Arsenal were soundly beaten 4-1 at home to Chelsea on Sunday and dropped to second in the league and opening the door for the Blues to overtake them with their game in hand.
Joe Montemurro has taken full responsibility for the defeat.
Speaking after the game, the manager told Arsenal.com,“I got it wrong tactically at the start and we got punished for it.”
You cannot disagree with him, really, as Chelsea dismantled our defence clinically early in the game and were 3-0 up after 22 minutes.
Montemurro had put a tactic in place that just did not work. “We hoped to get the overload in the middle of the park, because they don’t play with fullbacks that attack. The problem was we weren’t keeping the ball in the middle of the park with effect for us to be of any threat and we got punished.”
Now if you remember our defeat earlier this season, we got sliced open on the break and they were coming at us in waves as soon as we lost the ball. Considering they have two fast strikers, trying to prevent passes to their forwards made sense in theory.
Unfortunately, the players did not execute their instructions very well and you cannot underperform against a side like Chelsea. It is easy to blame goals on individual players, but the reality is Chelsea scored some excellent goals that should have been defended better as a team.
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I have read a lot of criticism from a certain section of fans actually asking for the managers’s head. This is an unbelievable over-reaction to a single defeat.
Obviously the manager got his tactics wrong, it does not happen very often, and he has taken full responsibility.
Then, there is the criticism of the squad size. I don’t disagree with it, but it does not deserve the kind of vitriol directed against Montemurro that we are seeing.
I certainly would have loved to see two defenders come in during this window to replace Mitchell and Kemme, but the addition of Foord up front will help the rotation.
Joe tells us in every post match interview that the club is managing the players load so that they are not overworked and tired come February and March and I believe this is the case.
There is also the person-management side of a squad game. Piling up players on the bench who will accept being rotated and not playing big games is not something you can do easily.
In an ideal world, you would love to have 20 to 25 senior players competing for 11 starting places. In fact, we started the season with 22 professional players in the squad.
Two of them are on loan: Stenson and Mitchell, one has retired in Kemme, three are injured in Carter, Veje and Beattie. So we currently have 16 fit senior players, but should be up to 18 very soon.
Then there are also the rumoured summer arrivals and it makes sense not to sign too many players when more will arrive then to reinforce the team.
The big question is how many will come? And who will leave the club?
So the title is not lost, the race is wide open, even if Chelsea now have a clear advantage.
It is theirs to lose and they won’t if they win their remaining 10 games. Arsenal just need to win their remaining nine and hope for a Chelsea slip up.
The table now looks like this:
We are level on points with City, with an inferior goal difference. A point ahead of Chelsea who have a game in hand. That game with be played between Matchday 21 and the final Matchday 22 at Everton’s new ground at Walton Hall Park.
It means City or Arsenal could lead the league all the way and be overtaken in the table on the 3rd of May.
Then, it could all depend on the final games on May 16: Chelsea v Liverpool, Brighton v Man City and Arsenal v Everton.