Who is it The End For?
Arsenal fell 12 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League title race, with their defeat at Stamford Bridge at the weekend. Immediately there was the regular back lash in the press, social media and from one much publicised, obscenely pre-prepared, Arsenal fan in the stands.
Arsenal‘s mid-week, defeat to Watford was an embarrassment. We all know that there are no easy games in the Premier League, but with Arsenal‘s current squad, who had only days before decimated Southampton 5-0 in the FA Cup, a home win over a mid table team, with one of the worst away records in the league, should have been a certainty.
An away loss to Chelsea, on their current form, was hardly going to be such a shock and for an Arsenal fan to come so prepared to publicly lay the fault for that at the managers door, I think is quite treacherous and you really have to ask if he would be more at home at the other end of the Kings Rd stadium, where they change managers as often as their players change their socks.
As usual, the press were prepared to roll out all of the old headlines about the Arsenal collapse. But I saw it quite differently.
Chelsea‘s first goal came in the 13th minute and I saw it as doubly unlucky from an Arsenal point of view. If Petr Cech had got a finger to Costa‘s header, or it had gone over rather than rebounding off the bar, or if Bellerin had not copped the elbow to the head that meant he saw no more of the game, maybe he could have dealt with it. Arsene Wenger saw that blow as a foul and so did I. It may not have been intentional, but it did fell the defender.
Considering how influential Bellerin is in the Arsenal side, as well as being a goal down, his departure was always going to have a big effect.
Being one of Arsene Wenger‘s biggest defenders, one thing that I can not defend is the persistence in using Gabriel at right back. I do not really rate him as a central defender, but Arsenal lose so much when he moves out wide.
Attacking down the right flank is one of Arsenal‘s biggest strengths. Bellerin, as we all know, is a super talent, but both Debuchy and Jenkinson, albeit often injured, are light years ahead of Gabriel at right back and as attacking options in that area of the pitch.
Laurent Koscielny had one of his worst games in recent memory. I don’t know what his passing stats were, but from where I was sitting, he appeared to give the ball away an inordinate amount of times. He was very much at fault for the Hazard goal and appeared to have his boots tied together when he was back tracking away from the Belgian.
We have said often before here that Arsenal lack leadership on the pitch. It is very hard for the captain to provide it when he is playing as badly as that himself.
Petr Cech gifted Chelsea their third goal, kicking the ball to Cesc Fabregas, when so many other options, in red shirts, were available. What was he thinking? It’s hard to believe that he is not still on the Chelsea payroll.
So while plenty are blaming the Arsenal manager. I would like to know how he is supposed to prepare for two of his most reliable defenders putting in performances like that.
Still Trying Up Front
While some Arsenal players appeared to give up early in the piece, several did not and a number of chances were created.
There was a very good reason that Chelsea let Petr Cech go and that reason was Thibaut Courtois, who saved well from Gabriel, Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck.
Olivier Giroud finally beat the Chelsea keeper in injury time, but that was too little and far too late.
With Spurs and Man City picking up narrow wins over the weekend, Arsenal have dropped to 4th position in the league, but remain, with Liverpool, the joint highest goal scorers.
Arsenal‘s problems really are at the back. While the new signing, Shkodran Mustafi, has been pretty much an unmitigated success, it is the established players that need to take a long hard look at themselves, specifically Monreal, Coquelin and Koscielny after Saturday’s performance, and of course the aforementioned Gabriel, but that is a selection issue.
By Max Power