New Normal … Same Arsenal
As Patrick Vieira ran to the corner flag to celebrate with Jens Lehmann on that rainy afternoon in Cardiff, the Frenchman had led the Gunners to a sweet FA Cup win over long-time rivals Manchester United. The squad had Lauren, Kolo Toure, Gilberto Silva and Dennis Berghamp – Men.
Men who could and had fought tooth and nail for the team that was missing star striker Thierry Henry.
Matteo Guendouzi is facing suspension for choking Neil Maupay in the melee after Arsenal’s loss at Brighton. It was a little ironic considering that when Maupay shoved Bernd Leno and ‘accidentally’ caused the German to injure his knee, none of the players put the striker to task, leave alone demanding a booking for the foul.
The loss at Brighton was another pin to Arsenal fans after the football lesson unleashed on Wednesday night by Manchester City. David Luiz after the match said that he was to blame for the loss – and yes he was, but that did not solve the problems for Arsenal.
Admitting responsibility for the loss neither washes away the countless defensive frailties that the Brazilian has nor does it solve all the others that have seen Arsenal crumble time and again.
Disturbingly enough is the fact that teams have gotten to know that Arsenal is a side that can easily blow a team away in terms of its attacking power, but can also switch to a bottom-tier side in a second.
The German Question
It was 2013 transfer deadline day when Arsenal announced the signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. A marquee signing from years of unveiling the likes of Yossi Benayoun, Marouane Chamakh, Park Chu-Young, to mention but a few. So big was the departure that Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos questioned Madrid’s transfer policy.
Ozil’s name was synonymous to Assists.
The German’s presence promised an injection of quality to the side. The Gunners would not wait for long as Ozil registered his first assist in his first Premier League start against Sunderland.
Years later, the German’s presence on and off the pitch continues to cause debates in the North London side. Ozil has not featured in Arsenal’s two fixtures since Premier League’s restart.
Carrying a £350,000-a-week contract, one would expect that the German would feature every other week.
In the clash against City, Arteta said it was a ‘tactical’ decision, while against Brighton, he was an unused substitute. City played a very high line which would have come in handy to have a player to play passes through for Aubameyang to ‘feed’ from – that would not be the case.
Often branded ‘lazy’, much remain to be seen on what will be done when the season ends.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
The Gabonese international has been the Gunners’ outstanding player this season. His goals have repeatedly bailed the team time and again.
So lethal has the forward been that his name has been linked with Barcelona and PSG time and again. And with the player approaching his last year in his contract, Aubameyang may be thinking if his time at London is up.
The 31-year old looked lost in the two fixtures as supply to him was limited. At the full-time whistle at the Amex Stadium, the player was seen gazing to the distant – perhaps wondering if he was better off with another squad.
Manager Mikel Arteta has openly expressed his desire to have the player in his project at Arsenal, but the player has also expressed his desire to play Champions League football and with Arsenal stuck in 10th position, it may appear a big call to convince him to stay.
While Arsenal once prided itself for having formidable and enough supply of midfielders, the same cannot be said now.
Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Dani Ceballos have been rotated repeatedly in Arsenal’s midfield. While decision to pick one over the other has been down to the Arteta’s decisions, that area has lacked consistency in performance and grit. While the midfield is supposed to protect the defence line while offer a transition for attack, the Gunners line of midfield is often crippled with inefficiency and errors.