Drowning not waving
Nick Miller ruminates on Arsenal's current woes and draws conclusions that won't make easy reading. They improved in the second half on Sunday but fourth place looks a tough ask at present for Arsene Wenger's flagging side
By Nick Miller. Last Updated: 21/01/13 10:02am
Arsene Wenger: Will know better than anyone that his Arsenal side have a real fight on their hands
The second half revival should not paper over the cracks. This Arsenal team is in trouble.
They played well in the second half, in that a) they managed to cause Chelsea the odd worry, b) scored a goal and c) weren't as abjectly awful as they were in the opening 45. The problem is they were so abysmal in that first half they had too much to do in the second.
It's all very well for Arsenal to hammer a poor Newcastle or a dreadful Reading, but in the big games, the games that fans care about and games that will not only push them up the table but make them a more attractive prospect for signings, Arsenal are not only losing but, for long spells, not looking like they could compete.
It's a surreal experience, watching a team full of quite obviously very talented players drift around the pitch, seemingly trying their hardest just to keep their heads above water and to avoid embarrassment, rather than actually winning the game. This Arsenal are drowning, not waving.
And it's been like this for a while too. They have some hope, mainly through Jack Wilshere, but too often he has to win/try to win games on his own. Theo Walcott will pop up with the odd goal, but Olivier Giroud is good but not good enough to be the first-choice centre-forward for a serious team, something weird has happened to Santi Cazorla and Abou Diaby will injure himself sooner or later. And as for Bacary Sagna...his regression from probably the best right-back in the division a year or so ago to his current state is frightening. Carl Jenkinson must surely be given a chance again soon,
Perhaps the best way to sum Arsenal up is to look at their bench for the Chelsea game. They had only one attacking option, and that was Andrey Arshavin, a man who the club have been trying to get rid of for about 18 months now. They have injuries, notably to Mikel Arteta, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but their lack of squad depth is being exposed.
This Arsenal don't seem to know what the plan is, and that's either because they're collectively unable to understand instructions or those instructions aren't being given clearly enough. Or, I suppose, there might not be a plan to speak of at all. Whatever the truth is, it doesn't reflect particularly well on Arsene Wenger.
Jack Wilshere: Outstanding since return but can't do it all on his own
The thing that seems to worry Arsenal fans more than whether Wenger is the right man for the club or not is who, if he isn't, will have the backbone and authority to actually get rid of him. Perhaps it will take the shock of not qualifying for the Champions League to convince Ivan Gazidis, or Stan Kroenke, or Peter Hill-Wood, or whoever is in charge at the Emirates, to say 'Thanks Arsene, but...'
At the moment, there's a real danger of Arsenal missing out on that top four. The Champions League qualification that financially sustains them at the moment. At the time of writing they're sixth, six points behind Spurs in fourth. People laugh at the idea of Liverpool, a place and only goal difference behind, making the top four, but is it any more outlandish to suggest they will make it rather than Arsenal?
This article first appeared on Football365.