The Arsenal Monthly: August
Its been a gloomy month for Arsenal. From transfers to on field performances to a shattered dressing room without any leaders, Arsenal are in crisis. There were 3 matches played this month vs Leicester, Stoke and Liverpool. Arsenal won 1 and lost 2. Now, they are languishing in 16th place. No significant players were bought either. In fact Arsenal let go of Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain late on in the window, much to te annoyance of the fans.
League Position: 16th
Matches this month: 3
Win- Loss : 1-2
Goals scored: 4
Goals conceded: 8
On the Pitch
It is almost amazing how mercurial the mood around the Emirates is. At the start, after the first match all was fine. Arsenal had overcome Leicester 4-3 with a substandard defense. The fans did not mind conceding 3 goals because they knew that the back 3 of Kolasinac, Monreal and Holding was not the first preference back 3. After all, there were 2 Left backs in back 3. Those three were supposed to be replaced by Koscielny, Mertesacker and Mustafi with Kolasinac moving to his preferred Left wing-back role. The attack looked fine, a Sanchez-less attack was sharp due to the presence of Alex Lacazette. Even though the team had conceded 3 goals, Kolasinac showed the Arsenal fans what they had been waiting for since a decade, a defender who can fight off and bully attackers like he did with Mahrez. Giroud was also working well off the bench.
Next came Stoke. This has not been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal. There was optimism though, as Arsenal had won their previous game and had a defender in Kolasinac who could be a handful for Stoke players. This was the match where Arsene Wenger was reminded about what a tight leash he is on when it comes to team performance. One bad match and its WengerOut all over again. In all honesty, Arsenal were not that bad. They managed to keep much more than just the majority of the ball and had one or two decisions go against them. The problem was, they did not do much to trouble a well drilled Stoke defense. It was only a moment of madness from Granit Xhaka where he vacated his midfield position after he had lost the ball that cost Arsenal the game.
One could almost feel the negativity then springing up again after the next display showed just how fragile Arsenal’s mental state was. They were hammered by Liverpool at Anfield and it could have been worse. Thank Petr Cech for keeping it to 4 goals only which in itself was embarrassing enough. Not only did they defend badly, Arsenal’s attack was weak and did not even trouble the nervous Karius. Liverpool sat back and hit Arsenal on the counter time and time again. Arsenal played into their hands because they played the way they always do against any team, try to play pretty footballa nd leave huge spaces in midfield for the other team to exploit. Arsenal were given a reality check on their title credentials and really need to buck up if things are to change.
Off the pitch
It has been another frustrating end to a transfer season for Arsenal. Last month, the arrivals of Kolasinac and Lacazette brought back optimism to the Emirates but failure to push on after that has not been well received among Arsenal fans. Most of this month was spent trying to keep Alexis Sanchez at the club come September 1st.
Man City were close to snapping Alexis on deadline day only for Thomas Lemar to refuse to switch to Arsenal and result in Alexis staying. Arsenal were bold in their defense of keeping Sanchez but most insiders were suggesting there was a price at which they were willing to sell. Man City hit Arsenal’s magic number of 60 Million Pounds on deadline day but Arsenal could not afford to let him go without an adequate replacement. They put in a Premier League record bid of 92 Million pounds for Lemar in a last ditch effort to replace Sanchez. Monaco accepted the bid but it was indeed Thomas Lemar who said no to Arsenal in the end.
As for the other story, Arsenal lost a player with bags of ability in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. His decision to leave was not motivated by money as he potentially took a pay cut by rejecting the new Arsenal deal he was offered. The 24 year old Englishman is definitely a player who was in the future plans for Arsenal. Him leaving is significant in the sense for the message it sends out to other clubs. Oxlade-Chamberlain decided to leave not because Arsenal could not afford his wages but because je felt his career was stagnant at Arsenal and that they are not able to compete at the top level that they should be competing at.
Alexis is also a similar case. He rejected the 300,000 pounds a week contract that Arsenal offered him at the start of the transfer window. He too is frustrated at the lack of performance and ambition at the club. If it were just about money, he would have stayed. This sends a dangerous message to prospective players that Arsenal are a sinking ship and a broken team under Wenger. This could have played a part in Lemar’s decision to reject Arsenal on deadline day.
There is a tough task ahead for Arsene Wenger. He claimed to be wanting to shed a player or two due to the size of his squad and he has gotten rid of some deadwood. That being said, there are still some players at Arsenal who just aren’t of the quality required at a football club of this stature. The performance vs Liverpool opened old wounds of being ‘mentally weak’, having no leaders and so on. The only annoyed member of the Arsenal squad was Petr Cech who reportedly ripped into his teammates after the loss to Liverpool.
Arsenal’s issues go higher than Wenger though, Ivan Gazidis, the CEO of the club had promised quality signings. Although Arsenal did get Lacazette and Kolasinac and managed to keep Ozil and Sanchez, there were further improvements required to make this squad capable of mounting a Premier League Challenge. Another annoying fact is that even after breaking the club record, Arsenal have made a profit in this transfer window overall of around 20 million pounds. This really begs the question of the Arsenal board’s ambition for the club.
All in all, a miserable month as an Arsenal fan. It will be very interesting to see what kind of Alexis shows up after the international break. He would either be sharp and eager to prove his worth or will be sulky like he was towards the end of last season. The failure to qualify for the Champions League last year was to be a ‘Catalyst for Change’ in the words of Ivan Gazidis, but if we go by current results, this sure does seem like same old same old for Arsenal Football Club.
Image Credits in Chronological order:
Featured Image: Arsenal.com
1st Image: Deadspin
2nd Image: Tribuna
3rd Image: EIF Soccer
4th Image: Skysports
5th Image: Tribuna
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