It’s raining out there, it’s the very last night before another Monday morning comes with a lot of obligations at work and it gets more depressing when we take a look at the table and at the score-line from yesterday’s match at Liberty Stadium. It was another poor defensive performance from The Gunners, another lead slipped through our fingers and the gap between us and Chelsea got even bigger. When will our groundhog day end? Here are the key pointers from the game.
1. We don’t have defensive shape.
I thought Arsene Wenger had learned his lesson back in 2013: “If you don’t have quality, compensate with quantity” and “If you don’t have wings, don’t be so cocky*!” When we lost to Spuds in March 2013 after terrible defending, Arsene decided to tighten our defence by making our defence sit deeper and our defensive midfield consisted of two players – Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta. It was mostly ugly to watch but the results were there – we weren’t defeated until the very end of the campaign.
Right now, Arsenal doesn’t have anything that looks like a defensive shape. Our full-backs usually stand too high and there are acres of space for the opponents in the middle of the pitch due to the lack of either natural defensive midfielder or enough defensive discipline within our team. Our attackers put pressure on the opponents in their half but once the opponents bring the ball to our half, we struggle to deal with the attacks. Perhaps we should forget about high pressing unless we find our own Mascherano and Pique from the best days of Guardiola’s Barcelona.
2. We don’t have enough defenders.
We have six defenders. Seven, if we count Hector Bellerin, a youngster who can count his appearances for the first team on the fingers of one hand. Now, out of those seven defenders, two are out with long-term injuries and won’t be back before December. Both of them are French but that’s something I’ll write about later in this article. Now, we have five defenders which makes Arsene Wenger’s options for rotation practically non-existent. The very same defensive line-up hasn’t been rotated since the game against Hull City and it wouldn’t have happened if Chambers hadn’t been suspended due to yellow cards. Speaking of Chambers…
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3. Chambers has been heavily overplayed.
The English youngster has been a really exciting signing. He has versatility, technique and composure that is stunning for his age. However, he is not made of steel and he can’t be expected to play every bloody game, especially in the full-back position where you have to deal with the quickest players in the game for 90 minutes. He has a lot of burden on his shoulders – a few months ago he was part of the rotation in Southampton. Now he is a regular member of the Arsenal starting eleven and that means more pressure and more games, especially when both senior options for his position in the team – Debuchy and Koscielny – are out due to injury. He was regularly skinned by the pacey Montero and eventually couldn’t close down the cross from which Gomis scored the winner for Swansea. He did make a good clearance to prevent the hosts from taking the lead though – Sigurdsson’s free-kick in the first half was out of Wojciech Szczesny’s reach but Chambers managed to head it out of the goal.
I can understand why Wenger decided to leave Bellerin and stick with Chambers on the flank – going with two youngsters in the defence would be a very risky move so he opted for the more experienced Monreal out of position – but it turned out to be a wrong move. It would be risky to go with Bellerin, Chambers, Mertesacker and Gibbs against United as well after the international break but perhaps it’s the best possible option.
4. Danny Welbeck should work on his finishing.
I love Dat Guy Welbz but his finishing has been below par. He should have scored at least ten goals by now but his finishing has let him down so many times that he should really work hard on that aspect of his game. Today he had a rather tight angle but he should have scored from that chance in the first half – Lukasz Fabianski made a great save though. The Englishman puts in a lot of hard-work and he created a goal for Alexis today but he should start scoring goals himself as well.
5. We can’t hold onto a lead.
Six times. Six times we have had a lead this term only to spill it. That’s something that hadn’t been our flaw between the departure of one of the worst captains Arsenal has ever had, Cesc Fabregas, and this season. One can only think how frustrating it must have been for Alexis Sánchez, who scored on all six occasions when we surrendered our lead.
6. Substitutions didn’t come at the right time and made no real impact.
We scored in the 63rd minute of the game and had a lead for ten minutes. So, there was enough time for Wenger to tighten things up and to replace players who were out of fuel (Ramsey, Chambers/Monreal). Instead of doing that, Wenger waited until Swansea took the lead to make some changes. To make things worse, neither Theo Walcott nor Jack Wilshere did anything worth mentioning during their cameos. The introduction of Yaya Sanogo was just an act of desperation – with all due respect to the French youngster, either Lukas Podolski or Tomas Rosicky would have been more logical options, not to mention Joel Campbell who didn’t make it to the bench…again.
7. Our title challenge is over.
Someone might say that it’s too early to write us off when it comes to the title challenge but I think that was it when it comes to our dreams about the 14th title. Chelsea look unbeatable at the moment and there is a twelve-point-gap between us and them. We still have something to play for – there are 27 more games to be played and there will be some competition for the Champions’ League positions between the rest of the league. Southampton, both Manchester clubs, both Liverpool clubs and maybe even Newcastle might be our rivals for a spot in the illustrious European competition.
8. What the hell was Didier Deschamps doing with our players this summer?
This one isn’t related just to the game against Swansea but here is a weird statistic- three Arsenal players featured in Didier Deschamps’ team this summer in Brazil. All three of them suffered long-term injuries for Arsenal. What kind of regime did Debuchy, Koscielny and Giroud undergo this summer? Then again, why have other French players not suffered the same problem at their respective clubs (e.g. Benzema, Pogba, Matuidi…)?
* – A parrot traveled in a plane with his owner. The parrot ordered a whiskey while insulting a flight attendant: “Hey, b…h, give me the whiskey!” The flight attendant went to see the captain and told him what happened. “As long as the owner is not insulting you, I can’t do anything”, the captain responded. A few minutes later, the parrot repeated his line. The owner thought: “Well, if my parrot can say it that way, I can do it too!” So, the owner called the flight attendant and said: “Hey, b…h, are you deaf? Give us the whiskey!” The flight attendant went to the captain and he ordered both the parrot and it’s owner to be thrown out of the plane. While the owner was falling down, the parrot yelled at him: “Hey, if you don’t have wings, don’t be so cocky!” (Another poorly translated joke from Bosnian to English but you get the point.)