On Saturday Arsenal suffered a 6-0 mauling at the hands of Premier League title rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
A lot has been made of the erroneous sending off of Kieran Gibbs, but in truth the Gunners produced yet another disappointing display against one of the big guns.
First let’s get the matter of the Arsenal red card out of the way. Gunners midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handled an Eden Hazard shot in the penalty area and referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot.
Marriner then reached for a red card and sent-off Gunners full-back Kieran Gibbs in a case of mistaken identity.
There was a question mark over whether it was a correct decision to send off an Arsenal player anyway and that was compounded by Gibbs being dismissed instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Referee Marriner has reportedly apologised to Arsenal for the incident. However, Mr Marriner’s decision should not be the major talking point of this game for Arsenal.
When Arsenal were reduced to ten men the Gunners were already 2-0 down at Chelsea, who have the best defensive in the top-flight and know how to close out a game. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is the master of shutting up shop, so it would have been very unlikely that Arsenal could have got back into the game even with their full compliment.
To use the sending-off as an excuse for the defeat would be masking the issue of another big game that Arsenal have capitulated in this season. The Gunners have now suffered heavy defeats at Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
All three of the those teams are supposedly Arsenal’s rivals for the Premier League title and all three have made Arsenal look like a very weak team this season, despite the Gunners supposedly being their equals.
The Arsenal defence have looked so solid at times this season, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny seeming like a good partnership. However, when the side from north London have played the top teams their defence has just crumbled.
It seems the Gunners backline have the ability to keep clean sheets against the lesser teams, which is no bad thing, but they simply cannot compete with the better teams attacks. It looks like Arsenal still has not fixed their Achilles heel at the heart of their defence.
It seems there will be changes to Arsenal’s backline line next season with Bacary Sagna edging out the Emirates exit door. The Gunners may need to invest in a centre-back as well as a new right-back this summer.
The Gunners injury situation has not helped their displays in recent months. The likes of Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott are all currently sidelined.
Any team would miss the qualities that the quartet bring to the team, but the Gunners are supposed to be Premier League title contenders, they should have enough strength in-depth to cope with injuries, every team gets injuries.
Nobody can doubt Arsene Wenger’s status as a legendary Premier League boss. However, the veteran Frenchman has made some really terrible managerial decisions in recent months. The worse one of them has to be failing to strengthen his squad in January, which has been well documented.
The winter transfer window may not be the best time to bring in players, but surely there were players available in January capable of strengthening the Gunners squad?
Wenger identified the fact that he needed midfield cover so he brought in experienced Swedish international Kim Kallstrom. Fair enough. However, the Swede arrived in north London with an injury and has still not made his debut for Arsenal.
Surely everybody connected with the club would have been given a major boost by a quality signing, just like they were in the summer window with the signing Mesut Ozil. The German’s signing lifted the whole club and gave the team the momentum to go on an outstanding run of form.
The more recent mistake that Mr Wenger made was his team selection against Chelsea. The Gunners had suffered heavy defeats at Liverpool and City because they lost the battle in the middle of the park.
Wenger did not learn from his mistakes though and decided to select Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a predominately attacking midfielder alongside the more defensive minded Mikel Arteta in the heart of midfield. Chelsea have some fantastic attacking midfielders in the shape of Eden Hazard and Oscar, so French scrapper Mathieu Flamini maybe have been the better choice in midfield.
The decision back-fired on the Gunners, as the Blues were two goals up after just seven minutes and Oxlade-Chamberlain conceded the penalty for the third goal.
The defeat at Chelsea has raised doubts over the future of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal boss. The Frenchman is set in his ways and will never change. The club from north London reportedly have money to spend, but just like in past transfer windows Wenger is likely be cautious, much to the frustration of Gunners fans.
Arsenal have the foundations of a decent team. However, they lack that killer instinct that top sides have.
Despite some promising displays this season the current crop of players lack the mental strength to compete with the best teams, and point has been hammered home in the big games of the campaign.
Arsenal do not have to wait long for a chance for redemption though, as relegation threatened Swansea roll up to the Emirates on Tuesday night. The Gunners are 2/5 favourites to defeat the Swans, who are currently on a terrible run of form.
Arsenal’s early season promise in the Premier League has now almost disappeared. The Gunners still have some major games to come this season, but it now looks like the Gunners hopes of a Premier League title victory have gone up in smoke.
The side from north London now have to make sure that they do not crumble completely and make sure they remain in the top four of the Premier League, because a complete collapse in form could be a disaster for Wenger and his club.
Are the Gunners still in the Premier League title race?
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