By Tony Attwood
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There is a paragraph from an article on Arsenal, in the Telegraph, which sums up a lot of the current criticism of Arsenal. It reads,
“In recent months Arsenal have shown that their starting line-up is capable of competing with the best teams in the division. The loss of just two of those players now changes the entire feel and balance of this team, and could feasibly derail their push for the Champions League.”
So if we accept this is true, and that the backup players available are not good enough to deliver fourth place, the most interesting question is why the club allowed that to happen. Which leads to several questions such as…
Why were players like Maitland-Niles allowed to leave?
Of course players under contract can be kept at the club for as long as their contract says – there is never an obligation in a contract to play a player. But having a number of non-playing players who consider themselves capable of being in the first team is rarely a good idea, as their moaning that can undermine the well being of the team.
And we know from obvious examples like Ozil, Aubameyang and Guendouzi, Arteta values discipline and obedience above everything else. Indeed I can’t recall an Arsenal manager who placed such a high virtue in following the ethical code in the club.
It can have its benefits, not least in showing players who is boss, but I am not sure that losing Guendouzi and Ozil when we did was truly beneficial to the club.
Maitland-Niles had seemingly indicated his desire to leave to get more games but he is a versatile player and might well have been useful at this moment.
Why are players like Mohammed Elneny and Rob Holding not used more?
This is where I am really puzzled, but at least now they are available and can be used in the squad. Neither is ever mentioned by the media who seem to have forgotten that the players exist, but they are there.
Because of his being written out of the club’s teamsheet Elneny’s success in the Africa Cup was downplayed by a lot of the media but it was certainly a success. He was named in the Best XI for the Africa Cup of Nations and played in the final – and in fact in every game leading to the final. Including playing 120 minutes in three games.
But the fact is that the coverage of Arsenal’s current plight by the media has ignored these two players who could now both be quite valuable, unless we are seeing another vendetta, this time against either or both of them.
Why did we not buy more players in January?
There is a general assumption in much of the media that if a player is out there Arsenal can go and get him. But this of course is far from the case. A club can refuse to sell at the price offered, and a player can refuse to go to Arsenal – perhaps finding the terms offered at Arsenal not to the player’s liking.
And of course Arsenal were the top spenders last summer, so maybe the budget has all gone.
But also we have to recall that the media, as we have so often shown on this site, does not like Arsenal, and spend far more time highlighting their problems than they do praising their successes. The media coverage of the first three games was wall to wall, and that is the sort of thing players see – exactly as the coverage of the major disaster the club is allegedly now facing is also wall to wall.
Thus no one is publishing league tables on anything relating to the form of the clubs involved – and yet form is the best guide we have to what clubs are likely to achieve in the next match. Here are the last 26 games for each team as a league table.
Arsenal, who are third in the league based on the last 26 games played by each club, are playing Brighton, who are 15th.
|7||West Ham United||26||8||2||3||22||16||5||2||6||18||17||7||43|
|15||Brighton and Hove||26||2||6||6||8||18||2||7||3||13||15||-12||25|
And yet people are seriously suggesting that because of the thinness of Arsenal’s squad, Arsenal could lose this match. That really is a case of collecting evidence to suit an already selected conclusion.
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