On Tuesday night Arsenal suffered a serious dent to their title tilt with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Watford at the Emirates.
After two early first-half goals, the Gunners were fighting an uphill battle, one that they eventually couldn’t overcome. With Chelsea at the weekend, Arsenal are now under huge pressure to win and keep up with the League leaders.
Here we take a look at four things we learned about the Gunners’ performance.
1) Wenger’s loyalty affecting the team selection
Last time out, Arsenal enjoyed a thumping victory over Southampton in the FA Cup. Granted, it was against weakened opposition, but encouraging and bright performances from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lucas Perez were somehow not rewarded with starts against Watford. Instead, Ramsey was preferred in the middle and endured a torrid twenty minutes before picking up yet another injury. He was at fault in the build-up for Watford’s second and will now have to watch from the sidelines as his team-mates attempt to pick themselves up from a confidence-sapping defeat.
It appears Wenger is perhaps guilty of being too emotionally attached to players and this can often cloud his vision. He got it wrong tactically against a strong, powerful side and must become more ruthless in his team selection.
2) Wenger capable of early substitutions?
Although Steve Bould was in the dug-out, it will no doubt have been Wenger making the tactical decisions. A half-time substitution is at the Emirates is seldom witnessed, however, Arsene attempted to rectify his initial mistake by replacing Olivier Giroud with Walcott and allowing Alexis Sanchez the freedom to roam in the offensive positions. It transformed Arsenal’s play in the second-half and changed the dynamic of the game entirely. Despite all this, the damage done was already too great for the Gunners to mount a successful comeback.
3) Giroud should not be in the starting XI
The situation surrounding Olivier Giroud and his selection in the Arsenal team is one of great debate. In a side struggling for form, his goals have often pushed Arsenal over the line in games in which they might easily have lost or drawn. However, despite his goals, his style prevents Arsenal from playing their usual fast-flowing football and narrows their range of attack.
In the first-half, his hold-up play was uncharacteristically poor and he struggled to make his mark on the tie, albeit with some poor service. Moreover, Alexis Sanchez is not the same player on the left-wing and can be incredibly predictable at times, attempting several failed lob through balls. In the second-half, he was a different beast and Arsenal looked far more dangerous as a result. If Arsenal are to have any joy at Chelsea, Alexis has to start through the middle.
4) Arsenal continue to do things the hard way
This performance felt unnervingly reminiscent of the Swansea tie last season in which the title was effectively lost. A game that was lost in first-half, in which the players were either passive or too hasty in their play, Arsenal missed a golden opportunity to close in on leaders Chelsea and to pull away from the rest of the chasing pack. It will have fuelled the fire of critics who dismiss Arsenal each season due to a lack of nerve and quality when it is needed most and will have fans feeling incredibly frustrated at what might have been. Chelsea’s draw to Liverpool means all hope is not lost, and victory on Saturday will close the gap back to 6 points but based on tonight’s performance, the chances of that happening are looking terrifyingly slim.
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