Groundhog Day

Being 4th place on Groundhog Day is semi amusing. I was half expecting to see Bill Murray in my nightmares screaming specialist in failure whilst pointing a proton pack in my direction, over and over again. I say semi amused simply because there comes a certain point that you have to just laugh at yourselves but again I say semi because I’m incensed at our performances and results over the last 6 weeks or so. 2 wins in 7 equating to a total of 9/21 points is ludicrous. I say ludicrous because it’s symptomatic of our selected approach and tactics to a game. We began the RamFlam experiment out of necessity and no one can begrudge that. The results came in ok, some of them fortuitous to say the least but some came with dazzling performances as well (eg vs City). We’ve not got a couple more players at our disposal, namely Alexis, Coquelin and now Elneny. Granted we don’t know much about the new man but the option is there nonetheless. Given that we have these additional options available coupled with the fact that we’ve persisted with an imbalanced team has left me dumbfounded.

There are 2 glaring errors that I feel Wenger has made over the past couple of weeks, which has been my main frustration as prior to these past 2 weeks we’ve had little choice. We’ve had Alexis chomping at the bit for a couple of weeks and yet have only used him from the Burnley game onwards. This is understandable to a degree because we will need our main man available for the rest of the season if we are to mount a challenge and go on and win the league. But it’s as u said in my last piece, Wenger has been cautious for such a prolonged period that the cautiousness in itself had become a risk. If this was one instance where understanding could be had the second instance is what has left me lost. We’ve just bought a central midfielder, one who carries the ball well and doesn’t stop running coupled with our monster man Coquelin now back fit. I get that the both of them played v Burnley and you wouldn’t want to risk playing both just a couple of days later but to play neither feels like gross negligence. We reverted back to the RamFlam combo which has 2 flaws. Flamini isn’t. Quite as combative as his finger pointing would suggest alongside Ramsey who isn’t anywhere near as good with the ball at his feet as Santi is. Replace Flamini with Coquelin and we at least have more bite to our midfield and in addition a higher tempo of play would be achieved. My temptation for the game vs Southampton would have been to go with a midfield of Elneny & Coquelin at the base with Ozil in the No.10 role. I’d have played Alexis on the left, Ramsey on the right and Walcott through the middle. That front 4 has worked before and the only real gamble would be on the fitness of the base of the midfield. There’s no reason that if we are ½-0 up from a more attacking line up that we couldn’t remove Coquelin or Elneny or both and revert Ramsey back there, moving Walcott wider and bringing Giroud on. Going with a more adventurous game plan and formation is not ever going to be fatally detrimental as we can always change things. But when we are flaccid from the get go it’s always harder to shift the game plan with 11 players needing to change gear rather than 2 or 3. I mean why pay for a midfielder to then exclude him from the match day squad without cause? Of course we have nowhere near the level of information that Le Boss has but if these things aren’t explained to us post game then it doesn’t leave much room for us to think of anything else. We are about to enter a period where we actually have to make a decision on starting XIs and options as are supposed to be a nice problem to have, I sure hope that they are as such. Rather upset one or two players and make them hungrier rather than continuing to ‘play it safe’. Time to twist and try for 21.

The over cautiousness leaves us 5 points adrift of Leicester (yes LEICESTER!!!) and looking ahead to some pretty tough games. Bournemouth away is now a must win if our title challenge is to be maintained. We’ve ballsed up so many chances to capitalise that when City play Leicester this weekend we must not bottle it. We’re still very much in the race but the fact that our goal difference isn’t looking great along with our form we must begin to win games. We play Bournemouth, Leicester, Hull, Barcelona and then Man Utd next. It’s quite conceivable that we could be top if we beat both Bournemouth and Leicester as alongside those fixtures City play Leicester and then Sp*rs. But it does feel like the last 2 weeks where capitalising is a possibility. Thereafter the games will come thick and fast with FA cup and Champions League games so there won’t be time to breathe. If we can go into the Hull and Barcelona games sitting at the top of the pile it will do a lot to help propel us into those cup games with momentum.

While the Burnley win seemed fairly routine the Southampton game that followed reminded us all of what the remainder of the season could behold. Spectacular failure is something that would be really nice to shake off this season and the only way to begin remedying this feeling is with 3 points. Wenger has some big decisions to make this week if we are to get our title challenge back on track. He was also seen having a ‘bust up’ with Koeman after the game. From reading quote transcripts it looks as though Wenger was having an exchange with the referee (“Why are you always like this?” Was what Wenger said to Lee Mason) for a quite awful performance and Koeman weighed in with his own quippy retort “Why are you always the same?”. He loves to get involved where it doesn’t concern him. A massive tosser if you ask me…we had all the possession and chances to win the game but the referee once again aided Southampton’s cause. Letting them get away with 6/7 fouls before booking any of them and in turn booking Coquelin for his first challenge is just the first example of his shithousery. I’m just glad to see the back of Southampton and the smarmy lech that is Koeman.

In other news we’ll be seeing Pep Guardiola managing Man City next season. Lots of money and an already great existing squad will mean another cash cow project for Pep to take on. I have no doubts that he’s an absolutely brilliant manager but he’s always inherited fantastic squads and had almost unlimited budgets so hasn’t been fully tested purely on his ability as yet. Still we could well have a season where Guardiola, Wenger, Mourinho & Klopp are all in the same league. It would make for brilliant viewing, especially as the spending would be pretty special this summer. Each manager would want their ‘stamp’ on their squad and the only way Wenger can compete to attract the right talent is through silverware. It makes it all the more important to win the league for us this year as I’m not sure that CL qualification and another FA Cup will be enough to attract the best in the world to come and play at Arsenal Football Club. A Premier League trophy could well change that.

Let’s turn up the heat lads. Come on you Gunners!

Have a great folks.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

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