The week in five words
Boredom. Tedium. Monotony. Ennui. Apathy.
What went well
Thanks to Petr Cech, Arsenal kept a clean sheet and won a point. That’s really about the only positive to take from the Sunderland game.
Once more, Arsenal were toothless in attack, pedestrian in their build-up, and looked like a team that really has no idea what kind of football its supposed to be playing.
Throughout Arsene Wenger’s reign there’s always been a cohesive style of play but that’s no longer the case. All the parts are there, assembled in the usual way, but they look like players going through the motions, or ones who don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing.
Last season, during the Gunners excellent second half of the season, Per Mertesacker spoke about ‘automatisms’ – meaning players knew what their teammates were going to do, and when they were going to do it.
A sort of unspoken knowledge or communication. It allowed them to take risks and play with fluency. It’s difficult to see how that applies to this particular iteration of the team, and what’s striking about that is that it is, for the most part, the same players. Only Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny are different, and neither could be said to be the underlying problem.
As each week passes it looks more and more like Wenger’s message is not getting through. It’s a worrying sign that he can’t get a reaction from the players, and maybe the Arsenal manager himself is struggling for ideas.
Quote of the week
“At the moment Giroud cannot score”, said Wenger after the game. Which begs the question why he chose to start him over Danny Welbeck.
The need-to-know facts
- Mesut Ozil has created 137 goal-scoring chances for team-mates this season in the top-flight, more than any other player in a single Premier League campaign since 2003-04.
- Giroud has now gone 14 Premier League games without scoring, his longest goal-drought in the competition.
- Jack Wilshere made his first appearance for Arsenal since the 2015 FA Cup final, 330 days ago.
- The Gunners are now unbeaten in seven Premier League games, their best run without defeat since May 2015.
Video/GIF of the week
Walcott displaying an alarming lack of fight by jumping out of making a tackle.
Winner of the week
There is no winner of the week from an Arsenal point of view, so I'll nominate two losers. Firstly, in reference to the video above, Theo Walcott jumping over the ball and out of the way summed up his contribution to the team this season.
He could have gone in for the ball and created something, instead he chose self-preservation, and at this level that kind of selfishness is simply not acceptable.
After Arsene Wenger already cast doubts over his future this week, this might be another nail in his Arsenal coffin.
Loser of the week
Giroud has scored in just one of his last 20 games for the club. "You go through spells like that and I believe we have to support him and give him the needed confidence,” said Wenger after the game.
It is a dismal run of form but he doesn’t help himself either. Rather than being a strong, aggressive centre-forward, he allows himself to be bullied out of games by average defenders. In mitigation, he didn’t get great service in front of goal, but the things he’s supposed to be good at – holding up the ball, being an outlet for the Arsenal midfielders to work through – were sorely lacking as well.
Incredibly, despite that dreadful goalscoring record since his last Premier League goals in January, he remains Arsenal’s leading scorer. Which, more than anything, highlights the need for an upgrade this summer.