Busy summer looms as Arsenal’s season crumbles

Blackburn 2-1 Arsenal

Another day, another lifeless defeat.

Our ‘easy run-in’ has turned into a nightmare, with one point from the last 12 and a succession of infuriatingly weak, insipid performances. The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear.

A squad that was meant to end the season on a high – albeit just off the pace – has now completely given up the fight and there seems to be nothing whatsoever that Wenger can do about it.

A loss against Fulham, perish the thought, would leave us on 72 points, exactly the same amount as last season. Progress? It doesn’t feel like it.

I didn’t expect Wenger to lambast Flapianski in his post-match interview, but even he must cringe with embarrassment every time he has to defend such a liability. He was clearly at fault for the second goal. Blackburn saw him as the weak spot – they didn’t have to look too hard to find it – and successfully targeted him. Naturally, it worked.

Elsewhere on the pitch, after a fairly bright start we faded badly. Look at the starting XI and at the bench though and you can see part of the problem is simply a lack of quality available. It doesn’t excuse the lack of stomach for the fight but it does go some way to explaining the paucity of some of our play.

We have so many players out and the backups have simply not been good enough.

Let’s break yesterday’s squad of 18 into three groups.

There are at least five players there we simply wouldn’t miss, other than numerically. Not one of Fabianski, Silvestre, Traore, Vela, or Eduardo has improved this season. You can only assume that the new contracts offered to the latter two were given partly to ensure healthy sell-on fees.

Then there are others from yesterday’s 18 who are good squad players, but too inconsistent, immature, or ageing to be considered first-choice material next season. In that category I would put Eboue, Campbell, Walcott, Diaby, Mannone, Djourou, Gibbs, Eastmond and Henderson.

That leaves, as nailed-on starters from that 18, just Sagna, Nasri, Arshavin and van Persie. The form of Nasri and Arshavin has been up and down but to my mind, the quality is there.

So we are missing a lot of players, and in their absence we have seen that the balance is wrong, the collective will to win has been diluted and the quality is lacking. It’s not a good cocktail at all.

On yesterday’s evidence, it will be a busy summer for Wenger, chopping out the deadwood and bringing in players who possess the kind of drive and quality that will rub off on those of the squad who have the most to learn.

Apologies if this is a bit of a ramble but I thought I’d pour it all out and see how it dried.

Bring on the end of the season.

A toast to absent friends as Arsenal freeze

Arsenal 2-2 Everton

A point gained or two points dropped? Both; the former for us, and the latter for Everton.

Let’s face it, we were very lucky indeed, scraping a late draw on a day when nothing went right and few people covered themselves in glory. It was a bad day in the office, one to file away in the recesses of the mind. One to forget, and forget it we probably will unless it becomes one of those pivotal games that bookends the start of a great run (or heaven forbid, a bad one).

I know it’s easy to say with hindsight, but I had an uneasy feeling about this game all morning yesterday. Everton have emerged from their early season funk and it showed. They gave us a right fright. All we can hope for (now that we have played them home and away) is that they can maintain their improving form, because they’ve got some big games between now and late February, and we could do with them taking some points off our closest rivals.

Not that I’m really thinking of a title surge at this stage. I think, if anything, the fitful performance yesterday just reminded me – and a few others besides, I should imagine – that we remain something of an outside shot to win the league in May.

Despite some excellent recent form, and a very healthy league position, the bottom line is that there’s nowhere on the pitch we couldn’t improve. Between the sticks we have an increasingly skittish Almunia. Though he remains a good shot stopper – he prevented Vaughan from making it game over when we were 2-1 down – almost all other aspects of his game have gone to pot. He’s been dropped once this season, and I wouldn’t bet against it happening again. I appreciate the arguments against doing it – it’s pretty much a P45 – but his form is so poor it has to be considered.

In defence, we have a rookie left-back who has done well enough in Clichy’s and Gibbs’ absences but reminds us from time to time why he is our third choice left-back. The rest of our established back line is still motoring along, but needs to tighten up. We are always looking capable of conceding.

We’re missing important players in midfield in Fabregas and Song. We’re missing the pacy outlet that is Walcott. And of course, we’re missing Bendtner and van Persie, leaving us reliant on playing Arshavin out of position and Eduardo without a recognised strike partner.

Taken as a whole, and in that context, we are doing amazingly well at the moment, and it’s hardly a big surprise to see a blip such as yesterday against a very good and committed Everton side.

Of course, Wenger can work on the players he has, and he can hassle the physio to empty London Colney of crocks, but more importantly from a momentum point of view, he can work on bringing in new faces. At the beginning of the month I remember him saying he wanted to do any deals early; well here we are a third of the way through the window and there’s still nothing doing.

I’d frankly be amazed if nobody came in this month, and I was going to stick my neck out I’d say he’ll bring a maximum of two, and that those two would be a central defender and a striker.

As for who or when – over to you, boss.