There are plenty of words that come to mind when thinking about the game at Sheffield Wednesday; Embarrassing. Shocking. Hard to watch.
A disgrace to the club……and that was just the kit!!!
As disappointing as the result was though, it was, by far, not the worst thing to come from the game. Yes, losing to a team from a lower division is never something you want to see happen, but we do have to keep a couple of things in mind before completely losing our minds over one result.
First off, it was the League Cup.
We always play a second team in that competition and this time was no exception. Apart from Petr Cech, nobody from our best starting XI was picked. It’s always a risk when players who haven’t played regularly are asked to perform, and this was no exception.
Add to this the fact that Arsenal had four players making their first ever senior starts in their career, it’s nigh on impossible to predict how they’ll play. You might as well be predicting how Jose Mourinho will find a way to blame his problems on Arsene Wenger for the 92535734th time. (Honestly, if Mourinho loses at Anfield on Saturday, and he blamed Wenger for the result because he didn’t leave Arsenal in the summer, and therefore Jurgen Klopp couldn’t have managed Liverpool to victory because he’d be at Arsenal instead, would you be surprised?)
The result is something that shouldn’t be concerning. But the performance? That’s a bit different.
Again, the kids get a pass here. Wenger himself conceded that they’re not good enough yet, and they’re not even our best prospects really. If Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley weren’t out on loan, they’d have been certainties to start that game. Serge Gnabry would have played too, if he wasn’t being trapped in the second circle of hell at West Brom.
Who could have possibly predicted that Tony Pulis wouldn’t want to play a creative midfielder, eh?! Sigh.
The problems start to arise when you start looking at those who haven’t just discovered the joys of buying alcohol with an ID card that has your real name and date of birth on it. It’s one thing for Ismael Bennacer to look like he has little idea for where to be on the pitch, it’s quite another for Mathieu Flamini to look just as lost.
That game should have been the ideal chance for the likes of Flamini, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy and a few others to show that they shouldn’t need to prove themselves in a midweek cup-tie. They’ll all think that they should be starting every game anyway, because all top-level professional athletes are irrationally confident like that. But did they do anything to help their cases? Nope.
A lot has been made of how injuries have left us short in a couple of positions, but we would be far less concerned about it if those who played midweek didn’t play so badly. For example, the idea of moving Alexis Sanchez to right wing and Santi Cazorla to left wing would be far more palatable if Flamini had played well and shown a possibility of playing in Cazorla’s place.
The same applies to Joel Campbell. If he had shown any of the form he regularly shows for Costa Rica, then the handwringing over both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott picking up knocks would have been far less vigorous. If Debuchy had played well, then pushing Hector Bellerin further forward would have become a viable option.
This is why I’m not one of the masses that immediately bemoaned our lack of transfer activity during the summer after the result. It’s one thing not to buy anyone at a position of need, and if we hadn’t have bought a goalkeeper, then I’d have been just as bemused as a lot of folks are at the moment. But right-wing was never a position of need for us. Ever. Look at who we can play there when fit:
- Aaron Ramsey
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
- Theo Walcott
- Alexis Sanchez
- Danny Welbeck
- Joel Campbell
There’s six international footballers who have played on the right wing for Arsenal in the last 18 months. How many more do you want? On that list, only Campbell is lacking in quality, but if you think spending money on a 6th string winger is a good idea, you’re wrong.
Case in point: Cesc Fabregas. Remember when we turned down the chance of re-signing him because we thought we had enough attacking midfielders? How’s that turned out? It’s all well and good saying that we should have bought someone after all our right-wingers get hurt, but there was a good reason we let Serge Gnabry go on loan in the summer; because we had no room for him.
Our problem isn’t the amount of injuries we’ve suffered, but who has suffered them, and when.
There are times when Arsenal are the architects of their own demise, i.e Olympiakos, Monaco etc, but this is not one of them. We can blame Wenger’s reluctance to utilise the transfer market for many things, but Santi Cazorla’s unavailability to play on the wing right now is down more to Gabriel injuring Jack Wilshere than it is to not spending money.
It’s a freak occurrence, nothing more.
Does it stink that Arsenal will have to play three tough fixtures without all their key players? Of course it does. But we’re not alone. Manchester City have one fit senior striker, Chelsea are missing Fabregas, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard after the trio sat down to an all-you-can-eat buffet at a Chick-Fil-A during the summer and haven’t come back yet, Liverpool can’t keep Sturridge fit, Manchester United’s captain is falling to pieces in front of our eyes, etc etc.
It’s like when you look in the fridge for something to eat, but all that’s left to choose from is the turkey leftovers from the day before. Yes, it’s not what you want, but it’ll do. We never plan on having turkey for three straight days, but sometimes it just happens and we got on with it.
Arsenal only have turkey right now, but it’s still good turkey. We might as well get on with it.