech and hampered his own goalkeeper. Cech should still have done better, but the incident underlines the extent to which we are our own worst enemies.
We’re not out of options at the back but until we get some semblance of form, using Holding or Mavropanos is throwing them under a bus. Nacho Monreal’s return offers the chance to go to a back three again and that might be the solution.
Might is all we have at the moment and it isn’t in the powerful sense of the word either.
There Ain’t No Santi to Save Us
We’re currently sixth, five points ahead of Burnley. Watford bring their cojones to town this weekend and we’ll see how big they are. We ought to win but expecting that is foolhardy, I think.
However, the wrong combination of results could see us needing help to qualify for next season’s Europa League, albeit from the third qualifying round onwards. How far have we fallen?There’s plenty of space beneath the bottom of the barrel.
If you look at the squad, we have few options. A breath of fresh air is needed but there’s little sign of it coming. Our superhero, if we have one, is barely out of nappies. It’s youth or solve the problems yourselves. Can Ainsley Maitland-Niles do any worse than Granit Xhaka in the centre? If Wenger is worried about his lack of experience, when and how is Maitland-Niles going to get that experience if not now?
Other options exist but as less plausible. It’s hard to see Willock or Jeff usurping Mkhitaryan or Ramsey from the side, ahead of Jack Wilshere, whose kicking is questionable. I suppose he is at least kicking something, even if it is the opposition.
The solution is coming more from the existing first team than the fringes. Koscielny offered this view at the weekend, that the players must stick together and not rat to the press. Underlining the depth of the issue at the club, he finished with:
“The players have the responsibility on the pitch, the boss has responsibilities too and we have to be together. It is difficult to say if it is his fault or our fault.”
Hardly a robust defence of the manager, is it? But that is so typically Arsenal at the moment.