A point gained or two points lost? For the second time this season Arsenal have scored three goals away from home without coming away with a win, after West Ham United’s comeback secured a 3-3 draw on Saturday. What makes it really frustrating is the fact we had a two-goal lead five minutes before the break and spilled it like a bunch of school-boys.
Our title bid is as good as over and we can focus on keeping our place that secures direct qualification for the Champions League next season. It won’t be easy given that our rivals Manchester City are just two points behind us and we are due to visit Etihad in the penultimate match of the season.
Here are the key points from the game:
1.Arsene Wenger doesn’t have a reliable pair of central defenders.
We have four central defenders but it seems not a single combination is reliable enough, especially not in 2016. In fact, since Boxing Day we have conceded three or more goals in four away league games (Southampton 4:0, Liverpool 3:3, Manchester United 3:2, West Ham United 3:3). Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were all over the place against Southampton and didn’t cover themselves in glory against Liverpool either. Gabriel de Abreu joined Koscielny against Manchester United and West Ham.
If you ask yourself: “What about Calum Chambers?”, he has been used as a right full-back in the FA Cup campaign and as a defensive midfielder in the league. He has been given a few chances in central defence but it didn’t go well. Petr Čech had to give a MoTM-performance to spare Chambers and Gabriel from blushes against Liverpool in August and in the two London derbies – a league clash against Chelsea and a Capital One Cup match against Tottenham – Chambers found his own net. Finally, he was part of the weakened side that succumbed to a heavy 3:0 defeat in the Capital One Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday.
The fact Wenger didn’t introduce either Chambers or Mertesacker to deal with the eventual hat-trick hero Andy Carroll at the break suggests that Wenger doesn’t have enough trust in either of our tall yet slow central defenders. We need a world-class central defender next summer but we know that Wenger doesn’t make decisions based on our wishes.
2.Our full-backs and central midfielders didn’t do their homework either.
West Ham created more chances (16) than Arsenal (10) with Carroll having ten shots – more than our whole team combined (via Squawka.com). It’s not that bad given Dimitri Payet has been one of the best players in the league this season. However, one of the most annoying things about our defending at Boleyn Ground was how we let them deliver crosses at will. Our full-backs and defensive midfielders didn’t close the crossers down which left our central defence exposed from all sides. Their counter-attack for the first goal started with our misplaced pass in the middle. Also, Hector Bellerin was lucky that the linesman wrongly called Manuel Lanzini’s offside at 0:0.
Laurent Koscielny hinted that he wasn’t happy with the service from our full-backs.
“You can’t let them get a cross in easy because they have some good players on the wings. It is a job for everyone, not just the defender’s. The guys on the flanks need to help their team-mates with defending,” the Frenchman told Arsenal.com.
3.Alex Iwobi has been immense but is far from the finished article.
The Nigerian wonderkid was rightfully handed his third league start and has now been involved in four goals since his emergence into the starting eleven. His touch, vision and decisions in the final third make him a real gem who will only get better in the forthcoming years.
However, there is a worrying trend that suggests we should be patient with Iwobi. The Nigerian’s recent performances have followed the same pattern – bright first half with a goal/assists and fading a bit/a lot in the second half. It’s understandable given his age and the intense requirements of Premier League football.
4.Alexis Sánchez likes to play with mobile attackers.
If we had beaten West Ham, I guess most people would have been thrilled with the fact Alexis has been involved in six goals over the last five league games. The Chilean has scored nine league goals this season but not a single one when Olivier Giroud was in the starting eleven. That proves Alexis prefers to play next to mobile attackers like Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi. Given that Alexis is our best forward, Wenger should build our attack around him. Also, it seems he prefers to play on the right wing these days.
Unfortunately, Alexis made a wrong choice in the West Ham box in the closing minutes of the game – he wanted to switch the ball to his stronger right foot which gave enough time for Winston Reid to make a vital block. A strange decision for a player who has proven to be clinical and deadly in the box.
5.Could Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott all leave Arsenal this summer?
It’s too early to make big transfer predictions. It’s always too early to do so. However, if our run-in can be taken as an indicator, we could see many familiar faces on the transfer list.
Mohammed Elneny has emerged as a decent partner for Francis Coquelin. He has incredible stamina and can pass himself out of trouble. That leaves Aaron Ramsey in a difficult position: Alexis has occupied the right flank and Elneny has done well in the middle. And, let’s not forget that Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will also fight for a place in central midfield. Does it mean that Ramsey has suddenly become surplus to our team?
Maybe not. After all, the Welshman is a home-grown player who knows where the goal is more than any of our central midfielders. He has to raise his game though and show consistency.
Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud have been on the bench for quite a while now. After fighting for the No. 9 role at the beginning of the season, both players have gone through a rough campaign. Giroud hasn’t scored a goal in the league since 13th January at Anfield. Given that he has failed to score twenty league goals since his arrival and that Theo Walcott hasn’t learned how to play football consistently during his decade at Arsenal, Wenger has to find a world-class striker next summer.
Signing Zlatan Ibrahimović who is available on a free transfer would be a straight-forward (no pun intended) decision. Ibra has scored thirty league goals for PSG this season and added five more in the Champions League. If his lack of pace, wage demands and a huge ego represent a problem, then we can try to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund. The Gabonese striker has scored 36 goals in all competitions this season, has blistering pace and can score from outside of the box as well. That’s just two options. If we have the money and desire to buy a world-class striker, there are not many that we can’t sign.
Our next game is against Crystal Palace at home. We need three points to keep the chasing pack away and possibly pip the Spuds to second place. St. Totteringham’s Day is one of the rare things to fight for until the end of the season!