Sunday, March 23, 2014

Not So Ready for Prime Time Players Crash and Burn at Stamford Bridge

I really hate having to write a report after we lose in such devastating fashion.  It's the same feeling I had writing after Manchester City and Liverpool defeats.  This is worse though in that Mourinho has no class, we needed to win to stay within fighting range of the title, and Wenger's 1,000 match was suppose to be a positive milestone.  Instead, Wenger was treated to a thrashing that highlighted the deficits in our team and manager.  Without Theo out wide and Ozil or Ramsey in the middle, our offensive threat is greatly diminished.  Starting without Flamini against a team with outstanding midfielders was a mistake, and Oxlade-Chamberlain had one of his worse performances in an Arsenal shirt, giving away passes (there were warning signs in previous games), and ultimately taking us down to ten men with an outrageous and thick-headed handball. 

We played slow and could not handle the  pressure that Chelsea, nor the immensity of the game itself ,brought on.  I think the latter is a mindset that isn't going to be fixed on the training ground.  This team for many years is unfortunately, used to losing and only winning something is going to flip that around. 

Team selection was wrong.  There's just no way around that.  Arteta was completely overrun in midfield with the likes of Oscar, Hazard, and Schurrle on the pitch at the same time.  If Wenger wanted to include both Ox and Tommy, he should have sacrificed Podolski, and put Ox on the wing.  There is no speed or outlet when Ox is in the middle, and his defensive awareness is still developing.  The Flamini/Arteta axis should have been deployed from the start.

Can a win in the FA Cup help turn that tide, or does that have to happen with a new manager?After this most recent performance, a win in our semi-final against Wigan seems a bit shaky now.  Our confidence is low, and in addition, we now have the added pressure of being the favorites, and responding positively to pressure is the issue for us, isn't it. If we don't win the Cup, I wouldn't be surprised if Wenger does not extend his contract.  He is intelligent, loyal, and really loves Arsenal.  If he thinks he is no longer the man for the job, I think that he will help the club find a suitable replacement, and try to make a graceful exit.  Actually, after today, even if we win the Cup, I can see him doing the same thing.

I've been saying for the past few games that I thought Fabianski's form earned him a run in goal ahead of Szczesny.  Today made me wonder again.  Half of the goals were not his fault, but he fumbled two chances that could have resulted in more goals, and I wonder if Fabianski could have kept out the penalty.  He's a better shot stopper than Szcz, and maybe would have had a better time against Oscar's goals.  Of course, those came after we were already down three so I could be nitpicking here.

What hope is there for the rest of the season?  We have Swansea on Tuesday.  If patterns continue, we should see a more cautious Arsenal grind out a win, focusing on reestablishing the defensive side of our game in time for Manchester City.  As for that game, I don't hold much certainty that we won't get turned over - at least the match is at home.  After that, all our games are incredibly winnable, but I don't see us finishing third unless someone above us stumbles worse than us.  Manchester United have looked to be getting back on form with two decisive wins in a row.  Even though the skunk is out the rest of the season with injury, could they (or Everton) mount a run for fourth place?  The thought frightens me a little bit to be honest.

That's it for now.  I'll be back with a preview on Swansea.  The weekend is ruined for me, but I will try to make due like the rest of you.  Take care you Gooners.

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