Arsenal showing familiar lack of ruthlessness, desire and steel

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Bet365 Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Bet365 Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) /

In rather unsurprising fashion, Arsenal lost 1-0 away to Stoke last Saturday. It epitomised everything that is wrong with Arsenal Football Club both on and off the field.

We were promised big things. Seems we always are. Do things ever change? No. Therefore, a rant is necessary to vent my frustrations. Hopefully, Arsenal can rectify this situation over the next few weeks and in the years to come, but as of now I doubt that will happen.

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What happened on Saturday and what has happened throughout the entire transfer window is stereotypical of Arsenal in recent years. We’ve not won both of our two opening league games since 2009/10, and our transfer window is always lacking.

After scraping past Leicester on opening day, Arsenal’s deficiencies were clear for all to see against Stoke. As Steven Gerrard said in his post-match analysis;

"“To be a top team and compete for this Premier League, you have to be really good in possession – and Arsenal are, they’re a fantastic team. But to be a top, top side, you have to compete outside of possession, you have to be horrible to play against, Arsenal are too easy to play against.”“I thought the performance was typical Arsenal. Fantastic in possession and, yes, they created a lot of chances and on another day they could’ve scored a lot of goals. But just passive out of possession, not enough people who want to put their body on the line. It seems to me that Arsenal have too many technical, gifted players in the starting XI. They need a couple of players in there with steel and aggression. Otherwise it’s going to look nice and they’re going to have loads of possession but they’re going to have more performances like this.”"

Our transfer window started well. Sead Kolasinac was brought in on a free transfer after his contract at Schalke expired, and he’s undoubtedly an upgrade on Nacho Monreal at the left wing-back position as he’s more powerful and athletic.

Alexandre Lacazette is the clinical striker we’ve needed for years. Olivier Giroud is fantastic as a secondary striker, but we have needed someone of Lacazette’s ability to fire us to glory.

The issue with this window is the fact that we have not correctly valued our fringe players and our squad depth is overestimated. Yes, Premier League transfer fees are inflated, but in no world is Kieran Gibbs worth £12-15m. He’s a good player, but no team is going to pay that transfer fee and his astronomical wage demands.

The same can be said for Carl Jenkinson, Mathieu Debuchy, Chuba Akpom, Jon Toral, Joel Campbell, the list goes on. In certain cases, Arsenal are selling the wrong player and should be selling someone else instead.

"“If you want a comfortable life, play for Arsenal. I look at the players they have – Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere – they don’t look under any duress.”“It looks nice. Almost as if you don’t have to go. You can stay if you want. I want to see some ambition in that club. I want to see players that want to go and win that title. I wasn’t lucky enough to do so, but looking at those players, I think the club is so nice.”Daily Express: (Arsenal Are The Best Club To Join To Have A Comfortable Life – Jamie Redknapp)"

Yes, Wojciech Szczesny only had a year left on his contract, but he is much more talented than David Ospina. It’s all well and good saying it now, but in my view Arsenal sold the wrong goalkeeper. Szczesny could have challenged Petr Cech for the No.1 jersey in the short-term and would have solidified the position in the long-term.

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Gabriel Paulista’s transfer to Valencia is another example. While the Brazilian was inconsistent, he should not have been allowed to leave for a measly £10m. His performance against Manchester City in the FA cup semi-final was fantastic, and the fact that we kept Per Mertesacker instead of him is baffling to me. Gabriel was well suited to this new formation and had youth on his side.

Experience is undoubtedly a valuable commodity, but even without Mertesacker, our defence and goalkeeper includes a World Cup winner, one of the Premier League’s best defenders and the Premier League’s clean sheet record holder.

Also, if you’re going to keep Mertesacker, it’s all well and good naming him the future academy manager and giving him the respect he deserves, but you must trust him. Mertesacker sustained an injury during the Community Shield and even though he was fit for both of our opening Premier League games, he played zero minutes. All the while, we’re playing two natural full-backs at centre-back.

Virgil van Dijk has handed in a transfer request at Southampton. Go and get him. Make Southampton willing to sell. We have the finances at our disposal, show some intent.

The situation with our wing-backs beggars belief. Why on earth is Hector Bellerin playing on the left? Why isn’t Sead Kolasinac occupying that position? That’s why we signed him, Nacho Monreal is a centre-back in this new setup, so why didn’t we push Inter Milan harder for Dalbert’s signature?

Our central midfield is in shambles. Individually, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka are fantastic players, but they seem incapable of working with each other. Xhaka, for all his qualities, needs to learn both mental and tactical discipline. In this new formation, Ramsey’s late forward runs are essential, Xhaka needs to sit deeper otherwise Arsenal will pay the price often on the counter-attack.

Furthermore, why we haven’t signed a central midfielder is beyond me. We missed out on N’Golo Kante last year, but someone such as Tiémoué Bakayoko or Corentin Tolisso would have been perfect. Both are adept with the ball but both are physical monsters who would have added steel to our midfield.

Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are nice players, but if you truly believe that Arsenal can compete against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United with those guys, think again.

I would love for Jack Wilshere to come back and perform on a weekly basis like he did against Barcelona at the Emirates all those years ago, but we do not live in a fantasy. Santi Cazorla is pivotal to our success when fit, but if he doesn’t return from injury this season, or if he struggles after his return, it is probably time to say goodbye.

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Further forward, Mesut Ozil‘s and Alexis Sanchez‘s dwindling contracts don’t help matters, but there are plenty of questions surrounding the depth behind them. Alex Iwobi is one for the future and his Arsenal career should not be brought into question as of now. The same cannot be said for both Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott.

What I want to know is, why hasn’t this entire situation been resolved sooner? Ozil and Sanchez may be Arsenal players this season, but what about next season?

Why weren’t Arsenal bigger contenders for Gylfi Sigurdsson’s signature? Creative depth is required at that position. Why has the Thomas Lemar transfer saga lasted as long as it has?

There are still far too many questions for Arsenal to answer at this point. It is evident that the toxic atmosphere that engulfed Arsene Wenger and the club towards the end of last season is still lurking in the shadows and it won’t disappear unless radical changes are made both on and off the field.

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As a side note, I am sure I am overreacting with some of my points in this piece, but please forgive my passion, it is well intended.