Subs: Vorm, Davies, Trippier, Carroll, Chadli, Mason, Son
Arsenal: Ospina, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Bellerin, Elneny, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Welbeck
Subs:Macey, Chambers, Monreal, Flamini, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud
(The Arsenal Perspective by @JamrockRover)
The chances to close the gap on the teams above them keep presenting themselves to Arsenal and they keep turning them down. As bad as the defeat to United was on Sunday the loss at home to Swansea on Wednesday night was so much worse. The team have now lost three games in a row for the first time in six years and have only won two of their last eight in the league.
A few weeks ago when we couldn’t muster a goal we were at least faring well at the back and drawing games, but the defence has now gone to pieces too. We can complain all we want about the poor decisions from the referee which played a part in both Swansea goals, but Arsenal’s complete inability to respond to going 2-1 down was a joke. We have a team devoid of leaders and without the mental strength Arsene Wenger has told us his team possesses in abundance.
Three points on Wednesday would have put Arsenal level with Spurs after they lost to West Ham and they can still join them on 54 points if they win today. Of course an Arsenal win would be just what Leicester want and could see them open up a six point lead at the top of the table if they can win at Watford later in the day. I have no doubt that Leicester can be caught, but I’m just not sure any more that Arsenal are the team that can do it.
Any belief I had in the team has been shot to pieces, but I probably still have more belief than the players have in themselves. They don’t seem to have a clue what to do to break an opponent down and when they do somehow manage it there’s not a man Jack of them I would trust to put the ball away. For me they are paying the price for under investment in the squad when there is plenty of money available.
If this season ends in the abject failure it seems to be heading towards them we could be faced with the very real prospect of Mesut Ozil and/or Alexis Sanchez looking towards the exit door. If either or even both of them were to leave it would destroy all the the “squad building” of the last few years. The best time to strengthen any squad is when they are on a high and last summer was the perfect opportunity. The addition of Petr Cech was no doubt a great addition, but the failure to add any outfield players is surely one of the main reasons for our current struggles.
Speaking of Cech he won’t be playing today after picking up an injury on his way back after going forward for a late corner against Swansea. Laurent Koscielny won’t be playing either as he hasn’t recovered from the injury which kept him out of that game and we’re faced with David Ospina in goal behind a central defensive partnership of Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista. That combination doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence and I doubt if it will scare Spurs.
Ospina is a good keeper, but he’s not in Cech’s class and his howler at home to Olympiacos is what he is remembered for so far this season. I was full of hope when Gabriel signed in January of last year, but he has looked progressively worse with each chance he gets. It almost seems like Arsenal can sign good players and gradually coach that right out of them.
I can’t see too many changes from the team who performed so abjectly against Swansea as there are so few genuine options. In midfield the players who might have made a difference (Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky) are all injured and both Wilshere and Rosicky seem to be permanently on the unavailable list. There comes a time where you have to question how long you can keep a place in the squad for players who spend so much time injured.
The attacking options are virtually non existent with Theo Walcott so badly out of form that others don’t even pass the ball to him. Alex Iwobi was brought on for the last 10 minutes at Old Trafford and I thought his introduction was grossly unfair on a young player trying to make a name for himself. To be thrown into a team playing so badly and expected to try to get them back in the game with 10 minutes remaining was a task beyond a player with vastly more experience than him.
If Arsenal are going to win today and keep their title chances alive there has to be a complete change in attitude and conviction from Wednesday night and the vast majority of this season in fact. The performance needed today is one we have seen on maybe only two or three occasions this season and definitely not at all since the 3-0 win away to Olympiacos. If the boss can somehow get that performance out of his players today then just maybe he still has something to offer, but there can’t be too many fans who believe that any more.
This is being billed as the biggest North London Derby in decades and maybe the biggest one since the 1991 FA Cup semi final. That game didn’t go Arsenal’s way, but they did go on to win the league and I’d gladly take a similar scenario today, but I have no doubt that a defeat will end their title chances this season. With 10 games to go a six point game is certainly not too much to make up and Arsenal have done so in the past, but their current form suggests it’s so far beyond them that it’s impossible.
I hope the team show up and play with the confidence and passion required today, but I have no belief that they will. I’ll gladly take a lucky win too and hope it’s the catalyst the team needs to turn things around, but again my belief in that is virtually non existent. I see myself as an optimist but this team more than any other I can remember has beaten that optimism out of me game by game.
The worst thing is despite the underinvestment in the squad we were perfectly set to win the league at the turn of the year. We were right in there with the other challengers and the list of players ready to return from injury led us to believe the performances would improve once the fit players could hang in there. As those players have returned we have got progressively worse and we’re now faced with the FA Cup being our only realistic hope of a trophy if things don’t go our way today.
I’ll still support the team for every single one of the 90 minutes today though, but I dread to think what the reaction will be if they lose. They have the ability to win, but it takes a whole lot more than just ability to win a game of football. It may seem a forlorn hope, but I do hope that the players show all that is needed and put in a performance worthy of a team who are still in the title race despite themselves.