Two games in the last week and unfortunately only two points from them, despite playing teams at different ends of the table. Refereeing decisions played their part – the incredibly unfair Mike Dean one at the Hawthorns, and the soft Anthony Taylor one against Chelsea certainly seemed to break Arsene Wenger’s composure to a degree greater than other times he’s lost his cool.
Unfortunately, while there were lots of positives from our performance against the champions, we were limp as yesterday’s noodles against West Brom, barely creating any significant chances, and only getting a goal because of a big deflection off James McClean. With personnel mostly the same, it was clear what made the difference – Mesut Ozil. The German has been in superb form of late, creating chances and linking well with the forwards and midfield, and having him in the side has looked to be useful for Jack Wilshere as well.
In his absence, the team just doesn’t look inventive enough, despite the best efforts of Wilshere (who does have to perform defensive duties as well) and Alexis Sanchez, who’s been having a bit of a stinker of late – notwithstanding his two goals against Palace. Ozil showed his class on Wednesday night, playing in a more traditional no. 10 position across the field, just behind Sanchez and Lacazette, playing more passes than anyone else and forcing Chelsea to drop deep to pick him up when he drifted between the lines. He was the driving force behind the team and he showed how much we need a player like him.
Speaking of playmakers, it was incredibly painful to yet again see Cesc Fabregas in a blue shirt, especially when he was in the mood he was last night, playing 6 key passes which he will still be baffled didn’t lead to more goals for Chelsea (thanks Morata). The quality of a good playmaker cannot be understated, and it’s something which the recruitment of Sven Mislintat will hopefully help with – given it looks more and more like Ozil isn’t going to sign that new contract (whatever fake David Ornstein accounts seem to think).
But while the forwards and midfielders did pretty well overall, meaning that we had Antonio Conte’s side pinned back for most of the game. But the lack of coordination between Chambers and Mustafi could have cost us more points (again, thanks Morata), and while Ainsley Maitland-Niles generally had a decent game, he was turned inside out far too easily by Zappacosta for Chelsea’s second goal – which is only to be expected when you’re not a left-back.
With Koscielny’s injury problems causing significant problems, Monreal’s continued absence, and Kolasinac’s injury, it looks like we need some urgent reinforcements. We have signed a centre-back, Konstantinos Mavropanos in this January window – but it looks like he’s being loaned out immediately. This isn’t a good place to be, because this makeshift backline is only going to ship more goals – and make the rest of the team shaky as well – something which Wenger himself noted happened after we conceded the first goal. And that’s not just going to be when dealing with someone like Hazard.