Friday, October 7, 2022

Southampton 1-1 Arsenal: time to strengthen

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Four wins from four had raised spirits ahead of yesterday’s game. I don’t want to say expectations were raised too but when you’re Arsenal, facing a side who have won just 4 times in the league, these are the games you should be winning.

Instead, we struggled for a point. While I’m firmly of the opinion these are two points dropped, we’re also somewhat lucky to have gained one with an attacking display so off-colour it took a fortuitous own goal to get a share of the game. And it showed quite clearly why the manager has to add to his squad this January. For a start, just three days after the Newcastle game, there was no rotation. No freshness. And while that will surely have something to do with him not changing a winning team, I think it’s also because he doesn’t have sufficient faith in some of the players on his bench.

And when we needed something late in the game, one in which we struggled to find any kind of rhythm or fluency, his throw of the dice was to replace two players who offer a genuine goal threat for two men who simply don’t. I’m someone who believes that Aaron Ramsey gets too much stick but he’s a central midfielder with one goal in his last 35 Arsenal appearances, while Gervinho’s recent form suggests he could be put out there against a team of drunken, blindfolded, one-legged octogenarians and still not score.

It all comes back to squad depth and we don’t have enough. We don’t have players who can come off the bench and make a difference. I saw people calling for Arshavin in the wake of the game but we need to be realistic and accept his Arsenal career is over. If he can’t make the bench for a game like this, it’s done. Same with Chamakh. These players are clearly not in the manager’s plans and are the perfect example of how redistribution of resources could help this squad. They’re both on big money, which is what makes moving them on difficult, but the club should be doing everything possible to make it happen this month.

The full array of Arsenal’s attacking options were on display last night and when we get it right, as we did against Newcastle, we’re effective and fun and good to watch. But when we go wrong, when the game passes us by, we don’t have the players who can come off the bench and change things. The recent results have been good, and in general 13 from 15 is a decent return from those fixtures, but it has also served to highlight exactly why the manager needs to be busy in January.

We need at least one more striker, another player for the wide positions (perhaps somebody whose unpredictability is deliberate rather than consequence of their own ineptitude), and I think a central midfielder to add something a bit different to the mix would be hugely beneficial. If that means the end of Abou Diaby then that is just too bad for him. We’ve been patient enough. The good players we have are relied on too heavily, often to their detriment which then affects theirs, and the team’s, performance.

Could Rosicky have played instead of Cazorla to give the Spaniard a break? Perhaps, but it’s hard to drop one of your best players for someone coming back from injury. I was certainly surprised that he wasn’t used from the bench though. Coquelin for Arteta? Again, the same applies, he’s been one of our most consistent players. I’d have started Giroud up front, with Walcott on the right, but beyond that it’s very difficult to see what the manager could do to keep things fresh. Options are limited, therefore so are the changes, thus legs are tired, the performance is lethargic and it’s the circle of Arsenal life.

As it is the manager says about January:

I will be active, yes. We are looking everywhere. We are open-minded. We want to strengthen the squad everywhere.

Good. Do it. Get it done as quickly as you can with the minimum amount of fuss. No brinksmanship, no hanging on until the end of the month to see if we can save a few quid here and there. The players are needed now. And while we’ll all roll our eyes a little bit when we hear how the players have to be ‘top top super quality’ or simply better than what we have, there’s a real need to bring in bodies to make an impact right away. Experience and quality are key.

There’s no reason why signing a player from abroad should mean a 6 month adaptation period. The three we signed this summer (Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud) have 26 goals and 20+ assists between them. Look at Michu who came from Spain in the summer and tore into the Premier League straight away. It’s down to the quality of the player. Football is football at the end of the day, and sure there might be some differences in weather, tempo of the game etc, but the right player can settle in quickly and start producing.

Arsene has ruled out a move for Thierry Henry, a good thing in my opinion, for a number of reasons. It was never going to be anything other than a sideshow and as much as he’s a guy people love and respect, his swansong was last season and that’s the way it should stay. If he’s around, if he’s training with us and can provide some benefit during that period, great, but this team needs more than Thierry Henry the player, at his age, can give it.

It’s the turn of the year and we sit fifth, 5 points behind Sp*rs but with a game in hand. As last season showed that is nothing. You would expect us to start putting some distance between us and those just below and the scrap for the top four is well and truly on. But the inconsistency of this team will be a handicap unless we can do something about it.

I don’t think it’s that much an issue with management or motivation, I think it’s far more to do with the quality of the squad overall. Increase that quality and the consistency will also improve. Arsene famously says that buying players is not always the answer. This time it is though. It’s time for Ivan and Arsene to get busy, he says he will be, so let’s put money and mouth together and start doing the business.

Until tomorrow.

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