It feels all too familiar for Arsenal. We get into a good position to finish in the top four and then fluff our lines. We were never going to win all of our remaining games and in truth nobody expected us to. But back to back defeats to Palace and Brighton have put us in a very weak position to push for Champions League football next season. The top four flop begins.
In this day and age where players have to put so many minutes into a season, injuries are inevitable. Unfortunately for us they couldn’t have come at a worse time or in a worse position. Losing Tierney was bad enough but to then lose Partey as well has put us in a very weak position. This size of this squad always looked concerning but it’s starting to prove very costly indeed.
After a dreadfully poor performance from Tavares (our stand in left back!) at Crystal Palace, Arteta reverted to last seasons idea of playing Xhaka at left back. We bought Tavares in specifically to avoid this problem after his stint there last year but it seems the young left back has some work to do to convince Arteta he can handle it. But playing Xhaka there compounds our midfield problem. Without Tomas Partey we lacked presence there on Saturday and it was far too easy for Brighton to play through us. With him out for the season we simply must play Xhaka in the middle or we’ll be too easy to get through. Xhaka isn’t perfect but that is his best position and whatever you think of the man you can’t deny he adds a bit of steel infront of the defence.
Without Xhaka in the middle our forwards had little to go on at the weekend as he is the man that starts our transitions normally. So many times Ben White was looking for an outlet but there just wasn’t one forcing us sideways or backwards. Ontop of this it’s time that we had that discussion about Lacazette who is dragging the team down by the week now. Where his hold up play was admirable earlier in the season his lack of output is becoming a huge problem. Due to his lack of pace we’re too often left looking for an option in the box that simply isn’t there and his game has been worked out now. He’ll leave in the summer and we’ve got a big job to bring in at least one if not two forwards that can start to net us some goals. Lacazette’s return of four and only two from open play this year isn’t enough for a team with Champions League ambitions.
That’s for Mikel Arteta to work out. Xhaka simply cannot play at left back again, not because he’s bad at it but because it damages us in the midfield and subsequently the attack. Lacazette needs to come out of the team but without a recognised striker who comes in? Martinelli? Pepe? Both options but neither perfect. Whatever it is Arteta needs to work it out and fast. We’re sinking and that needs to be arrested starting at St Mary’s.