Like many of you have probably done this week, I’ve spent lots of time thinking about the defeat to Man City. While, of course, there has been plenty of time to digest the events of the last match-day, being nearly a week removed from Sunday’s loss does give some extra perspective.
Then, of course, there are also the flurry of rumors which come with the international break, as well as the grandiose transfer rumors which never seem to go away. This week it’s all about Alexis and Ozil (surprised?) and whether or not they should be benched and sold in January, as well as Jack Wilshere’s truly best position and worry over Lacazette’s role.
All in all, after a run of good form, Arsenal’s Paradise seems Lost.
Out Of Their League
After taking three points off the Gunners, the Sh***y-zens (sorry it’s just too easy with that name!) sit on top of the League in pole position to win the whole thing in record time. While it may be premature to compare Pep’s boys with the Invincibles, their eight-point lead certainly has pundits asking whether or not they are the best Premier League team in recent history.
On the other side of the coin, Arsenal are languishing in sixth, trailing City by 12 whole points. Not-so-coincidentally, the Gunners have lost four games already this year.
With such a ludicrous gulf between the team and first place, even though it’s only November (early November at that), there is really no doubt that we can kiss that trophy goodbye.
Personally, I never really thought we had a chance to win it this year, and I’m sure many of you were in that same boat. However, it really is mind-boggling that a club can start the summer by signing a class striker, keeping hold of two other wonderful players and then find themselves out in the cold before it really gets cold out.
No doubt that part of the reason is just how good every team in the league has become. There is also no doubt that there has also been
stagnation a big decline in quality at the Emirates.
During the dark days of the post-Highbury trophy drought, when due to financial restrictions Wenger had to play with one foot tied behind his head, the team still played beautifully. The likes of van Persie, Arshavin and Fabregas could combine at any moment to produce something spectacular, even if they came up short in the end.
Even with players like Lord Bendtner and Andre Santos ‘gracing’ the field, the team would still be in the hunt for the league until the inevitable mid-season meltdown.
Just like in the later years of George Graham‘s reign, the twilight seasons under Arsene Wenger have seen the team go from dominant force in the top-flight to not much more than a cup team.
It really isn’t a secret at this point that neither Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez will wear Arsenal red next season. We’ve known that for some months, even before the summer window shut, but what has changed recently is fan expectation of the duo.
Before the opening game against Leicester the plan was to keep Alexis and Ozil so that the team could sustain a title challenge. Now, after the most recent defeat, fans are turning on both players.
They haven’t been able to sustain the fight for 11 matches, let alone 38, causing many to wonder if it would be a disservice to the rest of the squad (and the club as a whole) to continue to give them minutes.
There are several other players who could fit into the system as creative attackers who are not being played in the big games, where they can earn valuable experience, and are instead played in the Carabao Cup and Europa League.
Jack Wilshere played a number 10 role at Bournemouth last year, and thus far Wenger seems comfortable to let the Englander continue there. Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah (the latter especially) have set the world on fire with their performances for club and country.
That’s not to mention Alex Iwobi, who not so long ago sent Nigeria to the World Cup, and Danny Welbeck, who is expected to return after the interlull. With the Promised Land of Premier League glory too big of an ask for the squad, why continue to give minutes to two stars who have mentally checked out already?
Then, of course, there is the question of whether to sell in January to get some cash back, or to keep hold of them for the later stages of the Europa League and FA Cup. I suppose that question would be answered by the play time the two get for the next few months.
Either way, just two months earlier this situation seemed much better.
Lacazette & Wilshere
Just what is Wenger’s plan with these two?
The Frenchman is the club’s record signing, not to mention a deadly striker, yet is not being allowed to play 90 minutes at a stretch. The Englishman has always looked like a class midfielder, despite all the injuries, yet has been given a bit-part role in the team this year.
If the performances of others were keeping the duo out of the team, that would be one thing. However, there is no apparent reason behind the manager’s decision to limit their minutes, at least from the outside looking in.
Lacazette has scored 6 goals in the League, despite playing the full 90 only once, against Leicester on opening day. Those 6 strikes are good for the team lead.
Beyond that, his movement is exceptional, his passing is good and his creativity is on-par with the want-aways.
Meanwhile, the other attacking options have been okay at best. Not to knock Giroud, but he is not playing as well as last season when he came off the bench to save our bacon time and time again.
Alexis‘ display as the number 9 against City left something to be desired, and with Welbeck hurt for the past few weeks, the previous two were the only real options other than Lacazette at striker.
As far as Wilshere goes, he has been getting good results in the Europa League, but hasn’t had the chance to impact the team in the League. In four EL games, he has enjoyed 87% passing success, 68 touches per game, won 46 duels and contributed with 15 successful dribbles.
Not to mention that he could play a deeper role, where Ramsey and Xhaka haven’t been getting the job done. Perhaps Gareth Southgate has gotten into Wenger’s ear?
Hopes were high that Lacazette especially would make a huge impact in North London over the summer, but he hasn’t been given the chance. Fans also wanted to see Wilshere given the opportunity to restart his Arsenal career, but that’s tough to do from the Europa League.
There’s one thing for sure; the team needs to rebuild in order to contend for the title once again.