Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Monday, 7 April 2014

Arsenal suffer another defeat as persuit for top four halters

A few months ago we were top of the table and fighting on all fronts for the Premier League title. At one point we were even seven points clear at the top. Now, we're in a fight for actually finishing in the top four. I was in Tuscany, Italy last week and therefore missed Arsenal's best result in a while with the draw against City. It was typical that I was away and couldn't write up about it. I came back though and my mood was immediately ruined by another shocking performance from the Gunners. We've picked up 13 points from our last 33 available. We've had players injured but that's no excuse for the kind of form we're in.
Arsenal were dealt another blow with defeat at Goodison
We knew our tough run throughout February and March would determine our season, and that's certainly what's happened. We've still got an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to but I'm seriously starting to worry about whether or not we'll get Champions League football next season. Everton have a game in hand but the tougher fixtures. Each of our last five games we should easily win and with the Toffees having to play City and United hopefully it'll be us playing in next season's Champions League for the 17th successive campaign. One thing's for sure though, where we finish in the league is out of our hands.

One key difference from the game with Manchester City was that Nacho Monreal was playing instead of the once again injured Kieran Gibbs. Nacho Monreal started his career at Arsenal in early 2013 in great form and looked to be a very good rotation option along with Kieran Gibbs. However this season he's been a different player, and not in a positive way. He's struggled for any consistency and whenever he's played I've been worried. He gets targeted by players and therefore a lot of the goals we've conceded start off down that left hand side. His partnership with Vermaelen yesterday was terrible. They failed to close down properly for the first goal whilst Nacho got dragged in too much for Lukaku's goal which then led to Vermaelen putting in a rather tame challenge.

Thomas Vermaelen has put in some solid displays this season but looks out of depth next to Mertesacker. Laurent Koscielny was one of the main reasons we were challenging for the title and he formed a formidable partnership with Mertesacker. The pair conceded hardly any goals apart from against the big teams as we know only too well. Against Everton though Per and Vermaelen looked as though they'd never played a game of football with each other. They have had limited time together in the side but they seem to have no chemistry and it appears as though they're confused as to who should take control of the back line. In Vermaelen's absence that was Mertesacker's job to organise the team but now that the club captain is back, it's disrupted the team's flow a little.

It looked as though this season we'd finally sorted out the defensive problems but it's clear from several games this season that it still needs addressing.

The blame for these types of defeats can't be heaped on the defence though. Wenger has picked the wrong line-ups and wrong tactics far too often. There hasn't been a change in formation for as long as I can remember. That's something that makes it so easy for the big teams to defeat us. We don't keep our opponents guessing and we only have one game plan. To pass the ball around and hope that it'll get us into some dangerous areas in the penalty area. Liverpool are doing well this season, not just because of their players but because of the excellent management of Brendan Rodgers. He's changed his tactics around and when something isn't working then he'll change the formation. Not every game for them is set up in the same way and that's one of the reasons they've been so successful as they're keeping their opponents guessing.

The age old debate has been brought upon us again of whether or not a mass change is needed at the club. I've said before that the FA Cup could decide Wenger's future. He has yet to sign a new deal and it's becoming increasingly likely that this could well be his last season at the club.

One individual I'd like to pick up on again is that of Mikel Arteta. In the FA Cup fixture against them a few weeks back he was brilliant and deserved his goal. However this season he's been way off in terms of quality. He was a good signing but is aging and it could be time to replace him with someone younger in the Summer. He gives the ball away too often and it summed up his afternoon that he scored an owl goal back at his old club. This is being a little harsh but the most productive thing he did all game was wave his finger at Baines and Barkley.

The only positive from the game was that of Aaron Ramsey's return to action. He added a much needed drive to the game that was missing. Someone with driving runs has been missing for a while with the likes of Ozil, Wilshere and of course Walcott our injured.

West Ham, Hull, Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich are our remaining fixtures. Drop points and we can say goodbye to a top four finish for definite.

The teams line-ups:

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Naismith(81), Osman(9),  Mirallas, Lukaku(87).
Subs: Joel, Hibbert, Garbutt, Alcaraz, McGeady(81), Barkley(9), Deulofeu(87).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini(66), Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski(66), Giroud(71).
Subs: Viviano, Jenkinson, Bellerin, Kallstrom, Ramsey(66), Oxlade-Chamberlain(66), Sanogo(71).

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

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