Yesterday’s 2-1 defeat to relegation strugglers QPR summed up Arsenal’s season, just as every game seems to do at the moment.
We learned nothing new yesterday, and won’t until the season ends. I said it a few months ago – it’s all about who messes up least often. We put together a surprisingly good run of seven straight wins, something I never would have expected us to do, and it came to an end in disappointing fashion.
But it makes sense, right? We all know that this Arsenal team is a team that can win at Anfield and Goodison, but lose at QPR and Swansea. We’ll probably beat Man City in our next game before losing at Wolves. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that Chelsea and Spurs remain bad enough not to catch us. We might finish 3rd, 4th or 5th, it’s very up in the air. Ultimately this season was a write-off almost from the word go; a transitional year for a team that desperately needs improvement if it wants to get back in the trophy-winning business. Champions League football would help, but it doesn’t change that.
It would probably help if Wenger could get his priorities straight. Instead of trying to accommodate all his favourite players regardless of the system or shape of the team, he could play a normal formation, be it 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, but not this nonsense of four central midfielders. It backfired horribly in the San Siro, worked surprisingly well at Goodison, and didn’t work yesterday. That’s enough for me to say it’s a stupid idea. Ramsey is not a left-winger, and if he’s not good enough to displace Rosicky and Arteta from the central midfield positions, then his place should be on the bench. We have Gervinho and Chamberlain who can actually play in that position, and I’d particularly like to see a little more faith shown to the latter, who has been one of few genuine bright sparks in this mostly dark season.
Our defence had been better recently, but as long as we’re managed by Wenger it will always have mistakes in it. Seven wins in a row or not, that’s just a fact you can’t ignore. Even in the wins over Spurs and Liverpool our defence had some bad moments. The difference on those occasions was that our attack clicked well or RvP bailed us out with some individual brilliance. For now, however, he’s lost a bit of form and Wenger stunted our attacking play yesterday with his ridiculous idea of playing four central midfielders. If you kill our attack, the defence won’t be good enough to let us get away with it. With a better system yesterday we probably still would’ve conceded two, but perhaps could’ve scored three. QPR are far from a great team so that should be doable for a club of Arsenal’s size.
Of course, as I said last week: eight wins in a row is a big ask, so to win seven and lose to QPR is not necessarily a tragedy. It could be a one-off and we could recover, but it’s a shame to see any game thrown away in the manner that it was yesterday – two stupidly conceded goals that simply shouldn’t have happened. Of course it’s hard to win eight in a row, but it’s easier once you’ve already won the first seven, and in isolation a game at QPR shouldn’t be that difficult.
Anyway, our next opponents are in a little crisis of their own, so it’s a good time to be playing them. Man City were very poor yesterday and lucky to draw at home to Sunderland. David Silva has completely faded away in recent games, and Sergio Aguero is injured. Of course, if they’re chasing the title there will be plenty of motivation for them to turn things around, but they haven’t managed that so far, with only one win in their last four league games. We were actually very unfortunate not to beat them at the Etihad in December, and I’m sufficiently confident in our ability to raise ourselves for the big games to say that I think we’ll win this one. A lot depends on tactics, obviously, and we cannot continue with Ramsey on the left, but there is enough character in this team at the moment, I hope, not to dwell on the QPR disappointment and to be determined to bounce back quickly.
It was interesting, incidently, to see our on-loan striker Nicklas Bendtner do so much damage to City for Sunderland yesterday. It’s taken him a while to get going this season, but he’s been one of their best players in recent games.
It’s a difficult situation for Arsenal, because he would probably be the ideal backup striker if only he were willing to fulfill that role. Sadly, he sees himself as better than he is and wants to be first choice, even if that means playing for a smaller team. It’s hard to strike the balance of getting someone who is both willing to play backup, but not be as bad as Marouane Chamakh. Bendtner would be ideal because he obviously wouldn’t cost us any money in the transfer market and he knows our game and our players. I hope the club and the player can come to some agreement this summer because I think we’re all in agreement that Bendtner would be a more welcome sight than Chamakh or Park coming off the bench in tight games. This is not a knee-jerk reaction, by the way, I said that when he left at the start of the season. He is obviously the superior player. He’s not as good as he thinks he is, but I’d rather have a cocky player than someone like Chamakh whose confidence is paper thin.
Anyway, it’s been an annoying weekend with us losing and Chelsea winning despite throwing away a 2-0 lead, but it’s not over yet. As I finish this article, Spurs are about to play Swansea. If Brendan Rodgers’ side can play as well as they have done recently, they could do us a massive favour and leave a rather better feel to this weekend.