The FA Cup third round draw ought to provide some light relief from Saturday’s defeat but the manner, and losing, to Manchester United rankles.
It gets under the skin knowing that Mourinho smiled at the end. Not because it was some grand plan to let us pummel them into submission, but because the miserable f*cker knew he’d got away with it.
He is the Premier League’s Revie; a figure of hatred, doomed to be despised and never given the recognition his trophies deserve. No complaints here on that count.
I didn’t take notice of Arsène’s post-match interviews; the manner of defeat grates, really grates. Thursday’s match against BATE may give some indication as to how he feels. It’s inconceivable that the XI which threw away all sense of discipline will be kept intact for Sunday’s trip to Southampton. Two players must be under threat, irrespective of injury.
Shkodran Mustafi’s departure from the pitch remains bizarre. Nobody knows what he injured but it was enough for him to leave the field. That the manager didn’t know what was wrong with the German was peculiar. However, I’m not sure that in the moment, he cared.
It might genuinely also be he didn’t want to comment for fear of more ridicule after his Lacazette prognosis proved hopelessly wrong.
However, we can’t rule out that Mustafi had a ‘mini-Campbell’ moment. The pressure simply got too much for him to bear. While you may scoff, footballers are no different from us mere mortals in that respect. Their huge salaries don’t offer a shield of invincibility from mental health issues.
I don’t know if that’s the issue, by the way, simply speculating given that for the first time in history during his reign, Wenger didn’t have a clue why one of his players was injured.
The Wheels on the Bus
Rob Holding found himself dropped because his confidence was shot after the 4 – 3 win over Leicester. Mustafi’s confidence is shot to pieces. The second goal was a run of the mill situation, one where he lifts his head, looks. Cech could have been more vocal, we assume, but the German is a World Cup winner. He’s played in these big matches before but looked like a novice and crumpled like Bambi on ice.
To me, the same rules apply. His confidence is shot and rotation of the side is needed. The question is who. We don’t need any result against BATE; we’re top, we’re through and a seed in the knockout phase. I’d pick Mertesacker for that fixture, freeing up Holding for the trip to Southampton. Arsène may choose to reverse those roles but Mustafi is almost certain to be axed.
The second is Xhaka. The Swiss looked assured for his country, comfortable as almost a sweeper but the rigours of the defensive midfield in the Premier League is a lot different. I don’t think he’s that player. Or he certainly doesn’t conform to my expectation of one.
Let’s be honest, the defending for the third goal was abysmal. Xhaka, like everything to do with our defending on Saturday, didn’t do the basics right. It’s been a while coming, I think. He is a good player, there’s no doubt about that but capable of more at club level. Do we need to rethink the way we use him in the side?
With three at the back, it’s a difficult proposition. If we bring in another midfielder, going to a more orthodox 3-5-2, some of the width will be sacrificed. Certainly, one of Özil or Sanchez is sacrificed. That may be the case in January anyway.
At that point, there is a real opportunity if it is to be taken or if Arsène thinks it necessary. Xhaka alongside a more defensively-minded player might free his mind and range of passing. Some of the names bandied around suggest that unlikely; Lemar, Goretzka among others are like-for-like replacements, providing width and attacking impetus.
Arsène may be moved to return a flat back four. If so, I think we need stronger centre-backs. Koscielny, at present, doesn’t look physically capable of three games a week yet that is just what we demanded of him. We don’t have an ideal replacement; Holding and Chambers would be thrown under a bus in that situation. Mustafi is not the leader the stereotypical German central defender provides.
The caveat as always is avoiding knee-jerk reactions, which some of you may claim this is. The back three combination suffered their first defeat amid a collective brain fart. It can’t go unanswered by the manager but the question he has to answer is whether or not we’re headed toward the same collapse in form which necessitated a shift to a back-three in the first place.
If not, a quick change of personnel might be the answer, as well as some repair to the psychological damage to individuals.
Finally, a new post is soon to emerge on Dad’s Jukebox, brought to you today by the letter ‘W’.