THE MICHAEL THOMAS COLUMN
Well, what difference from a month ago. Arsenal have suddenly gone from 10 games unbeaten to losing 3 out of 4, including against an awful Everton side. The worry is that the players seem to always revert back to 2nd gear once taking the lead. They lack the belief and confidence to kill teams off and instead hope to fend teams off, which is always dangerous and allows teams to mount huge pressure on you throughout a game. This is even more apparent when the crowd both home and away start influencing the game. The team must do better.
There’s been a lot of talk about the manager after recent results, but as an Arsenal player your aim must always be to win the next game and give 100% for the cause. Arteta has a lot of misfiring players especially in the senior pros up top. If this doesn’t change then the players that you see there must change. We have the January transfer window approaching and the team are still in the mix. They either buck up their ideas or should be shipped out and bring in hungry proven quality.
Arteta keeps telling the players that they should not sit back and defend a one-goal lead, but to go in for the kill. It seems the players are not listening to Arteta or they simply too scared of losing. The players need to do it for them to believe that it’s possible. When they win it’s been much this season about how good our defence, including the keeper, has been and less about how good the forwards have finished. The midfield, in particular Thomas Partey needs to control the tempo of the game a lot better, and give the young attacking players a platform to be free in attacking situations. Only then will you see a team that know they can really beat teams with their own qualities.
Ramsdale, White and Gabriel were practically unpassable in our 10-game unbeaten run, now they have suddenly conceded 9 in 4 games. The back line have been great but when a defence has not enough protection this is always going to be the case. The opposition keep chipping away and eventually they’ll get something from the mounting pressure. The midfielders are the catalyst for controlling the way the game plays out and at times the team lack a real energy and presence to see things through professionally. We’ve spoke about players like Renato Sanches, Bissouma, etc, in the past and hopefully these are players that are high on the priority list of the club in January.
Aubameyang has also been guilty and hasn’t scored in 7 games and is missing sitters. There are unconfirmed reports of a rift between our manager and captain but Arteta was right to drop him in the end. Aubameyang 100% needed time out. He has been misfiring for a while now but putting in a shift to cover it. A player should always put on a shift when they put on that iconic shirt. It’s what the fans deserve and it’s the basics of any good team. Arsenal however can’t afford to carry a player of his quality and wages for long. There needs to be drastic improvements going forward or a big change. We have an extremely young group and he, as the captain, must do more to lead this group. His quality is unquestionably there but not consistent enough these days.
Another enigma is Pepe. He ended last season well, but is currently on a 6-game run of being an unused sub. The Pepe situation is absurd to me. For me the player and manager must not be on the same page because there isn’t a chance that you’re chasing a game and a player with his attacking abilities sits out the entirety of the game. There needs to be a solution for this situation also because he is another that we cannot afford to carry. Get him on board or get him out.
And next up we have got Southampton. Arteta will be under more serious pressure if we don’t win that one convincingly. There is this major factor that every game is a must-win game which stems from the history of where the club used to be in terms of challenging for the big prizes. Make no mistake about it though, the game against Southampton IS a must-win game.
The players are on a real low but have a game in which they will not only be expected to win at home but also put in a good performance and show some character. Being a player of high quality is one thing, but when all is not going well you absolutely must give 110%. This is what the minimum requirement is of playing for this club.
If they do that then they will win without doubt.
Let’s hope things are looking brighter before my next column!
WATCH Arteta’s pre-match conference…