Arsenal’s 6-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea in today’s early kick-off has all but put Arsenal out of the race for the Premier League title.
On what should have been a special day for Arsene Wenger (his 1000th game in charge of the club), the reality was that his team were shown to be totally and categorically inadequate for the task that was facing them. To go to Stamford Bridge, where Mourinho is unbeaten, and defeat a manager that you have failed to in all of the previous ten attempts was always going to be tough. But the occasion, the importance and Arsenal’s defensive resolve this season gave Arsenal fans a sense of “maybe, just maybe” before the game. Those thoughts were quickly trampled upon.
As a result of the defeat, the FA Cup is Arsenal’s only realistic chance of silverware in what has been, overall, a vastly improved season. For the previous two seasons, Arsenal had been struggling for a top four spot right from the beginning and had never been in contention for the league title. Embarrassing cup exits topped that off with defeats to lowly Bradford and Blackburn Rovers.
Despite visible progress from Arsenal in terms of defensive performance and points gained, this is the third humiliating defeat this season against title rivals. The first came against an in-form Manchester City who were both unstoppable going forward and untroubled at the back. Then came a 5-1 defeat against Liverpool. Again, this was a team who are brilliant going forward but are vulnerable at the back. However, this 6-0 against Chelsea was by far the worst. Why? Chelsea had never scored more than five goals in a Premier League game under Mourinho. It hurts to see my team be victim to that negative pragmatist’s record win.
Remember, Mourinho is a guy that sets up to draw 0-0 against big teams. To lose 6-0 against him is unforgivable. Many twitter Gooners feel that this defeat is worse than the 8-2 against Manchester United back in 2011. It doesn’t feel like it but they’re probably right. Back then, we fielded practially a B-team due to injuries and had just got over losing two of our best players. This time, we have no excuses. Yes, there were injuries to Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere and Walcott. Having said that, none of them or all of them would have made a difference to today’s result.
What is so frustrating is that Arsenal have conceded 50% of their league goals in just 10% of their games this season. I have never seen a stat so impressive and disturbing at the same time. It shows a remarkable achievement in all but three of their games. I cannot explain why there is a capitulation in these big games. It doesn’t seem as though Arsene can either.
Some of the blame for the defeats has to go to Arsene Wenger. He’s the manager who sets up the team and oversees their preparation. He has ultimate responsibility. He’s been hugely criticised for the way in which he set up a team that was hit on the counter attack over and over again.
This wasn’t the fault of Arsene Wenger. No manager sits down with his team and says, “let’s be really open here guys” just before playing a counter-attacking team. Wenger has won two doubles and gone a season unbeaten so give him more credit than claiming he’s made a mistake similar to that of a pre-pubescent FIFA player.
Wenger could never have accounted for the lack of effort put in when tracking back, the mislaid passes across the midfield and out of defense, the lazy attempts to block shots and make tackles. This is a trait so uncharacteristic with Arsenal this season, yet it vanishes in big away league games.
It seems very coincidental that all three of these thrashings have come in 12.45pm kick offs away from home. Again, I can’t explain why this should make a difference. Have this Arsenal team got a poor preparation on the morning or night before? To me, they looked half asleep.
One thing that is for sure is that we haven’t had a poorer first choice striker since the days before Alan Smith. Since Smith, we’ve had Wright, Bergkamp, Anelka, Henry, Adebayor and Van Persie. Giroud is nowhere near the standard required to win the league and is certainly miles away from the standards set by the aforementioned names. At the start of the season, he looked strong and clinical in his build-up play and finishing. Now, he looks uninterested and poor.
The game’s first chance fell to him and he messed it up. One minute later, Chelsea were one nil up. He should have scored. A good striker would have scored. That’s the difference. Instead, it would’ve been Chelsea chasing the game so early on: something Arsenal are comfortable with as shown recently against Tottenham.
The red card incident will be much talked about I’m sure. Had the game been closer, I think I’d care a little more about it but, to be honest, I just find the whole situation funny. The officials were appalling all game and the decision to send off Gibbs instead of Chamberlain was an innocent mistake I am sure but not one that should be made at the very summit of a global game.
The identity of the departing player would have made no difference to the outcome; Arsenal were already two nil down. Neither was the sending off a turning point; Arsenal were already two nil down.
Whilst no one can explain this unwanted pattern of big defeats in important domestic away games, it is clear that Arsene Wenger has a big job on his hands to change the mentality of his squad going into such games. I suspect that two or three quality players are needed to change this seasons big-game bottlers into a team that are capable of winning these games, and ultimately the league, next season.
I am a Wenger fan. There are, though, a lot of questions that need to be answered. With his contract up at the end of the season, will failure in the FA Cup or fan dissatisfaction lead to the exit of ‘Le Professeur’?