With the FA clash against Sutton not until Monday, it seems a good time to analyze Arsenal since the start of 2017. The Gunners seem to be teetering on the verge of crisis after virtually ending their chances in the Premier League and Champions League. The club, manager, and players have all been dragged into turmoil following a wretched two months.
On January 1st, Arsenal sat in third place in the league and nine points off league leaders, Chelsea. Since then Arsenal have won four, drawn once and lost twice in the league, are now ten points off, and sit in a familiar fourth. Losses to Watford and Chelsea highlight this run, with a rather fortunate draw against Bournemouth.
Yet again, Arsenal will be scraping for one of the Champions League positions. This has been an absurdly acceptable reality for Gooners over the past decade. We are content with our definition of mediocrity and it forces us to wait another year for a title. Many clubs would love for that consistency but Arsenal are not many clubs. We are supposed to be a member of Europe’s elite.
This will not be a recap of the game but an analysis of Arsenal’s shortcomings against Europe’s elite. The second half is where Bayern Munich showed Arsenal how far off they truly are from achieving European glory.
For having a plethora of center midfield options at the beginning of season, it is the position where we are consistently losing games. The partnership of Xhaka and Coquelin is not working and Wenger has to see that Coquelin is not the answer. The comparison of Xhaka and Coquelin to Alcantara and Alonso is laughable. Compare that partnership to any of the “elite” European clubs and I do not believe that we are close.
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Prior to the Bayern match Wenger states (via Arsenal.com):
“So it’s important we protect the second game because I feel that to have a chance to qualify in the second leg,”
If Wenger really wanted to protect that second leg than he would not have made the team selection he did. Three players in particular: Iwobi, Ozil, Coquelin. Iwobi offered no protection to Gibbs and offered little outlet when trying to retain possession. Coquelin’s influence on the game was intangible – showing Arjen Robben the middle of the field for the first goal was inexcusable. Then there is Ozil, Wenger needs to have the audacity to drop him if the rest of the team is going to have to carry his weight defensively. He was in poor form coming into the game and looks disjointed from the team. The team-selection was predictable and showed Wenger’s impatience to win this two-legged affair.
Arjen Robben summed it up best when speaking with ESPN. “For them, the pressure is to make it to the quarterfinal for the first time in many years. Our target is always the final.”
Criticism of Wenger has never been this intense during his tenure. His future has come under scrutiny from everyone- including himself. The perpetual wait for Arsenal to have “matured” or “changed” enough to compete for major trophies seems infinite.
Arsenal is now synonymous with not showing up in big games. Chelsea and Bayern being the two most recent examples. The commonality in the years leading to this is – Wenger. His stubbornness to adjust his philosophy in those types of game might signal the beginning of the end.
Wenger states “I will manage next season, whether it’s here or somewhere else” (via Arsenal.com). Sounding deflated during his press conference, as if he is a man with one foot out the door. We should pull for Wenger to succeed now more than ever- it seems that we are edging closer to his final act as manager of Arsenal Football Club.
What is your take on Arsenal’s recent struggles?
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