When the final whistle blew at Vicarage Road, amongst the loud cheers for the home side, there was a chorus of boos directed at the players in blue and particularly at one man, Arsene Wenger. The damning 2-1 defeat was yet another indication of Arsenal’s poor form away from home and how they now sit nine points behind leaders Manchester City just eight games into the season.
Arsenal’s poor away record
Even with that 2-1 defeat, a lot of the focus was on referee, Martin Atkinson. Having given such a soft penalty to the home side, is he to blame for this performance? His decision cost Arsenal at the very least a point and it could be a decision which costs Wenger his security. Referees seem to be getting away with poor decisions and it’s one which changed the outcome of the game.
Aside from the referees, it’s not been the best of starts for Arsenal and that’s putting things lightly; they’ve suffered away defeats to Liverpool and Stoke and their solitary point at Stamford Bridge has been the highlight of their season on the road so far. But what is it about this Arsenal side that just cannot cope when put under pressure? Are they even competing for the title anymore?
There’s a lot going wrong with the Gunners at the moment. The defence is looking shambolic at times and a lot of heads are dropping when the pressure is on. Further to that, the midfield is lacking any depth in creativity and that is highly unusual in any Arsenal side. The worst culprit that has demoralised Arsenal is the fact that there is an air of uncertainty that taints the club.
After a summer that started with the club-record signing of Alexandre Lacazette, the major problem hanging over their entire transfer window were the contracts of star men Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. With a year left on their deals, both were expected to leave while many optimistic fans believed they would sign an extension. At the end of all that, neither conclusion took place.
Should Arsenal have just sold the pair in the window?
Now on to October and Arsenal are struggling in the league already, cannot get their fans on their side and have a whole host of contractual problems still occurring. Alexis and Ozil could now both leave on a free in the upcoming summer or indeed be sold very cheaply in January. If they do indeed leave, what was the point of Wenger holding onto them?
The Europa League is providing an easy passage for the Gunners to get back into Champions League football and after the first couple of games, it has become clear Arsenal do not need Alexis or Ozil in order to compete. Both players, while world-class on their day, just aren’t required for Arsenal to realistically lift the trophy and the money made from selling the pair could have gone into reinvesting for the future.
Alexis already looks a frustrated figure on the pitch and with Ozil causing fans to be divided about his overall contribution to the side, it’s something many fans would have accepted if both were sold. Of course, nobody wanted Alexis to be sold to Premier League rivals Manchester City, aside from City fans, but this was due to the Citizens then having real firepower that would help them destroy the competition. Haven’t they done that already?
Would the signing of Alexis provided Pep Guardiola with a super attacking side? Because as it stands, they are already free-scoring past all opposition and look like real title challengers. Could Arsenal have used the rumoured £50m price tag to find a replacement?
What now for Wenger?
Arsenal have been here before. When losing their talismans, they’ve always managed to keep it together and re-focus around another player, bringing more talent to the team and really showing what they are capable of. However, it now looks as if Arsene Wenger is simply regressing his hard work put in for the last 21 years and is only damaging his legacy by staying on.
It is up to Arsene to somehow try and replicate the form shown in their home games at the Emirates and grab some points away from home. They are a title-challenging side but do not have the “cojones”, as Troy Deeney rightly stated, to challenge the very best. The real problem for them this season will be trying to break into that Top 4, which is looking harder and harder every season. But the question on every fan’s lips will be, why aren’t they challenging for the title?
And why are there players at the club who simply don’t want to be there?