Well it was a nice ride while it lasted, but Arsenal’s title challenge is well and truly over. If you looked at the table, you would see there is still a mathematical chance of winning the Premier League but all Arsenal fans know that with the defeat to Stoke and the killer fixtures coming up in March alone, are title aspirations are down the drain.
If you looked at some of the interviews from Arsenal supporters after the Stoke City game from Arsenal Fan TV, you will see how frustrated they are, and that sums up the core supporters, the fans who pay hard earned money to watch Arsenal. They travel up and down the country, see their team week in and week out and they know what they are talking about. And if you watch those interviews, the vast majority say the title challenge is gone for another season.
Here are a list of 10 reasons why Arsenal have blown any chance of winning the league:
1. Not Signing A New Striker
This is not a new problem, and one we’ve had since the start of last summer. Olivier Giroud is our only real option up front as Nicklas Bendtner is a poor replacement and Yaya Sanogo is young, raw and been injured for a lot of the season. We were crying out for a top class striker in the summer but failed in bids to sign Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain, and were linked to players such as Stevan Jovetic, who ended up going to Manchester City.
Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain are world class strikers and really would have given our title challenge a real push. Look at Liverpool – Sturridge and Suarez have score more goals alone than most of the teams in Europe this season, never mind the Premier League. I’ve said all along that if we managed to sign Suarez, the title would be in the bag. We’d be a good 5/6 points clear at this moment in time.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the signing of Ozil lifted the club and he did give us that extra bit of class which sent us top of the league for most of the season. But his form has dipped and along with it our form as a club overall. Did I know much about Ozil before he joined Arsenal? Not really but I have been surprised at his attitude and lack of effort at times.
The stupid thing is (even though we now know there was a clause in Suarez’s contract) that Arsenal made a massive mess of the Suarez situation. If we didn’t offer that stupid £40 million and 1 pence nonsense and actually offered £40 million then with Suarez wanting to leave, Liverpool would have surely started negotiations. Then we probably could have got him for around £50 million in the end. The way Arsenal handled the Suarez saga was shambolic and would you have paid an extra £7 million for a player of Suarez’s quality? Of course you would have.
With Suarez in an Arsenal shirt, we’d be top of the league by a good few points.
2. Not Replacing Theo Walcott
We’ve known for a long time before the January Transfer window that we would be without Theo for the rest of the season. He had already missed a lot of games since September and even then we saw how much his pace and directness was missed in the team – during that period when Theo was first out, we were grinding out results because we had no outlet and games were far too compact in the middle of the park. So when Theo suffered that terrible injury against Tottenham, one of the first things to do was to make sure he was replaced.
Now I realise that football transfers aren’t like computer games where you can just buy someone immediately but surely something should have been in place to cope with his absence? Even if we didn’t bring someone new in, then surely it was time to give Serge Gnabry or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain more of a run in the first team? We played the same midfield which was full of playmakers but no-one with any pace to run in behind – which nullifies any use for Giroud up top. Too many times this season (and again against Stoke) Giroud was far too isolated and had no runners to play off.
Playing like that has been affecting our performances, hence only 2 wins from 6 league games.
3. We Have No Passion or Fight (Anymore)
If you watch the reactions of the Arsenal fans after the Stoke game, you will see that the biggest complain is that the players “rolled over”, they “lacked any fight” and “Stoke wanted it more”.
Going into the game against Stoke, we were the team fighting for something. We were the side fighting to stay in the Premier League race. But like too many times recently, we played as if we didn’t care and we had given up. Stoke did want it more and got what they deserved. You can cry about the penalty decision, but only weeks before Liverpool were denied a stone wall penalty at The Emirates. Decisions like that swing in roundabouts.
We started the game slowly, were too busy moaning at the referee and showed no fight – making the decision to drop Flamini an even stranger one.
Why don’t the players care anymore? The attitude of the players comes from one man and that is Arsene Wenger. I love Arsene, and appreciate what he’s done for the club but is his time up? I’ve never once considered giving him the boot but maybe his time has come. If you can’t motivate a team to put in any effort against Stoke (a team we all hate) then what hope have you got? There are only a handful of clubs we hate more than Stoke so the players should have been giving 110% to beat those scumbags.
But no, we couldn’t be arsed.
4. Our Approach Against The Top Sides
Our record against teams such as Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham is nothing short of disgraceful. It’s not the worst out of the Top Seven but it’s not far off.
We beat Liverpool and Tottenham earlier in the season which was great, but it’s been downhill from there. We lost 6-3 at Manchester City, 5-1 against Liverpool, couldn’t even beat the worst Manchester United team in 20 years and conceded a late equaliser against Everton at The Emirates. We still have to play Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton over the next 5 weeks.
I don’t know what Arsene has been thinking coming into these games, but at worst he’s been tactically inept and at best he’s been naive.
Why, when you’ve been leading at the top of the table would you setup your team to be so open and win all three points? At Manchester City, we were the league leaders so why didn’t we do what we did against Dortmund and keep the game tight and try to catch them on the break. A win wasn’t vital and it would have been a big point. And the same against Liverpool. Chelsea sit at the top of the league because they have a manager who is switched on and sees the bigger picture. While it’s honourable to try and win every game like Arsene does with attacking football, sometimes that’s just not possible and you need a manager who can see that. We hear about teams “parking the bus” and we should have done against Manchester City and Liverpool. We’d be better off points-wise and would have knocked points off our nearest rivals.
Instead, we’ve given them massive confidence boosts and showcased our weaknesses to the world.
5. Not Coping With The Loss of Aaron Ramsey
In the early parts of the season Aaron Ramsey was simply sensational and almost single-handedly winning games for Arsenal. Since he’s been out, we’ve coped to an extent but it’s been found out that we can’t cope without his drive, commitment and passion. They say you can paper over the cracks for 3 or 4 games at a time when your best player is missing after that it’s a struggle.
Again, Arsene knew Ramsey would be out for a while so why didn’t he change the way we play? Midfield is an area we are well catered for and not to cope with Ramsey’s absence is one of the biggest worries. We have a star-studded midfield yet without Ramsey we collapse. There’s no drive, passion, dedication and will to win. And all because we’re missing one player. People throw the accusation that certain clubs are just “one man teams” but in our case, there seems to be an element of truth.
We don’t know when Ramsey is going to be back but the fact is we can’t rely on that anyway – he will need a good few weeks to get his form back and by that time the season will almost be over.
6. Not Making Per Mertesacker Captain
With Thomas Vermaelen on the bench after the excellent form of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, the captaincy should have been reviewed. Mikel Arteta is a very good deputy captain but the man who drives the team forward and has the most fight is The Big F… German.
If anyone epitomises the ethos of the club then it’s Per Mertesacker. Along with that he is one of the first names on the team sheet so why not make him captain? If it was even possible, it could have raised his game even more and given him more responsibility on the pitch. When the BFG shouts, you listen and there are a lot of players in the team at the moment who need a good bollocking during the game. Mikel Arteta isn’t that way inclined and we all know the only other player who speaks his mind on the pitch is Mathieu Flamini.
7. We Didn’t Believe We Could Win The League
How many times over the last few years have we scored last minute goals? Until this season, scoring in the last minute was almost a regular occurrence. But now, it rarely ever happens.
That’s because in previous seasons, we always had that belief we could score, no matter how long of the game was left. We would keep going and always try to score until the very last second. This season, that belief has just disappearered.
Maybe that’s because we’ve never really been in a title race before so the players don’t know how to handle it, or maybe it’s because the manager has failed to instill that belief in the team, but for whatever reason we just don’t believe – and it shows on the pitch.
8. Getting Rid of Andre Santos…
Once the big, cuddly Brazilian left us for pastures new, he was replaced by Nacho Monreal. And it might be stretching it a bit saying this but he is almost as useless as Andre Santos when it comes to defending. It’s no coincidence that Arsenal lost 6-3 to Manchester City and 5-1 to Liverpool (our biggest defeats of the season) when Nacho Monreal was playing. Going forward he is okay, but his defending is a completely different story.
People say the turning point against Bayern Munich was the sending off of Szczesny when he brought down Robben, but it was in fact about 5 minutes before when Kieran Gibbs hobbled off injured and Nacho Monreal came on. At the time, I tweeted that I would have preferred Bacary Sagna to move to left back and bring on Carl Jenkinson instead. Arsene didn’t and within 5 minutes of being on the pitch he let Robben go and he won the penalty.
Even after that he struggled (and wasn’t really helped by Ozil tracking back) and both of Bayern’s goals came from situations on the left hand side.
The bottom line is that not signing a decent left back replacement for Gibbs has cost us valuable points and games this season (I was joking about keeping Santos).