It’s no big secret that Arsene Wenger is under huge pressure regarding his job from the fans and the media. Are they right? Should Wenger finally leave after 21 years of faithful service? Let’s take a closer look.
In order to preserve a tiny chance of reaching a top-four spot ‘til the end of the season, Arsenal have to at least make sure no points are dropped against the so-called “lesser” teams. The game against the newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion, who hadn’t won a game against a top-six side all season, was probably the perfect opportunity for the players to get some confidence back after getting properly beaten at home by Manchester City three days earlier, and book three points in the process.
Looking at the team-sheet, Arsenal’s starting XI looked reasonably strong. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started up front, with the trio of Mesut Özil, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan playing behind him. Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere were tasked with providing power and creativity from deep, ahead of a back four consisting of Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Callum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac.
However, things are not always what they seem and that much became immediately clear as the match unfolded. When on the ball, Wenger’s players just didn’t seem in cohesion. No team moves could be identified as previously arranged and worked on. When one player had the ball, the others just weren’t opening up, trying to find channels to run into or linking up at all. Try as he might, Aubameyang seemed cut off for large chunks of the game. Özil, Mkhitaryan and Wilshere, three most creative players in the team, just couldn’t work together. Between them, young Iwobi looked absolutely bewildered, never knowing what he was supposed to do, which way to turn or where to look for a teammate. This far too often led him directly into mistakes.
And if Iwobi can perhaps be forgiven because of his age, Koscielny should by now definitely know how not to give the ball away in his own half. And yet he did just that, on more than one occasion. Petr Cech in goal is also someone who shouldn’t be conceding goals in the way he did in this game, and he said so himself:
If you want to win a game away of home in the best league in the world your GK can’t concede 2 goals like I did today … it’s simply not possible … The team fought back but the damage was done .
— Petr Cech (@PetrCech) March 4, 2018
Is there any hope?
On the other hand, the neat way Aubameyang finished off an extremely clever pass from Xhaka clearly proves that players still possess individual quality, and the way they rallied and went forward shows that there is still hope for this team. They haven’t suddenly become bad players. They just need to know that there is a plan in their game. They need to feel they have a place in the team, but also that they need to do their part on a consistent basis if they mean to keep it. For that, they need a manager that will keep forcing them to prove themselves again and again.
Arsenal can be backed at 1/2 to win their next Premier League game at the Emirates against Watford.