We were missing eight first teamers on Saturday, but arguably only two or three really important ones. That still left eight players who could consider themselves first XI regulars in the starting line-up, however not enough of them performed well. Only Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Alex Song were missing from what could be our first choice XI, with then Gervinho possibly coming in for Arshavin. Obviously Koscielny then went off injured, but that left another question. Where was Sebastien Squillaci? Either Wenger has lost faith in him, or he has a mysterious injury. If he’s been deemed not good enough, where’s the new centre back? We ended up throwing Ignasi Miquel into his Premier League debut, and he did his best but is ultimately an inexperienced youngster.
Injuries shouldn’t be affecting the team the way they are. We should have four good quality centre backs at the club, so when two get injured, you can still cope and not throw kids in. It was unfortunate that both of the club’s left backs were injured, but with Kieran Gibbs’ injury record there should have been some expectation that that could happen.
In midfield, on paper, we had a decent three. Ramsey and Nasri have played plenty of first team games, and Frimpong is our back up for Alex Song. However, Frimpong was making his first Premier League start and was almost too enthusiastic. For the time he was on the pitch, he impressed and gave everything for the team, but as soon as he got a cheap first yellow card, he was an accident waiting to happen. I think he will develop into an excellent player, but at a time of instability at the club, we need some experienced pros who won’t launch into a tackle when on a yellow. We’re now going into a game at Old Trafford without a recognised holding midfielder. Why not try and sign Scott Parker, even if only for two seasons?
Aaron Ramsey had one of his poorer games for Arsenal as we struggled to keep hold of the ball in midfield, and when he did get to play it forward, those playing in attacking positions generally lost it, meaning Ramsey was running back and forward with the game passing him by. He was unlucky with the own goal though.
Our front four should also have been good enough to create more chances. Walcott, Nasri, Arshavin and van Persie are some of the more senior players in the squad, and didn’t cause the Liverpool defence enough problems. Nasri, considering the speculation around his future, put in a good shift, but was having to come too deep to get the ball and was too far from van Persie to create chances for the Dutchman. Both Walcott and Arshavin were lacklustre and were not good enough at feeding van Persie. Despite him not seeming to be who we needed, the signing of Gervinho might not be a bad one if Walcott and Arshavin don’t improve. There are also exciting youngsters in Miyaichi and Oxalde-Chamberlain waiting if needed.
The point I’m making is that there should still have been enough about the team to really challenge Liverpool on Saturday, not just try and hold out for a draw. Injuries have been unfortunate, but the squad players immediately behind the first XI still aren’t good enough. If Arsene Wenger doesn’t spend in the before the 31st August, the season could be extremely long.
With the injuries, there can be no excuse to not sign a centre back. I sympathise with the manager over trying to sign the right player as there is so much pressure on him to do so, but I can’t see a justification if a defender isn’t signed. Watching other Premier League games over the weekend, it was clear that the majority of clubs in the division have at least one centre back that is better than one or two of ours. If we’re serious about challenging to win the league, only competitors around us should have similar standards of centre backs. The players are out there, Arsene just needs to be decisive in the transfer market.
Before the game on Saturday, I was discussing the issue with the family member who is responsible for getting me into Arsenal. He posed a good question that, apart from Sol Campbell, how many other top quality centre backs has Arsene Wenger signed? Arguably Thomas Vermaelen, but we’ve only seen him properly for one season, and Kolo Toure, but he was initially signed as a midfielder. Otherwise he inherited the likes of Adams and Keown. It is arguably a weak spot of Wenger’s in the transfer market, but there are enough potential targets around that he can correct that in the next week and a half. Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Chris Samba and Per Mertesacker have all been linked and would all be an improvement to the squad, so please just sign one of them Arsene.
We still need a midfielder and a striker to support Robin van Persie. If any of those don’t come in, then I’ll be very concerned for the rest of the season. We can’t continue to blame bad luck for our failings when we can go out and sign players and bolster the squad.
Having said that, I do feel sorry for Arsene Wenger. The pressure being mounted on him from all areas of the game are massive, whether it’s fans, the media or football institutions such as UEFA. Everyone seems to be enjoying the chance to have a pop at Arsene, and it isn’t helping him ahead of these vital few days. For example, the additional ban from UEFA because Wenger breached the terms of his last one is absolutely ridiculous. I’m sure Arsene wouldn’t have deliberately gone against the instructions UEFA had given him, so I think UEFA have jumped on the bandwagon against Wenger. The club are rightly appealing the ban as it’s a stupid decision, but it wastes time when we could be trying to sign players and get ready for Wednesday. I’ll also be surprised if UEFA change it.
Talk of UEFA leads me on to the Udinese game. It can’t be stressed how important it is that we get through the tie. It’ll help the team morale, build some momentum ahead of Manchester United, will help with transfers financially and can help persuade players to join the club. We’ll have players back as Song, Gervinho and Frimpong are only suspended for domestic matches, and Johan Djourou and Jack Wilshere could return from injury. There’s still a problem at left back, meaning Bacary Sagna will probably have to fill in again.
There’ll be a few more available in midfield, but if I were Arsene Wenger, I’d play Samir Nasri. Even though that would probably ruin any chances of his Manchester City move, Wenger should ignore what others, in the media or elsewhere, say and just give the side the best chance of getting through, and undoubtedly our chances are improved with Samir Nasri in the side. Financially, playing him wouldn’t make sense, but Wenger should show some defiance and play him. Despite a few muted boos towards Nasri before the match against Liverpool, the fans’ reaction was very good towards him, especially as he was putting a lot of effort in. Even the Na Na Na Na song got a run out. It would be a statement of intent from Wenger to play Nasri, and a good performance from him would boost confidence for the rest of the season, knowing he’d be likely to stay.
An early goal could do wonders for the team on Wednesday, as it would mean Udinese that would need at least three goals to go through. With the Italians needing to attack, there’d be the chance to hit them on the break with the likes of Gervinho and Walcott, and try and get some goals under our belts. Having not scored in the league, our forward players need to get back the feeling of hitting the net, and getting an early one on Wednesday could spark an opportunity to do that.
As always, I’ll try to find something positive about the Gunners. Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen were fantastic against Liverpool, and if we get can the players around them at the back to support them, then our defence can improve. Vermaelen dealt with Andy Carroll superbly, and it wasn’t until we were down to ten men that we were opened up.
However, if we have a bad week, Szczesny and Vermaelen could be alone in giving us positives. We’re facing up to the reality that the squad isn’t good enough, and Wenger has just over a week to do something about it as well as making sure we don’t fail and fall behind in Europe and in England.
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