It took 18-months for Unai Emery, Raul Sanllehi and company to drag Arsenal down into midtable, far quicker than I could have imagined, and in my opinion it will take as much time, if not longer, to rebuild the Gunners and make us into a top-top team again.
As of the 20th round of matches we are 11th in the table on 24 points, behind the likes of Newcastle, Everton, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. We are 11 points off the top-4 and a mere 6 points off the relegation scrap. How low have the mighty fallen!
In recent Uncensored podcasts, both me and the Arseblagger (Blackburn George) have frequently used the metaphor of the Titanic to describe how severely damaged is the good ship Arsenal, deep in the hull. In today’s game with Chelsea, despite a 5-day job by the new head coach Arteta to stabilize things and put us on a sound course, the midfield engine was not good enough to power us out of danger despite a 12th minute header by Aubameyang during a 30 minute period of domination by the Gunners.
From fronfoot to backfoot
From the minute Jorginho came on as a sub for Emerson the tide of the game swung in Chelsea’s favor as they matched up better with our midfield denying Ozil both the ball and the spaces from which to operate. Without Xhaka, a deep lying midfielder who can break the lines with his passes and force Chelsea on the backfoot, Arsenal was mostly pinned back with the occasional breakout. Up to the 70th the Gunners kept their shape and defended reasonably against Chelsea’s frequent attacks, with the often criticized David Luiz excelling when needed. It took a howler from the usually reliable Brend Leno for them to equalize.
Chelsea finally gained the upper hand after Guendouzi weakly gave up the ball on the edge of the penalty area after a spot kick by Arsenal into the box and Tammy Abraham gained possession. Mustafi, who was closest, in an instant, decided that rather than trying to engage and press the man with the decided to pedal backwards towards his goal. A neat 1-2 with Willian and Abraham dragged the ball past Leno. Such is the fine margins when you are battling for your life in midtable.
Meanwhile the “Arsenal legend” Lee Dixon, on my tv feed as the expert commentator, immediately rounded-on Mustafi publicly lambasting him for his decision-making, completely ignoring and sanitizing Guendouzi’s role in the sequence. This is the same Mustafi who, on replacing the injured Chambers, took a severe knock in the head when going up for a ball in the box on a wickedly swung in corner by Chelsea. Despite this he rarely put a foot wrong.
Arteta’s job is being made even more difficult when squad players like Mustafi are so unfairly pilloried by the Lee Dixons of the gunnersphere. With Arsenal about to lose Xhaka who has evidently decided to move after much unfair abuse of him and his family so-called fans, how much harder will it be for Arteta in the New Year.
More losses or success
Arteta had this to say in the post-match presser:
“I am really disappointed. The way that we conceded the goals and the timing. I am pleased with a lot of things I have seen, I am pleased with a lot of things that we trained and actually happened in the game and how they buy into this. But I am disappointed to lose.”
Given the current state of affairs I foresee him having a few more disappointing games before he can get Arsenal on firm footing. His first objective must be getting a decent central midfielder as good if not better than Xhaka. If Guendouzi or Willock are the only solutions then those on social media and elsewhere now pledging fealty to Arteta will be the first to jump ship.
Until then we can only hope it will be a Happy New Year!