West Ham United 1 – 0 Arsenal
Arsenal took exactly what they deserved from this match: nothing. Not a goal, not a point. There’s no arguing with West Ham meriting victory; they worked harder and more creatively. Fair play to them; in old footballing parlance, they ‘wanted it’ more. And ‘it’ covers a multiple of sins.
Unai Emery must feel like one of Henry VIII’s wives; there are as many calls for a divorce as there are for his head. Never forget the wife which avoided those fates was Spanish.
Not that Emery is above criticism. His team selection was wrong from the outset. It was the same XI which beat Fulham with Emery obviously forgetting it wasn’t a convincing win despite the scoreline.
The inclusion of Bellerin and Monreal on the bench but not at kick-off baffled. As much as Maitland-Niles is versatile, he’s not a natural right-back. Monreal is better defensively than Kolasinac. It’s a marginal argument in attack for that matter.
With the formation chosen, we needed more support going forward. The absence of a playmaker – even one played out of position – left a functional team desperate for attacking inspiration.
I like Guendouzi but expecting a 19-year-old to make the leap from Ligue 2 to the Premier League and boss things is madness. The sort of madness which overwhelmed Granit Xhaka for the game’s only goal.
You could see what the Swiss wanted to achieve with his cushioned header and why; the fly in the ointment was Samir ‘Mr Popular’ Nasri. His pass was gleefully smashed home by Declan Rice. As per usual, we were architects of our own downfall.
To err is human but with Mustafi, Xhaka’s mistakes are frequent and costly. It’s part of his psyche and you end up hoping what the midfielder brings to the party outweighs that particular negative.
It’s natural to question the omission of Mesut Ozil from the matchday squad. That is such a frequent question that a parting of the ways this summer is inevitable.
The German ought to be the solution when we need a playmaker but his form is such that we can’t rely on it. There’s enough evidence since he joined that underlines he isn’t the answer when the team is playing badly. Ozil isn’t a player to drag team-mates out of a slough; he’s the icing on the cake.
Introducing Ramsey and Torreira brought some balance and energy to the team. Alex Iwobi works hard and sporadically provides attacking impetus but he isn’t going to carry a whole team.
I found it baffling that Torreira was benched. I understand the need for rest, particularly with Chelsea, United and City in the next four games. The Uruguayan is used to having a couple of weeks off, as well as adjusting to the intensity of the English game. Not Arsenal’s intensity, of course; we just don’t do that.
The reality is that we have a squad of some very good players and some who are mediocre at best. Emery’s talk of loan-only deals haunts us after performances like this one. Not that you can’t find value in that market and I’m sure we will but our need for reinforcements is such that the club must find funds from somewhere. And no, it isn’t coming from KSE.
We must pick ourselves up quickly. Lacazette and Aubameyang were sporadic threats yesterday with the latter having one glaring miss in particular. Despite being under pressure from the defender and running away from goal, it’s the sort of chance we expect world-class strikers to take.
Count Your Blessings But Don’t Forget The Curses
The pressure is one Unai Emery and will only grow in coming weeks. At home to Chelsea and United with respite coming from the visit of Cardiff. Three games we have got to win. The dreaded ‘must-win’ scenario but recent weeks make that outcome seem unlikely.
Should we be expecting any different? The 22-match unbeaten run was as much a blessing as a curse, it seems. Expectations were raised, even though we knew from the performances that results were masking problems. And so it’s proving.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and this squad isn’t rebuilt in one summer. We need more; loans paper over cracks unless there is an option to buy. Even then, that pushes the problem down the line. If we take two or three loans to buy this winter, will there be any money in the summer? It seems implausible that we’ve magically found £40m to spend on the tick and the same amount for other players.
There’s a lot of hard work to do in what is becoming a fiery atmosphere. Emery will be given time but whether the tools are there is another matter.