Crystal Palace 3-0 Arsenal
Arsenal suffered yet more humiliation, this time at the hands of Crystal Palace, as the Gunners season continued to go from bad to worse with another abysmal performance on Monday night. A home draw against Manchester City followed by a win against West Ham had seen some of the players declaring that they were close to rediscovering top form. However those that had actually watched the games knew this was far from the truth. Arsenal’s attacking play has been horrendously bad since the turn of the year, with the Gunners failing to consistently turn possession into goal scoring opportunities. It is as though they lack the conviction to do so and Wenger appears lost for ideas as to how to resolve the issue.
Struggling to create chances is however the least of Wenger’s problems. His side also simply cannot defend. When the opposition attacks them, there is no clear plan or discernible organisation to repel the opposition, with the players far too easily caught out of position as they resemble more of a school team than a Premier League outfit. Defending from set pieces is particularly laughable, especially in the wake of the debacle at West Brom, when the home side scored two identical goals from corners, as a result of abysmal and non-existent defending from Arsenal. Against West Ham the obvious target from set pieces was Andy Carroll, yet there was clearly no plan for the Gunners to man mark him and stick one of their centre backs to at least contest an aerial battle with him. Instead Carroll was allowed to pick his opponent, taking up a position at the back post time and time again to face up against a diminutive Arsenal full-back in a virtual non-contest. The fact Arsenal managed to keep a clean sheet in that game had absolutely nothing to do with the Gunners and everything to do with the fact West Ham’s delivery from set pieces was incredibly poor.
Going into the game against Crystal Palace it was obvious what the game plan would be from the side managed by Sam Allardyce. Every Arsenal supporter knew that Palace would look to get the ball up to Christian Benteke as quickly as possible and try to hit the Gunners on the counter attack. Unfortunately no one appeared to have informed the players or the manager about this as everyone representing Arsenal on the day appeared completely unaware. In the build up to the game the likes of Gabriel and Mustafi should have been preparing themselves for a physical aerial duel, but when the game started any preparations they may have made deserted them and Benteke was able to bully the Arsenal centre backs in much the same way so many physically imposing strikers have in the past.
The Gunners just could not cope with Benteke’s strength. For the first goal, the Belgian outmuscled Gabriel far too easily to nod the ball on and Wilfred Zaha found himself in a ridiculous amount of space in the Arsenal penalty area. The former Manchester United man was even able to slip, as he attempted to cross the ball, and still managed to find Andros Townsend as the Arsenal defence stood static while Townsend ran towards the ball and clipped it past Martinez in the Gunners goal. Given this Arsenal side’s fragile confidence of late, it was no real surprise that they failed to respond in any significant way and with the likes of Ozil and their supposed talisman Sanchez going missing for large periods, they stood no chance.
If anything the second half was even worse than the first. Having performed so poorly in the first period, supporters would have expected Wenger to read his team the riot act at half time to make sure there was at least some improvement in the second period. Unfortunately however it is extremely difficult to remember a game in which Arsenal’s performance improved dramatically following the half time interval. It is a though the players have given up on the manager who has stood by them through thick and thin. There is no fight, no desire and no pride amongst the Arsenal players at the moment and they could not have any complaints with the fans chanting that they’re not fit to wear the shirt. Each and every single one of them is a disgrace to the club at the moment as they lurch from one humiliation to the next. This is Arsenal Football Club, a club that should be better than this, but at the moment they are the laughing stock of the division.
Once again questions regarding the manager’s future rained in during the post match press conference and once again Wenger batted them away. Yesterday the Arsenal Supporters Trust declared that in discussions with the club they had been advised that the club would mutually make a decision regarding the manager’s future at the end of the season and that currently an offer is not on the table. Arsenal fans will find this hard to believe and the perpetual cloud that is hanging over the club at the moment is certainly not helping matters. If Wenger has decided to go, as implored by many of the visiting fans on Monday night, then why is he waiting until the end of the season to announce it? It just does not make any sense to drag this issue on and on with performances on the pitch having been so clearly affected. The suspicion therefore is that Wenger is desperately trying to cling onto power and hoping to extend his contract once more. Yet given the results since the turn of the year even a short extension, to enable plans for a successor to be put into place, will not appease the fans. To all intents and purposes, the manager appears to have lost the dressing room and when that happens there can only be one outcome, his position is untenable and he must therefore leave the club.