“Get rid of the deadwood”, we said. “The manager is also deadwood”, some screamed. Yet here we are, the January circus over, and there’s still that sense; a sense of the bitter taste lingering in the mouth long after the sweetness of the moment passes.
At the beginning of the season, who would have thunk that Arsenal would get rid of 8 players previously thought to be the core of the club? Gibbs, Gabriel, Le Coq, Perez, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud and Alexis. The club argues that we got 5 in return; Sead, Mavropanos, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang. The 3 front line acquisitions will make most teams in Europe better, and Arsenal should be excited about that.
That’s all well and good until you think of the mediocrity of the season. You have to ask the question. With 14 games to go, how is it even possible that we have won only 3 away games this season? It even becomes more ironic when you think that we’re still in reach of the top 4, yet incapable of taking advantage of slip-ups by United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea.
What does it say about our defence if you consider that in 6 weeks, Petr Cech’s pursuit of that elusive 200th Premier League clean sheet has become a punchline? Just like the penalty count, now at 16. I’m sure the clean sheet will come before the end of the season; not sure about him ever saving a penalty for Arsenal though.
Of Defensive Keystone Cops And Attacking Redemption
Scoring more goals than the opposition can’t ever be a philosophy to last you 38 games. MI6, the oldest spook shop in the world have a saying. You’ll never do the job right if your counter-intelligence – your defence team, isn’t as good as your spooks in the field – your offence team. The two elements of the team have to work in synch, counter-intelligence being your absolute defensive wall.
The enemy knows we’re shaky defensively; just ask the team that was propping up the Premier league table. Absorb the ticky-tacky pressure and launch a swift counter-attack. Ramsey and Xhaka don’t do counter-intel. Surely, this strategy from opposition can’t be a surprise now, can it? But what do we do? Same mediocrity different game. It’s tedious.
The fact is that a front line of Lacazette, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, anchored by Ozil and Li’l Jack can give any team in Europe a run for their money. That will only work if those behind them are organized and resolute. We can’t keep throwing Hail Mary’s every time wondering which Arsenal will turn up.
It’s way past the point where Wenger has to take responsibility of failing to plug the leaks and continuing the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again. Xhaka, Ramsey and Iwobi need to be benched and given the opportunity to contemplate their positions at Arsenal.
My sense is our strongest team for the rest of the season doesn’t include them. We have nothing to lose, and might as well focus on letting Elneny and Li’l Jack anchor the midfield. Just as Wilshere has cemented his place in the team, Elneny has a massive opportunity to make himself indispensable.
“This Arsenal Ain’t Big Enough For the Both Of Us”
You have to hand it to Ozil and his negotiating team. At his age, this is his last major contract and he has played it well. Of course, it caused a lot of grief, but if analysed, Ozil was the player Arsenal needed to keep more than Sanchez. That’s assuming that the German continues to be as influential as he has been in recent weeks.
Some would argue that he was playing well for a contract or a Bozeman, but that’s beside the point. If he plays at his best, he is worth the money, especially if Lacazette, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang feed off his assists. Li’l Jack alongside him in midfield is an attacking plan B if the opposition police mark Ozil out of the game. Wilshere’s role here reminds me of the effectiveness of Santi Carzola when he played alongside Ozil.
Arsenal were only ever going to pay one mega contract, and at £300,000 a week, the German ends up being the second highest paid player in the Premier League. It’s a good deal for the club and says something about Ozil who has redeemed himself and projected all the contract negativity towards Alexis, rightfully or wrongfully. It’s a big year for him with Germany defending the World Cup, him getting married to his fiancé Amine and a good old fat pay cheque and a new season to look forward to.
Mind The Gap
At least we don’t get to wait long to find out if Wenger and the players are serious about redeeming themselves. Theo is back in town tomorrow evening. There’s just this feeling I have that he’s got a lot to prove and he’s going to give Monreal a run for his money. We know Theo can score. The question is how much belief Big Sam has given him, and how much of a spring in his step his brace against Leicester gave him. Theo has the added incentive of getting a call-up for the England World Cup squad.
I really can’t see us keeping a clean sheet. But that doesn’t worry me as much as another inept performance, especially in defence. For one, I hope Li’l Jack is over his illness and Xhaka, Iwobi and Ramsey are benched. Who am I kidding? This is Arsenal. If wishes were horses, I’m sure all of us would have a ranch by now. A lot of excitement going forward with the new signings; a lot of bitterness to come too.
Have a great weekend good people.